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Eat your heart out, Yuri Gagarin

Richard Branson’s space tourism shows what today’s obscene inequality looks like

When rich people burn huge sums of money on fun, it wakes us up to the excesses of the free market

– Zoe Williams, writing in the Guardian.

35 comments to Eat your heart out, Yuri Gagarin

  • Mr Ed

    I do like this comment on the article. It really says all that’s needed and more, although pointing out that private enterprise is moving in on what States used to do isn’t really in the scope of the article. It is however, very sad that someone died and the reaction from Sir Richard Branson to disparage those who blamed the rocket when it was, apparently, a premature brake deployment that caused disintegration seems hardly to be well-thought out.

    03 November 2014 4:29pm

    More Guaridanista envy politics.
    People who earn money can spend it how they like. It’s called respect for private property. If you want money, go out and earn it, and if you can’t do that, it is not somebody else’s fault unless they carried out some act of criminality to disable you. The problem the envious guardian scum don’t get is that some people are more talented and marketable than others and some people work a lot harder than others.
    Today I hired a mini cab and was talking to the Polish driver about how he liked working in the city I am from. One thing he said was how surprised he was that so many people live on benefits…… I didn’t prompt him to this, he initiated it himself. He came from a poor part of Poland Lodz….. Did he stay there moaning about rich people elsewhere? No – he got on a bus, moved countries and rented a car from a minicab company. This is the problem the self loathing British left have to deal with – their narrative of hopelessness and entitlement won’t wash while a quarter of a million east Europeans every year come here and prosper. Meanwhile several million dead beats sit on the dole spitting blood about other people having money, but won’t themselves so much as travel twenty miles on a bus to go to work. This guy moved his whole life to take advantage of opportunities in Britain that thousands in this city (10% unemployed) can’t be arsed to take up.’

  • And when governments do it, it’s a celebration of the human spirit, or something. (Not forgetting that the tedious, divisive, and depressing Scottish referendum was also hailed as “fun” by the usual suspects.)

    At least when rich people do it, as Mr Ed’s commenter points out, it’s their money. And it really is fun.

  • Why are fabulous riches always ‘obscene’? That word has a sexual connotation, for me.

  • Sigivald

    Perhaps someone should remind the poor souls at the Guardianthat when rich people spend that money “on fun”, it’s … going out into the economy at large?

    They can’t rationally both complain about “wealth inequality” and at the same time complain that rich people spend too freely.

    But, well, if it was about rationality, it wouldn’t be the Guardian, would it?

  • Kevin B

    Yes Sigivald, I used to point out that they didn’t actually fill the Atlas rockets that powered the Apollo capsules into orbit with crumpled up $100 bills. In fact all the money went on wages. And then all those who earned that money spent it on things. And all that money spent on things went on wages to pay for the people making the things or mining the stuff to make the things or transporting the stuff and the things around or selling the things.

    “But they should spend it on health and education and welfare and fixing the problems on earth!”

    But every wage or salary has tax and insurance taken out and every thing ends up with some sort of sales tax on it and all this money goes, via government or insurance companies, into health and education and welfare and diversity and sustainability and solving all the problems on earth, at least those that can be solved with bribes or bullets and bombs.

    Of course they never quite learned that lesson, (or “it’s made round to go round” as my dear old mum used to say when I managed to con a tanner out of her for an ice-cream).

  • Fraser Orr

    The article is so predictable it is almost boring. I mean it seems hardly worth pointing out how wrong it is. But just because I am eating lunch… expensive trips to sub orbit might just be fun for the rich, and dangerous. But so was flying in a plane a hundred years ago. Dangerous, expensive, elitist, largely frivolous. Far more people died in early aircraft accidents than have ever done in spaceflight. I presume the silly guardianista will be cancelling her summer holiday to Majorca as a frivolous burning of money on an elitist pursuit also. I presume she will be advocating that medical supplies to help the poor suffering souls in West Africa should be transported by donkeys and row boats from now on out rather than using the outrageous folly of “airplanes”.

    Or perhaps she thinks the possibilities of technology are limited to the things her tiny mind can come up with in five minutes.

    BTW, the point MrEd makes about Eastern Europeans really is a fantastic one. I’ll have to try to remember it.

