Letter: Government Achievements in Space Belie Propaganda

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In reference to Rick Tumlinson’s Commentary “Kill the Congressional Launch Vehicle” [March 21, page 19], I’m discouraged at how engrained the political philosophy of “government bad, corporations good” is in the space sector. I’m guessing it’s because the major government space centers are located in Republican-leaning states and because Republicans have been bashing the government to get elected ever since Ronald Reagan. It doesn’t help that this type of right-wing propaganda is being spewed via AM radio and other media 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I’ve never seen anything done commercially (by the private sector) that government can’t do faster, cheaper and better. With that statement, two things have occurred: 1) A full 30 percent of the people reading it have collapsed from a heart attack, and 2) I lied. Of course the commercial sector can do some things better, or faster, or cheaper. A blanket all-or-nothing statement such as Mr. Tumlinson’s “government employees can explore but cannot design or drive trucks or build buildings” is just as ludicrous as my statement.

There were many other examples of this type of rhetoric in the article. And to what purpose? Government does some things well and the private sector does some things well; they are fundamentally different animals. I would not want to have one without the other. Total government control would be as bad as total corporate control; our system works best with strong elements of both. The leadership, motivations and efficiency of the private or public sector, as well as the level of cooperation between them, determine the quality and direction of their accomplishments. Isn’t that obvious?

The boasting of an inherent superiority of the private sector over government is politically motivated and untrue. It stinks of the last days of the decaying Soviet Union — boasting of how superior their way was, but lacking in depth or substance. Since when did American science and know-how become infiltrated by such political rhetoric and garbage?

We lead by example and by doing — not by boasting about what we could do if we wanted to or if only this or that was not getting in the way. I’m sorry to disappoint, but government — in the right hands — does a beautiful job. When the commercial sector gets motivated enough to send a spacecraft to Neptune (Voyager, U.S.) or land probes on the surface of Venus (Venera, Soviet Union) or send people to the Moon, then great! (What’s the holdup, by the way?) Anyone who automatically suggests that the government can do no right has already lost the rational argument and delved into political theater. And that’s not how we’re going to get to Mars.

 

Patrick R. Stoffel

Oregon, Wis.