On my article entitled "NASA Budget Cuts Are A Good Thing," reader wurzel left the following comment, a really great question for libertarians to consider:
You know, I'm really trying to make the complete mindshift towards libertarianism, or something close to it, and your site has been helping a lot, but I have to admit that two of the hardest things for me to give up are NASA and National Parks. I'm a nerd so I'm very entranced by basic research, even if it's basic research with no possibility of a financial return.
And as far as parks, I've visited many national parks, and also private parks like Meteor Crater. At Meteor Crater, you can't go "hike the rim" without hiring one of their off-duty tour guides to take you. If all the parks and open space were privately owned, I'm afraid they'd all be like this -- their liability insurance would require them to keep all patrons supervised so they could keep their rates as low as possible. But sometimes being at risk of death (changing weather, no cell phone coverage, difficult terrain) is what makes being in the outdoors enjoyable and rewarding.
I don't want to have to sign a 10-page release form every time I want to go hiking the way I have to now to go skydiving! [and yes, I realize I've just given you the perfect setup to ask why I don't demand government-supplied skydiving as well....]
But seriously, in the libertarian world, what becomes of missions to impact asteroids, large hadron colliders, and Arches National Park?
And I wanted to share my response with all of you:
Hey I totally feel the same way you do. For instance, my four years at a public high school were positively wonderful. I wouldn't trade them for anything. I learned a ton and grew a lot in that public school. I also love driving on the government-created interstate highway system- like, really love it.
But I can do without these things when I remember their existence is morally outrageous. I won't have my pleasures at someone else's expense. While my school experience was great, landowners in Nashville were made- by threat of force- to pay for it.
And other children haven't had good experiences in our public school system. In addition to the ones who are unable to read or find America on a map, sexual abuse of students in public schools is reaching horrendous proportions (though it's never reported).
And our highways were likewise built with money looted from people by threat of force (if they didn't pay their income tax, they got hauled to jail). And for all my good experiences and pure joy when I sail down I-40, it crushes my heart to consider the literally millions of people who have died on government roads in the last century, a situation that would not have been tolerated from or ever arisen in a privately-run transportation industry.
As for all those fun things like hadron colliders and space exploration- wealthy capitalists will always fund the ideas of enterprising innovators and curious scientists. In fact, imagine the kind of unprecedented, explosive wealth and prosperity of a truly unregulated, open market. Imagine the kind of Golden Age that would be?
The Apple iPod would never have been invented in Soviet Russia- and even if it did, who would be able to afford it (or a loaf of bread for that matter)? That's one of the main beauties of a free society- it's not just enlightened, it's fun.
PS: You only need to sign a 10-page release because of frivolous lawsuits, which are a result of poor government policy. Pass a "loser pays" bill for civil suits, and that should clear things up.