Monday, March 01, 2004
Demos for Rockets

Demos have published a report on attitudes towards space in Britain and how this might be used to guide future policy on the issue. Whilst the favourable response from the "Beagle generation" is to be welcomed, the Nulab spin in which the report is couched for gaining press attention just grates.

As a quick aside, a thinktank that names itself after the Greek word for 'people', embodies a certain arrogance for insisting that it provides a bridge between public attitudes and government policy. To claim that you speak for the people is the height of arrogance.

The press release demonstrates that the report is structured in the favourable paradigm of the liberal-left: Europe vs. the United States

The difference between the US and European approach is highlighted in an interview with Jean-Jacques Dordain, head of the European Space Agency (ESA). “For the US, space is an instrument of domination – information domination and leadership. Europe should be proposing a different model: space as a public good,” he told the report’s authors.....

....The authors describe this as a battle between the ‘closed’ systems of US military technology versus the ‘open’ approach to civilian technology developed through 30 years of European collaboration in space projects.

“It’s been said that when it comes to foreign policy, Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus” say Melissa Mean and James Wilsdon, authors of Masters of the Universe. “Britain could tip the balance between these competing visions – to decide whether space should be used for war or peace.”

It is clear that policymakers view space as a nationalised concern that should be closed to militarisation or property rights. No doubt, the concept of the 'public good' lends itself to licensing and a common space policy, rather than the benefits of old-fashioned ownership, property rights and contract law.

If Britain can provide a different approach, it is surely promoting private enterprise for space industries and avoiding the crushing pincers of militarisation or nationalisation. Space provides another salutary lesson that the United States and Europe are best avoided.

(22.55, 1st March 2004)


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