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

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