The Space Party officially does not care whether you choose to marry a man, a woman, a person with some other gender, or someone with no gender at all. We do not care if you choose to marry an alien, or any other sentient and consenting creature, or more than one of the above. Marriage is a religious and cultural phenomenon, and so we believe the state should make room for people with all sorts of beliefs and practices.

We simply don’t believe that one person’s marriage is damaged by another person’s interpretation or adaptation of it. How do we prevent people from using our permissive views on marriage to game the system and get tax breaks for something we don’t approve of? Simple! The state should stop affording tax breaks on the basis of marriage! Marriage-based tax breaks give advantages to certain types of people over others, and disadvantage poorer people with less stability at home. The practice of attaching social benefits to the “head of household” disadvantages women, especially single mothers, and amounts to economic coercion, where people are pushed toward one set of lifestyle choices by the choices of those who wrote the decades-old tax code, rather than by what they decide is best for them and their families.

In essence, when the state gives tax breaks to married couples, it gives tax breaks to people based on their participation in certain religious institutions, violating the first amendment’s prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion. Once we remove marriage from the purview of the state, we also remove the incentive for politicians to waste precious time and attention debating social issues that do nothing to advance society or meet the very real needs of its people. We no longer have to argue and vilify one another over gay marriage, trans marriage, or poly-marriage.

Marriage for all, or for none. Do as you please. As long as you don’t hurt each other, we don’t mind. As long as you find love and happiness in your brief time on Earth, we’re happy for you.

Filed November 27th, 2013 under Uncategorized

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is right now.

– Old Earth proverb

Exploring space is an admirable goal unto itself, but we are generations away from achieving some of the ends we seek, and if we are to become a political party capable of securing loyalties, changing the public discourse, and igniting the imaginations of the body politic, we must speak credibly on contemporary issues.

In our first post, Why the Space Party?, we discussed the idea that the Space Party should be home to citizens from across the ideological spectrum, coming together around the thing we can truly agree upon–space. In this post we’ll discuss Space Party politics as it applies to specific issues commonly discussed in 2013 American politics, in an effort to sketch out, if not an ideology, then a methodology by which we can evaluate the ideas and policy proposals of today. 

(Note: As always, if you disagree with anything in this post, that means we need to hear from you! Please chime in in comments, or join the mailing list and start a conversation. The Space Party loves a good debate!)

So, just what exactly does the space party think about {{some issue}}? Let’s start with the big ones:

  • On War: War between humans will only weaken us for when we eventually have to fight the Klingons, so we should really avoid it. Further, in recent years, it seems that war, for the US, has been a way to proclaim our greatness to the world. But in waging war we only seem to sew more discord, and empower radicals. But space exploration is a much cheaper way to make our claim to greatness, and one that wins us the respect of the world without creating new enemies. 
  • On Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, Transphobia: Prejudice has no place on a starship, or in a research lab. Can you imagine how laughable it would be for a 23rd-century society to still discriminate on any of these grounds? If it’s un-meritocratic, if it puts people down instead of lifting them up, if it turns us against one another and erodes our trust in our fellow humans, it is holding us back from exploring the stars, and we oppose it. How silly will intra-humanity racism seem when we are making trade agreements with non-carbon-based life forms? How silly will transphobia seem when we are meeting and partnering with new races with only one gender–or with five? 
  • On Climate Change: If you don’t accept the global consensus of climate scientists, this is probably not the party for you. If you do, you’re probably pretty worried about melting icecaps and acidifying oceans. Obviously we can support a carbon tax, and innovations in clean and renewable sources of energy. But there is a real concern that we have already passed the tipping point, or that there is enough carbon in existing fossil fuel reserves to put us into “total global catastrophe” territory, so we need to take urgent action on a global scale to reverse the changes in our climate, and the petty politics of today’s America simply aren’t up to the task.

  • There are some techno-fixes (like carbon sequestration) that are making tiny impacts on our overall carbon output, and as a group of people who look to the far-off future and see things like terraforming other worlds with the technology to regulate atmospheric conditions, it’s tempting to approach climate change with the same lens. We should be pleased by advanced in carbon sequestration methods, but not enthusiastic about them. When it comes to the existential threat of a rapidly warming Earth, we simply don’t have the luxury of waiting for carbon sequestration at a global scale. 

    More to the point, the Space Party is about reinvigorating America’s political will and giving people a sense that it’s okay — necessary, even — to demand really, really big things that require us to work together and reshape the way our society works to bring about a better future. Achieving a carbon-neutral energy economy by 2050 will be a Really Big Job, but we absolutely have to do it. A global Marshall Plan for climate reparations that invest technology and financial resources in the global south and give poorer countries the resources to be self-sustaining and still tap into huge new sources of energy will also be a major undertaking — one recent estimate put the figure at $1.9 Trillion per year for the next 40 years. “Can we do it?” is not the question. The question is when we will begin. 

