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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7257/a-world-without-nasa/

A World Without NASA

October 4, 2007 by

Perhaps my favorite myth of NASA is that it is directly responsible for creating and designing a slew of whiz-bang gadgets, including the cell phone.

Wrong, Martin Cooper did, while working for Motorola in 1973. And while this and other myths abound it misses the bigger picture.

What would modern life be without NASA? Is it possible?

It is impossible to predict the opportunity costs that were foregone with the redistribution of billions of dollars confiscated from taxpayers. Not only did individuals have less money to invest in alternative methods of space-based aviation and research, but entrepreneurs had to compete against a well-financed monopoly.

It is this same monopoly that diverted and devoured natural resources. This has the unseen effect of raising the costs of these scarce goods and services, which again, throws yet another artificial kink in the allocation process (it is the same phenomenon that creates agflation due to ethanol subsidies).

With these regulatory and institutional hurdles in place, why is it unfathomable to believe that the private sector could not have produced the same productive services that NASA is credited for spearheading? Does the utility of a good diminish or disappear because the private market crafted it instead?

If anything, the profit incentive would arguably have enticed private firms into this area. It is this reason (and others like “knowledge“) that NASA and every government agency will always be inferior entrepreneurs, they have no incentive not to blow up their customers — their revenue stream is guaranteed without the need to satisfy customer desires.

And this is one of the many points that Declan McCullagh tackles in a controversial piece at CNet — controversial for two reasons.

First, based on the comments section, it would appear that the fallacious NASA-is-god myth continues to reside in the minds of geeks (see these Digg comments as well). The other are the results from the three-choice poll connected to his piece, one of which advocates axing the “bureaucratic behemoth.”

You’ll never guess which one is the least popular.

See also: How much should companies spend on research and development?


jl October 4, 2007 at 10:22 am

Whenever I think of NASA, this image keeps coming to mind: sometime in the future, a NASA spacecraft is lumbering along on its long journey to Mars. It is about halfway there, with a few years to go to reach the planet. And then Burt Rutan goes whizzing by with a load of tourists, in something from the Jetsons…

Matthew Graybosch October 4, 2007 at 11:10 am

Not only does NASA have no incentive to avoid blowing up its customers, but it cannot even be bothered to avoid blowing up its own employees, as evidenced by the Challenger and Columbia explosions. It’s tempting to suggest that NASA stands for “Need Another Seven Astronauts”.

MadCowDisease October 4, 2007 at 12:09 pm

Whenever I think of NASA, this image keeps coming to mind: sometime in the future, a NASA spacecraft is lumbering along on its long journey to Mars…

And it misses its target because bureacrats don’t know the difference between the imperial and the metric system of units.

Jay Hanks January 26, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Have any of you ever heard neccesity is the mother of invention? To think that the private sector would have come up with anything like, not cell phones, but the technnology in them, is absurd. Do a search for NASA Spinoffs and see just what NASA gets credit for. NASA is a research center for the public. Anything that is developed that is not classified is provided to the public at no charge. For every dollar of the 18.7 billion that goes into NASA 6 dollars worth of technology goes to the public. To call them a monopoly is simply stating opinion. They are, in fact, the best thing that has happened to this country since 1776.

mpolzkill January 26, 2010 at 1:34 pm


Very amusing. No need to try any harder then Mr. Hanks here:

What necessity? The necessity to get a bigger budget next year? Hilarious. You have no way of knowing what would be created with the funds not stolen from taxpayers.

Do a Google search: “Jay Hanks” + “NASA”. A coincidence? Is this a crazed NASA groupie or the same electrical technician with wild hyperbole in the defense of his rice bowl?

Keith Stevens March 4, 2010 at 10:53 am

To think that private industry is going to work for the public good is absurd. Unfortunetly, the government has been and must continue to be the major benefactor of acedemia. Believe it or not NASA is a part of acedemia. Three billion dollars are spent each day on the wars in Iraq and Afganistan. NASA operates on only twenty days worth of war funding each day. Where would you rather have your “stolen” dollars go?

Frank May 26, 2010 at 11:20 pm


“She is so ready to get stacked and back out to the launchpad,” he said. “You can tell that’s where she wants to be.”

No. At $1.2 billion or more for ONE more lunch, all the space shuttles want to be in museums, where they belong. They are outdated (verging on antiquated), wasteful, and DANGEROUS ways of getting into low Earth orbit.

Time to turn space travel over to Richard Branson and private industry, who will be able to explore space for far less money AND a with better safety record.

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