Space

The Apollo Missions Were Cool, But Private Enterprise Has Been Better for Innovation

People are happier, healthier, and wealthier because freer markets have opened the floodgates of innovation, research, and development.

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Fifty years ago, Apollo 11 fulfilled President John F. Kennedy's 1961 promise to land Americans on the Moon. It was exactly the sort of project at which government was supposed to excel: a grand endeavor with no immediate payoff harnessing the resources of an entire nation.

Arguably, all it really demonstrated was that, if you could mug the taxpayers of an extremely wealthy nation to fund a scheme with no obvious benefit, you could orchestrate history's coolest photo opportunity and show up those damned Russkies.

Some people mourn the end of the Apollo era as the end of heroic projects. It's more accurate to say that it was the end of federal dominance of the public image of innovation and the dawn of an era of lower-profile but more-beneficial developments that improve human health, happiness, and wealth.

More beneficial? But didn't the space program give us Tang? Actually, no—the stuff was already around, just not particularly popular until NASA made the astronauts drink it. But sure, let's give NASA credit for marketing drink mix (it's got the electrolytes Moon rocks crave!).

The private sector, on the other hand, has transformed the world around us with communications technology, computers, medicines and medical devices, and innovations in biotechnology. I'm probably missing something there, so feel free to email or tweet my oversight to me (in Apollo days, you'd have had to entrust your jabs to the government mail or a federally guaranteed telephone monopoly).

These transformations come courtesy of a host of sources, some involving government endeavors, many purely private, and others conflating the two—especially when it comes to defense spending, which has flowed in copious quantities over the years to many takers.

Increasingly, the researchers changing and improving the world in which we live do so for private businesses and independent organizations, seeking to solve specific problems or meet the perceived needs of consumers.

"U.S. [research and development] funding reached an all-time high of $499 billion in 2015," according to estimates from the National Science Foundation's National Center for Science and Engineering. "This will represent the largest amount the U.S. or any nation has ever spent on R&D in a single year," reported the American Institute of Physics (AIP) in 2016.

Of that $499 billion, "the federally sponsored share fell to a record-low 23 percent while the business sector's share rose to a record-high 69 percent," AIP noted. The federal government's share of spending was at its lowest level since 1953, the year the National Science Foundation started measuring.

In 2016, the private sector funded 73 percent of U.S. research and development—$374.7 billion of $515.3 billion—the National Science Foundation announced earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the world has morphed in recent years in strange and interesting ways that may not be as dramatic as a Moon landing but are at least as important. These changes are apparent from the fact that I'm typing this article on a laptop computer on the back patio of my rural Arizona home. When finished, I'll transmit it almost instantaneously to my editor in Washington, D.C. As I work, I'm doing my best to ignore the noisy endeavors of my teenage son, who himself is a result of fertility treatments unavailable a few decades ago and who has acquired most of his education remotely, using a variety of lessons and resources available to him far from any traditional classroom.

Even the internet that makes much of this possible and is sometimes credited to government is more accurately described as the result of a private efforts building on earlier public initiatives, with heavy emphasis on entrepreneurialism departing from and prevailing over Defense Department priorities.

Not everything new and cool is sitting on or near my patio table, though.

The world around us would be almost unimaginable—for good or ill—without cell phones. Lots of people contributed to the development of the technology, but the final spur came from rivalry between engineers at Bell Laboratories and Motorola. "Joel, this is Marty. I'm calling you from a cellphone, a real, handheld, portable cellphone," Motorola's Marty Cooper reportedly boasted to his rival, Bell's Joel Engel, in the very first public call, placed as reporters looked on.

Golden rice, which started as a Rockefeller Foundation initiative, "has the potential to reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by a vitamin A deficiency," according to a letter signed by 144 Nobel Laureates. The modified rice is prominent among the low-key but potentially world-changing developments of the biotechnology revolution in general, and genetically modified organisms in particular.

Perhaps less important in terms of biotechnology, but still intriguing, is the looming challenge to vegans: is lab-grown meat ethically acceptable? The schism should be GMO popcorn-worthy.

