It should be, right? It has that sort of ring to it. Imagine that show, filmed in the style of classic works such as Rocketeer or Forbidden Planet…
Alas, in reality, news is abuzz about Jeff Bezos embarking in space travel. Er, sort of. As Neil deGrasse Tyson explained so well on Startalk, what I’ll refer to as the Bezos Mark I didn’t even make it into the internationally accepted boundary of outer space. He went on a suborbital flight and due to free fall maybe got to experience temporary weightlessness. It’s been done before and better. It’s not like he made it to the ISS, after all. Now, the people jumping onto forums and social media, ready to lick billionaire boots in defense of projects such as this, are trying to support the notion that these mega rich billionaires are paving the way for successfully privatizing space travel.
Er, maybe, but also no.
Privatization doesn’t mean what it used to. The days of private enterprise in a fair and competitive market that granted a high degree of opportunity to the little guy are in the past. You can still be a nobody and potentially become a somebody if you put in the work and/or get super lucky, but you now have a major opponent that is, relative to human history, a recent phenomenon. The onset of the corporations, arbitrary, not physically existent entities that don’t have even the theoretical checks and balances of government, owe no representation to private citizens, and yet by modern laws are granted many of the rights and liberties of actual persons, this is why I say such a thing. Big corps control media, information, commerce, travel, luxury, medicine, entertainment, food, electrical power, fuel, and almost everything else we touch and interact with. No, they don’t control all facets of all these things, but we are increasingly hard pressed to consume or use anything that isn’t the copyright, patent, or product of a massive corporation that has power with little to no accountability. Our legislature is written by men and women who are bought and paid for by corporate lobbyists. Given what we can objectively see that massive, unchecked companies have been allowed to do to our planet’s environment and to people, with little substantial regulation or restraint, all in the name of profit and exploitation, quite frankly I don’t want them to expand that endeavor to space, plundering the final frontier of nature in pursuit of a more robust bottom line.
If future history proves me wrong, and that what men like Bezos and Musk are doing will truly open up space travel for the little guy instead of just showing off the size of their dollar peens, I’ll eat my words. In the meantime, I will be critical of billionaire vanity projects that I see as a waste of time and resources. Spend the money and resources to send engineers, scientists, and researchers into space, not corporate suits who get to do whatever they want because money and because pull with the right movers and shakers.
Look, I’ll be as fair as I can here. If I had enough money to be set for life and all of my material problems were laid to rest, I’d be tempted to shoot myself up into space. It has been a lifelong dream of mine, after all, to have even a brief chance to say I was out in the cosmos beyond Terra’s protective shell. If I did so I would at least endeavor to take with me some skills, tools, or ideas that could prove useful to our astronauts. So, yes, I don’t and wouldn’t want other people trying to dictate to me what I do with my own money. Much as I and others might chafe at the rich, I can appreciate how annoying it must be to be under high scrutiny and pressure to “do this” and “do that” with one’s money.
However, I believe there comes a point where one person can go beyond being merely rich, to being wealthy in the obscene. Centralization of power has historically never been a good thing, and I believe that to be true in economics as well as politics. What’s more, it’s an altogether more dangerous thing to be not only staggeringly wealthy, but to also be in command of one of the largest and most powerful companies in the world. At that point, yes, I believe there is a level of responsibility that one must assume, because their actions, their spending, even their words take on a power that extends well beyond their own personal life. In the case of Bezos, we are talking about someone in control of a company that has and is swallowing up entire markets, and that gleefully took the chance to absorb even more wealth and astonishing economic sway at the expense of individuals and small businesses whose enterprises were destroyed by the pandemic lockdowns last year. The problem is, who will represent us to the corps that have all this power? After all, in the name of emergency and “keeping us safe,” governments made it criminal for individuals and small businesses to operate, while big corps got to enjoy record profits and were allowed to more or less conduct business as usual, in some cases going way above and beyond business as usual. Big pharma is also enjoying immense profits at taxpayer expense, being paid to sort of kind of solve a problem that was caused by government funded scientists in the first place, while enjoying immunity from prosecution if their solution destroys anyone’s health or takes their lives. These giant corporations and the governments that sold us out to them are refusing any accountability or responsibility for all the suffering and trampling of human liberty they have and continue to cause.
Do we really want that kind of power and exploitation to reach the stars?