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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7493/be-sure-to-thank-nasa-for-saving-your-life/

Be sure to thank NASA for saving your life

November 29, 2007 by

One of the few memorable quotes from last nights GOP debate came from Mike Huckabee. In describing the “earthly benefits” devolped by NASA:

“Whether it’s the medical technologies that saved many of our lives and the lives of our families, it’s the direct result from the space program,” he said. “We need to put more money into space and technology exploration.”

To its credit, NASA is directly responsible for dozens of inventions and innovations (1 2). However, Huckabee and other proponents of a nationalized space industry assume that private companies and individuals are incapable of developing the same goods and services.

This is the perfect example of the seen and unseen. While an outside observer can easily see billowy plumes of steam rising into the atmosphere, the unseen effects of this resource allocation is difficult to visibly trace.

Not only are scarce engineering talents being diverted from productive industries, but so too are rare chemicals and earthen resources.

And at the end of the day, why should the coerced taxpayer be forced to fund and subsidize an industry that could otherwise be operated by privately financed entrepreneurs? Are non-governmental institutions somehow incapable of constructing a rocket?

See also:
A World Without NASA
Do We Need NASA?
What Won’t NASA invent next?

{ 13 comments }

George Gaskell November 29, 2007 at 8:14 am

Are non-governmental institutions somehow incapable of constructing a rocket?

They are mostly built by (nominally) private contractors anyway.

But governments are pretty much the only organizations that choose to spend money on economically useless endeavors like space ships.

There may come a time when rockets are economically justified. When that day comes, the best rockets constructed will be built, and built efficiently, provided that government gets out of the way.

Brent November 29, 2007 at 12:19 pm

It is my understanding that many NASA ‘inventions’ needed further invention by private citizens in order to come up with civilian uses. Hence, “spinoffs” of NASA technologies.

In addition, every economist should (but doesn’t) know that it is the capital produced from capitalism that allows mere technologies to become (advanced) products.

Bruce Koerber November 29, 2007 at 5:16 pm

‘Hook, line and sinker’ Huckabee has swallowed the economic fallacies of the Keynesian mirage. There is only one candidate who is not a Keynesian or who is not planning on consulting Keynesians for their advice.

That one candidate is Ron Paul. Ron Paul understands economics more than 99% of the economists in the world, combined!

Yet he shares the forum with economic numbskulls, patiently waiting for the media to do what it is supposed to do – facilitate the search for truth.

Todd November 29, 2007 at 7:11 pm

I had this exact conversation last night with my wife when Huckabee started spouting off. His ignorance was exceeded only by Tancredo who apparently believes that immigration of all sorts is evil. Shocking. Honestly, shocking.

Always thank government. November 29, 2007 at 10:03 pm

Lets see. We should also thank government for:
1. Educating and making us all wealthier.
2. Medicare and Medicaid because we would die without them.
3. Foreign entanglements. We get spinoff technology.
4. Transportation-We could not walk, drive, ride, or fly without government.
5. Energy-We could not get anypower or light without government.
6. The Fed-Were would we be with a SUPER VALULED currency relative to all the other losers who have worthless ones.

newson December 1, 2007 at 3:21 am

the world would be that much smaller and sadder without tang and teflon frypans. not to mention aluminium foil, or am i confusing my urban legends?

gene berman December 1, 2007 at 3:22 am

I know that governments ain’t got no sense and NASA’s just a way to burn money.

About forty years ago, I wrote ‘em and told ‘em that they should sink a stake in the surface of the Moon with a swiveling eye-bolt in its end.

Then, they could tie a strong string to it and fly the other end back to Earth. Then, instead of sending up more expensive missions, we could have just gently pulled the whole thing down here to somewhere like the Mojave Desert–or even set ‘er down in Greenland or somewheres–where we could study it to our heart’s content. Of course, the swivelling eye-bolt was to prevent the string from getting snarled around the poles by the rotation of the earth–gotta avoid that kind of thing. Could have made millions by charging admission to the “coming down” party and maybe have got some extra bucks from those who wanted to take a turn at the tugging part.

They never even wrote me back. Tells you sump’n.

Tim Swanson December 1, 2007 at 6:36 am

newson, they didn’t invent any of those you listed:
http://mises.org/daily/2434

Even if you did, that is besides the point (what if they had “invented” everything we use today? Does that still justify how they are funded; also, are private entities inherently incapable of partaking in similar engineering projects?)

Henry Miller December 1, 2007 at 12:18 pm

Gene, they may not have wrote you back, but they are working on it. They just don’t have a string long enough. Most likely they didn’t write you back because the concept was developed by science fiction authors more than 50 years ago, so you were not the first.

There are known to be asteroids with more gold than has ever been mined on earth. There for whoever takes it first. But the cost of getting it to earth is more than the gold is worth, even if you don’t factor in the price change from flooding the market with gold.

Things are getting close though, I’ve been considering going into business to do that. It would require at least a 20 year commitment of money though, before the investment pays off, and so far I found it worth it.

mikey December 1, 2007 at 12:32 pm

I love tang.

Don December 2, 2007 at 12:47 pm

Years ago, I did some work for NASA Clear Lake (Houston area). Mr. Huckabee’s assertion, regarding this alleged need for a national space program, was based upon the false premise that NASA has been responsible for so many wonderful technological innovations and developments. In fact, NASA itself has invented none of them. All of them came about as the result of efforts by private industry; NASA only funded the efforts and “managed” the contractual relationships as well as the financing (from its piece of the public plunder pie) that was used in order to undertake these technological discoveries. The generally held belief, that somehow NASA is composed of unique technological genius that is directed toward more technical innovation by its own efforts, is little more than a triumph in NASA public relations aided by the cooperation of a stridently ignorant media and a public who, with few exceptions, continues to accept the NASA press releases.

TokyoTom December 2, 2007 at 8:51 pm

I believe JH Huebert has had some good posts up on NASA as well.

Robert M. December 4, 2007 at 9:20 am

I agree that the space program of NASA is a complete waste of money. I worked as an engineering intern at the Glenn Research Lab in Ohio, and they do actual useful things there, such as materials and aerodynamics research. I definately think the private sector could do a better job without stealing from citizens, but at least they arent throwing money away.

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