by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
One could hardly have expected such rage and discontent at the fact that billionaires such as Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson should dare go to space on their own dime.
When both men did so, leftists fumed in response. Some raged over the supposed environmental damage of such trips. This evinces an incredible lack of self-awareness and intellectual consistency. Their own alarmist credo holds that the Earth will soon be uninhabitable unless a series of impossible changes is made. This necessarily implies an urgent need for mass-consumption space travel, and the early versions are probably going to pollute more than their successors.
Several liberal members of Congress were triggered — at least one has proposed a bill to single out private space travel for special taxation, even though it does not receive most of the benefits from government that commercial air travel enjoys. Others acted as if it somehow cheapens space to have the uber-wealthy visit it or use it for a profit. This unwittingly enumerates one of private space travel’s most important benefits.
Wealthy individuals who invest in space travel, including the still-earthbound Elon Musk, are really just making space travel cheaper for everyone. They are engaging in space travel at a time when many governments have shied away from it. They are shouldering risks and costs that might otherwise fall to taxpayers and be carried out far more timidly by much smaller-minded bureaucrats.
This is just like so many other areas of historical progress, in which government played only the most limited role. The West was not won in the 19th century because government officials forced westward movement of the population. Rather, poorer individuals, often beaten down by circumstance, aspired to build new lives and consequently undertook a grueling journey in which there were no guarantees.