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Smaller Government, The Final Frontier

I am with TJIC when he says that while colonizing space is a cool thing to do, it doesn't justify government coercion.

For a while now, I have been wanting to post on some of my positions that have changed since I was 18, as I have morphed from a secular conservative to a full fledged libertarian anarcho-capitalist.   One such issue is on space.  I used to be a supporter of government space programs (it was hard not to be such, watching moon landings and Tang commercials in my formative years).  My logic was that the government wastes trillions on all kind of stupid stuff, and the space program was kind of interesting.  I supported it as one of the government's least-bad things.

Unfortunately, I have realized that if you add up every person in the United States's list of least-bad government programs you get ... the totality of the US budget.  Each program has a supporter that thinks that program is a kind of cool exception in the morass of government waste.  I have also, by the way, come to the conclusion that the space program is a direction-less mess, and is not really as interesting as I once thought it was.  The planetary probes are still cool (and probably have the most bang for the buck) but the ISS just seems like a UN building in space and the current plans for Moon and Mars missions appear to be NASA full-employment programs rather than realistic missions.

Posted on January 3, 2007 at 09:18 AM | Permalink

Comments

If the Space Program had licensed all of the technology that it paid to have created, it would be financially self-sustaning. From previous articles I have read here I thought that you would be one of the Space Program's biggest fans.

Posted by: Jim Collins | Jan 3, 2007 10:44:08 AM

I don't think he is against a space program, I think he is against a government space program.

There is a line in James Mitchner's _Space_ that I think exactly summed up the whole government attitude to the space program. All though the novel, this Senator from a Western state has been pushing the space program. He watches the Moon landing from Mission Control as a VIP. And then he says the line.

"Now we can get on to important things."

And just like that (in the novel and in real life), the space program died. No more romance, no more pushing the edge of human achievement, no more universe opening up to us.

For their next bit, they built a space truck. A space truck that spends much more time being repaired than it does in space.

Posted by: NeoWayland | Jan 3, 2007 5:34:35 PM

I'm not entirely convinced the space program would have happened at all without government pushing it forward in the '50s and '60s.

But the same is true of the internet in the '70s and early '80s. Before DARPA pushed TCP/IP, the future seemed to belong to closed proprietary technologies, and that was where all the private money was going.

And the solution to space should have been the same as it was for networking...euthanize the government monopoly as soon as the private sector shows any sign of being willing to take up the reins.

The government lost interest in space, but it was incapable of losing interest in having a space monopoly. So we got the half-assed program we've had ever since '69, where there's always enough money to do it over, but never enough to do it right the first time.

Posted by: Matt | Jan 3, 2007 11:03:06 PM

What Matt said. The situation now is rather like if the Lewis and Clark military exploration expedition had been followed up by a permanent military program that got in the way of private exploitation of the new territories. Whether or not you agree with having a gov't-run space program in the first place, we aren't getting back the money NASA has already spent, but it's past time for the gov't to get out of the way and let private enterprise take over.

Posted by: markm | Jan 4, 2007 10:04:21 AM

Read _Kings of the High Frontier_ - it will cure you of any NASA nostalgia

Posted by: Patri Friedman | Jan 10, 2007 6:57:13 PM

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