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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