If you heard some lunatic on the street screaming ‘privatise the moon!’, you would, almost certainly, dismiss them as being a little bit silly. But it appears that there are people who genuinely think that it would be a good idea. And they aren’t (totally) barmy – they’re legit economists.
A report from the Adam Smith Institute, a UK-based neoliberal think-tank, says the moon should be divided up between countries, who can then do with it as they wish. It claims that doing so would create new industries in space tourism and exploration, and provide financial rewards for those renting it out.
Naturally, this all brings up more than a few concerns. For starters, under the UN’s Outer Space Treaty, drawn up in 1967, both individuals and countries are currently banned from owning property in space. Splitting the moon up between countries would fly in the face of this agreement, potentially opening it up to the greed of individuals and corporations.
There are obviously plenty of other issues with exploiting the moon for profit. In the eyes of many, unchecked privatisation on our own planet was one of the primary causes of the current global climate and resources crisis, while a manic fixation on property rights since the 1980s has led to devastating increases in poverty and inequality. It’s difficult to see the privatisation of the moon as doing anything other than making the rich even richer and deepening inequality even further.
Predictably, social media users have resoundingly mocked the paper, from joking that it’s a ‘comic book evil genius plan’ to suggesting it’s just another ploy to avoid taxing the super-rich. Which is all, to be honest, fair enough. It’s healthy to question the ‘experts’ sometimes, especially when the stuff they come up with seems – and probably is – a little bit silly.