The world needs more rich people

March 30, 2012   |  

There was once a time when the great works of artists were commissioned by kings and rich men. One of the theories of the Mona Lisa is that it was the rejected portrait of wealthy Francesco del Giocondo’s wife.

Museums the world over are stocked with the booty found in Egyptian tombs, from sculpture to gold, that the wealthy Pharaohs and their progeny took with them into the afterlife.

History, art and even science were once the remit of the rich. Then democratically elected governments began deciding on these things by committee. It was all downhill from there.

Until fairly recently, when Richard Branson began building spaceships. And just last week, director James Cameron took a historic trip to the bottom of the world.

And now, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has located the fuel rockets from the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, and will raise them from the depths to put on display, as a reminder of what was once great about America:

An undersea expedition spearheaded by Bezos used sonar to find what he said were the F-1 engines located 14,000 feet deep. In an online announcement Wednesday, the CEO and founder said he is drawing up plans to recover the sunken engines, part of the mighty Saturn V rocket that launched Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on their moon mission.

“We don’t know yet what condition these engines might be in,” he wrote. “They hit the ocean at high velocity and have been in salt water for more than 40 years. On the other hand, they’re made of tough stuff, so we’ll see.”

Bezos acknowledged the engines were the property of NASA, but said he hoped they will be displayed in museums.

Even if they wanted to, NASA couldn’t afford to undertake this sort of recovery themselves. As a government agency, they are struggling to stay within ever-shrinking budget. But a bored billionaire with a geeky interest in space? Why, this is just the sort of hobby he’d be looking for!

Governments shouldn’t be competing with zillionaires, nor should they be taxing them into oblivion; governments should be encouraging their explorations. Or better yet, handing over the keys and letting the Bransons and Bezoses do the heavy lifting.

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