James Leroy Wilson's blog

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Free-Market Space Travel

Edward Younkins writes:

NASA, a government bureaucracy founded in 1958, has little reason to develop inexpensive space transportation. Whereas entrepreneurs are rewarded when they cut costs, public managers are rewarded when they increase the size and scope of their programs and increase their budgets. In addition, public managers avoid risk by inflating their costs – errors could lead Congress to cut NASA's budget.

Unlike the trial and error approaches of private entrepreneurs, NASA's program is run as a centralized bureaucracy. After carefully studying all of its options and considering the political aspects of the program, bureaucrats choose the one best approach to an opportunity or a problem and massively fund the program until it works.

Space travel is not too costly for the private sector. The free market is capable of funding safe space exploration and tourism. For the last fifty years, advocates of a government run space program have maintained that the enormous amount of capital and resources required can best be obtained by government and that the cost was just too high for the private sector. Of course, it was the government's emphasis on a space "program" that entailed a single concerted effort by a bureaucratic empire-building institution such as NASA using tax dollars to fund its projects. It was government that kept the cost high and that enhanced NASA's monopoly through subsidization, legislation, and regulation. NASA has come to be viewed by many as a vast, nationalized, high-tech jobs program.

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