Dave Scotese — With each annual budget announcement for NASA’s research and exploration, a question asked numerous times already starts crossing one’s observation: what exactly is the real worth of all this space exploration to the life of an average American? And this question is tied to the pocket of an average American citizen since his/her tax goes into funding the projects and enterprises that venture into the vastness of space.
NASA has a pretty colossal budget—$17.7 billion, according to this document. For what is it mainly used? Like all entities governed by committees, it is used for as many purposes as there are contributors to the decision making. The main ones go to those with the most influence, primarily, one may assume, Association head Charles Bolden. His own interest in space exploration (or perhaps the longevity of NASA itself) would be about as main as one could get. On the other hand, a more cynical approach recognizes the common thread in all government programs, and that is to reach as many people as possible with the old sham, “look how fantastically we spend our money – aren’t we great?!” The trick is in the duplicity of the ‘our’. It’s the same trick citizens use to exonerate themselves for blowback and all the other supposedly unintended consequences of letting people who didn’t earn money decide how it should be spent.
Unfortunately, the assumption or logic behind such huge spending on space exploration is correct. NASA expenditures cause science and technology to advance, and that helps humanity reach ever higher pinnacles of knowledge. The assumption, however, is nefarious: that the scientific and social progress produced by the expense of 17 billion dollars in 2013 (that’s about $5000 per US citizen) will be better than all the scientific and social progress—not to mention the always important respect for private property—that would result from allowing taxpayers to keep that money, and currency holders to enjoy that much less inflation. That assumption shouldn’t need to be exposed as tripe, but ours is a fiat currency and rests on a faith in rulers which was designed by evolution to benefit children, not adults. So the assumption is killing us and the only way out is to expose it.
One important point to consider here is whether NASA, funded, fully or partly, by taxpayer’s money, has by its space exploration served an average citizen in feeling safe and valued. Now the goal is not to make people feel safe or valued. People are valued, of course, because if they weren’t out here in the private sector earning money the government could steal, then the rulers would have to be out here earning money in order to eat. But the general assumption here is that the spending of tax dollars is supposed to make people feel safe and/or valuable. It could be a decent assumption if taxes were voluntary, as the IRS claims they are. However, if they were voluntary, our government would be a lot smaller—and they wouldn’t be called taxes, would they? If you get to choose whether or not to pay, then it isn’t a tax. So what one might reasonably suppose to be the purpose of spending tax dollars is a bit mystifying. It’s a bit silly to consider how a thief is supposed to spend the money he stole from you—unless you buy into his claim that he’s stolen it for your own good. In that case, your best bet is to promise that you’ll spend it the same way he’s spending it, if only he’d let you keep it, and then break the promise once he’s off your back, and show him that you can spend it more effectively for your own good than he can. The ability to do that is one of the effects of maturing to adulthood.
So, shall a taxpayer have a say in deciding where to spend government funds? What was discussed above should clear up a bit of the confusion on this question. Whatever is stolen from a person ought to be given back to him, and all those who put effort into getting the thief to return what was stolen should also be compensated for their efforts, at the expense of the thief. Some may argue that government funds are not stolen from taxpayers. Of those people, some will claim that they ought to have a say, and other will say that they ought not to. Since no one is stealing from them, they can direct all their funds to wherever their ideal is met, naturally dividing the taxes they pay perfectly according to their personal feelings on this question. Forcing everyone to live with the same answer (and, if yes, the same procedure, regardless what the procedure is) amounts to tyranny and should not be tolerated.
The question that everyone needs to ask himself before he supports whatever NASA does, and, more importantly, before he accepts the government claim to the money he earned for himself, is: what spheres of life should the budget be spent on before NASA? The fastest route out of poverty is to get rid of the laws that prevent people from trading with each other. The obvious candidate laws are against the use of dried flowers and plants (drug prohibition) and against those who wish to pleasure others sexually in return for money. Less obvious candidates, but nearly as destructive of the natural and healthy human tendency to trade, are legal tender and compulsory schooling laws. There are many to choose from.
Note to readers: Please remember that everything in this essay that assumes a taxpayer or thief is a man applies equally if the taxpayer or thief is a woman. Space exploration, tyranny, oppression, and theft are all gender neutral.