We fully expect, sadly, that the US Space Force will be chock full of crony capitalism. It is almost inevitable. Boeing, Lockheed, and company are licking their chops right now to be sure. Nicely suited defense contractors stare into the night sky, the stars forming constellations of dollar signs across the inky vastness.
It is interesting that many people seem completely taken aback by Trump’s announcement of a “space force.” The Air Force has been using the term for a while. In many respects the “space force” already exists. Space warfare has been going on pretty much since Sputnik.
There are two directions the Space Force could go: in the first direction, the private sector competes to develop products that are of interest not only to the military, but also to ordinary consumers. We’ve seen this in several applications from space travel in the last century: everything from baby formula to CAT scans to solar panels came from private sector development. Yes, they were at first connected to the space program, but the profit motive and shareholder accountability of U.S. companies drove a consumer-friendly competition to bring these things to the common man. There is no doubt that future research and development in space technology, in concert with ruthless free-market competition to adapt these technologies to profit-making ventures, will also help raise the standard of living in even the poorest families.
The other direction the Space Force might take is not as optimistic. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower talked about a “military-industrial complex” and other scholars of an “iron triangle,” what he and they were really getting at was a cozy, crony capitalist relationship between Big Government and Big Business. More often than not, when the coziness gets a little too friendly, the result is boondoggles, project failures, and overall waste of tax dollars.