President Obama has maintained a consistent vision of converting America into a socialist utopia. Though he objects to the moniker ‘socialist’ , he has delivered an unceasing attack on the pillars of private enterprise through tax policies and regulation that create no doubt as to his ideological bent on the forces that brought America to economic greatness. The country’s priorities have been reset from economic vitality and defense supremacy to social investment, wealth redistribution, and marked retraction in defense expenditure. He has done what he could to suppress private sector financial creativity, energy exploration, small business enterprise, and most spectacularly, health care, in an effort to assure the ultimate direction, and with it power of determination, comes from the government.
In one industry, however, President Obama deserves credit as an economic visionary. Either through personal lack of interest in the subject, or the desire to remove the resources of the government from huge expenditures for which he could discern no social value, President Obama in 2009 declared a revolutionary privatized strategy regarding space exploration and development. Since 1961, the vision of the national government was for steady progress in manned space exploration, with the moon landing achieved by 1969, reusable space shuttle by 1981, and a permanent space station by 2000. The assumption was that the manned missions would progressively point outward toward the planets, with returns to the moon and ultimately Mars and the other planets envisioned. Given the spectacular costs and engineering support required for such goals, it was assumed that only a national consensus project could achieve the economic wherewithal for such undertakings.
President Obama declared, however, with the coming retirement of the space shuttle, that the national government would divorce itself from direct manned orbital flight, and would rely instead on private corporations to achieve the capacities to secure safe low earth orbit flight, satellite launch, and space station re-supply. The problem was, of course, no such capacity in the private sector existed, and the result of the policy was a howl protest from well informed traditional supporters of NASA, such as former astronauts Neil Armstrong and Jim Lovell.
Four short years later, we should give the avowed socialist President Obama a private enterprise medal. A remarkable amount of progress has been made in the private sector, led by the particular entrepreneurial genius of Elon Musk (see Ramparts People We Should Know #21 ) and Space X. Space X has already achieved successful cargo delivery reproducibly to the space station, and the commercial exploitation of manned flight for both tourist and orbital ventures are progressing nicely. New companies such as Orbital Sciences Corp., Bigelow Aerospace, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and Sierra Nevada, as well as established aerospace companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin are preceeding to goals of successful manned space flight, and not just to low earth orbit. The directions each are taking are diverse, aggressive, and ultimately unbound by the typical stultifying bureaucracy of governmental creation usually dominated by congressional bias. The Washington Post has an exceptional overview of old versus new space development that is worth exploring fully to grasp this exciting development, as we live through so many other disappointments of the current economy.
The President deserves credit for stumbling upon a prime example of how trusting the arena of ideas and the process of private market competition can lead to dramatic improvements in human development and life quality. And if he’s not careful, might just make America an economic leader in the current century as great as the last. Were he only to have such stumbles in the other areas of our moribund economy. In reflecting upon the overarching principles of human behavior versus utopian ideal, we once again turn to Winston Churchill for some prescient words:
“Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon.”