Claude Frédéric Bastiat (left) and the Moon (right)

In his pamphlet The Law, French political theorist Claude Frédéric Bastiat wrote:

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.

Those words, written in 1850, could easily describe the space-policy debates of today.

When NASA says it isn’t going to build a mining settlement on the Moon, members of Congress (and the media) conclude that NASA is against anyone going to the Moon.

When NASA tried to cancel the Ares V Space Launch System, they said NASA was against any space-launch capability.

If anything is to be done in space, they think it must be done by government.

Written by Astro1 on May 31st, 2013 , Space Policy and Management

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COMMENTS
    Ed Wilson commented

    My education on the history of Socialism is clearly deficient. I thought of it as a 1800’s and industrial era thing.

    Clearly there are things we don’t want the government to do. I am not sure there are things I want big business doing either (they are better done by small business), and some things are a mater for individuals or very limited partnerships (only 2 people)!

    Space is clearly a “Big Thing”, and so must be done by a big organization, and that means that all things ‘space’ needs to have their political power managed and observed. That dose NOT mean that the government needs to do them, only make sure that no ONE big organization hogs all the power that results.

    Ideally it is not one government doing the running either. The solution to too much power in one place is to break it up or regulate the hell out of it.

    From M. Bastiat I take it the socialists believe in 100% approval for all activities, and one objection is enough to kill the project. In which case I think I will vote against planting a crop this year, for all farms – the resultant famine will clean up socialism per that understanding.

    I am a project loyal engineer and I don’t like seeing projects die.

    Reply
    May 31, 2013 at 12:24 pm
    Tom Manning commented

    I love Bastiat! Anyone who has not read his essay on “That which is seen and that which is unseen” has missed out. The Law is an awesome text. The distinction in the United States between big business and government is very blurred. People believe big business running a Space Program under government contract is some form of Capitalism and it decidedly is not. As long as a business is not spending OPM and does not harm others or put their lives at risk I say have at it. Unfortunately in our country OPM is practically the only way any business will operate any more. The fact is that a person will more wisely spend their own money than someone else’s. Without this rock bottom foundational truth and as long as the risk of financial failure is mitigated by third parties(whether government or not), businesses will not likely do better than NASA. As bureaucracies go NASA is really the best one ever. But that is not saying much. It is still a bureaucracy. So the current approach to privatizing Space is for the US Government to mitigate some of the risk but not all of it. Not a totally bad plan but it does mean that the Government gets to set the objectives. I would prefer one of these rich people to find a way to make a profit through colonization. Then I like the chance of success better.

    Reply
    June 3, 2013 at 10:20 am