3D printing has picked up buzz since the 1980s as a means of lowering manufacturing costs, speeding production—especially of prototypes and small runs—and evading government restrictions. "The simplicity and low cost of [3D printing] machines, combined with the scope of their potential creations, could profoundly alter global and local economies and affect international security," the RAND Corporation noted last year.

Tellingly, as the innovations accumulate and transform society, the world is becoming more prosperous, with per-capita income soaring over recent decades (nope—no post-Apollo slump!) in an important break from agonizingly slow historical gains.

"The speed of poverty alleviation in the last 25 years has been historically unprecedented," Alexander C. R. Hammond wrote in 2017 for the Foundation for Economic Education. "Not only is the proportion of people in poverty at a record low, but, in spite of adding 2 billion to the planet's population, the overall number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen too."

Economic liberalization—free markets—get much of the credit for this. Freer markets have opened the floodgates of innovation, research, and development. As a result, "agricultural productivity has greatly improved due to more scientific methods of farming, access to plentiful and much improved fertilisers and pesticides, and new high-yield and disease-resistant plants," Marian Tupy pointed out last year for CapX.

Yeah, maybe it's not as overtly heroic as a Moon landing. But people are healthier, happier, and wealthier because of these and myriad other private innovations, inspiring and building on one another.

And yes, that applies to space exploration, too. Recent innovations in launch vehicles and reusable craft come courtesy of private innovators. A recent Reason Foundation report highlights the ways in which private firms are leading the way into space—and opportunities for them to advance NASA's efforts in that realm. You can even get spectacle, if that's what you want, in the form of the Tesla Roadster and mannequin "astronaut" that SpaceX launched into the interplanetary void.

Sure, that was pure marketing, just like the culmination of the original space race. But it was marketing done with the company's own money. And it was viewed across the world on a host of devices invented and improved by private initiative in the 50 years since the Apollo astronauts took those first steps on the Moon.

NEXT: Libel Litigation in ... Disneyland Social Clubs

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  1. Ya know, it might not be very libertarian of me, but I think I’ll go ahead and celebrate the culmination of what was probably the greatest engineering and exploration endeavor in the history of the human race.

    1. In terms of results accomplished, I’d say Gutenberg’s printing press and Columbus’s trip across the Atlantic had far more impact, both absolutely and relative to the tech and habits of the time.

      1. I’d say you’re probably right in terms of results and impact. However, the logistical and technical challenges of the space race completely dwarf the examples you gave, even relatively speaking. Keep in mind that printing presses and long-distance oceanic voyages both predate Gutenberg and Columbus, respectively. The physics of escaping Earth’s gravity well, landing on another celestial body, and reentering the atmosphere without being vaporized are almost unfathomably difficult.

        1. Not relative to the times. Columbus’s crew supposedly almost mutinied over the unknown, and the financing was a much bigger gamble than Apollo. Gutenberg combined moveable type, ink, a consistently even printing press, and a longer development cycle than Apollo.

          The physics of Apollo were well known. It was designed with rudimentary computers and slide rules, and went from speech to completion in 8 years, a year or two of which was a delay after the Apollo 1 fire. It wasn’t nearly as mysterious to its participants or spectators as Columbus’s voyage, it yielded very few real surprises, and had no lasting affect on society.

          1. Another way to look at it: failure.

            The Apollo program, with one tragedy and one near-miss, had a very high success rate, like most of the human space program before and since.

            In the 15th century, and for at least the next 3 centuries, ships venturing into the open ocean had much higher failure rates.

            We rightly think the technology of space is more complex than wooden sailing ships and sextant-based navigation, but Columbus and his successors were pushing more limits (and taking more risks).

            1. Yes. Apollo was pretty much just an engineering exercise. A good indication of how little new ground it broke was all the myths about Tang, Velcro, ball point pens, and other products being spin-offs.

              1. It’s hard to come up with a dumber take than this

            2. all Columbus had to do was keep sailing West. sailing technology was pretty well established already.

              1. Columbus’s crew almost mutinied. No one else had crossed the Atlantic before like that. If it was just a matter of sailing west, why was he the first?

                If sailing technology was so well established by then, why were sailing ships 200 and 300 years later so much faster and more capable?

                All Apollo engineers had to do was build bigger rockets. If it was so hard, why were they able to build the rockets and all the infrastructure in just 8 tears, including 2 years delay from the Apollo 1 fire?