  • Mr Ed

    I presume the silly guardianista will be cancelling her summer holiday to Majorca as a frivolous burning of money on an elitist pursuit also.

    Please, they have standards at the Guardian.

    I presume the silly guardianista will be cancelling her summer holiday to Tuscany as a frivolous burning of money on an elitist pursuit also.

    That’s more like it.

  • Runcie Balspune

    “Millions of people will never have £150,000 in disposable income.”

    My father once treated my sister and I to a flight on Concorde, a quick trip around the bay and back, got to Mach 2 at 11 miles up, went into the cockpit and said hi, it did not cost anywhere near £150,000 or equivalent back then, thank you so much Mr Yeager, and stuff you Ms Williams.

  • The rich always get things first, thus becoming guinea pigs for the rest of humanity — guinea pigs with teeth and claws, encouraging the experimenters and entrepeneurs to greater heights of quality control. Until eventually, everyone has a television, most of us have a car, and we can treat horrible diseases as if they were obsolete. (These wonders, especially the last, are not always as we hoped.)

    Somebody has to do it first. Imagine the howls if we went out, grabbed some poor folk, and stuffed them into Space Ship Two. Let the rich and adventurous go first!

  • Confucious

    They are not burning huge sums of money on fun, they are philanthropically sacrificing personal wealth on Keynesian stimulus 😉 .

  • bloke in spain

    ” the point MrEd makes about Eastern Europeans really is a fantastic one. I’ll have to try to remember it.”
    The point about it is it had to be made. Or do people never actually talk with the E. Europeans they’re always talking about?

  • Regional

    The average person now has amenities in house that were only available to the very rich at the beginning of the 20th century i.e. electricity for heating, cooling, cooking, lighting, hot water, indoor plumbing etc.
    A car, cheap air travel, medical care.
    You could nearly say an ordinary person is as well off now as a millionaire 100 years ago.
    Remember the profit motive imported spices and narcotics into Europe.

  • Jerry

    You evil, greedy, selfish rich people. Why don’t you work for years, toiling away and amassing wealth so that you can GIVE IT TO ME ??????

    Yes, I know much wealth is inherited, or the basis for it’s creation is but except for a VERY small minority, most rich people have worked their behinds off to get where they are.
    I’m just tired if the whining about ‘inequality’ when it’s really, for the most part, about sloth
    and envy !

  • veryretired

    This article is a distillation of the relentless collectivist myth machine which has always defined the personal as morally suspect, while the actions of the state are noble and good.

    In a myriad of ways, both clumsy and subtle, the lesson has been taught that the “excesses” of the commercially rich are gauche and wasteful, that the spending of those who have made money by their own efforts, or that of their family, is tainted and badly spent.

    In contrast, of course, is the endless rationalization of state expenditure, whether in space programs or entitlements or enormous buildings or the elaborate panoply of the ruling elites. Then, any extravagance merely reflects the grandeur of the nation, or the importance of the leader to his adoring public.

    The moral inversion of judging the enjoyments of individuals as somehow a threat to the welfare of all, while the enormous, and well documented, excesses of the state and its cadres are glossed over, underlies the entire collectivist position regarding resources.

    For private purposes, everything over a bare minimum is suspicious and open to rebuke.

    For the collective and its noble intentions, regardless of consequences, no amount of resources can ever be enough.

    It’s not just that the personal has become political, it’s that the personal has become the definition of evil.

  • PeterT

    Sigivald’s comment misses the point. The ‘issue’ from the leftist perspective is that the millionaires are paying hundreds of people (I guess?) to make rockets when those people would be better employed tilling the earth or joining Peacecorps or whatever. They could still have the same salary so the multiplier effects, such as they are, would not be affected.

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Some lands are still bastions of equality- Cuba, Laos, Vietnam, North Korea. Maybe Guardianistas should be given a one-way ticket to the people’s paradise of their choice?

  • JohnK

    I think Laos and Vietnam are moving towards normalcy, Cuba less so, North Korea not at all.

  • Fraser Orr

    I had another read of this piece: last time I didn’t finish, but this time I read the end. There is some great stuff in there:

    > Who cares if there are more billionaires than ever?

    I care!! I think it is awesome! I want to be one of them, or at least eat the scraps that fall from their table.

