The fallacy of collective choice

An editorial in today's NY Times critical of NASA's attempt to return to regular space shuttles flights asks some difficult but important questions:

Left unaddressed is the matter of just why the aging shuttles should be kept flying, and whether the program is worth the risk and the cost.[...]

One glaring omission is the lack of even a rough estimate of what the price tag will be. For most of the recommendations, NASA is still considering a range of potential solutions, leaving their projected costs uncertain. Yet cost will be a critical element in deciding whether shuttle repairs are worth the effort. [...]

The most fundamental question to be addressed is whether the shuttles still serve a purpose worth spending and dying for. [...]

These are important issues that need to be addressed prior to any undertaking, not just the space shuttle. Although the editorial group at the Times believes that 'we as a society' need to address these questions, I beg to differ.

The nation needs time to make fundamental decisions about the future of the space program.

The 'nation' cannot do this. Nations do not weigh risks, take chances, appraise choices, ponder the consequences, or reach conclusions. Only individuals do. It is often taught that democracy is the means by which collectives (nations, societies, etc) create 'consensus' and make choices. This is simply false. In democracy, individuals are still making choices, many times for vastly different reasons, yet the individuals in the majority compel those choices upon the rest by brute force.

The fundamental fallacy of NASA is that one group of individuals makes choices about manned space flight for the rest of us. They have formulated the One True Path into space based on one set of preferences, one set of value appraisals, one set of safety standards, and one set of long term goals. A better system would be one in which individuals voluntarily come together based on true individual choices and create multiple systems from the ground-up. It would be the true hope for mankind's future in space.

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