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NASA's new jobs programme

Posted by: Lourens - Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:22 pm
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NASA's new jobs programme 
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Post NASA's new jobs programme   Posted on: Wed Sep 14, 2011 8:22 pm
From the news section (slightly edited and abridged):

NASA is ready to move forward with a new job creation program. The main goals are to "create good-paying American jobs, ensure continued U.S. leadership in space, and inspire millions around the world,". The programme may or may not result in the launch of a rocket by 2017, but any actual hardware is beside the point anyway. As NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said: "While I was proud to fly on the space shuttle, kids today can now dream of one day walking on Mars." To this end, the program includes the sending of a free copy of the relevant works by Ray Bradbury and Kim Stanley Robinson to selected schoolchildren throughout the nation, which will incidentally serve to create more jobs at Random House publishers in New York as well.

The question is though, is this a good way of creating jobs in the US? Any thoughts?

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Post Re: NASA's new jobs programme   Posted on: Fri Sep 16, 2011 10:24 am
Government cannot create jobs. Government can only take money from people who earned it, and give it to other people to do things which are not necessary. If these "jobs" were worth doing for the money that would be spent on them, then someone in the private sector would have already made those jobs. So it's just giving people free money. The work that the recipients of the money do is just a smokescreen.
Also, the money has to come from somewhere. By taking away money from people who earned it through producing something, you take away the incentive to produce more.
The whole idea of government creating jobs is based on a false economic concept that there is a fixed supply of money. If there is a fixed supply of money, then you can redistribute wealth without changing the amount produced.
But there isn't a fixed supply of money (resources). If people have an incentive (profit) to increase the resources available by producing resources, then the pie gets bigger for everyone, because there are more resources to go around. If people are punished (through taxes) for producing resources, then they will produce less resources, and the pie will get smaller because there are less resources to go around. Then everybody is worse off.
NASA should get out of the space launch business. SpaceX will be able to provide access to space faster, sooner, and more cheaply than NASA would ever be able to do.

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Post Re: NASA's new jobs programme   Posted on: Fri Sep 16, 2011 4:38 pm
I'm glad I live in a country where you're not the deciding factor. Probably not egoistic enough. Oh, and no, I'm not a socialist - I'm a liberal conservative.

Without government creating jobs, NASA would never exist.


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Post Re: NASA's new jobs programme   Posted on: Sat Sep 17, 2011 3:36 pm
@ Lourens

I'm a bit torn on this issue: (local) jobs program of some senators aside, I can somehow understand that "dream big" rationale behind all this Super Heavy Lift hype. After all it is America we are talking about, they even need bigger cars than the rest of the world ;).

The shuttle is gone, nothing even remotely as awesome and inspiring as a spaceplane (the majority of people have NO idea whatsoever about the flaws of the STS concept) is going to replace it so the only way (in their eyes) to inspire their people is to build something even bigger and more powerful than the Shuttle was (even if that is actually not the case...). Thereby enabling all that wishful thinking of new adventurous missions to unexplored places.


On the other hand it is a rocket build on 40 year old concepts and in some cases even reusing decades old parts!, designed (coarse) by politicians instead of engineers, built by hugely bloated, bureaucratic organizations, with parts coming from various companies that, despite all the new fuzz about new/improved/modern/cheap production techniques, still operate under cost+ contracts (afaik), is created for all the wrong reasons (again!) and has no mission (in space) to fulfill yet.

It will consume a ginormous amount of money, take years to finish (if it isn't cancelled) and if it really starts flying I highly doubt that an SLS launch will be any cheaper than STS was.

So to be honest, I hope with every fiber of my body, that commercial space really gets off the ground before SLS is ready and gathers enough momentum to render SLS useless.

Right now I think that is the only way for the politicians to learn a lesson they should have learned 40 years ago when STS was built under similar chaotic and contradicting conditions.

