Foreign policy doctrine

A few years ago I wrote the following memo, which outlines foreign policy. You should compare the doctrine below with the post on Space Settlements and foreign policy. As you will see, the memo does not contain an elaboration on the third principle, but from the context its understanding can be deduced.

The foreign policy of the Humanist Republic of Mordan is based on the following three principles:

I The peaceful coexistence of different cultures, political ideologies and forms of society

II Non-interventionism and strict neutrality

III National Sovereignty is unconditional and nonnegotiable as long the peaceful coexistence among nations is not endangered

These principles have to be understood as complementary to each other, rather than as three stand alone rules. Their unity is the fundamental base of our foreign policy.

The idea behind these principles is the proposition that the primary responsibility of any government are its own citizens. From this very essential proposition it follows that no government should adopt a foreign policy, which unnecessarily risks the lives and security of its citizens, such as by provoking aggression of foreign powers.

Every nation has the right to determine how to organize its own society, so do we. But if we want to organize our society the way we want, we should acknowledge this right to other nations. By accepting differences among societies, we create a base for peaceful coexistence.

The second principle logically follows from the first, the peaceful coexistence among nations cannot be realized if we should interfere with the internal affairs of other nations, and at the other hand our own nation cannot allow any interference by any foreign power in our very own affairs. And there is no general reason for us to interfere with conflicts among other nations, as long as those conflicts are not directly affecting our own interests. Therefore our country should abstain of choosing sides in transnational conflicts which do not directly affect our country.

Space settlements as smoke-free zones

Scientists have found that smoke-free legislation has positive effects on the health of children. Both preterm births as well incidence of asthma has been declined as result of banning smoking in public and work places.

It’s widely known that second-hand smoke as dangerous as smoking itself. Classical liberals in the tradition of John Stuart Mill, believe that adults should be free to do whatever harm to themselves; but if their actions would harm non-consenting others, then the government is justified to interfere. This rule is known as the harm principle.

Smokers do, by exposing others to their smoke, cause harm. That smokers inflict harm to themselves, is from a Millian perspective irrelevant as long as it is their own choice. What matters is the harm done to non-consenting others. Especially in case of children.

Children are because they not yet able to make their decisions, dependent of adults. If people smoke in the presence of children, the latter have little or no means to protect themselves against this violation of their right to health. Therefore the state should take action.

The research cited above about the positive effects of smoke-free legislation in Western countries, suggest that Space Settlements should take the ultimate step: complete prohibition of smoking. That means outlawing the sale smoking devices and, of course, smoking itself.

Since this prohibition is aimed at the protection of third parties, and not against the use of the drug nicotine per se, the sale and consumption of products such as nicotine patches, inhalers and nicotine gum, should be legal. Also the sale and consumption of smokeless tobacco products should not be be affected by the total smoking ban.

The different types of Solar power generation

Though there is broad consensus that Solar power will be the principal energy source for Space Settlements, several methods of converting Solar power into useful forms of energy have been proposed. In most cases this means to conversion of solar energy into electricity, but also the production of thermal energy of industrial importance.

In most Space colonization plans space habitats and solar power satellites are proposed as separate structures. This because space habitats have to rotate in order to generate “artificial gravity”, whilst solar power satellites are preferentially kept stationary. Most proposal suggest microwaves as the method of power transmission to space habitats (or even to Earth), where the microwaves are converted into electricity.

In Space colonization literature two main types of Solar Power Satellites (SPS) have been proposed: the first type uses Solar energy to heat a fluid (such as helium) to drive a turbine to generate electricity. The second type uses photo-voltaic cells to convert Sunlight directly into electricity. Both types use electricity to produce microwaves, which are then beamed to the consumer.

Type I satellites are by far the most simple SPSs to construct, and have been proposed since the 1960s. Basically you only need a mirror, tubes, a compressor, a turbine and a working fluid to build one. Back in the 1970s photo-voltaic cells were much less developed than today. And for that reason most early proposals for Solar Power Satellites were of this type.

Another advantage of type I satellites of type II ones, is that photo-voltaic cells will deteriorate due to their exposure to Solar winds. And consequently type II satellites will decrease in power output over time.

