What is Metalaw?

According to Dr. Ernst Fasan, Metalaw is “the entire sum of legal rules regulating relationships between different races in the universe.” Metalaw is the “first and basic ‘law’ between races” providing the ground rules for a relationship if and when we establish communication with or encounter another intelligent race in the universe. Dr. Fasan envisioned these rules as governing both human conduct and that of extraterrestrial races so as to avoid mutually harmful activities.

A Short Biography of Andrew G. Haley

by Adam Chase Korbitz

Andrew Gallagher Haley was an American lawyer and early rocket propulsion entrepreneur, sometimes described as the world’s first practicing “space lawyer.” He originated the concept of Metalaw, a legal concept closely related to the scientific Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI).  First conceived by Haley in 1956 (four years before astronomer Frank Drake conducted the first true SETI experiment, Project Ozma) Metalaw was the term Haley coined to refer to fundamental legal precepts of theoretically universal application to all intelligences, human and extraterrestrial.

Born on November 19, 1904, in Tacoma, Washington, Haley earned his LLB from Georgetown University Law School in 1928 and later his BA from George Washington University in 1934.  In addition to being a lawyer, Haley became an expert in rocket propulsion.

Haley’s early career included working as a congressional aide working on communications legislation, which led to his serving as legal counsel to the Federal Radio Commission and its successor, the Federal Communications Commission, from 1933 to 1939.  After a stint in private practice from 1939 to 1942, Haley joined the U.S. Army Air Force’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, but left after a year to found Aerojet Engineering Corporation (which later became Aerojet General).  Haley served as Aerojet’s first president and managing director from 1942 to 1945.  During World War II, Aerojet developed rocket-assisted and jet-assisted takeoff units for aircraft.

After World War II ended, Haley became active in the International Astronautical Federation and the American Rocket society.  Haley served as IAF vice president from 1951 to 1953, president from 1957 to 1959, and general counsel from 1959 to 1966.   Similarly, he served as ARS vice president in 1953, president in 1954 and counsel from 1955 to 1963.

In 1956, Haley published an article entitled “Space Law and Metalaw – A Synoptic View,” in which Haley first proposed his “Interstellar Golden Rule”: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.  According to Haley, we can project only one principle of human law onto our possible future relations with an extraterrestrial intelligence: “the stark concept of absolute equity.”

Haley developed his ideas somewhat further in various papers and a 1963 book (Space Law and Government) published prior to his death in 1966. However, significant elaboration of Haley's ideas did not take place until the publication in 1970 of what remains the seminal metalegal work, Relations with Alien Intelligences:  The Scientific Basis of Metalaw, written by Dr. Ernst Fasan.

In 1960, Haley was instrumental in founding both the International Academy of Astronautics and the International Institute of Space Law under the auspices of the IAF. 

Haley died in 1966.


Andrew G. Haley, Space law and Metalaw – A Synoptic View, Harvard Law Record 23 (November 8, 1956)

Andrew G. Haley, Space Law and Government, Appleton Century Crofts, New York, 1963  

Ernst Fasan, Relations with Alien Intelligences:  The Scientific Basis of Metalaw, Berlin Verlag, Berlin, 1970

Andrew G. Haley papers, 1939-1967 (Smithsonian Institution, National Air & Space Museum Archives)

International Space Hall of Fame at the New Mexico Museum of Space History

Introduction to the Andrew Gallagher Haley Archive at the National Center for Remote Sensing, Air, and Space Law

Daniel Lang and Brendan Gill, The Talk of the Town, “Metalaw,” The New Yorker, December 29, 1956, p. 19