The very idea of a branch of law moving entirely off-planet sounds perverse without context. Won’t our society always need an economy to thrive? Well, yes and no. We can certainly imagine a future that does not include money as we know it. Star Trek certainly showed us how to imagine it. But do we think it a likely future? Certainly not. But there are many other reasons we might consider the possibility that many of our economic laws could one day move primarily off-planet.
Jeff Bezos, who you may have heard announced a $10 billion investment in the fight against man-made climate change, owns a company called Blue Origin. The company was built for many of the same reasons that similar companies — like SpaceX — were built. They strive to spread humanity throughout the solar system. And perhaps even farther.
But Bezos wants to commercialize space for another reason. He believes that it is the perfect place for “heavy industry.” Factories spew smog into our atmosphere. Coal plants and oil refineries poison us and make the planet warmer and warmer, the effects of which ripple outward like a wave, ever growing in size.
Renewables like wind and solar are now cheaper to build and maintain than dying industries — that continue to be subsidized and politically propped up — like coal and oil. Imagine if renewable energy was all we needed! Imagine if factories were transported to off-world locations like Mars. There are untold resources on other planets and inside asteroids. We haven’t even scratched the surface of the riches that are out there because we’ve only ever looked for them on Earth.
But if Bezos is successful, someday those riches will be ours. If Earth becomes a primarily residential biosystem, as he envisions, then most of our economic laws will become pointless. Sure, people will still buy and trade on Earth. But many of our regulatory laws will have to change to oversee transportation of goods from where they are manufactured on other planets to our home on Earth.
That reality might not be as far away as you think. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders is widely considered a socialist by those who want to scare people away from voting for him, but his policies are actually incredibly popular. If they’re ever implemented, expect to see wealth change hands. Expect to see a greener world as companies are held accountable for their actions. Expect to see big changes in economic law.