Although classic land grants cannot be used in space because sovereignty is prohibited, the objective of land claims recognition in space is the same as the objective of land grants on Earth: the use of property rights as an incentive to get private individuals to do something of great value to the whole society.
Much of the United States was developed by the use of land grants, from large parts of the original 13 colonies through the settlement of the West. Congress, not wanting to use government funds, used land grants to encourage the building of the transcontinental railroads.
Fortunately, the application of land claims recognition to space has a big advantage over the use of land grants for building railroads. To get a railroad built, someone (usually whoever has the best political connections) must be selected and given a monopoly over the right of way before they have proven that they can and will deliver on their promises. Railroad companies' promises were often broken. In space the system can be structured to promote real competition, rewarding only those who have actually gotten the job done, by requiring actual "use and occupation" for all property claims.
Note: The first 25 FAQs below are reprinted from the Space Settlement Initiative website.
What is the real purpose of enacting a Lunar land claims recognition law?
Will promising property rights be enough to produce the necessary investment in developing affordable space transport?
What does international law say about private property ownership in space?
Can there be property ownership without national sovereignty?
What if other nations refuse to recognize land claims in space?
Why not allow smaller, limited land claims for easier steps than settlement?
Could lunar land really be worth enough money to make a difference?
What conditions should the US set for recognition of a claim?
How much land should a settlement be able to claim... and why?
Why must the Earth-Moon space line and settlement be open to all paying passengers regardless of nationality?
Wouldn't it help if a major company announced that, if a land claims recognition law were passed, it would try to develop affordable space transport?
Are the weaknesses and compromises in this plan likely to be permanent?
Didn't the earliest version of this plan talk about Lunar "land grants"? Why aren't you using that phrase any more?
You can't farm Lunar land, and Earth doesn't need the Moon's minerals. So how could Lunar land be put to profitable use?
If you can't give figures, now, proving the profitability of the end uses of Lunar land, how could anyone raise big money for Lunar land?
Could other sources of revenue be enough without land claims recognition?
What if the Lunar settlement does not produce enough operating revenue to pay off its debts and make a profit?
Could the U.S. withdraw from the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, claim national sovereignty on the Moon, then award property rights to whomever it pleased?
What about defense? Does recognizing a land claim obligate the U.S. military to defend the Lunar settlement?
What effect would this have on NASA and the aerospace companies?
The FAQs above cover basic questions about Lunar Land Claims Recognition. The following questions address more advanced issues.
If we really went to the Moon in 1969, why aren't we there now?
What were the assumptions before the Outer Space Treaty, (e.g. Robert Heinlein)?
Could the UN just give every nation a portion of the Moon to own, thereby creating valuable Lunar property rights?
Why don't space activists convince the public to support a government program to establish a base on the Moon and Mars?
Will changing how NASA works bring the taxpayers back on board?
Could this law force the US to recognize a foreign government's Lunar land claim?
Shouldn't we wait to put such a law into effect until free societies are ready to settle the Moon, to keep it from encouraging the Chinese?
Would Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty prohibit Lunar land claims recognition?
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Every revolutionary idea passes three stages:
- Arthur C. Clarke