Sunday, October 10, 2004

The Sinking Hand of the State

As the new century spreads its wings, ushering a great new era of space travel, individuals are powering the growing surge of ingenuity to new heights. This article from The Straits Times seriously discusses the development of spaceports, privatized orbital travel, lunar bases and traveling from New York to Paris in less than an hour.

It talks seriously about state intervention.

The US Congress just approved new regulations for the infant industry. Like all regulations on new ideas, these seem reasonable at a glance, but are not only unneeded, they embody future intervention. They are safety requirements.

According to the law, companies have to provide passengers with possible health risks. Oh thank God that the state was there to make sure I didn't spend $200K (the cost Virgin Galatic is charging for a ride to space) too quickly. I'm so happy some one forced them to tell me the safety risks because I'm too stupid to think about my personal safety. I didn't know that flying 100km above the earth into an airless vacuum could possibly be any different from going to the grocery store to get a jug of milk.

Contrary to what you may have been led to believe, adults don't need anyone telling them to be aware of safety procedures for a space flight no more than they need someone telling them to look both ways before they cross the street. And yes, I agree that this is a rather minor law because the companies will disclose this information anyway (because we are NOT a bunch of kids). But I guarentee you it won't be minor for long and we all know Congress rarely ever removes laws. In about fifty years or so, we will all have to sit through the same safety speech that airlines (by law) have to give us, except it will be along the lines of this: "Escape pods are located at the front and rear of the spacecraft. Look around you for the nearest airlock. In some cases, it may be located behind you. If you are sitting in an airlock aisle, please assist other passagers to your location. If you do not feel you can handle this, please talk to a stewardess and we will find you a new seat..."

And like I said, this is only the beginning. Congressmen and women will point to the safety procedures and declare how well their law worked. Then they will use it to make more laws. The article reports, "The US Federal Aviation Administration has a Commerical Space Transportation Office geared up [whatever that means] to license private spacecraft." This licensing, by the way, is better known to economists as a barrier to entry. But they will laud it as a safety issue--again, unneeded--and make more laws.

I call this process the sinking hand of the state. At first the hand of the state is far away and seems distant and unintrusive. Sometimes even helpful. Maybe it blocks out some the sun so you can see better (and you don't feel as though you should pay for sun glasses or hold up your hand to your eyes. So you don't care that it's sliding down closer to you. You tolerate it's growing presence. And before you know it, you're wondering if you could strangle youself with the cord from the free headset because you're so sick of hearing the same damn safety lecture over and over again.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Ahhh, so sadly my comments earlier have been proven correct. Unfortunate, yet let's hope that this intevention is not taken too far (that's unlikely, I know.)