By Nathan Barton
Can government preserve itself in space? Can the “new frontier” be more reliably controlled than the frontier of the Old West or the Seven Seas for centuries?
Among other things, it is a matter of scope. Which is one reason that liberty, freedom, survived as long as it did in the American West and a few other places (like the Gobi and Sahara and the Outback and Amazonia). (Open space is not an absolute guarantee of freedom, as Siberia and the Northwest Territories demonstrates, but that is another discussion.) The vastness of space even just here in the Solar System is a daunting challenge to government control. (You might not be able to hide in space, but it can be pretty hard to get to you.)
Indeed, governments have always had a difficult time keeping control of wilderness and frontier areas – with or without technology. For millennia, governments could not “keep the peace” even a few miles out to sea. You could see the ships of smugglers, pirates, rebels, and just ordinary folks for leagues and leagues, but… Catching them was a very different matter.
In a similar way, mountains have, from time immemorial, been much harder for kings and princes and tyrannical parliaments to boss around. They’ve been the breeding grounds for rebellions and revolutions time and again. The history is long. Nepalese mountaineers, Tibetans, Southeast Asian Montagnards, Appalachian mountain folk (who even rebelled against the Rebels back in the 1860s!), Scots Highlanders, Welsh Cymru, and so on right back to the dwellers in the mountains of Ararat whom Nimrod and his consort Semiramis could not bend to their will, from their capital on the plains of Shinar.
(Its not an unbroken record: the Feds broke both the gold and silver miners of the Sierra Nevada and the Rockies, as well as the Saints in Utah, to their yoke. Tibet fell under Peking’s rule, and the proud clans were crushed by the British (English and Lowlander) forces culminating in the ’45. But still…)
It isn’t just a matter of physics and geometry and geography. It is also a matter of attitude and the psychology of wide open spaces and skies, whether we are talking the Alps of the Swiss, the Big Sky of Montana, the vast expanses of open sea, or the infinitely vaster reaches of space.
It is that infinity that will, by God’s grace, defeat the states, the governments, once and for all. But it will not be easy. I think it not at all unreasonable for so many science fiction authors to speculate so much about rebellion and lawlessness and resistance – yes, and liberty! in space. From The Moon is a Harsh Mistress to Rebel Moon and Red Thunder and Weber and White’s Insurrection (Starfire) series, we see freedom and liberty hunted down like dirty dogs, but victorious. Open space “warps” the minds of humans to love liberty, to crave freedom, and to reject even (or especially) petty tyranny and artificial restraints on choices and deeds.
But the fighting will NOT stop. For every generation that gains or regains its freedom, there will be a new generation which is made up of those who forget the past, and those who crave domination over their fellow men and women. And once more, there will be war.
I agree with Heinlein, not the do-gooders, and with Jesus, that most gentle and meek of men, who said, “Don’t assume that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) Even (or especially) the Prince of Peace realized that liberty has a cost, and that cost is often a lack of peace. War DOES settle things, at least for a time and in a place.