The following article was first published in the July, 1979 issue of Samuel Edward Konkin III’s “personal-genrine” Clear Ether. It is reprinted here in order to expose our readers to some of the problems we face in promoting private space development to other varieties of space enthusiasts. This will be, hopefully, the first in a series of “private space” articles.
Science fiction fans are skeptical, right? Just try to push a religion, ideology, or philosophy to them and watch the resistance! Nothing can overcome the jaundiced eye of Fandom Assembled; nothing can command their unanimity: not the ERA, libertarianism, Futurian Socialism, Claude Degler, or what have you.
Oh yeah? Mention the “Space programme” and watch the Pavlovian salivation. Utter a cutting word against this Sacred Cow and watch the torches and pitchforks figuratively spring to hand! See the mob form, the gleam leap to the glassy eyes, and the stakes, gallows, and guillotines surge upward in instant construction.
“Kill the heretic!” shrills from foaming mouths.
Why are SF fans, often too damn skeptical for their own sanity and sense of purpose, so gullible when it comes to this billion-dollar, pork-barrel boondoggle which has been the greatest enemy that space exploration has faced since the Inquisition of Galileo Galilei?
This article is not going to try to turn you against the Space Programme; its goals are far more modest. What it will hopefully do is convince those of you with the lynching fever to stop and consider the following:
Those who oppose the Space Programme have a right to live; furthermore...
Those who oppose the Space Programme are not morons, fools, traitors, or masochists, though some may be. Just as some supporters may be; moreover...
Those who oppose the Space Programme may be good fans, too; and, perhaps hardest of all to swallow...
Those who oppose the Space Programme may love space travel, space colonization and fervently desire to Get Out There themselves.
Then: if you wish, you can consider their arguments. Or keep to your own.
A few of you more level-headed types may be chuckling at what seems to be verbal overkill. Far from it; there are fans who think that those who oppose The Programme will doom mankind to extinction, or at least savagery. Therefore, they believe stifling, suppressing—even killing—opponents is Good.
Undoubtedly, there are ecologists—ecoloids would be better to distinguish them from the scientific kind—who would like to see us slip back into a pastoral Stone Age. Some of them oppose the Space Programme. Some of them would oppose space exploration and marketing too. But even these people have a right to live. They have a right to be wrong. Furthermore, their support is not necessary to get into space.
If you believe we need a democratic majority to get into space, that’s your problem. But remove restrictions and controls on space marketing, and though 90% of the populace oppose it, there will be space travel.
If you are one of those who support government monopolization of space, you might be providing the margin of majority which is suppressing market space ventures. And if it turned out to be your fault that we didn’t get out to space, would someone else, seeing you as an obstacle, have a right to shoot you?
Suppose you are talking to a fan and he or she claims that he believes in space exploration. The reasons given are well-presented, scientific, romantic, and economic. This fan presents the case, as a matter of fact, as an imperative. And you decide that, if not brilliant, this fan is the salt of the earth.
Then that same fan tells you the biggest obstacle to the colonization. exploration, and marketing of space is the United States government. Suddenly, he is a fool? Yet the arguments he offers are the same that earned your respect.
Is he a moron? His reasoning is identical to that you approved before.
Is he a traitor? He remains firmly committed to the cause.
Is he a masochist? He continues to seek the same goal and is convinced the Programme is contradictory and destructive to your mutual aims.
Fanzines and self-appointed spokespersons for science fiction fandom claim that fandom speaks with one voice on the Space Programme. As should be clear by now, this is patently false.
Do a majority of fans support it? At the time of this writing, a majority probably does. While many of them might indeed switch their allegiances if presented with an attractive alternative, the point is conceded.
But so what? Since when is fandom a majoritarian democracy? When Ellison decided to speak for all fandom in support of the Equal Rights Amendment, did he get away with it? Did the Futurians speak for fandom as committed for socialism in 1939? Never has fandom been found unanimous on any subject before this issue—not even on what constitutes science fiction, the very basis of our grouping.
There are other fans who agree with this author. Yet have their views seen print in fanzines? What incredible intimidation!
Surely, if fannish credentials are being issued, are not the anti-Programmers the truest of trufan, upholding the great fannish tradition of dissent, skepticism and naysaying to the anthill society of uniform opinion?
Are not the heretics our most cherished heroes?
At this point, a distinction must be made between those who oppose the Space Programme for its alleged goals and those who deny that those goals are achievable by governmental methods. While all the aforementioned defenses may apply to the former group, the latter bear an extra burden.
