The UN Secretary General is wrong about space tourism
UUnited Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently berated billionaires, including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson, for “traveling to space when millions of people are hungry on Earth.”
Guterres’s criticism is both unwarranted and disgracefully populist.
It is true that the civilian race for space costs billions of dollars. Yet the return on this investment could be even greater. Over the course of a decade, entrepreneurs like Bezos, Musk, and Branson have taken a fresh look at the problems of space travel. They then moved beyond the sclerotic government agencies, which are constrained by both politics and bureaucracy. Tourism is a benefit rather than the goal of their investments.
Guterres’ anti-spatial rhetoric has deep roots.
While critics have constantly attacked the US space program since the days of John F. Kennedy, there is no doubt about the net benefits of the moon race or the shuttle program. Both cost billions of dollars, but consider only the medical gains: artificial limbs, scratch-resistant lenses, LASIK eye surgery, and insulin pumps. Today’s advanced water filtration systems also have their roots in the US space program. Even many baby foods can trace their development to NASA. Natural disasters? All over the world, people are safer with shock absorbers developed by NASA for buildings. Guterres wants to prioritize climate change, but the world’s most efficient solar cells and home insulation are also born out of the space program.
Guterres treats the General Secretariat like a bully chair, but it was never meant to be.
When the United Nations was established, the purpose of the Secretary General was to be the administrator of the organization. The role was to make the bureaucracy of the organization work efficiently. Successive general secretaries have failed because they have given priority to their own ego and the advantages of their function over their main mission. This is part of why the United Nations today is so sclerotic, wasteful and dysfunctional. Guterres doesn’t need to take my word for it: he could just ask any member of his staff who is among the first to recognize both the organization’s problems and the disinterest of its leaders in solving them. .
If Guterres really cares about the “hungry for the earth,” maybe he should get introspective.
Fifteen years before his selection as Secretary General, Guterres was Prime Minister of Portugal and was a life member of his Socialist Party. He was also president of the Socialist International for six years. No ideology is more responsible for world hunger than socialism: its insistence on state control and centralized decision-making has directly contributed to the starvation of tens of millions of people.
To be sure, Portugal is not the Soviet Union, Communist China, or Derg’s Ethiopia, but Guterres nonetheless embraced an ideology that favored suffering rather than human flourishing. Capitalism may be a dirty world in a growing society, on college campuses and in Turtle Bay, but as Harvard professor Arthur Brooks noted, it is the widespread adoption of free market reforms in Asia and Africa which lifted 2 billion people out of abject poverty. . It is also capitalism that allows governments to broaden their tax base so that they can make generous donations to the UN to fund Guterres’ unnecessary travel.
Guterres was 100% wrong. He owes Western billionaires an apology. They’ve accomplished more in the past year than Guterres has done in his life. They also develop wealth, while Guterres lives the high life of public money. The world will benefit from their entrepreneurial spirit long after Guterres is forgotten.
Michel Rubin (@ Mrubin1971) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner Beltway Confidential. He is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.