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Post Re: NASA's new jobs programme   Posted on: Sat Sep 17, 2011 6:59 pm
IrquiM wrote:
I'm glad I live in a country where you're not the deciding factor. Probably not egoistic enough. Oh, and no, I'm not a socialist - I'm a liberal conservative.

Without government creating jobs, NASA would never exist.


NASA was a product of the space race. It's purpose was not to "create" jobs, but to beat the Soviet Union in space.

If NASA didn't exist, there would still be a need for satellites, and perhaps sending people to space. Private companies would be doing this much better and for alot cheaper, because they would have and incentive to make it better and cheaper.

I'm glad that you're glad. But that isn't an argument. Glad or not, it has no relevance as to whether the argument I make is right or wrong.

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Post Re: NASA's new jobs programme   Posted on: Sat Sep 17, 2011 7:03 pm
By the way, Israel's economy is doing alot better than America's economy, mainly because Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, when he was finance minister, de-socialized the economy.

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Post Re: NASA's new jobs programme   Posted on: Sat Sep 17, 2011 7:36 pm
Ha, and I thought I was being cynical. Hadn't counted on our Israeli Ayn Rand there :-).

I think Marcus has an excellent point, that this is a prestige project, and SuperShuki is right too that in that it is a throwback to the original purpose of NASA. The only thing is that the Cold War is long over (the only way to win is not to play; both parties played, both parties lost), so the original context is missing. This is not building a rocket, it's erecting a statue to a broken political system. But well...

As for the economy, the Dutch economy is doing very well as well, despite being a very open one, mainly because we spent much of the excess money the government received during the 1990's boom on paying off a significant fraction of the national debt. That's lowered the interest payments a lot, and while we're still having to cut back spending by a large amount, things aren't as bad as they might have been. Spending more than you have has been a problem in the US for decades (with the exception of the Clinton years, when the more social of the two parties did in fact balance the budget), as it is in some of the southern European countries that are now in financial difficulties.

However, not spending too much has nothing to do with how to distribute wealth. You can combine sound fiscal policy with a social democracy just fine. There are many things in a modern society that everyone benefits from, and it would be rather inefficient to have everyone pay per use all the time. The accounting overhead would be huge, and in cases of security for example it's impossible to even define one "use". So, since everyone benefits from having a good police force, a military to defend the country, rule of law implemented by a functional judiciary, industry regulation, health care (and no, I don't consider a nation that lets poor people suffer and die because they can't afford treatment to be modern), working infrastructure (roads, railways, waterways, sewers, utility grid, public transport), natural and recreational areas, and so on, everyone has to pay for them, and we have a government to do these things on behalf of all of us. Through democracy, everyone gets a say in which areas are given how much priority.

Of course, the government doesn't have to do everything itself directly. It can hire companies to carry out the government's duties. But if we do not organise these things through the government, then we cede control over our society to the rich and powerful, and we'll end up falling back into a feudal system. We'll be slaves building pyramids, rather than citizens building rockets.

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Post Re: NASA's new jobs programme   Posted on: Sun Sep 18, 2011 3:46 am
Lourens wrote:
Ha, and I thought I was being cynical. Hadn't counted on our Israeli Ayn Rand there :-).

So, since everyone benefits from having a good police force, a military to defend the country, rule of law implemented by a functional judiciary, industry regulation, health care (and no, I don't consider a nation that lets poor people suffer and die because they can't afford treatment to be modern), working infrastructure (roads, railways, waterways, sewers, utility grid, public transport), natural and recreational areas, and so on, everyone has to pay for them, and we have a government to do these things on behalf of all of us. Through democracy, everyone gets a say in which areas are given how much priority.


I think that government has a purpose, which is to provide infrastructure, a courts of law (which would include police) and national security/armed forces. But it shouldn't do these things to help "create" jobs, it should do these things because they are necessary. Health care, welfare, disability, all that should be part of charity that individuals decide to give of their own free will.

In any case, government cannot create jobs, it can merely take money from some people and give it to others.

