Friday, January 27, 2012

Jonah Goldberg on Gingrich's moon talk

It’s rare that I disagree with Jonah Goldberg but in his G-file today I think he largely gets the pushback on Gingrich’s moon colony statement wrong.  Goldberg self describes as “a cathedrals in space kind of guy” and then writes:

We are a pioneering people, and I see the effort to, as Reagan said, "slip the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God" as a worthwhile endeavor for a great nation. I bet the Founders would be more comfortable with the idea of American expansion to the moon than with, say, Medicare….

If that's all too frilly for you, think of it this way: Lord knows I'm no Keynesian, but if you believe even a fraction of this multiplier stuff or a scintilla about the need to train up a new generation of scientists and engineers, then spending money on space exploration makes a lot more sense than most of the junk in the stimulus. I'm completely pragmatic about how to do it, and heavily biased toward free-market approaches, but I think it's worth doing.

The mockery of Gingrich over this seems more like a poor reflection on our own national spirit than on Gingrich himself

It strikes me as the argument put forth here isn’t up to Goldberg’s usual high standards. It is first and foremost out of time and place, which is something of a starting point for conservative reflection.  Colonizing the moon may be worthwhile, but now when we are hugely indebted and already terribly over-committed?  And yes, the Founders may very well favor space exploration over Medicare, but Medicare is a done deal and not going away.  And as to the comparison to the stimulus, what Goldberg is curiously leaving out is the none of the above option. 

To be fair, Goldberg opens the argument with a nod to all of these critiques saying:

Now, yes, when the country is drowning in debt, proposing a moon colony is arguably politically crazy (though Floridians on the Space Coast probably don't think so). Indeed, when you have a reputation for saying whacked-out stuff, leading with your lunar ambitions can be confused too easily for lunacy itself.”

But it isn’t just politically crazy it is crazy, like a family fighting off bankruptcy deciding to buy a new sports car because the automobile and driving the open roads is a unique expression of the American spirit.  As John Podhoretz put it on Twitter, “the issue with Gingrich and space isn't that space is silly. It's that talking about space colonies during a crisis is the act of a flake.”

NOTE: I can’t link to the G-File as it is not posted on any site, but you can sign up for it and the other National Review newsletters here

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