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iplaydrums24

limited government and negative social reproduction

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A friend brought up a pretty interesting point the other day when we were talking about the proper role of government. We have both read the objectivist position regarding government's sole role as protector of individual rights against the use of force and coercion, and how in an ethical society taxes would be completely optional. Yet he mentioned that our government, while it does act in unethical ways, does present distinct advantages. NASA is a perfect example. In an objectivist society, NASA would be impossible. No man or small collection of men would have the manpower, ability and most importantly the money to fund shuttle trips to the moon. Only our current government has the appropriate amount of money to do that. Granted, this is a perfect example of the idea that the end does not justify the means, yet organizations like NASA are essential to human survival. I seriously doubt that anyone could make a logical argument that our species can survive on earth forever, it just isn't possible.

To be human is to be a society of expanded social reproduction, where sovereign individuals, out of selfish motives, create new tools and methods that improve the labor and as a corollary increase the standard of living for all. Any society where the government or people, such as in fascist or totalitarian states, does not support expanded social reproduction will eventually die out, and are known as societies of negative social reproduction. Mankind cannot survive on the status quo of the quantity and quality of products we have; societies that attempt to do so are entropic and will fail. It is inherently human to progress and advance labor and population. My concern is that an objectivist government may be like that with regards to never getting off the planet. Yes, i understand why taxes are unethical, yet in a society of truly limited government, entities like NASA would not exist, it would not be feasible. I'm concerned that the objectivist view of government is too limited and, at some point, will turn into one of negative social reproduction because it doesn't enable us to leave the planet. Any thoughts?

edited for grammar

Edited by iplaydrums24

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A thief that takes your money and buys you a sports car is still a thief. It was a great technological step for sure, but I'd think if you take all that brain power and put it to work with private money we'd be living in space stations orbitting Earth right now, rather than simply taking short sub-orbittal flights with Virgin Mobile.

In a free market, if it became necessary to leave the planet, you can bet the farm that private companies would find an economically feasible way to get off the ground. Probably at first to get mineral supplies with unmanned vehicles, then later with manned ships. And don't forget the exploratory nature of individuals, especially rich individuals (like Richard Branson).

I don't think "negative social reproduction" could ever be possible in a laissez faire economy. Actually, I very much think it would happen much more with worse consequences in a more and more government controlled economy. Their high-technology might increase (like with the USSR space agency, submarines, nukes), but the trickle-down wouldn't.

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Actually, the response to the X-Prize competition showed that private companies and individuals can at least make a start on space exploration. Any of the following could have sufficient motivation and money to reach the Moon:

Large hotel, resort, or travel companies

Mining companies

A very large group of people who want to create Galt's Gulch

Even now, many (non-government) information technology companies have their own satellites roaming around. DirecTV, for example.

The biggest detractor I can see, right now, is the question of ownership. No private group is guaranteed ownership by getting there first and beginning work. Current governments would get in the way, and most motivation for a private group to reach the Moon involves ownership of some form.

NASA got there before any corporation or group of individuals would have found it desirable, due to the large amount of land still available much more cheaply here on Earth. However, by the time we are overpopulated enough that land costs dearly, research and materials to fund trips to the Moon will be much more enticing. Mars will probably follow shortly after that; luckily for those who reach Mars first, no government has a claim there yet.

There are many, many services the government provides that should be handled by private companies, if at all. Space exploration is only one of them.

I realize that I haven't directly addressed negative social reproduction; I hope you understand that an Objectivist government would not say a word regarding a couple's choice to have children or not, or an individual's choice to work productively or not.

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No man or small collection of men would have the manpower, ability and most importantly the money to fund shuttle trips to the moon. Only our current government has the appropriate amount of money to do that.

Some other writers are hitting key philosophical points. I'll stick with a basic cross check on a key premise, like the above quote.

Many significant undertakings have been funded privately through public corporations and capital markets, notwithstanding governments taking their pound of flesh before, during and after.

To name one of many that come to mind, IBM spent about $5 billion making the IBM 360 in the 60's, (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/130429/computer/216063/Operating-systems) which is about roughly a quarter to fifth of what the Apollo program cost. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_program, see Program Costs and Cancellation). Four or five IBM's working together to a common cause doesn't seem all that impossible to me, eh?

