Do You Think the Martians will be Free?

It’s July 4th, the American Independence Day, as I write these words.  The word “Freedom” is often heard in connection with the holiday.

Essentially every permanent colony ever instituted on our planet has ended in some form of revolution or eventual independence.  It seems that far-flung empire has been unwieldy and ultimately unfair and unwanted.  Maybe that could turn out different given modern communications and transportation technology.

With so much talk (albeit not enough walk, as they say) about sending people to Mars in the near future, and in some scenarios to stay, the question of self-government arises.  It’s obviously difficult or impossible to exert control on another planet, but probably for a long time to come Martian settlers will be dependent on Earth’s resources for survival, if not more (e.g., the psychological comfort of news, entertainment, and communications from family).  But what I’m wondering about is if we’re smart enough now to plan for the results of such an expensive venture and expect that the people we send will become “others” from “another world” and that we’ll have to respect their rights an autonomy?  At least based on history if nothing else.

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Because what are the first settlers, really? Scientists, employees, adventurers, or pioneers?

Antarctica officially belongs to no nation, and no one really settles there forever, relinquishing the option of returning to their home country.

We have not had the scenario Mars presents in recent history.  Are we up to it?

I am reminded of the opening to Robert Heinlein’s STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, and the farcical legal situation of Michael Valentine Smith “owning” Mars and having to give up his claims or risk a number of huge problems.  International law isn’t simple, and doesn’t always work.  Interplanetary law doesn’t even exist yet.

Sure, in the beginning it will just be about survival, as it was with the first American colonies.  Over a century passed before self-rule became a serious issue.  Historians suggest their subject is important to study, lest we risk repeating it.  There’s an opportunity to actually listen to the historians here.

What do you think?  Is this a no brainer one way or the other?  I’m not sure myself, although I feel that in the long run, given likely conflict of interests, one planet cannot be expected or allowed to rule another.  At least not if we’re talking about human inhabitants, who have strong feelings about fairness and being free.

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