Friday, November 11, 2011

Will Space be Full of Republicans?

Testing a prototype space-sex garment, the 2suit.
         My first reaction to this is, "I hope not!" but that really isn't fair.  Also, even a cursory study of current space programs makes the idea more likely than others.  By that I mean, the cadres of Astronauts we see in the modern-day space programs around the world are full of conservatives.  If you look at certain studies and documentaries about "Sex in Space", for example, the overwhelming majority of space men and women are clear that they would rather go without for half a year on the ISS instead of risking their careers with fraternization.

         At first blush, this makes a kind logical sense. For an agency like NASA, which constantly faces budget crises, this is the kind of attitude you want to see in your Astronauts.  Space is not only the most dangerous environment that humans have ever lived in, it's the most expensive.  If you're funding (with billions and billions of dollars) a space program, you have to have people that are willing to live in cramped conditions, with only the most basic of amenities, for extended periods.  The amount of self-control needed to simply exist in space is beyond most people's imaginings.  Faced with that, current thinking goes, what's a little doing without?  And like I said before, micro-gravity is hardly an aphrodisiac...

I'm watching you, Dave...
          Anyway, what does this have to do anything?  First of all, it's another nail in the coffin of the idea that future space-pioneers will be libertarians.  Apologies to the ghost of Heinlein, but it's not gonna happen.  Living in a tuna can in space, last thing you want in an Astronaut is an individualist.  Space people will be cooperative in a way that normal human culture cannot conceive of.  In addition, while we would consider invasive surveillance to be a violation of our civil liberties, people living in space would consider it not only normal but helpful.  Astronauts are used to people on the ground knowing how fast their hearts beat, not to mention where they are, what they are doing, and other manifestations of Big Brother.  In such an environment, common privacy will become an outmoded concept.

          That being said, some of the more odious (at least to me) forms of Conservative-ism will most assuredly not be present in space.  For all of us that are the 99%, It is indeed true that currently all but 1% of us live off of only 1% of the GNP.  As I've mentioned before, this will not be possible in space; there won't be enough disposable resources to support such economic disparity.  In space, as I've also mentioned before, money is nothing but penalty mass; if you can't eat it or breathe it, it's useless.  And the thing about air is, you can't limit its distribution.  If there is enough air for a hundred people, the 101st doesn't just suffocate, everybody gets hypoxia.  Food could be hoarded, but starving people in space are not going to sit still for it.  As RAH pointed out, anyone "...who has missed seven meals is ready to commit murder".

          Other aspects of a free-market economy will be missing as well.  Health care will have to be free to all;  what is a nasty cold goin' around on Earth is a pandemic in orbit.  Education will have to available as well, as a lack of knowledge is potentially lethal in vacuum.  Social Security won't just be an abstract concept either; it will be vitally necessary for all who live in space.  That doesn't leave out the possibility of deportation...but that's another story.

          I supposed I've rambled on enough about all this for now.  Have a good weekend RocketFans!


  1. I forgot, had you linked to Charles Stross's r incendiary essay?
    He is of the opinion that space colonization is implicitly incompatible with both libertarian ideology and the myth of the American frontier.

  2. ...I've read it, but I don't think I've linked to it before. I really should.

  3. Libertarianism might work in space. It would have to have a bit of tweaking (for example, it would probably apply to the group, as opposed to the individual), and it certainly would be uncommon, if not a rarity (and would probably only apply to people who can afford their own spaceships), but that doesn't necessarily mean that it won't be there.

    Of course, individualism would be secondary to the team, but again, that doesn't mean that it won't be there. So, I would argue that the colorful tramp space freighter archetype is still plausible, there's just a lot more group-related stuff surrounding it (mandatory spacecraft inspections while docked or landed, space travel laws enforced by the military or some other organization with space warships, etc.).

  4. I've seen this idea discussed a few times- fine argument so far as applying transient modern political issues to the future goes, but I don't see how the implicit other side of the argument ('liberal' societies are more likely in space) makes sense either. In a small community such as a space habitat there also isn't going to be much for strong social safety nets (everyone takes mass and therefore must contribute), respect for diversity (everyone needs to fit in or create crew friction) or similar issues. You'll likely find space societies that are highly regulated, controlled and somewhat repressive on both the governmental and the social level- a sort of worst of both worlds result.


  5. I have never understood this need to bash "space libertarians". I complately don't see the connection between space, liberalism and conservatism either. And in context of this blogpost, I'm buffled by the implied explanation what conservatism is about. It is such a intelectual mess here, that I don't know form where I should start.

    Maybye from the mos t important thing. There is no conservatism, liberalism, libertarianism, communism, socialism or whatever in space. If people in habitats would organize themselves they would propably do it under very unintuitive mixture of militarism/totalitarism and individualism. You need to be disciplined, obedient AND open-minded plus elastic at the same time. They would have to share their living space, resources AND have the ability of rationalizing their choices as well as spirit of entrepreneurship.

    So we are talking here about something complately different and new. Such society would consist of extremes and their viewpoint would be radically different from any political divisions that we have here on Earth. And your simplistic analysis of that issue aside, you seem to have problem with political definitions of major proportions. Also, issue of "sex in space" seems to point out to infantiliztion of human relationships. All of this helps to explain why you fail to answer questions of political divisions in space properly. Do not think, that I point those things out only for my amusement, but the worst thing in SF is preaching SF whose author has poor intelectual background. And to some extent, you just fell into this category.

  6. I disagree with nothing you've said. The thing about "bashing" libertarianism that as seen in modern SF is, as near as I can tell, simply an acknowledgement living without interference from a central authority is impossible in the space environment.

    The point of mentioning current political thinking in the context of speculative fiction is two-fold (the reason that it's American is because I am and it's what I know. I'm still betting on Brazil as the next main super-power). First, the "speculative" part is trying to extrapolate how current thinking and assumptions will influence a future society. We, as a species tend not only to continue using cultural systems after they have become obsolete but to not question them either. Charlie Stross' recent blog post goes into this idea in more detail:

    The other reason deals with the "fiction" part. right now in the US, there are widespread protest against the capitalist establishment and enormous friction from the liberal/conservative dichotomy in our politics. The question, "Will space be full of Republicans?" is an important one because Republicans have typically spent more on space programs than Democrats, and this means that their politics have influenced astronaut and mission selection more. I'm not happy with this, I'm just pointing it out. If the American Conservative political thinking is responsible for choosing the first astronauts to live permanently in space, than space colonists of American ancestry will be influenced by their decisions. For what it's worth, at this point Americans will not be the first to live permanently in space. It will be the Chinese, ESA, or even India before the US, because we lack the political will.

    Personally, I've tried to get away from actual politics as much as possible. With the Destiny Foundation, I've come up with a way to let pretty much anybody live in space that wants to, and as I've pointed out before, my favorite idea for future space society is a form a tribalism.

    I do freely admit that I have in this post projected American prejudices and provincialism onto other nations' space programs, and I shouldn't have. The world doesn't revolve around the US, much as we'd like to think it does, and at this rate, future space societies won't remember us at all.


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