Jun 15 2009

Trading one set of thugs for another? Not much help there.

Category: Iranharmonicminer @ 3:53 pm

If you’re feeling hopeful that somehow the unrest in Iran could lead to a regime more friendly to the USA, it might be better to shelve your expectations to avoid disappointment.

As Claudia Rosett says, “Think of it as the New York mob being protested by the New Jersey mob.” 

The “loser” in the election, Mousavi, is a big supporter of Iranian nukes, and no friend of the west.

The revolution that would matter in Iran would be if the ayatollahs were dethroned.  Everything else is noise in the system, and a giant game of where’s Waldo.

Jun 15 2009

Killing the golden goose of research and development

Category: government,healthcareharmonicminer @ 10:26 am

The history of the cancellation of the Apollo space program due to budget considerations is nicely summarized here and here.

The short story:  President Lyndon B. Johnson’s budget for 1969 included $3.878 billion for NASA, “nearly 25 percent lower than the budget for the peak year, fiscal 1965.”   When President Nixon took office, he cut it further.  Neither presidents nor congress were in the mood to maintain NASA’s funding, resulting in cutting the last three planned Apollo missions, which would have cost only $20 million each, given the money already spent on Saturn V boosters and capsules.

No one will ever know what scientific discoveries might have been made on those missions.

No one will ever know how far we might have come by now in space capability had Congress continued to fund NASA at “moon-race levels,” but we would surely have a permanent colony on the moon by now, we would have been to Mars and back, and might have a fledgling presence there, and we’d know a lot more about the science of our solar system than we do now.

It is not well understood by the public that much of the USA’s dominance in technology came from so-called “spinoffs” from the “space race.”  There is little reason to believe that trend would have changed.  It’s likely that our national economy would have received a great boost from the spinoffs that never happened.

Congress, however, was busily moving into higher and higher levels of “great society” funding, including welfare (with its disastrous results on poor families and unwed birth rates) and medicare.

We can’t get back years of lost basic research and lost applied research, as well as discovery of unknowns in our solar system.  We can duplicate what would have been done… but that time is lost permanently.

Call the entire sorry affair penny-wise, and pound foolish.

And now, for somewhat different reasons, Congress is considering what will end up as a federal takeover of health care.  While the dynamics will be different, the result will be analogous to what happened to NASA, and space exploration.  There will be a great cutback in basic research, and decades may be lost in what could have been a “genetic therapy race” to revolutionize (and probably significantly cheapen) health care.  The “astronomically huge” medical progress of recent times is not any sort of given.  It depends on particular circumstances of economy and society that encourage investment, basic research, and risk taking.  In other words, the things that government does worst.

When your now-young children are dying of cancer in about 40 years, prematurely, how much will they thank us for having instituted a health care delivery system that killed much basic research that could have saved their lives?

Not much, I think.