Bell’s at it Again

There are some opinion writers or bloggers that I almost don’t want to critique. Something about a resemblance with shooting very fat, slow fish in a very small barrel. One of them is a frequent SpaceDaily opinion writer, Jeffrey Bell.

Now Jeff isn’t quite bad enough to be completely worth ignoring. Like a stopped clock, he usually has a good point hidden cleverly in articles that otherwise have little or no redeeming value. He starts out his most recent article, Doom and Gloom Won’t Sell Space well enough by pointing out the staleness of many arguments for public space development. He points out that many of the old (and new) arguments for public funding of space development are based on fear and gloom-and-doom predictions. I have to admit that I’m no more convinced than him that the humanity is going to wipe itself out in an ecological catastrophy if we don’t lobby Congress to give NASA more money for space development. And I also don’t think that liberty is going to die if we don’t give NASA more money to develop space. That last view is actually kind of ironic when you think about it.

What kind of gets me is this little barb that he threw in during his discussion of “Space Libertarians”:

More common are various types of limited libertarians. There is a large contingent of “Space Robber Barons” who wish to open up space for untaxed and unregulated cowboy capitalism.

Am I the only one who finds this little barb to be a little out of place with the rest of his commentary? What does this have to do with gloom and doom, or even with trying to get people interested in publicly funded space development? I guess you might stretch and say that even though they don’t want public funding, that “Space Robber Barons” are trying to push for stuff like the Zero-G Zero Tax legislation that pops up every once in a while. But for the most part, us Robber Barrons are a little too busy making business plans, bending metal, sometimes making money, and generally actually contributing to the settlement of space.

He ends on this note that shows that in spite of a few good insights in his article he still doesn’t get it:

Space activists need to develop a new message that will appeal to normal 21st-century voters, not just a few graying Baby Boomers. I don’t know what that new message should be, but I know what it shouldn’t be: Yet another prediction of inevitable doom here on Earth.

Space activists don’t need to develop a new message to appeal to voters. They need to realise that wasting time and energy trying to get a bureaucracy that cares more about putting jobs in key congressional districts than it does about helping spur the commercial development and settlement of space is just that–wasting time. NASA may very well get a few of their people back to the moon, at great expense. It may even be able to make a small base, and do some beautiful science. What NASA will probably never be capable of is spurring on the actual settlement of space by the rest of us. If you want to see space developed and settled, make a business plan, bend metal, raise capital, find some niche in the emerging commercial space market that you need to fill, whatever. Just don’t keep wasting money and time and effort trying to convince Congress to give NASA more money, as it won’t do any good.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
Jonathan Goff

About Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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2 Responses to Bell’s at it Again

  1. Dan Schrimpsher says:

    What I find funny is these two quotes shown together:

    More common are various types of limited libertarians. There is a large contingent of “Space Robber Barons” who wish to open up space for untaxed and unregulated cowboy capitalism. – i.e. Republicans is what you call that.

    and….

    Ask 10 of your friends to name the Green Party and Libertarian Party candidates for President in the November 2004 election. Unless your friends are political junkies, you won’t get any answers.

    I find the last one odd, since he already said most of the libertarians were really Republicans (or ~53% of the nation). Can anyone tell the me the Republican Presidental canidate.

    Otherwise I agree with you. He is stuck in the 70s when space activist thought NASA has to build us a space colony to live in. We don’t have to convience anybody were right, except our customers 🙂

  2. Jon Goff says:

    Dan,

    More common are various types of limited libertarians. There is a large contingent of “Space Robber Barons” who wish to open up space for untaxed and unregulated cowboy capitalism. – i.e. Republicans is what you call that.

    Well, most Republicans are just fine with government regulation as long as they can use it in their favor. I think his “cowboy” capitalism quote was meant as a barb at Bush. If he is though, his sentance is actually contradictory. The kind of “cowboy capitalism” that is often associated with Bush, Cheney, et al has almost nothing to do with true free, unregulated, untaxed markets. I’m no Bush fan, but if he really were for what his enemies claim he is, I might be more interested…but I’m digressing.

    He is stuck in the 70s when space activist thought NASA has to build us a space colony to live in. We don’t have to convince anybody were right, except our customers 🙂

    Yup, and that’s a far easier job in my opinion than somehow getting a government run program to actually be more beneificial than harmful.

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