Those of us who believe in D.D. Harriman and not John F. Kennedy as the model for space developers—Space Marketeers—are condemned with all the genuine anti-space people in blanket.
The Space Programme claims that it will open up the boundaries of humanity past the surface of the earth. Very well, suppose the claim is true.
Is that then the only way? Are opponents of the Programme antispace because they select one method? If so, then every conscientious objector was a soldier for the enemy side.
Moreover, the anti-space people (not the Marketeers) would be able to use a similar argument against the Programme supporters. Many of the opponents claim that money for the Programme is taken from programmes to save the starving, educate the illiterates, save the environment, and enrich the culture. Are proponents of the Space Programme in favour of starvation, illiteracy, pollution, and philistinism?
Of course not. Most supporters of the Programme honestly believe that reaching space will itself alleviate starvation, make learning easier and more enjoyable, remove polluting industries from the atmosphere or make them unnecessary, and give man greater goals: heroes, and a far broader culture.
The Marketeers agree with them on that point. They differ in that they believe the Programme will set back or destroy that very goal, the goal of reaching space. Let then the argument rest here for those only interested in the well being of fandom. Let a dialogue open between the Programmers and the Marketeers. Let the great fannish spirit of tolerance and acceptance of divergent views on worthy goals and methods enter the question of space, its exploration, colonization and commercialization. Let all be heard and no voice be silenced.
Let there be an end to this unseemly, unfannish censorship.
But if there are those who want to actually listen to the opposing view, not just grant them a grudging tolerance, then read on.
First, one must clearly define the goal. Let it be as follows: mankind living permanently on planets, artificial satellites, and even on vessels travelling between planets and other star systems. This is what we mean by “getting into outer space.
Very well, for mankind to live in the stars, he must breathe, eat, and inhabit. He needs property, trade, goods and services—a space economy. Mankind must be free to explore, innovate, invent, and exchange—the free market.
The State destroys incentive, stifles creativity, blocks trade, confiscates goods and property, controls and regulates human activity which has not yet had a chance to discover how best to act in unfamiliar environments.
Since 1776 we have known the State is the enemy of exploration trade, and development. The State's attempts to subsidize exploration and colonization have been self-defeating, from Port Royal, Jamestown and Botany Bay to Rhodesia, Indochina, and Antarctica
The market has succeeded, from the Hudson Bay fur trappers and the Rhode Island dissenters to the Gold Rushes of California and the Yukon and the Westward march of the Homesteaders. The market by its nature rejects failures as unprofitable and rewards successful new attempts. The State rewards those who follow orders and obey regulations—even unto the death and destruction of the outpost or colony. Which then shall develop space?
But it’s not merely a set of alternatives. The market will work. The State will not only not work, but is an impediment to the market working.
Capital to finance space ventures are taxed away. Adventurous attempts to enter space are quashed by the State’s regulations and controls. Bright young men and women who wish to devote their lives to space exploration are drawn into the dead end of the frustrating bureaucracy of the Programme.
The Market says, “Get there however you can. Be as ingenious as possible.”
The State says, “Follow our rules, do as you are told, stick with the plan though it mean failure, scrubbed missions and layoffs.”
The Market says, “Pay your debts and insure your risks.”
The State gave us Skylab’s falling.
The Market is run by no one.
The State is run by bureaucrats and politicians. They say, “Do it the way we have passed laws and issued orders for you to do, to get ourselves votes and funding.” And if the votes want the Programme shut down, the Programme will be—and no alternative will be allowed.
All the State contributes to economics is monopoly. A State Space Programme demands that it be done one way, in one institution, under one supreme authority.
The Market says do it any way and all ways you can. All alternatives are acceptable. Those showing highest returns are preferred, but other ways are acceptable if they show longer-range returns or other benefits.
If a sizable part of this globe had enjoyed a free market for even this past century, we would probab1y be in space now. As long as this Programme exists and the iron fist chokes the life out of the economy, our efforts are hampered. Underground counter-economic space ventures are threatened with exposure and their members with arrest. Yes, they do currently exist.
Even above ground timid enterprises such as the West German OTRAG located in Zaire are at the mercy of the whims of foreign policies of the World’s States. Perhaps the U.S. State Department may decide to sacrifice OTRAG to a strutting Idi Amin or Emperor Bokassa or some Marxist will nationalize it into impotency.
This is why I oppose the Space Programme. In any language, ad astra! Je m’oppose a la programme d’espace.!
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