                1. “No one else had crossed the Atlantic before like that.”
                  Then have they found cocaine on Egyptian mummies.
                  https://worldhistory.us/ancient-history/ancient-egypt/cocaine-mummies.php

                  1. The tomb raiders of the 1890s-1920s could buy cocaine at the local corner store

                    1. So they sprinkled crack over tens of thousands of mummies some of which weren’t found until well after the 20’s?

                2. No one else had crossed the Atlantic before like that.

                  Except for the Vikings, five centuries earlier, of course.

                  I’m going to say that putting a man on the moon and returning him alive was the far more impressive accomplishment, especially considering that 50 years later not another nation has yet been able to duplicate the feat.

          2. Apollo had a big lasting effect on society. It inspired a generation of engineers and scientists, and made people realize that no problem is insurmountable.

            1. The Israeli Bereshit project had that mission. The entire idea was to see if a low cost privately funded diy module could be landed on the moon so as to inspire young people and entrepreneurs to explore space. They knew the probability was low.

              It ultimately failed and crashed on landing but no doubt captured the worlds attention and succeeded in the stated goals.

              Was thinking of the model Estes rockets and planes that were popular. Did that. Now it is drones.

            2. You think there would have been fewer engineers and scientists without Apollo? I wonder what was lost by blowing so much on so little. All the expense, all those engineers, all that industrial capacity, wasted on something with so little return. Think of how much other engineers and scientists could have done with their own money if the government hadn’t stolen it to spend on the moonshot. Look at all that ordinary non-government engineers did do with electronics and think how much more they could have done without so much money diverted to something so devoid of practical results.

              Look at what NASA did after Apollo wound down when everyone realized how little bang for the buck we got — the shuttle. Cost more per launch than expendables. Worse reliability than expendables. And to justify it, they designed the space station, which again has cost a fortune for so little return. Did you know that NASA’s official plan for years was to de-orbit the space station as soon as it was finished, because they had no use for it?

        2. It took a generation to finish what Colombus started- sailing East to reach the far West. This is the 500th anniversary of the voyage Magellan started, but did not live to finish. Only one his ships made it back, yet the otherwise disaterous expedition made a handsome profit- Juan Sebastian Elcano came home with a hold full of cloves worth their weight in silver.

          Tuccile is certainly right about NASA’s post-Apollo decay-

          https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-other-50th-space-launch-anniversary.html

      2. Columbus sailed on government money too.

      3. Columbus was a Government (Big Government!) Contractor. Keep that kind of talk on the downlow

    2. The New York Times badmouthed the Apollo program because it was mostly staffed by white men wearing white shirts and neckties.

      Now Reason signs in with it’s 50 year late bitching. Christ! What assholes.

      1. Yeah, it’s a real shame the NYT was correct in bad-mouthing it for the wrong reasons, but 50 years hasn’t turned a gov’t boon-doggle into anything other than a gov’t boon-doggle.
        In spite of some asshole’s opinion.

        1. Since we will be having government boondoggles until The Libertarian Moment (i.e. the General Resurrection) I’ll enjoy ones like this as they come along.

    3. “I think I’ll go ahead and celebrate the culmination of what was probably the greatest engineering and exploration endeavor in the history of the human race”

      Be my guest, even if the ‘greatest’ title is debatable — it’s a free country — but don’t expect the anti-government cranks, right-wing malcontents, and sovereign American citizen nationalist traditional values patriots to join you from the fringes.

      1. Indeeed. Expect bigoted assholes such as this POS to join you.

  2. Everyone knows golden rice was recorded on a soundstage in Hollywood.

  3. It was quite the corporate welfare boondoggle. Even if nasa is civilian the whole joint was run by the military and their contractors. A technical and political achievement but wholly unnecessary. Now if private industry wants to mine asteroids that seems like a better use for space technology. Landing on the moon or Mars is wasteful.

  4. “Arguably, all it really demonstrated was that, if you could mug the taxpayers of an extremely wealthy nation to fund a scheme with no obvious benefit, you could orchestrate history’s coolest photo opportunity and show up those damned Russkies.”

