There was an interesting piece about foreign policy linked to by one of the blogs I read on a regular basis (can’t remember who now). The piece was talking about the delay between when changes to the global order happen, and when elites finally start recognizing that something has changed:
Now… it seems to me that because of inertia or vested interests, members of the elites always fail to recognize the eroding influence of a declining great power. Economists refer to Recognition lag when they discuss the time lag between when an actual economic shock, such as sudden boom or bust occurs, and when it is recognized by economists, central bankers and the government. A similar time lag may explain why so many pundits are continuing to demand and/or expect the Obama Administration to reassert U.S. influence abroad and “do something” about this or that (depending on one’s favorite foreign policy agenda).
Interestingly enough, in a foreign policy seminar I led a while ago I asked my students to conduct a content analysis of how the leading powers were covered by the major international dailies in the aftermath of WWII. They were astonished to discover that until the mid 1950’s both Great Britain and France (by then bankrupted economic and military powers) were described as “great powers” more times than the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Only in the late 1950’s was “great” being dropped as an adjective when discussing the Brits and the French and “super” was applied to the Americans and the Soviets. A example of recognition lag in foreign policy.
I’ve been saying for some time now, that there may be a similar analogy in space policy discussions–the politics behind Shuttle Derived Launch Vehicles.
For many years, people have pointed out that the main reason why the Shuttle is still flying today is mostly due to inertia, and because it provides lots of jobs in important congressional districts. The implied belief being that this will always continue to be such, so it doesn’t matter if a Shuttle Derived vehicle makes any technical or economic sense, becuase “political realities” will always guarantee that NASA employs tens of thousands of employees and contractors in much the same way as the are today.
This is historically naive in my opinion.
Much as the UK and France had their influence decrease after WWII, there have been many changes in our nation’s political structure recently. The belief seems to go that somehow the loss of power by the party of which Utah, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi are all part will not effect in any way the political calculus on how NASA will proceed from here. That retiring or outgoing people in key senate and congressional committees don’t matter. That Senators and Presidents will stick out their necks to defend the jobs of people who didn’t vote for them.
While it is possible that inertia might prevail, I think the reality is that the winds have already changed in Washington, and that it’s just a matter of time before more space advocates start actually realizing this.
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