Dennis Wingo makes a curious statement in a comment to my April Fools post.
Space tourism is a wealth depleter, not a wealth maker.
Is there something unique about space tourism that makes it a “wealth depleter,” or is it true of tourism in general? If so, I suspect that the region around Orlando, Florida would find it a surprising statement. As would Hawaii, or much of the Caribbean. Or France.
I’ve had this argument before, once on the NASP program, with a second lieutenant who didn’t believe that something had value unless you could drop it on your toe (in defiance of the market, in which people part with their money every day for non-material items).
I often complain about politicians who are focused on creating jobs, rather than creating wealth, which is why we have a very expensive, and not very productive space program. But what is wealth? I don’t know what Dennis means by his statement, but I’m quite confident that he’s very, very wrong. Which society is wealthier–one in which no one travels anywhere, or one in which many do?
There is value in tourism–if there weren’t, people wouldn’t pay money for it (and travel and tourism are among the top three industries on the planet, measured in the trillions of dollars). A world in which people can afford to go into space, and indulge themselves in their desires to do so, is a world that is wealthier than a world in which they cannot. Moreover, the space passenger market is just the kind of market needed to drive launch costs down, and reliability up, which is a necessary condition for many other space activities that Dennis presumably would consider “creating,” rather than “depleting” wealth.
Truly, I find this statement utterly baffling.