    Well, it also provided the fans of an assassinated philanderer some pleasure.
    But, yeah, other than that, you pretty much nailed it.

    1. Apparently you never read “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”. It’s the ultimate high ground.

      1. Was thinking about that book. Read and article floating the idea of building a moon colony under the surface. Heinlein was way ahead of his time.

  5. What this article left was that government got in the way of commercial enterprises in space by passing regulations forbidding them to go out their in the first place. President Eisenhower was really big on this, because he did not want the world to see the U.S as an expansionist nation. Then sputnik happen happen and throw all of his ideals out the window. Then the U.S.A and the U.S.S.R made a bunch of stupid treaties on space which they brought to the U.N to become international laws. The result was when a friend of mine went to start a company in New Mexico building rockets in the early 1990’s. The government told them that they can build all the rocket they wanted but would not be allowed to launch them. All the investors folded on him because of that. Which is why all the private industries began lunching in international waters back in early 2000’s . If I remember my space law right you can go an land on an asteroid build a home up their and claim it as yours you would be breaking international laws. And that’s the real problem with private space exploration now.

    1. That’s a good point. I remember being astounded that the US, this supposedly individualistic pioneering self-reliant nation would sign an international treaty forbidding private exploitation of space.

  6. Here a quick over view of what I was talking about.

    https://legalcareerpath.com/space-law/

  7. people talk about all the side benefits of the space program, but if throw billions of dollars at a complex project, there’s going to be some good stuff produced. the question is what other good stuff was never produced because the money was redirected by politicians.

    1. Their are very legitimate reason for our government to be in space. Mainly national security ( spy satellites, weather satellites, gps, ect..)
      The real problem is the usual things that go wrong with government.
      The biggest problem is that the government felt it had a right to monopolize space and space technology. From what I remember back in the seventies you could build model rockets no problem, but if you tried to build large rockets or any technology that could get you into space you ran afoul with national security laws. My mother used to work at Pepcon engineering and remember people complaining about that when I got to visit her at work.

    2. We know what happens when wealth is instead directed to an elite few. They build giant mansions and yachts.

      1. Haha. There’s the whining about how everything is so terrible and unfair after an article about how much life has improved and poverty reduced for billions of people. Congrats!

        The ideology of resentment and victim hood is always skulking around ready to complain.

        1. The point was about efficient allocation of resources. I’m simply pointing out that a laissez-faire market that tends to distribute wealth upward does not efficiently allocate it at all. At least going to the moon forced us to invent new technologies.

          1. “The point was about efficient allocation of resources. I’m simply pointing out that a laissez-faire market that tends to distribute wealth upward does not efficiently allocate it at all.”
            Opinions from fucking lefty ignoramuses can be and should be ignored.

            “At least going to the moon forced us to invent new technologies.”
            Opinions from fucking lefty ignoramuses can be and should be ignored.

            1. Do you know a lot about fucking lefty ignoramuses?

              1. Tony
                July.20.2019 at 3:26 pm
                “Do you know a lot about fucking lefty ignoramuses?”

                You and several other fucking lefty ignoramuses post here ion a regular basis. If I hadn’t learned about them from living in SF, you and your fucking lefty ignoramus buds would have told me all I need to know.
                Fuck off and die.

          2. The point was that “allocation” and “distribution” is the language of resentment. If all of the poor people in the world were provided shelter, food and healthcare that they didn’t earn, paid for by others, there would still be people complaining because the evil rich still have better shelter, food and healthcare.

            1. the language of resentment

              I assure you I do not let petty monkey emotions serve as the core of my politics, even if you do.

              1. Tony
                July.21.2019 at 4:49 pm
                “I assure you I do not let petty monkey emotions serve as the core of my politics, even if you do.”

                Your abysmal stupidity suffices.

          3. “Tony
            July.20.2019 at 2:18 pm

            The point was about efficient allocation of resources. I’m simply pointing out that a laissez-faire market that tends to distribute wealth upward does not efficiently allocate it at all. At least going to the moon forced us to invent new technologies.”

            1. Laissez-faire – no matter how much you hate it, is the most efficient way to allocate resources we know.

            2. Centrally controlled economies – controlled by ‘Top Men’ experts – DESTROY MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF WEALTH and then redistribute what is left upwards.

