Crumbling government

By Nathan Barton

Space.com recently reported that NASA has approved SpaceX sending a Dragon passenger-carrying spacecraft (capsule, really) with a dummy on a test flight to the International Space Station, scheduled for 2 March – just a few days from now.

Assuming the test drive is successful, NASA will begin using the Dragon to take its astronauts to and from the ISS.  Space.com reports this would be the first time that NASA uses a private spacecraft for its employees.

This is, of course, an oversimplification.  NASA does not, and never has had, a workforce and its own factories to build its spacecraft, not even back in the days of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.  These manned spacecraft, and their launch vehicles, have always been built by private industry.  Using parts and materials produced by private business.  There are very few (if any) government OPERATED mines or manufacturing plants or anything else.

I know this is a small thing, but a sign of hope for those who love liberty.

Government does not produce.  It consumes.  It steals money from taxpayers and uses it to buy things built by private industry. Services provided by private business. From whom it then steals MORE money.

What they mean, of course, is that unlike Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the STO (the Space Shuttle), the SpaceX vehicle, including the Dragon capsule, was not designed by NASA, is not built to government-mandated specifications, and was not done by NASA contractors. (Well, theoretically: government nanny regulations dictate working conditions and specifications for anything allowed to fly, and SpaceX is actually a contractor – but providing services, not parts or vehicles.)

It is the difference between a government-owned and -operated shipyard building warships, a government contractor building the warships in their own yard but with no real involvement in the design, and the Navy going to buy a vessel “off-the-shelf” to use as a warship.

And an example of how the government is crumbling.  And how our economy is crumbling under the burden of government.

The old method of NASA designing something and then contracting out its manufacture worked when the inefficiency of government operations could be supported by an incredibly healthy economy and society.  That is no longer the case.

The old way worked when all of the people involved were both intelligent and well-educated and well-trained and experienced.  That is no longer the case.

The old way worked when people trusted government – despite so much evidence (such as the Apollo 1 disaster) to the contrary.  That is no longer the case.

With the huge burden of welfare spending (for individuals, corporations, other governments, and foreign nations), interest payments on the insane public debt (including retirement of government employees), and the war machine, government can’t afford to have a thousand NASA engineers and scientists designing spacecraft by committee.

And this is a GOOD thing.  It means that government is losing control, and being forced to take what the market is willing to offer, NOT demand that the market provide what government wants.  At least in this one tiny part of the economy.

This is hopefully a growing trend.  It has already happened in other ways: small but important to establish a track record.  In some things, government has been forced to do this for years.

For example, for years, government insisted that the standard paper size for typing paper be 8″ by 10.5″ sheets. It “saved” paper.  At some point, the government bureaucrats gave up and now use 8.5″ by 11″ paper like the rest of us do.  I don’t know whether or not Congress or the President said to do that, but it cut the cost of buying paper a whole lot.

For years, up until the 1960s or 1970s, government (the military) specified and designed (or supervised the design) of literally every vehicle on the battlefield and in garrison: the WW2 Jeep (vehicle, general purpose) being the classic example.  Cargo trucks of all types, from small “utility” vehicles (like the jeep) and pickups, up to big semi-tractors, were all built to government specifications: designed from the ground up.  Then the government started simply requiring modifications to standard commercial vehicles.  Then (and today) the government just started buying off-the-shelf models, with a few modifications to meet their specific (and unique) requirements.  Which is done today, at least for non-combat vehicles.

These are small things, in the overall scheme of things: military aircraft and ships are still designed and built to government specs.  But it is a part of a pattern, which I think offers hope for the future.  Although government is increasingly a burden on everything, even things like this reduce the impact. As I said, that is a good thing.

Now, if we can just have it happen in a lot of other things.  At all levels of government. Consider:

  • Maintaining records of property ownership
  • Providing utilities – water, sewage, power, trash disposal, communications
  • Education
  • and more

I know this is a small thing, but a sign of hope for those who love liberty.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (christian), Pahasapan, Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer.
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