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Michael Shermer

Dr. Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and Presidential Fellow at Chapman University.

MICHAEL SHERMER: So governing Mars. Are there any lessons for the Red planet that we can take there from the Blue planet? I think there are. So I included this chapter in my book because in the section on government and economics and classical liberalism and political philosophy I think we have an opportunity here that we're about to colonize Mars. This is stunning that we can even contemplate doing this. And maybe it'll never happen, but let's say it does because it's a very realistic possibility either through Elon Musk or through a government program like NASA. This is possible. So we should start thinking now about, well, what are we going to take there? And I don't just mean what kind of food and records and books. I mean what kind of government are we going to set up there. Now it's possible that future Martians will think of something completely new that we've never thought of and they'll try some experiments and they'll come up with something great and we can important from the Red planet lessons for our own planet. That's possible. That's a sci-fi scenario that people have considered.

But I think it's not just let's abandon everything we've done on Earth because it was a failure. It's not a failure. I think there are certain things, experiments we've run that work better than others. In general democracies work better than autocracies. Free markets, even though regulated, free markets work better than command economies like in the Soviet Union, North Korea, and China before 1980's. I think those are some big global lessons that are obvious. And then more specific things like again granting people free thought and free speech. No censorship. That's a hard earned lesson. When you look at the history of free speech going back thousands of years, what we take for granted today like I can think and say anything I want and go on the internet and create my own blog and just rip into the government or to rip religion or whatever. That is really new and unusual in most centuries prior to this one. You'd be hung, burned at the stake, jailed for saying these things, thinking those things.
So those kinds of lessons I think we should take with us. I tweeted just for fun at Elon Musk and he tweeted back to my astonishment because he likes to think about these sorts of issues. What kind of government? He said well direct democracy. Okay, our founding fathers considered that. There was evidence even then that it doesn't work and lots of evidence since then that it doesn't work. The reason is because direct democracy is something like a mob mentality that is let's just do whatever the majority says. Well, the problem is you get mobs of people hysterical about something and the majority says burn women at the stake because we think they're cavorting with demons in the middle of the night and that's the cause of crop failures and pandemics and disasters. No, that's a crazy idea. That's a wrong idea and the mob got it wrong. There's this business about the wisdom of crowds. Sometimes crowds are correct on simple questions that you see on television shows. But something complex like running a government the mob is probably not the best. So a representative democracy. Something like what we have. A constitutional republic where you have a set of rules. These are called the Bill of Rights that says it doesn't matter what the mob thinks. It doesn't matter if it's 51 percent or 99 percent. You still can't. And then follow down the enumerated Bill of Rights.

These are the things that it doesn't matter what the majority thinks, people have a right to these particular things or to be protected from these particular things. There's certain basic human characteristics of human nature that we have to take into consideration because it isn't Martians colonizing Mars. It's humans colonizing Mars, taking with us all the human nature elements that we know can be good and bad here on Earth because it's going to happen there on Mars.