20 June 2011

Is there government on Mars?

For some reason, my stats counter shows me that this is the most popular topic of searches linking to this blog, so I may as well satisfy those curious people out there with some more thoughts on this.
But, first, can someone please enlighten me on the reason for the interest in this topic. Is it because there is a band of conspiracy-theory cum alien-abduction types out there, or has some law or politics professor set this as an assignment...? Leave a comment, below!
Anyway, I confidently say that there is no government on Mars, for the simple reason that there is no human (or similarly intelligent) life there. That makes me sound like Aristotle: to have a civil government, you need intelligent animals. Hives of bees and herds of buffalo are not signs of government. You need to have beings who are capable of speech, and hence capable of conceiving and debating the question of justice. In post-linguistic-turn times, that means that the subject that speaks is the subject that is already governed.
But, it is trivial and obvious to conclude that, if humans colonised Mars, they would need to form a government there. The reason for posing the question may be to create a hypothetical case for considering the old 'state of nature' situation and the Lockean social-contract theory of civil government.
But the question is a trivial one because the very process of getting humans on to Mars would require from the beginning the initiatives of a government. People don't just migrate there of their own accord. So, the colonisers of Mars would be an already-governed community, and would remain as such for the sake of their own survival there.
This illustrates the fundamentally tautological nature of social-contract theory: i.e., that the rational and sociable qualities of people under civil government are the very qualities that would be required of a race of humans in a hypothetical state of nature if they were to consent to being governed. The conclusion, in short, has to be assumed in the premise.
This is not a new observation, as even Rousseau had noticed it. But it spells death to social contract theory, in my opinion. Quite aside from the fact that one has to go to great lengths (even to Mars!) in order to postulate a state of nature - which is surely an exception and not the historical (or pre-historical) norm for the origins of human civilization.
So, the idea of the state of exception - as distinct from the old-fashioned idea of the state of nature - has more interest. But more on that another day maybe.


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