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ragingloli's avatar

If Free Market Capitalism(tm) is so great, why has it not lead to space colonisation yet?

Asked by ragingloli (34101 points ) December 8th, 2013

Especially considering the extremely slow pace of our minimally funded public space exploration, you would think that the Holy God of Money would have blessed us with countless companies going into space on their own to exploit the near limitless resources that the universe has to offer.
Why have they not built any of the expected thousands of hotels on Mars to make millions of martian tourism?
What is hindering them? Certainly it can not be government, because they could easily bribe themselves around any restrictions.

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7 Answers

stanleybmanly's avatar

No, no, it’s all about short term quarterly profits. Believe me if ever it should happen that a civilization is discovered out there capable of being brutally exploited to extract those riches, capitalism will “rise” to the challenge.

CWOTUS's avatar

Who in their right minds would invest tens of billions to make a few millions? When there’s a promise of a market in the tens and hundreds of billions for “space tourism”, then maybe someone will start to invest the tens of billions necessary to make the infrastructure and start the processes.

Free market capitalism is just better than any other type of “ism” that we’ve tried; it doesn’t mean that you can have unicorns that excrete dark chocolate just because that’s what you want.

josie's avatar

Your question has a false premise.

I am not aware of any place on earth that embraces truly free markets and/or laissez faire capitalism.

All markets that I am aware of are controlled to one degree or another by statist politicians who do not believe in laissez faire, but instead impose capriciously designed “systems”.

Kropotkin's avatar

NASA is of incredible cultural, scientific and technological value, with many positive externalities and spin-off which benefit the USA and civilisation in general.

Yet, no corporation could do what NASA does. The long-term research programmes and the levels of investment required with no return of investment in sight, is not something private capital does, regardless of the positive externalities (which are irrelevant to their interests anyway) and actual value it produces.

Capitalism developed, in part, because it allowed for large scale investment in large capital projects, like building factories, railroads, canals, etc. But, it does these things only with the expectation of a return on investment and eventual profitability—even if, and often quite typically, the externalities are negative (pollution, addiction of consumers, death and maiming of workers, destruction of ecosystems, depletion of resources, etc.)

When it comes to the really, really big capital projects, with no return of investment likely for an entire generation or more (like space exploration) then only the state sector can do that, because the state cannot go bankrupt or run out of money, and does not need to return a profit.

As for “free-market” capitalism. There’s no such thing. Never has been, and never can be. It is little more than an idealisation that cannot exist in practice. Capitalism exists because of the state. The propertarian system that allows for a class monopoly over the means of production, is a product of state, and required state coercion on a massive scale to implement.

And you are correct. Corporations can and do bribe the government. This is exactly because of the historical development of capitalism and the modern state. The two are in a symbiotic relationship. The state protects the propertarian system upon which capitalism is based, and private capital attempts to buy control of government (the administrative arm of the state) to gain favours from the state. In short, real capitalism has always been “crony” capitalism.

Rarebear's avatar

The gravity well.

ETpro's avatar

@josie Singapore is close enough to enjoying unfettered capitalism that they should have colonies on Mars, be mining gold from the asteroids and harvesting the moon is laissez-faire capitalism actually led to long range investment. The problem is it doesn’t. It leads to quarterly profits thinking with zero investment in the long term. If we eventually discovered that some rogue black hole was on a collision course with Earth; capitalists, democratic governments and communist/statist regimes alike would all come together—but of course there would then be no time to save mankind.

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