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Post Re: NASA's new jobs programme   Posted on: Sun Sep 18, 2011 12:16 pm
Well, if it takes money from people who are not spending it, and (directly or indirectly) gives it to people in exchange for work, then I'd say that they are creating jobs...

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Post Re: NASA's new jobs programme   Posted on: Sun Sep 18, 2011 12:35 pm
Lourens wrote:
Well, if it takes money from people who are not spending it, and (directly or indirectly) gives it to people in exchange for work, then I'd say that they are creating jobs...


Most people who "aren't spending" their money don't stuff their savings underneath their mattresses. They put their money in banks, who use that money to invest. That's why you get interest for your bank account.
When government gives money to people in order to give them a job, the work that the people do is unnecessary. If it was needed, then someone in the private sector would have already hired them. You might as well hire them to watch TV all day. At least that way, government subsidized workers won't compete with real workers doing real jobs.

Keynesian Economics don't work.

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoxDyC7y7PM

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Post Re: NASA's new jobs programme   Posted on: Sun Sep 18, 2011 5:28 pm
And the banks go and invest it in stock, then demand the company make more profits, which the company does by cutting costs and firing everyone that doesn't directly contribute to short-term profit. Thus the bank gets its return on the investment and pays you your interest, and the CEO a hefty bonus. All very sensible and logical, except it does nobody any good. Worse, no investments are being made into the continuing competitiveness of the company, which if it continues to focus solely on short-term profit will ultimately go bankrupt or be cut up and sold, to even more loss of jobs and a lowering of the standard of living.

I don't see why anyone in the private sector would do anything because it's needed. If you're in the private sector, then you do stuff because somebody is willing to pay for it, or because it will clearly contribute in the not-so-long term to your continuing ability to do stuff that people are willing to pay for (i.e. R&D, training staff, etc.). Fundamental research is needed to sustain our economies, but no commercial organisation does any of it. It's government labs that ensure the long-term viability of our technology-driven economy. It's government- and charity-funded research that leads to new drugs being developed that help you if you're not rich, white and elderly. A purely market-driven world is a world that rewards assholes and punishes ordinary people with a sense of compassion.

As for the video, whoever paid this think tank (don't you love the euphemistic names these things always have?) to produce it apparently paid enough for them to miss a few things (I had to laugh at the "left wing international bureaucracies", they call the IMF that? Seriously?).

Fortunately, I paid attention in secondary school economics class. Keynes advocated anti-cyclic government spending. According to his theory, economies go through a cycle of increased and decreased demand, and governments should counter the bad effects of this by increasing spending when the "natural" demand decreases, thus increasing the national debt, and decreasing spending when the natural demand increases, thus paying off the debt again. Their argument assumes that everything is instantaneous and a zero-sum game, while in reality there are buffering effects everywhere, and money appears and disappears all the time with the rise and fall of the stock markets. In short they oversimplify things and then draw a nonsensical conclusion.

The argument about inflation is hyperbole; comparing a government that does a bit of stimulus spending with the completely broken political systems of underdeveloped countries is simply propaganda. Furthermore, they never go into the cause of either the Great Depression or the current economic crisis, but just assume that they are both depressions and therefore must be comparable. And of course there is no telling whether the extra spending in the late 1920's did or didn't help, perhaps without it things would have been much worse. Did you also notice how that graph of government spending didn't have the origin at 0, thus exaggerating the extra spending? And why did the crisis end with World War II? Perhaps because of the enormous amount of government spending on military equipment?

Then we have Japan, which if I look at the graphs they present seems to have had an economic crisis in the early 1990's, which was successfully stabilised by increased government spending (note how after '93 the graph is horizontal, until the dot-com bust in 2000), but they see something else apparently.

