A Park on the Moon?

This was originally posted on PoodleRose on July 29, 2013. Comments have not been migrated.

Earlier this month, two members of Congress introduced the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act for the purpose of preserving the landing areas of NASA’s moon missions. Time magazine senior editor thinks that this is an excellent idea that the United States establish a national park on the moon, but he admits that it is not a very practical idea.

Regardless of the practicality, there is no moral basis for such a park. First, there should be no such thing as a public park–all parks should be privately owned and operated. As with government schools and libraries, public parks force users and non-users alike to provide financial support, regardless of an individual’s values or choices.

Second, nobody has a proper claim of ownership to any portion of the moon. But the reason is not the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which prohibits claims of sovereignty over celestial bodies. The reason is that the moon is not property. The concept of property implies ownership, that someone has transformed nature or created a value. A resource that remains as nature left it is not property.

The moon is an unowned resource, not property, and anyone who can colonize the moon or build a mine or otherwise make use of the resource has transformed a part of the moon into a human value. By right, it is his property. And those parts of the moon that he has not made use of remain unowned and open for use by others.

To restrict an individual’s access to an unowned resource is to violate his right to act as he judges best. It is to prevent him from taking the actions necessary to sustain and enjoy his life. For example, if an individual colonizes the moon, he does not own the entire moon, only that portion which he has transformed. Other individuals have a moral right to colonize other parts of the moon, as long as they do not interfere with the first individual’s use of his property. The same applies to any unowned resource.

Rights sanction freedom of action in a social context. Rights recognize and protect our freedom to act as we judge best, so long as we respect the mutual rights of others. This means that we must refrain from using force or fraud. In regard to property, this means the freedom to create, produce, use, trade, and dispose of material values. But a resource in its natural state is not property. Where there is no property, there is no property right. That is, no individual or group can restrict or control use of an unowned resource.

Use alone does not create property, nor does it confer a property right. For example, a hunter who uses a forest to shoot game does nothing to transform nature and thus create a value. He is simply using nature as he found it, and his rightful claim of ownership extends only to the deer that he shoots, not to the land. However, if he plants certain vegetation or digs a pond that will attract game, he has created a value that will serve human life. It is the act of applying human intelligence and effort to a resource that transforms it from an unowned resource as nature has left it into a human value, and thus, property. The same is true of the moon. While NASA used portions of the moon, it did nothing to transform that resource into a value.

If use confers ownership, then the user of any resource would have a claim of ownership. Drivers could claim ownership of the roads, students could claim ownership of the schools, diners could claim ownership of the restaurant. Not only would this create a legal nightmare, it would be an act of extreme injustice to the rightful owners of these properties—those who exerted the thought and effort to create those values.

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