            3. No, going to the Moon involved inventing absolutely no new technologies. All the stuff used in the Moon shot was already in the process of development. At massive, massive, MASSIVE expense, we moved the commercial development of those technologies forward in time a handful of years. And in the process it destroyed several billion dollars of wealth.

            1. People were developing spacesuits usable on the Moon, lunar rovers and resins for heat shields prior to Apollo? The computers were one of if not the first to use integrated circuits. Computers still ran on punch cards Apollo’s had a keyboard and was directly controlled by the astronauts. Some technology was old, some advanced and some completely new.

              1. Those aren’t technologies, those are products.

                There’s nothing unique in the spacesuits – air supply technology, the materials they are constructed from, the batteries – what’s new was the purpose those things were put to.

                As for the lunar rover – the most groundbreaking tech in it is the wheels. And even then, the basic concepts used in those wheels were a century old.

                Digital computers existed. There’s nothing new in the Apollo computer except its size. Or do you think all the other automated rockets – such as ballistic missiles – were controlled by punchcards being fed into a hopper in flight? Hell, punch cards were used into the 1990’s. Punch cards are just a data entry method.

                1. Technology
                  the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry.

                  How to build a spacesuit is definitely technology.
                  Early ballistic missles were guided by analog means.

            2. “And in the process it destroyed several billion dollars of wealth.”

              No such thing.

              Wealth cannot be created nor destroyed. It is not a fixed quantity.

              Marx made this one error which is why Marxism always fails.

          4. What are you talking about? Even poor people have cellphones and AC. They live better than the richest king of old.

      2. It beats thinking you’re a rabbit.

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=j7dCTwlAI8Y

      3. Yes. That’s why we oppose systems that give people the power to direct wealth to an elite few.

        You, however, insist that government be given more power – despite all real world examples of powerful governments show that the people in power use that power to direct wealth to an elite few.

        1. Creating Wealth involves Not directing it. Slowly destroying wealth is what happens when you take it out of The Invisible Hand

        2. Hey now, don’t be sexist. Hugo Chavez’s daughter must have become the richest person in Venezuela through hard work and industriousness.

      4. Who directs this wealth, and where can I get me a Wealth Director?

    3. So you agree with Gil Scott-Heron

      – Whitey On the Moon

      A rat done bit my sister Nell.
      (with Whitey on the moon)
      Her face and arms began to swell.
      (and Whitey’s on the moon)

      I can’t pay no doctor bill.
      (but Whitey’s on the moon)
      Ten years from now I’ll be payin’ still.
      (while Whitey’s on the moon)

      The man jus’ upped my rent las’ night.
      (’cause Whitey’s on the moon)
      No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
      (but Whitey’s on the moon)

      I wonder why he’s uppi’ me?
      (’cause Whitey’s on the moon?)
      I was already payin’ ‘im fifty a week.
      (with Whitey on the moon)
      Taxes takin’ my whole damn check,
      Junkies makin’ me a nervous wreck,
      The price of food is goin’ up,
      An’ as if all that shit wasn’t enough

      A rat done bit my sister Nell.
      (with Whitey on the moon)
      Her face an’ arm began to swell.
      (but Whitey’s on the moon)

      Was all that money I made las’ year
      (for Whitey on the moon?)
      How come there ain’t no money here?
      (Hm! Whitey’s on the moon)
      Y’know I jus’ ’bout had my fill
      (of Whitey on the moon)
      I think I’ll sen’ these doctor bills,
      Airmail special
      (to Whitey on the moon)

      1. “How come there ain’t no money here?”

        Because you spent it on potato chips and purple drank?

