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General Plan

Governance of the self-ruling Mars Colony is not dissimilar to the governance of a corporation. While there are many different kinds of governments on Earth, corporations internationally share the same characteristics. The model then, should be familiar to citizens no matter their country of origin.

A Citizens' Council of seven members, similar to a Board of Directors, will be popularly elected. The Citizens Council does not, however, manage day to day operations of the Colony. That task is left to a governor, who is appointed by the Council for a single, non-renewable six year term.

Under the Code, living and working in the Mars Colony is a privilege, not a right. All those who come to the Mars Colony will be permitted to stay under a license. That license is revocable. Similarly, all real property is held by the Mars Colony and leased to individuals or companies working in the Colony. Misbehavior results in losing the right to remain within the Colony.

While there is general international agreement on what constitute crimes, conduct which only violates regulations as opposed to malum in se conduct will usually result in a loss of license and loss of the privilege to stay and work in the Colony. This Code generally does not specify penalties for infractions and intentionally does not address the wider subject of crimes at all.

In addition to governing the Mars Colony, the Colony will engage in commercial operations. To facilitate those operations, an operating company was created with the governor as chief executive officer.

The Code contains provisions establishing a disputes resolution committee to resolve disputes. In addition, there is a committee to resolve labor matters and a minor disputes committee as well. Creating committees rather than courts limits the influence and possible power of would-be judges as well as lawyers.

Much is missing from the Code, most notably provisions concerning mining. These will be added in the future. It is human nature to try to find gaps and loopholes in the law. Trying to address these in a Code creates yet more gaps in a never-ending race to control the uncontrollable and anticipate the future. Some may complain that under the Code the governor has too much power. That has been a valid concern since the ancient Greeks. It was Plato who said that the best government is that of a wise king. Under the Code, the governor has limited powers to issue regulations to address circumstances that arise in the future. His power is not absolute and he can be removed for misconduct by the Citizens Council.

The Mars Colony Legal Code is nothing more than a draft, a blueprint and a proposal. Much work needs to be done. The question of governance of the Mars Colony needs to be addressed before the colony is established. Consider this Code to be one of many initial steps.

There is a serious question as to whether there is a need for a legal code for the Mars Colony at all. The continent of Antartica is governed by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty. That treaty suspended all national claims on the continent and banned oil and mineral exploration. Antarctica has no permanent residents and those who are temporarily present are subject to the laws of their home country.

An agreement similar to the 1998 International Space Station Intergovernmental Agreement (the "IGA") might suffice as well. Under that treaty, the national laws and jurisdiction of the signatory states extend to their own national personnel on the station. The IGA could be extended to apply to Mars as well.

The difference between Antarctica and the International Space Station on one hand and the Mars Colony on the other, is that the Mars Colony may have long-term residents. Accepting that all nations' laws applies to the Mars Colony will create an extraterritorial legal situation similar to that of Shanghai in the international concessions in the 1930's.

A Municipal Council ran Shanghai in the International Concessions. The International Concessions had no unified legal system and instead operated under a patchwork of laws of different countries. National interests in the Concessons were not always aligned. France resigned from the Municipal Council.

Competing courts and jurisdictions jockeyed for position. While there were few Mexican citizens living in Shanghai during this time, Mexicans were nevertheless entitled to the protection of the laws of Mexico. This created a problem because there was no regular Mexican court, though there was a U.S. district court established for China. Permitting all countries laws to apply in effect meant that no country's law applied uniformly. The local citizens ultimately became resentful and extraterritoriality unworkable.

Unless Shanghai of the 1930's is the future model, a unified legal code is required for the Mars Colony.