Blogs > Liberty and Power > TODAY BAGHDAD, TOMORROW BARSOOM?

Jan 18, 2004 6:30 pm


[Cross-posted at In a Blog's Stead]

On January 10th, the London Telegraph, in a story titled"George W. Bush boldly goes to Mars," hailed Bush’s plans for a manned Mars mission as an expression of"mankind's loftiest ambitions."

Now I'm as big a fan of space exploration as anyone. I long to see Mars and other planets visited, colonised, even terraformed. I've watched the progress of the latest Mars rover with fascination. Indeed, the need to renounce NASA was probably the biggest hurdle for me in becoming a libertarian originally. But I cannot endorse a space exploration program led by an institution both inept and criminal, and funded by extortion.

The Telegraph lectures us:"To begin such an endeavour at a time when the US government is already running a large budget deficit is, in its way, heroic. ... It would be nice if those who habitually dismiss the President as selfish and insular would for once acknowledge his largesse."

The terms"heroic" and"largesse" would apply if Bush were putting up his own money. When instead he proposes to fleece the taxpayers -- taxpayers already cringing in the shadow of Bush’s looming deficits, which dwarf his laughable"tax cuts" -- the appellations seem grossly misplaced.

A nonviolent approach to space exploration is perfectly possible: get the State off the economy's back, thereby freeing up the resources and efficiency of the market sector to fund a cheaper and less militarised private space program. (See the marvelous satire How the West Wasn't Won.) But this would be disaster for the bureaucratic/corporate plutocracy that plans to milk the U.S. taxpayers for billions of dollars.

The Telegraph acknowledges that in"strictly practical terms," Bush's Mars project makes"little sense," but gushes:"Americans, thank Heaven, do not always think in strictly practical terms." The Mars mission, we're told, will"ennoble every member of the human race."

The original meaning of the word"ennoble" is" confer an unearned income on special interests by government fiat at the expense of exploited serfs." Someone's going to get ennobled, alright.

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Oscar Chamberlain - 1/19/2004

In this context, you are right. A privately owned space program would be less militarized that what Bush will do. But that's not saying much. The Bush adminisration's desire to militarize space may be the least reported important story of the decade.

However, there is nothing inherrently non-military about the private sphere. In the past companies have had private armies, have conquered, and have pursued military development for market reasons.

Without someone setting some rules--for open cargoes if nothing else--the companies will set the rules that best maximize profit.

And in the short term, the best way to maximize profit is to control the space over Earth up to roughly 23,000 miles.