      2. Nah he was a poet something. No bob dylan but there is no agreeing or not.

      3. Neil Armstrong died today
        (with Sambo on the dole)
        He’s done picked up and gone away
        (and Sambo’s on the dole)
        We can’t afford no moonshots now
        (with Sambo on the dole)
        Ten years from now we’ll be broke still
        (with Sambo on the dole)
        The man jus’ upped my taxes
        (’cause Sambo’s on the dole)
        No roads, no parks, no space program
        (but Sambo’s on the dole)
        I wonder why he’s uppin’ me
        (cause Sambo’s on the dole?)
        I paid over 50 grand last year
        (with Sambo on the dole)
        Taxes takin’ my whole damn check,
        Gangstas makin’ me a nervous wreck,
        The price of food is goin’ up,
        An’ as if all that crap wuzn’t enough:
        Neil Armstrong died today
        (with Sambo on the dole)
        He’s done picked up and gone away
        (but Sambo’s on the dole)
        Was all that money I made las’ year
        (for Sambo on the dole?)
        How come there ain’t no money here?
        (Hmm! Sambo’s on the dole)
        Y’know I jus’ ’bout had my fill
        (of Sambo on the dole)
        I think I’ll sen’ the taxman’s bills,
        Airmail special
        (to Sambo on the dole)

      4. Yeezus, this article is bringing out peak stupid all over the place.

        Now we hear from Libertarians for Expanding the Welfare State beyond the trillions flushed down a rathole.

        FYI, We didn’t get to the moon until the Great Society was up and running.

        And, the space program did a lot more for “blackie” than the Welfare State, which instead killed the black family, ruined black culture and replaced it with a laundry list of social pathologies, and enslaved more people than Colonial government did.

  8. Maybe one day “The first man to land on the moon” will be matched in historical significance by “Jerkoff Toys had a great IPO.” Good luck!

    1. “Government” is just another name for the moon bases we build together.

    2. Maybe one day fucking lefty ignoramuses will make the world a better place and die.

  9. Landing on the moon was a byproduct of the Cold War.

    It wasn’t about Tang or Velcro.

    1. But Tang and Velcro was the best they could come up with to justify it.

      1. I think that would be collecting Moon rocks.

  10. We had to be prepared for the UFOs…….

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8CvURidpkCY

  11. I’ve been an admirer (and beneficiary) of free markets for quite awhile now… and I agree that the overall condition of humanity is better now than at any time in history.
    I have a couple of questions… sincerely and not to be argumentative.
    1) What is the free market answer to climate change? I don’t think that there is any doubt that c.c. is THE issue before us now. Technocrats and free marketeers assume — I guess — that there is a magic bullet/tech solution that will save us. But any piecemeal solutions or ‘private’ initiatives that I’m aware of are either insufficient or incapable of meeting some pretty daunting technical challenges and tight deadlines for action. That’s not to say that many practical ideas don’t exist to mitigate the worst case scenarios. But it’s hard to imagine major technical and political powers in the world today acting with top-down coordination to solve this problem. Especially when the U.S. itself is led by “climate deniers.” This is a problem that goes beyond my choosing to recycle my plastics or drive an electric car. In fact, most of the issues admirably discussed in this article amount to little more than polishing the brass on the Titanic in light of what awaits us.
    2) How would free markets have defeated Nazi Germany? I know that titans like Henry Kaiser and many others answered FDR’s call, but leaving government out of it how would the Gates/Bezos/et al of that time have prevailed? From my reading of history it appears that save for Pearl Harbor and Hitler’s incompetence it is likely that we would have followed Lindbergh and other politicians in signing some kind of treaty with the Nazis.

    1. 1. No, there’s no evidence that climate change is catastrophic.

      2. Would you not come to the defense of a friend attacked by another? As for how free markets would defeat something like Nazi Germany – exactly the way free markets did. By outproducing them. Same way we defeated the Soviet Union.

    2. “1) What is the free market answer to climate change? I don’t think that there is any doubt that c.c. is THE issue before us now.”

      I think THE issue before us now is preventing lefties from taking over the economy over claims which, after 20 years, have yet to produce one accurate prediction.
      Your claim that BS like that is beyond doubt simply means you’ve bought the propaganda.

      1. * THIRTY years

        1. Isn’t it at least forty? In the seventies they were predicting a new man made ice age.

          1. No, the official IPCC crap and the rock stars all started with this crap in the very late 80s

            1. Carter was given memos in the late 70’s remarking on the assured dangers of human-caused global warming. Hansen in 1988 really brought into focus the idea that the federal government should ruin people’s lives over the issue, but we can hold their feet to the fire on research going much further back than 1988.

    3. 1) nuclear power
      2) the Great Depression which was the tipping point wouldn’t have happened.

