Kevin P. emails me:
Suppose humanity becomes a multi-planet species. Does the percentage of people living in autocratic societies decrease or increase relative to what we see on our planet today? How do the time and resources required to travel between inhabited planets affect this?
Do some people on “free” planets work to help the non-free? More or less than such countries today? Is there some scale that is reached so a free Federation comes to guaranty freedom everywhere? Or maybe a tyrant or tyrants, once they have a couple wealthy planets under their belt are unstoppable because of cooperation difficulties of the individual free planets?
When I think of settling other planets, my base case is one of extreme scarcity and fragility, at least at first and possibly for a long time. Those are not the conditions that breed liberty, whether it is “the private sector” or “the public sector” in charge.
Maybe corporations will settle space for some economic reason. Then you might expect space living to have the liberties of an oil platform in the sea, or perhaps a cruise ship. Except there would be more of a “we are in this all together” attitude, which I think would favor a kind of corporate autocracy.
Another scenario involves a military settling space, possibly for military reasons, and that too is not much of a liberal or democratic scenario.
You might also have religiously-motivated settlements, which presumably would be governed by the laws and principles of the religion. Over time, however, this scenario might give the greatest chance for subsequent liberalization.
America developed to be as free as it did (at least for some people) mostly there was so much free land. Living standards were relatively high, and moving further westward was always an option. It is hard for me to think of an interplanetary version of the same condition. Easy exit and free resources don’t seem to go well together with the concept of space settlement.
Space stations and settlement will give the power to those who control the infrastructure, a bit like Wittvogel’s Oriental Despotism hypothesis, except with both air and water being scarce.
I thus expect that interplanetary settlements, whatever their other virtues, will not do much for liberalism or liberty. Here is my earlier post on The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.