Newt Gingrich states that if he is elected, he will establish a permanent moon colony by 2020 and admit it as an American state.
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Mitt Romney states that if a corporate executive proposed spending billions on a moon base in this economy, Romney would fire him.
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Ron Paul states that the only people he would consider sending to the moon are politicians.
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Gingrich, impulsive as usual, imagines a moon colony and wants to establish one as soon as possible. Romney, careful as always, wants to wait till the economy improves, then decide whether we can afford a moon colony. Paul, anti-government without fail, would consider a moon colony only if we exiled politicians there. All three tell us much more about themselves than about space exploration.
● Gingrich is the visionary man who has 100 innovative ideas daily, of which 99 are impractical and one is brilliant. The problem is to find the one and avoid the 99. The problem is that visionaries make valuable advisors but risky leaders. The problem is that in attempting to emulate Kennedy, Gingrich inadvertently emphasized the contrast between the young leader and the elderly policy wonk.
● Romney is the practical man who wants to do the right thing. The problem is that those who lack the “vision thing” − as George Bush the Elder put it while describing himself − make good managers but mediocre leaders. Corporations need managers. Nations need leaders, especially during difficult times.
● Paul is the man who wants to shrink government. The problem is that he wants to shrink it so much that − like a shirt washed in hot water − it no longer fits. The problem is that an 18th century government is inadequate to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The problem is to upgrade the methods while holding fast to the principles.
In 1961 President Kennedy set a goal of sending a man to the moon before the end of the decade, and returning him safely to Earth. At the time, his speech seemed inspiring but impractical. But on July 20, 1969 we landed on the moon. I say “we” because that day all Americans felt we were participating in a historic event.
The decade hadn’t ended, but Kennedy’s life had. He was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. Yet when the moon landing was achieved, Kennedy’s inspiring speech and forward-looking program was often mentioned. Everyone dies, but people live on in the lives they touched and the progress they inspired.
When we spoke of progress then, we meant real progress − exploring space, curing diseases, and doing other things that advance human knowledge and well-being. But now we mean what so-called progressives call “progress” − making the government even larger and more parentified, and the people even smaller and more infantilized.
We spend money in the trillions and bequeath the debt to the young and the unborn. Talk about taxation without representation! Even King George III would have been outraged at the thought of taxing the unborn to pay for his lifestyle. We used to speak of astronomical numbers in relation to astronomy. Now we speak of astronomical debt.
And if you complain that we haven’t returned to the moon since 1972, many people reply, “So what?” With the retirement of the space shuttle, we not only can’t return to the moon, we can’t even get to the international space station without hitching a ride on a Russian Soyuz rocket. But with the recent crash of that rocket, we are now discussing the possibility of hitching a ride on a Chinese rocket.
Who knows? Perhaps the North Koreans will have pity and lend us a No Dong rocket. That would be regrettably appropriate. Instead of looking up at the stars, now all we are concerned with is how to transfer more wealth from the productive to the unproductive. This is a sure way to produce less wealth − for national defense, for space exploration, or even for repairing potholes in our roads.
And, of course, if we produce less wealth, there will be less to transfer. Some call this “progressive.” I call it a downward spiral. It all depends on one’s point of view. No, it depends on one’s grip on reality.
I read science fiction as a teenager, so the thought of exploring space fascinated me. I had no idea whether Kennedy’s goal of landing on the moon within the decade was possible, but I understood that setting a definite goal served to push the program forward.
Of course, keeping ahead of the Soviets in space had military implications. Under Kennedy, we spent about 50% of the federal budget on defense. Now we spend 20% on defense and complain bitterly that it is excessive. But how much is national defense worth? How much is our nation worth? How much is our freedom worth?
It is ironic that the generation that was taught “self-esteem” in school grew up with less real self-esteem. Yes, they are narcissists with heaps of unearned self-adulation. But earned self-esteem? Pride in actual accomplishments? Not so much. We built the Empire State Building in 14 months in the depths of the Depression. But 10 years after 9/11, Ground Zero is still a construction site.
Granted, for the last 10 years we have been preoccupied with fighting barbarians who want to drag us back to the 7th century. This has used up money, time, and brain power that could have been used for moving us forward into the 21st century. But the space program had stalled before 9/11. We were already losing our urge to move forward before they began pulling us back.
From Rudy Giuliani fighting terrorism, we have descended to Michael Bloomberg fighting trans fats. From John Kennedy directing NASA to go to the moon, we have degenerated to Barack Obama directing NASA to “build bridges” to Muslims. Talk about the trivialization of a great nation.
The space program inspired a generation of young people to study math and science. “Green” energy probably isn’t practical, but it surely isn’t inspiring. When I was a Boy Scout, I was taught to aim for a distant landmark while hiking. By doing so, I was less likely to lose my way and walk in circles. The landmark could serve as a real goal, but it also could be a distant mountaintop − something I might never reach, but which served to keep me on a straight path.
Clearly, our economic mess needs to be fixed before we undertake vast new projects in space. Meanwhile, we should maintain adequate numbers of scientists and engineers to keep research going. Who knows what they may come up with − a truly efficient battery, perhaps? And we need to keep our defenses strong enough to deter those who hate us.
But there is no point in fixing the economy if we have no idea of what is worth spending our money on. And there is no purpose in maintaining a strong defense if we have no notion of what is worth defending. It is essential that our candidate have a vision of what America stands for. But common sense is also necessary. We need both. Still, whoever the presidential candidate turns out to be, he will face an incumbent who demonstrates neither.
Dr. Stolinsky writes on political and social issues. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.