  • On Economic Inequality: If humanity manages to make it another 200 years mostly intact, 23rd century society will be fantastically wealthy by today’s standards. In fact, within just the next few decades, the world’s economy will be shaken to the core by the proliferation of 3D-printing technology, the approach of super-intelligent AIs, and advanced robotics. There is a very real chance that we will live to see the end of scarcity as we know it, when consumer goods and agricultural supplies can be printed on-site anywhere in the world using cheap devices and raw materials, and the role of the industrial factory and distribution lines (and capital) are drastically reduced.

  • On the other hand, if our economy and technology continue to advance on their current tracks, extreme poverty and extreme technology will create the conditions for enormously destructive terrorism; the wealthy few will continue to improve their abilities to shackle regular people with debt, keeping them focused not on their children’s homework, or the instrument they’ve always wanted to play, but on the next month’s payment. This is economic coercion, and it is a part of nearly every American’s life. Much more must be written (and debated!) about the Space Party’s economic platform, but we should begin by setting our eyes on a world beyond scarcity, free from debt and economic coercion, where all people are guaranteed enough food and shelter to live with dignity and pursue their dreams — even if those dreams don’t pay well.

    In terms of 2013 politics, this means: supporting universal health care (like Medicare, but for every person); pursuing a guaranteed minimum income (like Social Security, but for every person regardless of age or ability), striking consumer debt and student debt, and supporting all manner of innovation and small businesses, using the tax structure to ensure that some substantial chunk of corporate profits go back into research, infrastructure, and education; and funding–lots of funding–for space programs and related technologies.

This list is far from exhaustive–very far–but it’s enough to start painting a picture of the Space Party’s approach to public policy. It’s an approach that affords little respect for the institutions that currently hold power, and isn’t afraid to inconvenience them for the sake of progress. The Space Party seeks to empower individuals to make their own way in life, while encouraging cooperation among nations and companies. And we can find some guidance in the proposition that if some fact of life today would seem grotesque and inhumane in a hundred years, we can start calling it grotesque and inhumane right now.

In future posts, we’ll discuss some issues that get a lot less air time in the 2013 political discourse, but will shed more light on the Space Party’s worldview (”galaxy-view”? “universe-view”?). Drug policy, food and agricultural policy, copyright law, foreign aid — they’re all very interesting, and the Space Party methodology just might give us some clear direction on the best approach to take. Centralized media and the two major US political parties have abdicated their responsibility to debate these issues (and many more) on their merits, and the result is that power defaults to those with money and access, not great ideas and workable solutions. For example, agriculture policy is written mostly by big business, not small farmers. Aid policy is written by wealthy donors and donor nations, not the poorer, more diverse group of aid recipients.

The Space Party is about looking to future goals to identify transformational changes, and we can articulate a methodology that will guide us as we engage in the contemporary debate, so that the decisions aren’t simply left to people with money and access. If it helps us get to the stars, we’ll support it. If it seems likely to lead to a terrible dystopian future, we’ll oppose it. There’s something about the future that helps to focus the mind on what’s truly important. There’s something ennobling about imagining a world far beyond what we can know today — not just small steps for us or our children, but great leaps for all humankind.

 

Updated Feb 5 2015: updated the climate change section to reflect the idea that carbon sequestration-style techno-fixes won’t solve all our problems, and that the real answer is attaining a carbon-neutral society and investing massive technology and financial resources into global south economies to help them make the same transition. 

Filed November 24th, 2013 under Uncategorized

What would you say ya do here?

– Bob Slydell, Office Space

The Space Party will be a U.S. Political party, but don’t think of it like the Democrats or the Republicans. They’re not doing a good job at electing and empowering leaders to advance society’s true interests, or fostering a healthy debate about real ideas for our future, or including the broader public in their decision-making processes. They rule by short-sighted consensus in closed spaces, and that’s working out terribly. So we don’t want to be the same–but what do we want to be like?

Let’s start with a few political realities, what I think they mean for our strategic outlook as a party, and for what we should being doing with our time and energy.

  • We’re probably not going to be a national majority party any in my lifetime or yours. (Though if this ends up being the first generation to regularly live to 200, we would certainly have a shot.) So we need to advance our goals through non-majority strategies.
  • Most of the country’s office-holders are elected in single-member districts, so we may have to look for non-electoral means, and for places around the country which employ multiple-winner election systems, or allow fusion voting.
  • There are places all around the country where science is being attacked, or undermined, or defunded, making the future just that much farther away. But we can identify and shed light on these situations, we can reach out to the scientists affected and attempt to help them get politics or industry or religion or superstition out of their way.
  • Every so often, political and social momentum tips forward, and often public policy lurches forward with it, helping bring the country into a new future. To convince powerful people that they no longer wish to be on the wrong side of history is hard; it often requires an entire political and cultural movement, so we should embrace science fiction shows and movies and other cultural fixtures, we should champion education, especially in STEM subjects, and sure, we should share GIFs with thoughtful quotes from cultural icons and science advocates. The cultural movement must grow for the political movement to grow in kind.