But on the other hand type I satellites are much more vulnerable to meteorite impacts. A small hole in one of the tubes caused by such an impact, will cause the working fluid to leak from the system; which will render the entire plant useless. However, if a type II satellite, which is composed of a multiple photo-voltaic cells is hit by a meteorite, only the cells which are hit will be destroyed, whilst the others will still be in operation.

Compared to type I satellites, type II satellites are less massive and hence require less material resources to be built. Also type II satellites have no moving parts, which are subject to wearing off.

Besides these two main types, several other types of Solar power satellites have been proposed. An interesting proposal are Solar-pumped lasers. These are laser which are powered directly by Solar power, without the intermediate step of producing electricity. The generated laser beam can then be used to transmit energy over great distances. This has several potential applications.

First, such lasers can be used to propel solar sails throughout the solar system. A second application is to transmit power to settlements at great distance from the Sun. The amount of Solar power one receives, decreases with the distance to Sun squared. For instance Saturn is located 10 times as far from the Sun as Earth, and receives per squared meter a 100 times less energy. A solar power satellite in the neighbourhood of Saturn needs to be a 100 times larger than a comparable satellite in the neighbourhood of Earth.

Since laser beams are highly concentrated, a solar-pumped laser in our neighbourhood could power a SPS close to Saturn. And that SPS could be considerably smaller.

Too cheap to meter?

Lewis Strauss coined in reference to the prospect of fusion power, the phrase too cheap to meter. Mr. Strauss argued that once fusion power would become available, the costs to produce electricity would be so low, that wouldn’t be worthwhile to charge the consumer in respect to their actual energy consumption.

The principal source of energy in Space Settlements is, of course, solar power. Our natural fusion reactor produces such amounts of power, that only a tiny fraction is needed for use by Space Settlers. Hence the question arises whether Space Settlers should be charged for their actual energy consumption?

Though the Sun does deliver its energy for free, it does not mean that the energy consumed by Space Settlers should be free. In order to make use of Solar energy, Space Settlers should convert it into useful forms of energy, such as electricity. This requires the construction of Solar Power Plants (SPPs).

And though a SPP has no fuel costs, it needs money for its construction and maintenance. Further the SPP has to be protected against meteorites and terrorists. It is obvious to someone has to pay for these services. And then we are only talking about the power plants, what to think about the construction and maintenance of the grid? But the good news is that even if we take these cost into consideration, space settlers will receive a considerably lesser energy bill than their terrestrial fellows.

The backside of SPPs is that the initial investment to build them, is quite high (though this would be compensated by the extreme long service life of the plants) and hence vulnerable to emerge of monopolists. After all once a space energy company has built a SPP, it can offer energy at relatively low prices, while the threshold of building a new plant will deter potential competitors.

Since such a monopoly is likely inevitable, it would be best if the governments of space settlements will take care of the production and maintenance of SPPs. This had two benefits: first all profits will flow to public treasury, and secondly price setting by the energy company is subject to democratic supervision.

Should households pay for waste disposal?

In many civilized countries households pay a fee for funding the public waste disposal service. This system, however, stems from the age when garbage was dumped at landfills and waste was considered as a valueless annoyance. Though many developed countries has switched to incineration as their primary method of waste disposal, waste was and is still seen as the useless by-product of consumption. Continue reading Should households pay for waste disposal?

Time zones and separation of functions

One of the major advantages of space colonization by the use of free space habitats instead of planetary “space” colonies, is the separation of functions. Gerard O’Neill already advocated that residence, agriculture and heavy industry should be separated from each other, i.e. that agriculture and heavy industry should not be done in the same structure where most residences are located.

In regard of the separation of agriculture and residency, O’Neill gives two main arguments. First, in a space settlement we have full control over both climate and day length. However, the climate preferred by most citizens is not necessarily the most optimal climate for the cultivation of crops. Second reason is pest control. If in an isolated space farm a pest will occur, it will be easy to deal with it by sterilizing the farm by increasing temperature above the limit life cannot survive. It’s quite obvious that we cannot do this, in a space habitat populated by humans.

For the separation of heavy industry and residency, the arguments are even more straightforward. Heavy industry impose a great danger to health and safety through its pollution and potential of explosion and similar disasters. By banning heavy industries from space habitats, we create a clean and save environment for people to live.

A second argument put forward by O’Neill is related to his proposal to divide space settlements over three time zones, with a 8-hour difference between each successive zone. Because heavy industry is located outside any space habitat, they can be in continuous operation. And if the industry hires shifts from different time zones, night work which is considered as unpleasant by most, will be avoided.

