A recent article in the Space Review by a writer named Greg Anderson illustrates one of the political problems involved in mining resources that reside in asteroids and on the moon. Some estimates suggest that trillions of dollars’ worth of precious metals such as platinum exist in asteroids and on the moon. Anderson wonders how this wealth can be siphoned off to assist poverty stricken countries in the developing world. In so doing, he fails to understand the economics of mining in space and how wealth is created on Earth.


To be sure, wealth greater the dreams of avarice exist beyond the Earth, just waiting to be mined and refined. But shipping minerals back to Earth is going to be prohibitively expensive for quite some time. Indeed, the business plans of companies such as Planetary Resources and Moon Express envision selling resources to customers operating in space. When transportation costs come down enough to ship space mined minerals to Earth, the influx will drive the supply up and the price down.

In any event, a sudden infusion of cash into the coffers of third world countries is not likely to lift them out of poverty.

The reason is that poverty is not caused so much by a lack of money and resources but a lack of capitalism and an excess in official corruption. Foreign aid money is just as likely to wind up in the Swiss bank accounts of corrupt government officials as it is funding projects that help local people.

The principle is best illustrated when one looks at a night time picture of the Korean Peninsula from space. South Korea, a republic where free market capitalism prevails, glows with the lights of cities.


North Korea, a communist dictatorship, is as dark as it has been since the beginning of time. The two countries reside side by side on the same land inhabited by the same people, but are as different as if they existed on two separate planets.

An example of a developing country that is clawing its way out of poverty to first world status is India. As recently as the 1960s, the United States was obliged to ship grain to India on the greatest relief flotilla in history to stave off famine. 50 years later, India is a technologically advanced country with a growing middle class and even its own space program.

It did not achieve this feat through massive amounts of foreign aid. It achieved growing prosperity through wise government policies that encouraged private business and infrastructure development.

Instead of fomenting dreams about a United Nations run program to steal asteroid and lunar wealth for the benefit of corrupt, third world governments, we should be developing ways to export capitalism and the rule of law, both necessary for the creation of wealth.