      1. 1) and heat pumps. Don’t forget that. See also: the Netherlands, in case sea level rise becomes an issue a century from now. Alternatively, we could ask: how did humanity survive the 1930s, which was the hottest decade on record (by a wide margin)? We’re much better at agriculture now, so no reason to expect another dust bowl.

        But you’re right, nuclear, especially thorium salt reactors which run on one of the more common elements on earth, reprocess their own fuel and so have trivial radioactive wastes, and has enough readily accessible available thorium to run the world for thousands of years (with increasing energy consumption, so we all get to keep getting better).

        But then it’s curious how the people banging the table about climate change regularly refuse the one technology that’s both economical and would address all of their concerns (some notable exceptions, such as James Hansen, of course). It’s almost like that’s not really what they care about……

        And for those worried about radiation risks, all modern (1980+) reactors are inherently safe and cannot explode (like Chernobyl, which was incapable of a nuclear explosion as designed, and the only risk it had was of high pressure steam, which is what caused the explosion.

    4. One free market example on climate is “One Man’s Quest to Transform American Energy by Russel Gold”.

  12. Apparently JD was born well after 1968 and has no clue the NASA heartbreaks we all witnessed before the moon landings. Spaceflight was integrally dependent on a computer with less than 100 kilobyte volatile memory, that means that Astronauts had to actually pilot the spacecraft. Case in point was Apollo 13 when a fire destroyed the navigation systems which forced the pilot to aim the spacecraft by lining up the earth with a primitive sighting rig. Yes, the sacrifice of early NASA will always be important and remembered.

    1. The memory on the Apollo missions was core rope memory. It was actual copper wire ran through or around ring magnets for 1s or 0s.

  13. May as well leave this here:
    “What economists have gotten wrong for decades”
    […]
    “And yet, she noted, “inflation is no higher today than it was five years ago. Given these facts, do you think it’s possible that the Fed’s estimates of the lowest sustainable unemployment rate may have been too high?”
    Powell’s response, to his credit, was as simple and direct as you’ll ever hear from a central banker: “Absolutely.” He elaborated: “I think we’ve learned that … this is something you can’t identify directly.”
    So economists are capable of learning? Hmm. So much for *that* ‘belief’.

    Further, lets drag out two more strawmen and shoot them full of holes, while claiming a third is wrong, absent any evidence.
    “1 That globalization is a win-win proposition for all, an idea that has deservedly taken a battering in recent years;
    2. That federal budget deficits “crowd out” private investments; and
    3. That the minimum wage will only have negative effects on jobs and workers.”
    https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/7/19/20699366/interest-rates-unemployment-globalization-minimum-wage-deficit

  14. I don’t know Apollo used one of if not the first integrated circuit computers which was years ahead of it’s time. They fit the power of a punch card computer the size of 3 refrigerators into one the size of a briefcase that was controlled in real time. It’s pretty impressive.

  15. That’s one small article by Reason regarding one giant leap for mankind.

  16. The moon is a desolate wasteland with no breathable atmosphere. It would have been a lot cheaper just to wait 20 years and go to Detroit.

  17. This article has to be the journalistic equivalent of penis envy.

    “So the US government sponsored the most complex engineering accomplishment in human history? Big deal; it’s nothing compared to YouTube!”

    And I thought the New York Times had the worst take on the Apollo 11 landings….

    1. It’s a sickness. A reflexive urge to downplay any government initiative of any sort, no matter how small and ridiculous it makes them look. The same as Trump Derangement, the stupidity of most of it drives you to gainsay and defend the opposing “camp”.

      And when you get down to it, the private sector contributions to the space race mentioned were the products of R&D in the 1950s building on government inventions from WWII.

      1. Nazi inventions!

  18. Yeah, the internet is not where you want to base your argument on, here, chief.

    No DoD, no ARPANET = no internet, at least not in the early 1990s

    1. Not to mention cellphones. I wonder how well your smartphone works without the space program

      1. The truth is, as Tuccille briefly notes in his article, those noble private companies who enrich our lives actually get a lot of direct and indirect benefits from Uncle Sugar’s research and development subsidies.

        Especially in medical research, where the University-Government-Business relationship could almost be described as polyamorous.

