12/17/03: Today is the 100th anniversary of powered controlled sustained flight - at Kitty Hawk on December 17,1903 Orville and Wilber Wright flew their biplane 4 times. The last was an unprecedented 852 feet lasting 59 seconds. It is interesting to note that the week before, Samuel Langley, a noted astronomer and secretary of the Smithsonian Institute had failed ignominiously with his enormous aerodrome, launched by catapult from a houseboat on the Potomac in full view of reporters - and funded with tax money. He was the only one of the early manned flight "competitors", in the US at least, who was funded by the government. The Wright brothers had made their decisions, experiments and trials while running their bicycle factory.
I can't help but wonder how much further flight innovation in earth's atmosphere and into space beyond would be without the distortions of being the subject of government projects, instead of those by individuals who risk only their own money and lives, and those of others freely choosing to join them in the endeavor. And then there are all the seen and unseen effects in other areas of life that result from the forced taking of money, by way of taxes, and the regulations curbing or preventing various mutually agreeable activities. Currently momentum of manned travel into space is all but halted because, I contend, it is overwhelmingly dominated by government actively and by its very existence in all areas of life.
A strong parallel can be seen in the area of anti-aging research. Beyond all the regulations that make many serious life-extensionists in various countries law breakers when they purchase and use certain substances, there is the fact of government agencies deciding what areas of research are to be legal or are appropriate for funding with tax money. Many researchers and their supporters have painted themselves into a corner by not wanting their area of study to be branded illegal (or at least not heavily regulated) and at the same time expecting to receive monies to fund their work. What is not faced here is that if an entity (actually a group of individuals called "government") has and uses the power to force people to hand over their money (taxes), then they also have the power to prevent others from engaging in whatever work or other activity they choose. Most recently it is Eric Drexler, one of the founders of molecular nanotechnology, whose ideas are not worthy of funding according to the National Nanotechnology Initiative, a government program. (See report.) While Drexler's "engines of creation" were not envisioned initially for anti-aging therapies, they should be highly applicable to this purpose once fully developed. However, nanotechnology, gene therapy, cloning and other anti-aging research methods as yet unconceived will not easily be acceptable to agencies in any form resembling what their promoters desire. Those seeking to make arrangements with the Faust of government will find that they will have to "sell their souls", compromising on a regular basis not simply on technique, but on principle. "Steering" of research by government - whether with money or fist, but usually both - is surely setting a course in anti-aging for the same stagnation that space travel has encountered after its early unfettered success in atmospheric flight.
Far too many people do not reason out the entire situation - that government (force) does not promote imagination, creativity and zeal, except by people who are seeking to overcome that force. Where these characteristics exist in individuals in the presence of governments, it is in spite of the agents of force and only to the degree that the presence is not onerous and the individuals strive for their own long-term happiness. This last does not need government in any form. Each individual need only understand that his own long-term happiness is a condition of existence that other human beings also require each for him/herself. And when each in a relationship - be it of any type between any number - is acting on what is mutually agreed upon, then the happiness, which includes of course the well-being of each, will be promoted.
So I think of Wilber and Orville Wright 100 years ago, with the assistance of freely made associations with their assistants and craftsmen, succeeding at the first controlled powered sustained flight, though short it was, without any government intervention of fists or monies. I hope that the growing examples of government-support failures (some require a bit of scratching below the surface to discover the results of government) will cause others to question the entire idea of government intervention in mutually agreed market exchanges.