Hardin Goes to Outer Space – ‘Space Enclosure’

23 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2011 Last revised: 21 Feb 2011

Date Written: February 8, 2011


This article is the second installment of the ‘Hardinian Collection’. The first article, ‘A Tragedy of the Space Commons?’, favourably argues that the outer space environment can be categorised as a ‘Space Commons’ which is vulnerable exposed to degradation and may result in its eventual ruin should the growth of orbiting debris remain uncontrolled. On the premise that outer space can be characterised as the ‘Space Commons’, this article shall explore mechanisms to govern and manage a commons resource. An assumption entertained by the literature is that actors’ individualistic behaviour to exhaust the available resource units within the commons to satisfy the short-term desire to maximise their economic gain, willfully disregarding the collective and long-term enjoyment and use of others users, shall persist. The exception, however, is where appropriate mechanisms and disincentives controlling entry to, and the exploitation of, the resource are imposed and enforced. It has been argued that well-defined and implemented set of property-rights systems could instill good behaviour from the community actors and sustainably manage the commons; hereby saving it from overuse and Garret Hardin’s hypothesised ‘tragedy’. This proposition has been advanced by two such: Garret Hardin and Elinor Ostrom. The works of Hardin shall be examined in this article. Through a constructed theoretical framework, a critically evaluation is carried out to determine the potential of applying his property-rights systems to avert the ‘tragedy’ and effectively preserve the quality of the outer space environment from further degradation arising from the population increase of orbiting debris. It shall be explored if such property-right can be viably devised and instituted to adequately regulate and improve the quality of the outer space environment. Assuming that such implementation is feasible, this article shall conclude whether Hardin’s save the commons solutions could provide an efficient governance framework that regulates access to and promotes the long-term conservation of the Space Commons.

Keywords: International Space Law, Space Debris, Garret Hardin, Space Commons, Property Rights, 1976 Bogotá Declaration, Common Heritage of Mankind, New Space Age

Suggested Citation

Chaddha, Shane, Hardin Goes to Outer Space – ‘Space Enclosure’ (February 8, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1757903 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1757903
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