July 20, 2009

Congratulations America & Lessons from Apollo

40 years ago today 3 Americans landed on the moon, with the help of an army of scientists and engineers. It represents an achievement that must be commended by friend and foe alike. As a friend of the United States I would like to add my voice of congratulations to the country, NASA and the astronauts involved for such a remarkable achievement. It was, and remains, a remarkable feat. It is arguably the epitome of human endeavor to date, and perhaps also the pinnacle of the golden age of America.


It cannot go unnoticed as ironic that Walter Cronkite, the iconic broadcaster of his day, and verbal chronologer of the historic event, died the weekend before the 40th anniversary of that event (which is today, if you didn't already know). If the irony is lost on you, let me explain.

If America reached the height of its pre-eminence during the Apollo program, it has since lost much of its status during the subsequent decades. Cronkite's death is simply a personification of the end of America's golden age. That is not to say further golden ages are not possible, but rather that this one is quite definitely done.

It is also not to say that in the decades afterwards, America did not have occasion to shine, and shine brightly. However, it did not shine again equally as brilliantly as it did on that day.

The intervening years, despite the best efforts of conservatives to counter the decay, have brought forth a plethora of social engineering efforts and an associated amount of mammoth spending. Yet there is still poverty. There is still a declining American manufacturing sector. The problems have not gone away. They have even worsened in some respects. Yet the government asks for more - more power, and more of your money, despite the fact that their solutions have not proved effective.
If you were a doctor and the patient was asking for more medicine but it wasn't curing him, would you give it to him? No. You would try to find a different medicine to use. So why continue to submit your economic freedom to the government in frequent but minuscule (until now) doses that eat away at your liberty? There is no reason to continue.

Except under a tyranny of oppression, ordinary people do not live and die by government edict. Attempts to engineer behavior beyond moral absolutes (e.g. murder is criminal, the penalty is imprisonment or death), are doomed to failure. Even the basic precepts of criminal justice do not deter absolutely everyone. So it is foolhardy to expect that efforts to change beliefs via Congressional legislation would fare anything beyond poorly. Yet the misguided efforts persist. They may persist with the best of intentions, but the road to national hell is paved with good intentions.

The government now owns the lion's share of the American auto industry - directly or through Presidential intimidation or edict. They are planning the same for health care. It does not matter that they cannot change personal opinion by creating new laws - if they control more and more of the economy it does not matter what you believe or do not believe. As long as they control the purse strings, you have no choice but to obey - willingly or not.

What is needed right now is a healthy dose of libertarianism. I'm much more a conservative than a libertarian (generally, not absolutely) but right now the country, i.e. the patient, needs that injection. That's the medicine that will work for the patient. There has been such a creeping power consolidation over the last 40 years (and further back for that matter) that the country needs a jolt back towards economic and social liberty in order to avoid becoming terminal. If creeping government control is the disease, it has now accelerated and become like an aggressive, malignant cancer. If it’s not treated immediately the country may not survive.

Enough doom and gloom. I have every confidence that the American people will deal with this soon by 2010 at the latest but by continued protest in the interim). They will do so with or without the understanding that this creeping tyranny is the very thing the founding fathers of the nation were most concerned with, and rightly so.

The real lesson from the lunar landing is the fact that American ingenuity is not dead. The amazing talents that led to that Herculean effort still exist aplenty in America. Arguably there is more of that intellectual capital at the disposal of the nation (not the government). That talent however, has been dammed, channeled and redirected into less productive efforts. The country is capable of an infinite number of golden ages. Just like the economic boom cycles, innovation need not be a peak once and ebb thereafter story. In fact, while it may not be a continuous boom, there really is now ebb needed - just the hiccups of rapid and slow innovation. That is, if people understand that such a miraculous cycle requires no magical orchestration from some omnipotent Presidential or Congressional adjudicator. It simply needs the liberty that unleashes personal creativity.

There is no other option open - either individual freedom, or congratulatory praise for something that happened 40 years ago.

: big government advocates will argue that NASA was an arm of the government that accomplished this feat. NASA was set up in 1958 as an independent agency to achieve a goal as defined by the government, but it did so with relative independence. Unlike the interference the government does as far as the disciple of economics, apparently it generally knew better than to interfere with the scientists and physicists involved in solving the complexities of a mission to the moon. As a result, the effort was successful. Further, the government placed no restrictions on the freedom of its citizenry to becoming physicists. Nor did it place quotas on minority physicists comprising a specified percentage of the NASA employed physicists. The result - NASA went after the best it could get, including for example preeminent rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, who worked for Nazi Germany during WWII. The probability of success of the lunar mission might have been very different if NASA were to be guided by the principles espoused by modern liberals with respect to quotas, affirmative action and the federal government deciding more than they are equipped to make informed decisions on.

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