Monday, August 25, 2008

Fly Me to the Moon

It was nice to see Senator Kennedy looking in relatively good health as I watched a clip of his speech from the Democratic convention tonight. I disagree with him on probably about everything, but I'd rather see him taken out of office by enlightened Massachusets voters than cancer.

In his speech he sets up a nice straw man about people being concerned with Obama "believing too much in America!" which he then dismisses by invoking the United States putting a man on the moon:

We are told that Barack Obama believes too much in an America of high principle and bold endeavor, but when John Kennedy called of going to the moon, he didn’t say it’s too far to get there. We shouldn’t even try.

Our people answered his call and rose to the challenge, and today an American flag still marks the surface of the moon.

Yes, we are all Americans. This is what we do. We reach the moon. We scale the heights. I know it. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. And we can do it again.

Putting a man on the moon gets invoked all the time - "if we can put a man on the moon, why can't we do XYZ?" is often how it's phrased.

And that question gives me some pause. With areas that I believe should be stronger priorities than space flight unresolved, like ending poverty or injustice, why is it we could put a man on the moon but seem so restricted from making an impact on these areas of greater importance? Perhaps these are more difficult than we suspect, or putting a man on the moon was not actually as difficult as we believe?

Putting a man on the moon give me pause in another area as well. Conservative such as myself like to point out massive government failures, like Katrina or VA Hospitals or the local DMZ to make our point that free markets do things better than the government. Certainly free markets have obtained accomplishments as great as a moon landing (given a choice between a moon landing and Google, I'd take Google in a heartbeat), but shouldn't we consider the early NASA projects as a massive government success?

I stand by free markets rather than government controlled innovation by virtue that free markets maximize liberty in a way that government control by definition can not, but I also hope that where government is involved in our lives it can function in a way more like the effort to land on the moon and less like the local DMV.

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