Why can’t the US set a firm Space policy?

Particularly since the decommissioning of the Space Shuttle, the United States has had a very haphazard policy when it comes to space exploration.

More recently, the scaling back of space exploration makes sense, everything from budgetary concerns to the limits of technology are all justifiable points on pulling back and regrouping for ideas — but even then, the United States lacks a clear vision of where it wants to be in the future.

In his September 1962 address to Rice University, the newly minted Honorary Professor, President John Kennedy promised, “I will assure you that my first lecture will be very brief.” In that speech, becoming one of the most iconic of the 20th Century…

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
— United States President John F. Kennedy, Rice University Stadium – 12 September 1962

Since we last left the Moon, and Apollo 17 returned to Earth, America has lacked a pointed mission on any manned mission below Low Earth Orbit. In cooperation with nations around the world, the International Space Station was established, and became a scientific outpost for people around the world, with Russia and America leading the way, united in cause, to continue exploration of space. But at only a couple-hundred miles above Earth, there’s only so much we can learn, before we once again leave the cradle of home, that is Earth.

The Orion program, launching the first human-rated spacecraft beyond Low Earth Orbit for the first time in nearly four decades, has driven the figurative “golden stake” into the ground as NASA puts it, for further space exploration, the vehicle exists… but a plan for it, however, seems to be less than clear. Sure, it’s supposed to take us to Mars… and to an Asteroid… but when? How? What crews? Have they begun putting together mission objectives? It doesn’t seem so.

With a bold, solid declaration, like that of President Kennedy’s 1962 address, America, and indeed the world, could unite in a common exploration goal. To me, today, we seem to be lurching from one goal to another, not exactly sure where we’re going next… can’t we get a solid, stated goal to go “somewhere” by “sometime?”

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Socialized Capital — The next evolution of Capitalism?

One of my personal heroes is Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder and former managing director of Grameen Bank.  A social entrepreneur who inadvertently birthed the idea of Microcredit.  From it spawned a new era in financing, while modeled for the poor — Grameen Bank’s ideas and basics spawned everything from Kiva, which I’m a member of, to Kickstarter and Indiegogo.  Microcredit/Microfinance/Crowdfinance has gone from an uncertainty, to a now accepted business practice, with everything from money for the poor, to basement start-ups and high-tech entrepreneurs who are just looking for a fresh infusion of capital to get them going, when they may not qualify for a traditional loan or grant otherwise.  This socially-geared form of finance has proven highly successful, both in “grant” style, and in loan-repayment style — Kiva often bills itself as having higher repayment rates than most banks in the United States do.

The world’s economy has gone through three major cycles in it’s history:

The Agrarian economy, which was from the birth of civilization, till about the industrial revolution, which consisted of land owners as the upper class, and the land workers as the lower class.  Land was the king here.  Agriculture and husbandry was the big thing here.

The Capitalist economy, which took off during the industrial revolution, and continued through to World War II.  Here, MONEY was the king.  You had Capitalists as the upper class, and the Blue collar people as the middle and lower class.  Here, it was about paper money, and [generally] unskilled labor.

The Post-Capitalist economy began after World War II, was a drastic shift from where simply having money didn’t mean you made money.  You now needed to have knowledge.  Knowledge-based workers are the upper class, more often than not, and service-based workers are the middle and lower classes, more often than not.  Those who succeed MAY have a healthy dose of capital, but it’s usually more often that their knowledge in an industry or a specific sub-set of skills makes them successful in their given area.

Is this the future of capitalism in the world?  Will the 21st century be the birth of the next evolution in our world’s economy?

Some Links:

Professor Muhammad Yunus talks about the birth of his idea of Microcredit
 Some background on Amartya Sen, another economist I admire