Eventually, we will probably establish a permanent presence on the Moon and on Mars. Initially, there will be few people, mostly military and scientists, and it will probably be under some degree of coordination by Earth-based superpowers space agencies dedicated mission control centers and perhaps the United Nations.

However, as the population numbers increase the diversity in backgrounds, political inclination and worldview is bound to explode. Will each of these orbs be able to retain a unified planetary government, or will they explode into a myriad independent factions, each claiming a slice of land on the new world?

  • $\begingroup$ Are we positing terraforming or enclosed colonies? The governmental unity of a colony that you have to stay inside differs from one where you can take a tent and leave civilisation behind. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Nov 4 '15 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ This infers that the colonies are self sustaining. Is that true in your question? $\endgroup$ – James Nov 4 '15 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs, probably enclosed to start. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Nov 4 '15 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ @James Yeah, I'm assuming populations in the millions and high degree of automation $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Nov 4 '15 at 18:03

I suspect that Lunar or Martian colonies will begin as city states, due to the fact that each enclosure must be a self contained biome. States are polities where resources are pooled for various reasons (usually defense, but in this case defense against a hostile environment), so there is no ability to share resources with another self contained biome many (or many hundreds) of kilometres away. Even if the entire colony effort is centrally directed, it makes more sense for the safety and security of the life support for each biome to be treated separately.

The other aspect which will separate the city states from each other is the differential distribution of resources. Some settlements will have greater or lesser access to resources than others, and while they will certainly trade amongst each other for water, volatile materials essential for life support or metals, there will also be a gradual (or not so gradual) differentiation and "them vs us" attitudes developing. Perhaps the inhabitants of Tycho crater will be envious of the water derived wealth of Shackleton crater, while Martians at Tharsis will wonder why tourists ignore their lovely volcanoes for the deep canyons of Valles Marineris and the uncouth owners of the gaming establishments.

Since Terraforming planets will take millennia using known or projected current technology, the various separate polities will have a long time to develop very distinctive cultures and societies. If unification occurs in the year 3000 with the completion of terraforming, the unified Mars or Luna will resemble something like a Federal State (something like the United States prior to the Civil War, or Germany shortly after unification). Of course by then, culture, society and our concepts of things like rights and laws will be so different that the idea of government or nationhood might be moot.


It depends on the history of colonization.

If one centralized organization, like an international space agency, is the driving force behind the colonization, the power structures of the colony will likely mirror that of the organization and be hierarchical and centralized. The leadership style of the organization will influence how strong the government will be. When the organization is very authoritarian, it might be able to maintain a strict hierarchy while the colony grows. But an organization with a laissez-faire leadership style might experience secession of sub-colonies when conflicts arise. This can happen as soon as the colony has grown so large that factions are able to survive on their own without having to rely on the help of others.

But if multiple independent organizations are doing independent colonization projects on the same planet, like multiple competing private corporations or the space agencies of different countries, the colonies by each organization will act independently and have their own power structures from the beginning. Mars and Moon are big, so the colonies would be too far separated to have much interaction with each other. That means there is little need for a central coordination authority for the first few generations.

But after a few centuries of growth, individual colonies might expand so far that conflicts over borders and resources can surface. These conflicts will need to be resolved somehow. Unifying neighboring colonies under a common government to ensure fair distribution of resources could be a solution, but might be quite difficult due to cultural differences which arose over the past centuries. A more straight-forward conflict resolution method some might propose could be violence.


Most likely a unified planetary government, but with individual states.

The world is getting smaller. The differences between the nations of Earth are getting less... differenty. Both the moon and Mars are already smaller physically, and will likely import the technology (and build new technology) to make their worlds small (global communication networks, fast travel, etc).

While humans will likely always exaggerate differences between groups to maintain a sense of individuality and to derive self-worth from those differences, small worlds will act more like differences within a nation rather than differences between nations. Here in the US we exaggerate the differences between the people of different states in the nation. While clearly the people of the Northwest are actually different (in a better way) than the rest of the country, we're all still Americans. We are actually quite similar. The savvy American abroad will claim to be Canadian, no matter what state they're from.

The cohesiveness of the Solar Government, or at least World Governments, will be increased by adopting a system somewhere between the United States and the European Union. Where we're all united under one small (intercontinental or intrasolar) federal government, but different states have control of their local areas.

Depending on how it's viewed, the answer to the question is then: both things will happen. Many individual states will divide the land united under one global (or solar) government.

  • $\begingroup$ I think your Northwest superiority may be opinion based...obviously the mid-west is better if you look at things objectively. $\endgroup$ – James Nov 4 '15 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ @James We can both agree the East is bad. If you think the midwest is great, then surely you can see the obvious progression that the actual west is even better. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Nov 4 '15 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ Speaking from Washington DC as I am, I'm ok with all claims to superiority. Just pay your damn taxes. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Nov 4 '15 at 18:57

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