22 June 2004

I just don't really feel like going through the Supreme Court opinions yesterday in detail. The HMO decision was right on the law and wrong in substance, rather like the opinion itself says. Although I seldom link to the Conspiracy, Professor Volokh's evaluation of Hiibel (the "give your name to the nice officer" case) is right on, on both Fourth and Fifth Amendment grounds—presuming, that is, that the precedents are correct, which is highly questionable. The AMD/Intel decision clearly came out correctly: the European Commission is a tribunal, no matter what formalisms one might invoke to deny that. Oh, what's the use; go to SCOTUSBlog's useful summary (scroll down for the other cases) instead.

No, today we'll celebrate the beginnings of the space merchants. A non-government space shot worked. Now think about that for a moment. Speculative fiction prior to the mid- to late-1950s ascribes the beginnings of space travel to private industry, later dominated by quasi-Horatio Hornblower "space navies" of more than trivial governmental function. In fact, man didn't get into space by private enterprise alone; at least not until now. (If, that is, we pretend that military research and development had nothing to do with most of the materials from which SpaceShipOne was constructed.) The real questions that this flight raises have little to do with the technology; they are instead those same questions raised at Kitty Hawk in December 1903. The technology will improve.

They key is whether there is a disaster that sets us back as far as did Columbia and Challenger in our willingness to exploit space with nongovernmental lift capability. My the use of that little bit of government logistics-speak should indicate my pessimism for the next decade or so. After that, the crystal ball is hazy; ask again later.