Despite the fact that I think that the video is badly put together propaganda, I probably agree with the political goals of its sponsors. I think that the current crisis is structural, and in a structural crisis Keynesian politics don't work: if your pump is old and rusted shut, priming it won't help, you need to fix or replace it first. The US does need to cut back on its spending, as the national debt is sky high and inflation is too high already. The US is spending an enormous amount of money on its military, Department of Homeland Security, and health care, and it is not competitive enough. It needs to scrap the DHS, end its wars, cut back military spending to a quarter or so of what it currently is, reorganise its health care system, improve its education system and rebuild its physical infrastructure. The problem is that all these things are against the interests of those in power, and that it's pretty much a reinvention of an entire nation.

In closing, I think it's important to remember that an economy is a means, not an end. In my view, the purpose of a civilisation must be to make as many people as happy and comfortable as possible. Having to fight to survive every day certainly will make you unhappy and uncomfortable, but once you have enough, having more doesn't make much of a difference (unless your neighbour has much more than you). We have successfully used capitalism and free markets to create a world that produces enough to feed, house and educate everyone. The remaining problems are ones of distribution of wealth, political problems, social issues, things that cannot be solved, and in some cases are made worse, by the free market. Once all the nails have been hammered in, you have to go grab another tool for the remaining work. It's time to start thinking about the post-capitalist era.

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Post Re: NASA's new jobs programme   Posted on: Sun Sep 18, 2011 6:48 pm
Lourens,

that was just another one of your excellent posts here, I wish that there would be more of those (and meaningful discussions in general) instead of some of the uhm... "weird" theories and/or accusations against various companies we have seen lately...

(@ SuperShuki: Not that I find your posts less valuable, but in this case here I simply can't agree with your view of right and wrong regarding politics and government spending. ;))

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Post Re: NASA's new jobs programme   Posted on: Sun Sep 18, 2011 9:15 pm
Marcus Zottl wrote:
Lourens,

that was just another one of your excellent posts here, I wish that there would be more of those (and meaningful discussions in general) instead of some of the uhm... "weird" theories and/or accusations against various companies we have seen lately...

(@ SuperShuki: Not that I find your posts less valuable, but in this case here I simply can't agree with your view of right and wrong regarding politics and government spending. ;))


It's OK, you can believe in Socialism and still be a nice person. :lol:
Although you can't implement socialism and still be a nice person.

Everything that we use in life is the product of companies trying to make a profit. The lightbulbs on the walls of your house, the very house itself, cars, airplanes, mp3s, food, toilet paper, snowmobiles, all are the result of people trying to make things that other people need - and because of that need, are willing to pay for their products. Private companies, acting in their shareholder's self interests, are what make the world go round. And you can look at how government managed societies and compare them to societies with free markets and see the results.

And what's the alternative? Can government beaurocrats make better decisions as to what people need, than the people themselves? And are they not also driven by selfish, political motives?

Computer technology has evolved at an incredible rate, without any government intervention, just the profit motive. So has battery technology, agriculture, building technology, and pretty much everything else. And private institutions do invest in long term technological research - when it has a chance of showing a profit.

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Post Re: NASA's new jobs programme   Posted on: Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:11 pm
SuperShuki wrote:
Computer technology has evolved at an incredible rate, without any government intervention, just the profit motive.


Computer technology was created purely by top secret government money to crack Nazi codes and most of the development costs of later more advanced versions may have been developed by private companies but in most first instances it was paid for by governments contracts the peoples toys were just spin-offs and hand me downs a swords into ploughshares kind of thing when governments reduced spending on swords :twisted:

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Post Re: NASA's new jobs programme   Posted on: Mon Sep 19, 2011 8:08 am
SANEAlex wrote:
SuperShuki wrote:
Computer technology has evolved at an incredible rate, without any government intervention, just the profit motive.


Computer technology was created purely by top secret government money to crack Nazi codes and most of the development costs of later more advanced versions may have been developed by private companies but in most first instances it was paid for by governments contracts the peoples toys were just spin-offs and hand me downs a swords into ploughshares kind of thing when governments reduced spending on swords :twisted:



If not for the private sector, computers would still be the size of buildings. The computer that you are using was made by a company for profit, and you are benefiting from that.

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