Tag Archives: space settlement

How life would look like in a Penal Colony

Previously we have argued in favour of sending dangerous criminals to penal colonies, where the criminals have to stay but are further free to do what they want. In this post we have a closer look on what life would look like there.

First the colony itself has to be designed. A small space habitat as the Stanford torus designed for about 10,000 people, seems to be suitable to serve as a penal colony. There will be some non-convict staff, but since the convicts are not supposed to be under 24/7 supervision as in normal prisons, the number of guards can be kept low. It suffices to control the entrée and exit gates of the colony, in order to prevent escape.

Most staff would consist of medical and paramedic personal and probation officers. But the non-convict stuff should be no more than 25% of the total number of residents. Instead most of the services should be provided by the convicts themselves. For instance some convicts could get a barber’s license and provide hair cuts to other criminals, hence there will be no need for hiring non-convict barbers.

A part of the colony will be reserved for agriculture, and plots of agricultural land will be given to some convicts for the purpose of growing food for the colony’s residents. This will reduce the need of importing food, and hence saves public funds. Agricultural surpluses will be exported in order to cover the expenses of the colony.

Other convicts will be employed to run the shops in the colony, or in the waste management department. But importantly all employment of convicts is done voluntarily, because forced labour is generally less productive. However, taking up some employment will increase the likelihood of being eligible for parole.

Besides employment the convicts will need accommodation. Our suggestion is to house them in simple residential containers, which could look like this one. And here we have a picture of how the interior might look like. Though the floor plan of such container has some similarities with a prison cell, the main difference is that in this case the convicts are not locked op in their containers and are allowed to leave it at any time. Since the convicts are supposed to prepare their own meals, each container will have a cooking unit.

For those who think this treatment is “soft”, recall that everyone sentenced to penal transportation has to stay in the colony for at least fifteen years, during which they are isolated from their friends and family (given the remote location of the penal colony, visits are almost out of the question). And a person condemned to this penalty, has to live among people who have proven to be dangerous criminals. Further parole is not guaranteed, but is at the full discretion of the government.

Space colonies and daylight saving time

Today the period of daylight saving time has come to an end in the European Union. On Wikipedia one can read about the supposed (but questionable) benefits of this practise, but here we can state that those reasons do not apply to free space settlements. Why? Simply, because the inhabitants of a space habitat are free to determine when the day start and end.

As anyone knows, the Sun shines always. Hence any space settlement which is sufficiently far away from the shadow of planets, will receive Sun light at any time. So for a space settlement regulating day-and-night is equivalent to opening respectively closing your curtains. And if you can determine when the Sun will “rise” or “set”, you don’t need to mess with the clock any more.

This amount of control creates certain benefits. Gerard O’Neill, one of the pioneers of space colonization, has proposed an ingenious plan. His idea was to sort space settlements in three time zones, each with a difference of 8 hours. This division in three time zones is related to Martin Luther’s concept of 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of work, and 8 hours of leisure. Assuming an 8-hour work day, O’Neill’s plan would allow industry to continue permanently whilst no one should have to work night shifts. This is possible because industry would be located outside any space habitat.

We fully endorse the idea proposed by O’Neill. More specified we propose the following time zones: zone 1 at UTC-8, time zone 2 at UTC-0, and time zone 3 at UTC+8. Each time zone will contain around a third of the total population of space settlers.

Space settlements and citizenship

In the model we propose, people who are immigrating to a space settlement will do this by their own choice. Further those residents who wish so, are allowed to leave the settlement at any time, either to return to Earth or to move to another settlement.Though some authors have suggested to impose a minimum period of residence by contract, we believe that save for some exceptional circumstances, such contractual clauses should be avoided.

As such it follows that the residence of a space colony is voluntary (I restrict myself here to the case of adults). However, if the residence of a space settlement is voluntary, then the citizenship of such settlement should also be voluntary. Citizens have more rights than residents, mainly rights such as suffrage, but have also additional duties such as conscription. Of course, different space settlements will have different sets of rights and duties, according to principles on which their societies are based.

Any person who is seriously committed to the idea of democracy, should recognize the right of any person to choose in which society he or she wants to live. A socialist, for instance, should be able to migrate to a socialist society, whilst a libertarian should have the right to move to a libertarian one. This idea is known as foot voting. If democrats give us the right to choose between socialist and libertarian parties, they should give us a similar right to choose between socialist and libertarian societies.

This might sounds the bloody obvious, but in reality it is not. Many countries such as France, the Netherlands and Singapore, do not allow their citizens to renounce their citizenship unless they acquire the citizenship of another country. Some countries, such as Argentina and Morocco, go even further and deny their citizens the right to give up their citizenship at all. If you are born as a citizen of such country you are out of luck, you will remain a citizen until your death. At least these countries do allow their citizens to leave the country, but some countries such as North Korea do anything to keep their citizens prisoners of their own country.

People who do not agree with the principles of their own countries should not be forced to stay. And since many country still impose all kind of obligations, such as conscription or taxation, on their citizens, people should not be forced to keep their citizenship if they do not subscribe to the principles of their country.

The reason why many countries have made it hard to renounce citizenship voluntarily, is the convention on the reduction of statelessness. This treaty is meant to combat the ills resulting from involuntary statelessness. The last century has seen a lot of instances of governments arbitrarily revoking citizenship of their subjects, it’s this abuse which has caused many people to see statelessness as a thing to be avoided. But the general principles of the convention are:

  • Everyone has the right to a nationality.
  • No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality. (Wikipedia)

Therefore if a person should desire to become a stateless person, a state should not prevent such action. The only thing prohibited to states, is to arbitrarily deprive their citizens from their nationality against their will. Only by due process of law, a state is allowed to involuntary deprive a citizen of his citizenship.

Republicanism is based on the idea that citizenship should be voluntary, which is a logical extension of the core principles of democracy. Persons are not the property of their prospective governments, therefore states are not entitled to impose citizenship on their subjects against their will. In practice this would mean that if a citizen should desire to give up his nationality, he or she should be allowed to do so.

See also:

Federalism and Space colonization