      2. The same. Cellphones don’t use satellites they use cell towers.

        1. Your smartphone and all its apps uses GPS

          1. Nope, I have location services turned off.

      3. Computer networking was already a thing. The government put lots of money into it and accelerated its development. Same goes for lots of things. The government puts tons of taxpayer money into research. 99% of it is wasted, but that 1% that hits has the chance to hit big.

        Cell phone technology was being privately developed very early on and commercially viable cellular systems existed in the 60s. But the government prevented it from being rolled out. Cell phones would have been a thing 20 years earlier if not for government restrictions.

    2. Mmm there were several projects around the world working towards the internet. I mean it was the RAND corporation that built the Arpanet the DOD just paid for it.

      1. And Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, and Rockwell built the rocket and spaceships, NASA just paid for those.

  19. You know how I know we would never have gone to the moon if it had been up to the private sector?

    Because in the 47 years since our last visit, no one has ever gone back; there’s simply no profit in it.

    Elon Musk did send a car up into space, so I guess that counts for something. But if you’re expecting the private sector to start people beyond Earth’s orbit, then you’re going to be waiting a long, long time.

    1. *sending people

    2. Assuming no catastrophes or technological breakthroughs, I predict 50 years. Asteroid mining is potentially extremely profitable, just with a very high initial cost (and we have to work out a bunch of the engineering, of course). Once that’s in place moving some people to orbital maintenance will make sense, and possibly factories on the moon to make space machines which drop resources into the atmosphere.

      1. That’s kind of my point: Most, if not all, private companies are going to look at those costs and hurdles and decide it’s not worth it

        UNLESS

        they can convince Uncle Sugar to pour overflowing ladles of taxpayer-funded R&D grant dollars into their pockets. THEN you’ll start to see progress on deep space mining — once someone else has absorbed the initial costs.

        The fact that private companies had the government show them how to go to the moon and they didn’t follow even then, tells me it wasn’t going to ever happen on its own.

  20. Good old Reason, once again a reliable, if inevitable, signpost to getting it wrong. I can innovate a pink tutu onto my dog, but so what? Innovation is only as good as its results. By itself it means nothing. But heck, you’re probably still mourning the dot com crash of 2000 and the loss of all that “innovation.” But I suspect that cherry picking is what Reason does best.

  21. Love you JD, but this analysis ignores the very important fact that Private Enterprise (Draper Lab, Hughes, Rockwell, etc) played a significant role in the Space race. Draper Lab was my father’s employer of 22 years. He was on the team that designed the AGC Apollo Guidance Computer. You can read about it in his book “Left Brains for the Right Stuff” (Hugh Blair-Smith). NASA levered what in today’s terms would be considered welcome administrative restraint in centralizing the planning of a mission to the moon.

  22. “Cool”? You’re joking, right? If not, get a grip!

    Nobody ever went to the moon! The Apollo missions were a scam.

    See: “The Apollo Moon Landings Scam”:
    http://onebornfree-mythbusters.blogspot.com/2019/07/onebornfrees-special-scam-alerts-no-105.html

    Regards, onebornfree

    1. Except the technology didn’t exist to fake it in 1969.
      https://youtu.be/_loUDS4c3Cs

  23. Besides Tang and Velcro, can you really put a price tag on any government program that helps boost the self esteem of nationalist conservatives who otherwise have nothing much to feel proud about? The local high school team’s region championship will only take your sense of self-worth so far.

    I’ll take another iPhone, YouTube, Minecraft, Khan Academy, or Fleshlight any day over another Apollo-like program.

    Perhaps if you were paying taxes at the time, you can be somewhat justified in saying, “**we** went to the moon.” Otherwise, you should be saying “they”.

    1. It’s not like space travel is the only thing collective resource pooling has ever achieved. There’s civilization, law and order, mass transit, environmental protection, and other things as well.

      1. Yes, but one could at least make an argument about the varying degrees of the daily usefulness of those functions. ( Most collective resource pooling doesn’t require interference, BTW.)

        For most Americans, the Apollo program was just an exercise in picking their pockets — even if many of them enjoyed the circus.

        Giving David Brooks a boner is not a good reason for the government to send people in to space.

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