How much would you pay for the universe (of flying cars)? How do we examine the costs and benefits?
Besides the mere fact that everyone would be flying in style with little concern for congestion, just think of all the stimulative effects it would have on society. We would probably all save a bunch of time going to and from work. The ability to fly would eliminate many of the complexities associated with driving and would probably facilitate automating the process. This would free us from the drudgery of the daily commute and essentially make the world smaller, expanding our zone of employment and improving our earning power. Besides all that, I certainly would feel better about myself and my status, being a hot-rod pilot and all. I would probably start dressing better, and maybe I would have the esteem to go for that big promotion at work. Multiply that by millions of people so effected and imagine the economy purring along like a spoiled kitten. Children everywhere would be inspired by the wonder of daily flight, as well as the precise engineering, the smooth handling and the attractive contouring that go along with the now ubiquitous, flying Mercedes-Benz. Just imagine the young crop of overachieving engineers, scientists, designers and artists growing up and really getting after it in an ever expanding world of opportunity! Beyond all of that, we're bound to happen upon a great many wealth-producing discoveries and labor-saving inventions in our quest to mass produce flying cars. We can't afford to let go of this dream! People probably won't go for it voluntarily, so we'll probably need the government to foot the bill.
Foolish, childish ideas and hyperbolic extrapolations? Absolutely. No one would ever seriously propose such an expensive, narrow-minded, centrally-planned "national greatness" program simply on the grounds that it would be inspirational or generally stimulative. First of all, to attribute the life decisions and successes of any individual in an advanced society (let alone that of a group of such individuals) to a single program, stimulus or event is utter foolishness. Further, to claim that directing that desire toward a particular field in lieu of all others is an improvement on the situation of men is a fatal conceit indeed. Inspiring a young Sam Walton to design thrusters for the new F-Class would have deprived us of Walmart, which would have been an injustice nearly beyond this author's will to consider.
The rationalization of the program based on the stimulative effects of inventions made in the process is a particularly special pleading based on ignoring the costs of the program itself. Of course the monetary price we would pay for the program is obvious, but the activities forgone in order to support it will forever be hidden to us. I am not speaking here of what other great national work must be given up, like the Federal Jetpack Program, though that is a viable concern. I am considering what activities in the private (or peaceful) market place must be displaced in order to make the flying car dream a reality. It takes real saved wealth to pull off a project like this, and since the government has none, they'll have to take it away from someone (more likely a whole bunch of someones). Your guess is as bad as mine as to what that saved wealth would have been used for. Some of it no doubt would have been saved for consumption at a later date, while some of it would have been consumed right away on things like candy, shirts, smart phones and regular, old-fashioned rolling cars. So that's simple enough; we're just asking for little Johnny to go without his chocolate for the week, or little Susan to cut back on the texts or 16 year-old Franklin's parents to go for the fixer upper instead of certified pre-owned. That's not so much to ask of the patriotic citizen for the common dream of flying cars. If you buy that argument, I guess this is where we go our separate ways, but there is one last thing I would like you to consider - investment. Some of that wealth would have been invested in a broad array of forward-looking ventures, most of which probably would have had a better chance of turning a profit than the lofty dream of flying luxury cars. Some, no doubt, would have been massive failures that were either poorly managed or not well thought out or both, but if history is any guide, a great many of them would have been successful, some of them fantastically so. There would have been some AOL-TimeWarner's and some Betamax's, but there would also be the Amazon's and the Apple's. Maybe we would be missing out on the next Iphone, Ipad, or hell, the Icar (not flying til generation 4.f). Maybe Bayer would have cancelled a line or research on some young drug that would have turned out to cure cancer, or AIDS, or diabetes. Maybe Pfizer pulled back on the next great erection enhancer. Maybe Kenmore's new dishwasher would have saved us more time at less expense than the flying 'Benz. The fact is, we'll never know the costs of the great flying machine project because they are simply immeasurable. So you tell me if you can justify taking your neighbor's wealth by force to support this or any other technological fantasy.
In my previous post on the subject of Penny4NASA, I focused on the fiscal irresponsibility of clamoring for increased NASA funding. Now I hope I have demonstrated the fallacious nature of the arguments used to present the supposed benefits of increased funding for the program as expounded on said website:
NASA contributes to society in massively huge ways in terms of technological, economical, and inspirational progress. The progress that we have seen in the last 40 years comes largely from the world's extremely talented scientists and engineers. Now, talk to most any scientist and/or engineer of the last 40 years, and we are willing to bet that they were drawn into their chosen field by something NASA related. And more often then not, they refer to the Apollo, Gemini and/or Space Shuttle program where humans were physically advancing a frontier. It's the human spirit of exploration that drives the world's greatest technologists to invent the future, today. We want to see to it that the US annual budget allocation for NASA reflects that hugely important role technology, economy, and inspiration bringer.
I hope my work can be a massively huge inspiration bringer to young thinkers everywhere so that they can root out the legal plunder of the future, today.
Pennies for NASA - Ignoring Cost at all Cost