SODOM & GOMORRAH: With the recent expansion of China’s space program, many in the United States are angry that President Barak Obama has cut so much funding from NASA. Being a very contrarian site, Restorus would suggest that Obama’s cuts haven’t gone far enough: the entire manned space program needs to be shut down today.
Note that I did not say that just the government run space program needs to go, nor did I say that the entire space program has to be shuttered, but I did say that the entire idea of sending people into space is a bad one.
In Search of Archimedes
Archimedes wrote that he could move the whole earth with a lever if he just had a place to stand. Manned spaceflight has essentially given human societies access to that Archimedean Point. While not a literal position that we can stand, the inspiration to change the world into our image became a more believable fantasy when we were able to see the planet as an entirety from space.
While the notion of being able to change the world however you want may sound impressive, admirable, and fun, it’s not something human beings are capable of and it’s certainly not anything we’ve ever experienced in our condition before.
Humanity is always limited – we only live for so long, everyone we love will die, we require food and sleep, our memory fails, we are faulty. For millennia this has been a fundamental, unchanging fact of human existence. Those who sought to build towers to heaven or be as gods found themselves either cast down or facing the same mortality as everyone else.
Only with the advent of modernity and the belief in the eternal progress of humanity did the idea that we can transform the world, including ourselves, become mainstream.
Many thinkers could afford to be skeptical and still be considered legitimate authorities in their field. They could point to the strange and bizarre fantasies of utopias where we all lived forever and were as smart as Aristotle, and where the oceans were made of lemonade. Pressing the utopian intellectuals on these points was often enough to win the argument in front of the average person.
But now, we seem to have found that Archimedean Point in space. Those who question the idea of being able to totally transform the earth, those who would suggest that humanity will never achieve a fleshly immortality, are no longer legitimate thinkers to the average person. The skeptics and the realists are driven into seclusion and silence. They are always met with the photographic claim, “But we put a man on the moon, we can do anything!”
We must always remember that the material space of this planet has been an immutable part of the human condition. If we somehow reach a point where it isn’t, then are we still human?
Broken Windows Abound
Most people won’t care about spaceflight being a philosophical and cultural death trap. Philosophy hasn’t been taught in several hundred years, and most of us sold our souls a long time ago. What those trapped in the narrow paradigm of our age (they call it being open-minded) see is money, and there are plenty of economic arguments against a government run space program.
The advances in science, jobs, and so forth comes at the expense of other expenditures. As Rothbard pointed out, every tax is a tax on production. By taxing the public to fund a space program, the government decreases the production of other things that would have been made or invented had the tax not existed. Also, by then taking that taxed money and using it to buy ceramic tiles, rocket fuel, metal, land, buildings, concrete, and everything else you need to run a space program, the price of those goods goes up pushing other private players out of the market.
For those in the United States who would like their country to stand on par with China, they should advocate for more budget cuts across the board. NASA is just one piece of the bloated government that should go. Maybe then America could be secure in its ability to innovate better than the Chinese.