20. Government and Socio-Economics
Some science fiction writers have likened the creation of artificial habitats in space to the establishment of research outposts in the Antarctic. While some parallels may be drawn in terms of the distance from ‘civilisation’, there are many differences which make any ‘rules’ regarding their government, social arrangement and economic arrangement inapplicable.
To face reality, there is very little chance that the establishment of DL4 would give the chance to establish a utopian society, one obvious problem being that very few people would agree to what this would be. In this section, we therefore attempt to outline some solutions to what will inevitably be a problem to be solved by the residents themselves, if and when DL4 becomes a reality.
The first step in realising the dream is sourcing adequate finance. There are three main options for this, all of which have implications for the future of DL4 - how it will be run, how business will be conducted and its relations with Earth.
1. Government Finance
On principle, this is not a bad idea, if it could be guaranteed that they would not interfere in the running of the station. The distance from Earth and the relatively self-sufficient nature of DL4, mean that it should not become too involved in the politics of Earth, and neither should Earth-bound governments interfere in the running of the settlement when it does not concern them. A position where a country or indeed countries are prepared to pay for construction of the settlement, whilst forgoing control and influence seems extremely unlikely, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it is doubtful that one government would have the resources to become the sole financier of DL4. Therefore, if a government was to finance the construction of DL4, it must be done in partnership. At the moment, the only controlled alliance, where all countries have an equal say in affairs is the United Nations. To date, they have had little concern for space settlement and travel. This leaves the possibility of joint venture, similar to the ISS. In terms of a larger station, this would probably have to take the form of partnership under treaty. In a society where treaties are frequently broken when a government feels it is justified in doing so, this renders the result highly unpredictable. The investment of capital that would be required from any individual country would lead to it becoming a ‘political football’ of sorts. All countries would be seeking political, financial or strategic gain from their involvement. Who gets control over what will doubtless become the lucrative business of SPSs? Will there be troops stationed on DL4? What happens on DL4, when a difficulty arises between two ‘partner’ countries on Earth?
All countries involved would need to be represented among the residents of the station, and also in whatever arrangement runs the station. This would lead to resident nationality becoming part of the selection criteria. In times of war or political unrest on Earth, it may be difficult for the station to take a fully neutral stance, and it may also lead to tension among the residents themselves. If the make-up of the population and decisions regarding who is allowed to conduct research on board are taken from a political standpoint, the best use may not be made of resources that are available.
2. Private Enterprise
Building DL4 would require huge investment of capital, however, there is profit to be made from solar power satellites, and the other industries that will be for ‘export’. The lease of ‘land’ on DL4 would also become a profitable enterprise. Therefore, the idea that the station be built and run by an individual enterprise is not beyond the bounds of possibility.
Commercialisation of DL4 will lead to many residents of the station becoming, in effect, ‘employees’ of the DL4 Company. Directors, who would not be resident on DL4 may control it, and decisions may be taken that do not benefit the residents or the smooth functioning of the community. There would be an increased dependence on Earth.
Even when the initial investment has been recouped (plus interest) any company must continue to make ‘normal profit’, i.e. - profit greater than that available if the same amount of the factors of production were invested in another industry. In other words, they would need to continue to pay their shareholders dividends comparable to those received from investment in any other venture. This would lead to an increased focus on profit. Research groups may face insurmountable financial barriers as the land space is leased to the highest bidder. The focus on manufacturing and financial gain would have the power to turn the station into little more than a glorified oil-rig, where little concern is given to ‘normal life’. DL4’s design is one that allows people space, freedom, and facilities… the attributes of comfortable suburban life. It holds the health and comfort of the residents as one of our highest priorities. There will be emphasis on manufacturing as the primary export of the station, but the danger is that this will overshadow the idea of ‘community’, should profit become the primary objective of life on DaedalusaL4.
There are also disadvantages to the residents if the ‘DL4 company’ existed. Such a company would control prices of everything from food to transport. There would be no opportunity for competition or the establishment of free market. This could put those workers who are not direct employees of the station at a disadvantage, as the company would be in a position of monopoly, and so could charge whatever price they choose. While company employees would have some recourse by demanding a raise in pay, those who do not receive payment from the company would be forced to survive on ‘Earth salaries’ which would not take this additional cost of living into account.
A station run by private/public enterprise would bear all the hallmarks of a centrally-planned economy (most of which are negative, e.g. - low worker morale, poor efficiency); the primary difference being that any profit made would accrue to investors, instead of being re-used to improve the settlement or life for it’s residents.
3. Status as an ‘Independent Country’
If DL4 is established independent of any one country or group of countries, it would allow residents to remain neutral through any situation that may evolve on Earth. Residents would have a say in the running of DL4 and its involvement in Earth’s affairs (depending on the structure of government adopted). Decisions could be taken, keeping the well being and make-up of the community in mind.