So first, we’re going to lay out a vision for the future–a vision not for ten-year plans but hundred-year plans. I love the 100 Year Starship project. “Let’s make human interstellar travel capabilities a reality within the next 100 years.” Let’s talk about things that big! Not just cutting down on hunger; let’s talk about making sustainable food production units for long-range starships, and then put them to work right here on earth where people are going hungry. Electric cars and batteries 1,000 times smaller and more powerful. All the world’s information available to any person at any age with expert teaching modules that respond to the individual’s learning needs–wouldn’t it be grand?

Simply by talking about a platform for the year 2113–arguing about what should go into it and arriving at some consensus and starting to fill out the plan–others will be drawn to our cause. Many Americans who love science and space and the idea of exploring the galaxy are currently apolitical by most standards: young people and technologists don’t seem to fit into the two-party system. Entrepreneurs may feel under-served by both parties, just like business people who don’t feel they need a government they can buy, just one that functions properly and fosters a healthy and productive American workforce. Teachers may feel like both parties are just getting it so utterly wrong, and neither of them is looking at the data for what really makes great schools.

Second, we must become known as defenders against attacks on science, enough that people find us and ask for our help when they are attacked. And we must defend them vigorously and effectively. Think the ACLU for science, the EFF for the final frontier. We must be their advocates, and applaud their accomplishments in public ways. To speak in very blunt political terms, we should seek to raise the public favorability rating for the International Space Station, boost name recognition for Stephen Hawking, and expand the media profile of Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Defenders loudly and in public; promoters and evangelists in calmer fashion, elevating others who do good work. 

Third, we’ll back specific initiatives, like the Penny For NASA campaign to increase public spending on NASA to 1% of the Federal budget. Fight legislative moves to restrict the auto market to choke off electronic car sales. Back a carbon tax. We’ll raise money, organize endorsers, call out deniers, run a press shop, send emails, call congress — It’ll be a bit like politics. These sorts of campaigns will be require another level of organizational commitment and stability, but should be a goal from the outset. We don’t need any preexisting infrastructure or established power to start supporting a carbon tax; we can just start doing it.

Fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh… have to do with winning elections in localities with the right sorts of election laws, and influencing elections elsewhere, donor organizing to mess with the existing major political parties and influence their behavior, multi-national campaigns, cross-partisan alliances, and a whole lot more. But those are questions for a party somewhat more mature than its second blog post. What we should do as the Space Party will be a topic of much discussion here. If you have ideas, and would be interested in helping us move that discussion along, please join the listserv, and let’s get to it!

Filed November 17th, 2013 under Uncategorized

“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime”

— Reinhold Niebuhr

Why a Space Party? To explore! To move past the basic human struggle against disease, poverty, scarcity, debt, war, and oppression; to spread out across the universe, and uncover its secrets. Because we poor mortals can be so short-sighted when we are threatened and cornered, but when we are safe and have space to dedicate ourselves to meaningful pursuits and healthy communities, we can do great things–things that are truly worth doing.

The Space Party is about lifting our eyes up to something greater than our Earthly concerns, in the hope that by reaching for great heights, we will more easily tackle and move past our struggles with the most basic necessities of life. Space exploration fosters peaceful cooperation between countries–even those at odds in other arenas–and collaborations between technology companies, and it incentivizes parallel development of interlocking technologies (like a fuel source and an engine).

For example, putting a sustainable colony on Mars will require that we invent and hone technologies for some combination of water extraction, recycling, and conservation, which will in turn make easier work for the nearly one billion people who struggle with access to clean water. That will aid in the very tangible, life-or-death goal of ensuring that every one of Earth’s people has access to clean water.

Similarly, sending a craft to another star would require that we tame new energy sources (like fusion, or something better), and come up with propulsion systems that would revolutionize space travel within the solar system (such as efforts to mine near-Earth asteroids). Attaining faster-than-light travel would open up the galaxy, and the science to get there just might require that we answer fundamental questions of the nature of space and time.

By now you might be thinking, “Well of course I think space is great, why do you think I’m here? I love Star Trek / Star Wars / Battlestar Galactica / Doctor Who / NASA / JPL / APOD / NDT. But I care about other things a lot too!” That’s great, so do I. And you should bring your other beliefs with you when you’re talking to other citizens and other Space Partiers. At least we can bet that if you get into an argument with someone, you probably both believe in science and sharing knowledge, favor increased spending on public space programs, appreciate education, innovation, and the dignity of all sentient life. 

That’s a pretty good basis for a common understanding of the world — enough to have a productive conversation, we can hope, and a lot more than you can expect on cable TV or in the nation’s opinion pages. It’s enough that we can hope to learn something from those exchanges and come away feeling some mutual appreciation and respect.

It is my sincere hope that we will entertain a vast range of political ideologies, from the apolitical, to libertarians, anarchists, socialists, free-marketeers. I also hope that the only time we really get angry at one another is when arguing about sci-fi, or the best text editor, or how many dimensions the universe has. Despite whatever political differences we may have, we’re not corporate stooges or patsies for the establishment, we agree on mostly the same version of reality, and we all agree on space.

Filed November 16th, 2013 under Uncategorized