Sadly, with today's government hell-bent on spending everything on anything, your assessment of what private people with private means may become more and accurate. But, that's a critique of another form of government, not an Objectivist one.

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Actually, the response to the X-Prize competition showed that private companies and individuals can at least make a start on space exploration. Any of the following could have sufficient motivation and money to reach the Moon:

Large hotel, resort, or travel companies

Mining companies

A very large group of people who want to create Galt's Gulch

The Myth of the Robber Baron should be retitled Entrepreneurs Made America!

That book tells the story of the Fulton Steamships that ferried people up and down previously inaccessible rivers for free, only charging for food, because they were run so efficiently. Of the government gangsters who tried to shut them down in every town, and in spite of fines, still kept running.

Of the Pacific Northwest railroad that ran more efficiently than every other government subsidized railway, in spite of competitors attacks, sabotage, murder, government corruption and obstruction.

Of the Standard Oil company who created 300 new medicines as a mere spinoff of its taking control of a fractured inefficient oil industry by making every step in the process reliable and cheaper than ever before, and yes, they lowered the price of a barrel of oil which was the equivalent of cutting your hydro bill in half.

Of the Carnegies who put libraries in almost every town in America, open to everyone for free, and not supported by extortion...I mean taxes. (at least when they were started)

I read the book many years ago, and can't remember more examples...

To quote Burt Rutan, the pilot who flew around the world on one tank of gas:

See what free men can do.

<Φ>aj

Edited by aristotlejones

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NASA is a perfect example. In an objectivist society, NASA would be impossible. No man or small collection of men would have the manpower, ability and most importantly the money to fund shuttle trips to the moon.

NASA doesn't ahve that ability, either. The SHuttle can't travel farther than a few hundred kilometers above sea level. And the Apollo program that did reach the Moon was meant as a show and nothing more: land some people on the Moon, collect some samples, do some research, plant the flag and take some pictures. Impressive, yes, but ultimately nothing more than a show of national prestige.

As for what private industry can do, well, private industry built the space program. With taxpayer money, yes, but the rockets and Shuttles are designed and built by private firms employing private workers.

Had there been no NASA there would ahve been some form of military space agency, which would ahve used the same contractors NASA ultimately did. They, in turn, woudl ahve grabbed the civilian end of the space launch business. But perhaps they would ahve done so at lower cost, since all non-military launches would have carried a price tag that some private company would ahve to pay. Beter yet, none of these launches would ahve required approval by Congress.

It's really hard to try to prove a non-event. The fact is that NASA does exist and history happened as it did, not as we would have wished it to happen. So you should take a good, hard look at NASA's history. How it let got off the Moon, how the SHuttle became the expensive boondoggle it is, how two shuttles and many astronauts were needlessly lost, how the ISS (aka Space Station Freedom) languished for year in "development," what is the ISS good for anyway, etc etc. Then ask yourself whether any private company or group of companies would have acted in such a manner.

As to private individuals and companies, look at Scaled Composites, SpaceX, Spacedev, Spaceplane, Bigelow Aerospace, T-Space and a dozen others who are trying to make a go of cheaper commercial space travel (SpaceX actually is trying to take business away from larger companies and NASA, ESA and the Russian space agency). Each of them is founded by a space-enthusiast who made large sums of money in other fields (Elon Musk in Internet financing, Robert Bigelow in hotels and real estate, etc). The money and willingness is there. Nor is it new. Others have tried in the past, but ran against a lavishly subsidized state actor comepting with them.

It's more likely that NASA has slowed the pace of human development of space travel by monopolizing the money and talent which otherwise private companies would have invested in.

I seriously doubt that anyone could make a logical argument that our species can survive on earth forever, it just isn't possible.

Who knows. As the Sun turns red giant we could move the Earth back to keep its temperature and radiation at livable levels. Once the Sun collapses to a white dwarf, well, by then we may have no need of natural stars for warmth and light. IN any case we have millions of years left on this fair planet before conditions change enough to amke it uninhabitable. I dare say by then no one will remember NASA.

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