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A Lesson from Today’s NASA

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:


Describing U.S. government efforts to return astronauts to the moon, Robert Poole reports that NASA’s Space Launch System “and its Orion capsule have been developed using old technology and NASA’s traditional cost-plus procurement process, in which contractors get reimbursed for design changes and cost overruns” (“The Last Gasp of 20th-Century NASA,” September 3). He further observes that the space-agency’s attempt to build “a new launch vehicle with obsolete technology is emblematic of NASA’s approach to this late, overbudget program.”

In this episode is a lesson that extends well beyond NASA and space travel. The fact that a government agency – especially one with NASA’s prominent profile – pursues its high-tech mission using technology that’s both excessively costly and obsolete is reason enough to reject industrial policy as a means of enhancing the efficiency of the entire American economy and ensuring that we’ll be leaders in ‘the industries of the future.’

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030