February 10, 2005

Congressional Moron's Oxymoron

Two days ago, Congresscritter James Oberstar introduced a bill to "enhance" the safety of the infant commercial space flight industry. Here's a sampling of his verbal diarrhea (via SpaceRef):

"We can and should protect the safety of passengers on space flights in this new and emerging industry, without placing unreasonable limitations on industry development. I urge my colleagues to join me in working to pass this important legislation."

(emphasis mine)

It's clear from the context of Oberstar's comments that he's not merely concerned with range safety (i.e., innocent bystanders). No. He wants to use the blunt instrument of federal regulation to "protect" the safety of early passengers on commercial spaceflights.

Yeah, right. We all know what a good job the government does at protecting passengers in spaceships. (Cheap shot, I know. But I'm not sorry). I'm not sorry, because there is one trait of government that I simply cannot abide, regardless of party affiliation: nannyism. Manny, in Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, put this unsavory aspect of government, as a reflection on human nature, most eloquently:

Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws -- always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up. Because not one of those people said: "Please pass this so that I won't be able to do something I know I should stop." Nyet, tovarishchee, was always something they hated to see neighbors doing. Stop them "for their own good" -- not because speaker claimed to be harmed by it.

In a nascent industry like this, which is just an exotic form of "extreme tourism," participants should be allowed to make up their own minds about risk tolerance. Asshats like Oberstar either (a) want to strangle the private space business in the cradle (look for donations from entrenched contractors like Boeing/LockMart) or (b) are stupid enough to think there is such a thing as safety regulations for experimental spacecraft that do not impose unreasonable limitations on commercial space flight startups. Either way, he should be turned out of office.

Posted by JohnL at February 10, 2005 11:01 PM

Oh baby, it's started. The quest by Boeing, etc. and NASA to make sure that NASA's monopoly is never broken. If the government has anything to say about it no one but a very select few folks will ever get into space, the costs will continue to be outrageously high and the human race will be consigned to live on this planet forever.

Sometimes I start thinking Jefferson, Patrick Henry and the rest of our Founding Fathers had the right idea.

Posted by: Eric at February 11, 2005 12:31 AM
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