Why Bezos's space flight really matters

Maybe it took the package delivery guy to inspire a national course correction.

Amazon founder Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosProgressive group launches M ad campaign to call for tax hikes on the rich Georgia HBCU clears student balances for semesters during pandemic Bezos, Branson may not get official astronaut status after FAA changes policy MORErichest man in the world — made a historic flight into space aboard his own Blue Origin rocket, accompanied by a few other non-astronaut citizens. The 10-minute voyage has been criticized as underwhelming, a waste of money that could have been better spent on more worthwhile causes, a billionaire’s vanity play, and a devastating blow to the environment.  

These nattering nabobs of negativism — to borrow former Vice President Spiro Agnew’s phrase — are myopic. Bezos’s space flight may have been brief, but it was weighted with an extraordinary reminder: American economic freedom has been, and continues to be, the single most important driver of human progress in history. It is the reason the United States has been the most prosperous nation, ever.

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That reminder could not have come at a more critical time. The threats to our liberty are everywhere and accelerating fast: the expanding, cozy alliance between state and corporate interests we’re witnessing is the textbook definition of fascism, while Marxist principles are taking hold, from radical wealth redistribution to educational indoctrination to cultural warfare in the silencing of dissent and the erasure of history.

The left, in control of all levers of political, economic and cultural power, is moving quickly to, as former President Obama put it, “fundamentally transform the nation.” From the Soviet Union to Venezuela, North Korea and Cuba, history shows that when economic dynamism is replaced with the heavy hand of central control, individual freedom dies, innovation withers, and mass privation, poverty and misery follow.

That’s why Bezos’s brief trip to space is infused with a greater meaning: In this era when economic statism is rising, it was an apolitical triumph of American individualism, ambition, perseverance, technology, creativity and entrepreneurship.

Like most fabulously wealthy people, Bezos is a lightning rod for criticism; how he runs Amazon, how his company treats its employees, how he spends his vast personal fortune, how he expresses his political views, and how he lives his personal life are all fair-game targets for his critics.

But in no other country is his story possible. Born to teenage parents, Bezos worked as a short-order line cook at McDonald’s and graduated first in his class; in his valedictory speech, he shared his dream of the day human beings would live beyond Earth’s limits. 

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At the dawn of the Internet Age, he came up with the idea of selling books online. He worked from his garage, packing each shipment himself and racing to the post office each day to mail them before it closed. The rest is e-commerce history. That success begat the next success.

Like the other so-called Billionaire Space Cowboys — Elon Musk and Richard Branson — Bezos is driven by personal dreams, raw ambition, a consuming desire to succeed, and a knack for successful entrepreneurship. The Wright Brothers gave us air travel, and over a century later, Bezos, Musk and Branson have the resources and vision to take us to the next level. In the 20th century, only the superpowers had the capability for manned space flight. Now, the modern-day Howard Hugheses do — and mankind will be better for it, assuming, of course, that the economic freedom that made it possible remains.

Individual liberty gave Bezos the space to chase his dreams. Economic freedom gave him the practical room to launch a trillion-dollar business from nothing and a completely different kind of enterprise that may have the power to change the world (and beyond). 

America has always been an aspirational society. American creativity, energy, innovation and prosperity lead the world, because of — not in spite of — the risks and rewards associated with capitalism. Bezos dreamed it, funded it, built it, and took it for a spin. Yes, he may very well build a thriving future business out of it. That, too, may benefit mankind as competition in space tourism drives prices down, public-private partnerships continue to grow, and more people are able to experience what only very few have previously.

It’s exciting to think of where technology could take us next. But those strides will not occur in an oppressive, creativity-stifling command and control economic environment defined by confiscatory taxes, radical wealth redistribution, and heavy government regulation. Nothing kills dreams and the economic growth that comes from them faster than the poisonous, crushing weight of Marxism.

Capitalism has its flaws and often needs responsible regulation to adjust to changing conditions.  But no other economic system has lifted more people out of poverty and into the middle class and beyond than the living, breathing, wild energy of free enterprise.

Bezos’s dream-into-reality space trip was an indispensable reminder of the way we were — and the way we could be once again: a frontier nation, adventurous from sea to space. He gave us a glimpse of a shining future, if only we resist the left’s rampage toward state domination and economic collectivism. 

Monica Crowley served as assistant secretary of the Treasury for Public Affairs from 2019 to 2021. Follow her on Twitter @MonicaCrowley.