An Exploration into the Laws of Another Planet

SpaceX is targeting to send people to the planet Mars in 2024, and with the ever-advancing technology this target does not look impossible to us anymore. Furthermore, we have reached to such a point that even if we hear that people will be going to Mars tomorrow, we would not feel very surprised. Maybe we would say: “Oh, that’s earlier than I expected.” But we would not question its possibility. In short, today, sending people to other planets and colonizing those planets does not seem like a subject of sci-fi anymore. It is about to become a reality of the human race.

Sending people from different nations to another planet and creating a colony there require us to ask a very important question: “What law will be applied to the life on that planet?”

At first, we might think that if a certain country sends people to Mars, then that country’s laws will be applicable to those people. In this case, even if all people going to Mars are from the same nation, that kind of answer would not solve this issue. Because, the main issue here is not about the determination of which country’s law will be applied, instead, it is about the applicability of a set of rules and laws that were created on Earth to regulate society.

There are different arguments as to how governments occurred and laws were created. Basically, one argument supports the scenario that people were living in chaos, and in order to find peace and order, they gave power to governments to rule them by creating and imposing laws. The other idea is based on the scenario that people were actually living in a peaceful state, however, in order to enhance their life qualities and more effectively use their rights, they created governments and authorized them to facilitate social relations. Both of these scenarios are based on the assumption that people lived for a long time and experienced many things before deciding to create laws. However, in case of a colony established on Mars or on another planet, the laws that will be applicable there cannot be based on the past experiences of people, because there were no people on that planet before.

In line with the above argument, we ask the second question here: “Can a certain set of rules and laws that were created to govern the people of Earth be properly applied to a group of people living on another planet?” The answer to this question is probably not affirmative. The first reason, as stated before, is the lack of history on that planet. In this regard, some people may argue that the laws are shaped based on the creations they regulate, and accordingly, the laws of Earth would apply to Mars as well, because the subject of the laws is same: humans. Here, I argue that the laws cannot be shaped solely based on the creations they regulate; of course, this factor would have a great effect on the creation of laws, however, the laws cannot be regarded as effective laws outside “the place” they are applied. In other words, the environment, animals, plants, the principles of physics, and any other thing on this planet, and above all, the Earth itself shape the laws. Therefore, taking these laws from their original place and bringing them to another place that has totally different features would not work very well.

Then, in this case, one might ask: “So, should we just leave the people in Mars without any laws and let them determine their own rules?” The issue in this case is that letting those people determine their own rules may not lead to a perfect result for the future of the colony, because, after such a long travel from Earth to Mars, the mental state of those people might be unstable to some extent, and if they are given the authority to create their own rules, this might lead to unexpected results. On the other hand, creating rules for Mars in Earth and teaching these laws to the people to be sent to Mars would also not work very well due to the abovementioned issue regarding the effect of the environment on laws. One option is that basic principles of law could be taught to these people, and then they can create their own laws taking into consideration that these principles must be observed. In this way, because, at least the basic principles are observed, we may assume that the laws to be created by the people of Mars will not be very unexpected, and instead, they will be capable of governing society to some extent. However, this idea leads to the third question: “How can we be sure that the basic principles of laws of Earth will suffice to be regarded as the basic principles of laws of Mars?” This question is closely connected to the second question above. We cannot give a very certain answer to this question, but at least, we can try to understand the importance of the environment in creating laws.

Above, I mentioned that the Earth itself and its components help shape the law. Here, in looking for an answer to the third question above, we should determine to what extent the environment affects the basic principles of law. Because, laws and their basic principles are not the same thing. Basic principles are always respected while making new laws, and they provide guidance on how the laws of future should be. However, they are not detailed. They are the ground on which the laws are based. The laws are the application of those basic principles to society and the relation between people. Accordingly, they are much more detailed than the basic principles. Now, again, we accept this argument: environment shapes laws. And we ask the forth question: “Does environment affect the basic principles of law as much as it affects the laws?”.

I will tackle this question in the next article.

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