Finance for the station should be available as it is for any other government of the world, the exception being, that when it is sought, the ‘country’ will not exist. For this reason, the project would remain dependent on the good will and co-operation of many nations. In the short term, it may be a little more awkward to organise. This amount of finance is much larger than that available to an enterprise, and comes without some of the political ties that would be attached to direct government finance of the station. Advance payments, from the companies and institutions that would plan to locate there, would also contribute to finance available.
Sources of finance include loans from other countries and international banks, the sale of government bonds to the residents of the settlement and also to residents of other countries. Once the settlement is established and functioning, it will be able to levy taxes and raise finance from the sale or lease of land to private industry.
From these options, the most desirable would probably be the construction of the settlement by a group of nations, who were willing to participate in the project, while forgoing rights to control of the actions of the settlement, or agreeing a framework through which this can be achieved. The construction of the ISS provides a basis for hope, in this regard, however, it must be noted that most countries participating are still referring to ‘their’ section of the ISS.
Decisions taken regarding the design of DL4 were, as required, made using ‘reasonable extrapolations of modern technology’. When trying to predict the structure of finance of DL4, it seems logical to take today’s political and economic climate as the starting point from which to choose one of the options outlined above. Therefore, if the will exists, it would probably be best to establish DL4 as an independent nation or ‘city state’.
Whatever ruling body is formed has the option of running the station in the following manners:
a) Control of all enterprises on the settlement (similar to above)
This involves creating a centrally planned economy but with less focus on manufacturing and profit making than a ‘company’. The money would serve to benefit all residents on board as the governing body sees fit. There are however many problems associated with this system. Who decides what ‘benefit’ means?
b) Allowing free trade
Placing no restrictions on industry seems like an ideal situation, however, in the conditions that will exist on DL4 this may not be practical. There will be activities that must be carried out and services that must be provided, that a company would not profit from. Therefore, the third option seems the most likely situation.
c) Mixed Economy
In this situation the government or ruling group exercise some control over the economy, providing some essential goods and services, and leaving the others to the forces of the free market.
It seems preferable that the government exercises some control over the essential services required within the settlement that may not yield high profit. For this reason it is suggested that the economy, at least in the first few years of development be mixed, so that all the necessary services are provided. As the cost to potential investors decreases, the profit may increase, so the provision of such services may be privatised.
The choice of ruling body for the station will, of course, be decided upon by the residents themselves. If the form of government is not suitable, it may be changed by public agreement or referendum on the ‘constitution’ or whatever set of rules govern the station. However, for the sake of completion, this section attempts to address the question of the structure of the government of the station.
Traditional methods of government for such small independent countries usually take the form of a single elected ruler or a monarch. Due to the importance of DL4, and the necessity that people agree in general with any decisions that are taken, this form of government has been ruled out.
Also ruled out, were the traditional forms of assembly that make up the majority of democratic governments throughout the world. While there could be an assembly, with an elected representative group making the decisions, this may not be practical. In Ireland, the ratio of population to elected representatives of central government is greater than 10,000 to 1. Urban councils of a typical town with a population much greater than that of DaedalusaL4 have less than twenty representatives. Given the broad spectrum of people involved and therefore views and opinions, and the co-operative nature of the settlement, we recommend that the station would be an ideal place to test a system of direct democracy. People who are participating solely in the government become, in essence, non-productive, and some may be unwilling to give up their work or research for this reason. This could lead to a government of only those who stand to gain from running the settlement, and they would not provide a fair and balanced judgement.
Under this system, all decisions are taken by all people, with perhaps a single person elected as ambassador for the settlement. This need not take the form of lengthy public meetings, but instead a monthly (or even weekly) set of suggestions or laws would be issued and then voted on by the residents. For any major decisions that need to be taken, an advisory committee who would be responsible for examining the issue involved and then responsible for presenting a balanced argument for both sides to the residents before they vote. All people will be elected in turn to these advisory committees, to ensure that no one person or group of people can influence public opinion.
The judicial system is quite a simple one. The first requirement is that all residents, on arrival in DL4 will deposit the cost of return travel to Earth. For minor offences, the offender will stand trial before a group of his/her peers. If found guilty, he/she will face a fine. For serious offences, when convicted, the person will be returned to Earth, and punishment administered in his/her own home country. Children will be immune from transportation until the age of eighteen. At this age, they will have the choice to adopt either of their parent’s terrestrial nationalities while still maintaining their own ‘DL4’ citizenship. Until they begin to earn money for themselves, their parents will be responsible for payment of any fines, through the establishment at birth of a ‘fund’ similar to that for transportation home.
The system cannot, by its very nature remain independent of the system of government, as all residents will participate in both. However, this will hopefully serve to enhance the idea of ‘community’ and collective responsibility for one another’s well being, and thus limit crime.