O’Neill imagined that space settlers employed in heavy industry, would commute each day between their home and their workplace. But technology has improved much since the mid 1970s, that nowadays much work can be automated and where people are still needed teleoperation will allow workers to run factories without leaving their space habitats or even their homes.

Besides the desire the avoid night work, there’s another reason for dividing space settlements among different time zones (which surprisingly is not mentioned by O’Neill). The principal power source of space settlements will be solar power. And since there’s no night in space (in space settlements night has to be created by covering the windows), space based solar power plants will run continuously and hence have a continuous output. But the demand for power is not continuous over the day, causing surpluses at some moments and shortages at others.

If we divide the population of three time zones with an 8-hour difference, the power demand curve will be flattened. This because if one settlement is facing a power shortage at some point, it’s likely that another settlement has a surplus since their population is experiencing another phase of the day.

Animal welfare

Humanism is about behaving like the best of civilised, thoughtful, responsible, considerate moral agents. We talk about being humane towards animals; that is, acting with the consideration and kindness that arise from conscious interest in their welfare.

A. C. Grayling in The God Argument p. 196.

As a humanist organization, Republic of Lagrangia puts great importance to animal welfare. Space colonization should not only be used to found a better society for humans, but the creation of a new society should also an opportunity to raise animal welfare to a higher level.

Here on Earth proposals aimed at the improvement of animal welfare, are too often resisted by established interests. In space, however, such interests do not exist, at least not yet. This enables us to introduce the best animal welfare legislation, we have to forge the iron when it’s still hot.

The first measure we should take, is the prohibition of intensive animal farming. Not only is intensive animal farming bad for animal welfare, it also constitutes a serious threat to animal health. Diseases in livestock can, when they jump to humans, cause pandemics. Instead space settlements should promote vegetarianism and encourage developments like in vitro meat.

A second measure is to ban the commercial exploitation of animals in the entertainment industry. No wild animals in circuses, no bull fighting and related blood sports, and no animal racing. Rather than betting on horses or dogs, people should bet on the 400m hurdling.

The third issue we have to consider is animal testing. Unlike the previous two topics, simple prohibition is here problematic. On one hand we do not want to inflict suffering on animals, but on the other hand we want to know whether the stuff we use is safe. This does not mean, however, we can’t and shouldn’t take steps to address this issue as well.

We should limit animal testing to those cases, in which the necessity of these experiments can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. Next we should encourage research to reliable alternatives for animal testing. New scientific developments suggest that most, if not all, experiments on animals could be eliminated in the near future.

If we will succeed in eliminating animal testing without compromising scientific and medical progress, we have made an important step in the development of civilization.

Space settlements and foreign policy

We have slightly updated this article, and given its continued relevance we have decided to reblog it. Soon we will publish an article which will discuss this topic in more detail.

Lagrangian Republican Association

Introduction

When space settlements are reality, they will have to interact with other human communities, whether these are other space settlements or terrestrial communities. Especially in the early days of human space colonization, almost every space based community will be dependent on both the Earth and other space settlements, since it will be highly unlikely that one (small) space colony can be entirely autarkic. Therefore space based communities are required to maintain international relations and so they are in need of a foreign policy. In this post I will, for the sake of the argument, assume that space settlements will be sovereign entities, which are free to manage their own affairs.

Relations with terrestrial nations

Basically we have to distinguish between international relations with terrestrial nations on one hand and with other space settlements. This reason for this distinction is simple, for the next few decades, and probably for…

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How to combat racism

On the website of The Guardian we found this important article. According to this article white people become less racial prejudiced when they move to ethnically diverse areas, as result of witnessing positive interactions between people of diverse ethnic backgrounds.There are no a priori reasons to assume the same is true for people of different racial groups.

This study is relevant for the governments of Space Settlements. They could reduce racial prejudices in their societies by careful allocation of residencies to settlers in order to create ethnically diverse neighbourhoods, and to prevent the creation of “china-towns”.

Space settlements can do so by introducing quotas which state that no more than a certain percentage, for example 15%, of the population of a certain neighbourhood can be of the same ethnicity. Further the government of a Space Settlement could use lottery to assign residencies to its immigrants. This will result in neighbourhoods which are representative for the whole population of the settlement.