    > If it makes us all richer, does it matter how rich the richest are? The counter argument is that, sadly, it makes us all poorer

    When people write dumb stuff like this, the obvious question is: “would you really prefer to live in 1950s Britain at the same relative place you are in the economic ladder? Or how about the Victorian era? Or how about the 10th century?”

    And finally, I love the timing of this one:

    > However, when rich people start dropping sums that could rid whole villages of cholera – on a trip that extends humanity in no direction

    Notwithstanding the asinine assumption that Branson’s project does not extend humanity, I thought there was a delicious irony that she would say this on the very day that Bill Gates announced his intention to donate $500 million dollars to curing and relieving many horrible diseases.

    As if rich people are not also amongst the most generous and charitable people in the world. And of course the reason why is that they are rich enough that the government doesn’t strip them quite so naked that they have nothing left to give.

  • Rich Rostrom

    JohnK @ November 4, 2014 at 12:19 am: I think Laos and Vietnam are moving towards normalcy…

    The largest share of discount clothing is made in China, but a fair amount is made in Vietnam. I bought some underwear from Vietnam a few weeks ago.

  • In terms of improving civilization and furthering our progress, Branson’s “obscene wealth” might be better served by buying up the Guardian, then closing it down. Just a thought.

  • A puritan is someone who wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep because they think someone, somewhere is having fun.

  • Vinegar Joe

    “When rich people burn huge sums of money on fun, it wakes us up to the excesses of the free market.”

    As opposed to ghetto rats living on welfare and wearing $200 shoes and $100 haircuts.

  • Lee Moore

    Ellen is right. The high tech luxuries of the rich become, in due course, the everyday stuff of the poor and middling, as the rich bear the R&D costs – in return for being the first to get the fancy new thing. Whether it’s TVs or mobile phones or cars or planes – it’s always the same. And it’s because the rich have money to burn on “frivolities.” In the People’s Republic of England, things would be different. Either the political ruling class would steal all the money and spend it on their own frivolities or – if they were supremely honest – they’d spend it on things that served the current needs of the current poor. Technological innovation would grind to a halt. We’ve seen this movie before. The Soviet bloc produced nothing new – anything new that became available there was a poor quality knock off from Western innovation. Socialism always turns into a grey 1984 movie, with peeling walls. Growth and new products require a free market, and rich consumers buying frivolities.

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Ironically, that is not true. The Russians were the first into space with a satellite, and then a person. And the Chinese recently launched a man into space, and they still call themselves communists, though that is nominal communism these days.

  • Rob

    Kim dT:

    “In terms of improving civilization and furthering our progress, Branson’s “obscene wealth” might be better served by buying up the Guardian, then closing it down. Just a thought.”

    Or buying the Guardian, firing it into a low space orbit and then applying the brake too soon.

  • Rob

    If I make a billion, I’ll build an enormous gold phallus 50m tall, as a real illustration of obscene inequality.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    If I make a billion, I’m gonna buy the Guardian and put Perry in charge of it.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes indeed.

    Government taking money (by force) to spend on space is fine – but people spending their own money is “obscene”.

    What is really “obscene” is Guardian vermin sneering at private space flight when someone has just been killed.

    They have no respect for the dead – they (the Guardian newspaper types) are evil, just plain evil.

    As for “inequality” – the Guardian newspaper has a lot of money in an overseas tax haven.

    Before they sneer at others – they should give away (to the poor) the money they themselves control.

    No more holidays in Tuscany for Guardian types.

  • If I make a billion, I’m gonna buy the Guardian and put Perry in charge of it.

    Arrggg! I thought we were friends!

  • In all seriousness, when the very wealthy spend lots of money on fun, it creates jobs for the working class — an elegant form of wealth redistribution (but trust the Left not to recognize that, because it runs counter to the dialectic).

    Case in point: when Bill Clinton raised the sales tax on luxury yachts back in the late 1990s, the net effect was that wealthy people just bought their boats in Europe and the Antipodes, with the concomitant closure of almost every small shipyard in the Great Lakes area and, of course, unemployment of the skilled American boatwrights. (A fine corollary is that the Great Lakes is a traditional supply of votes for the Democrat Party — so absolutely everybody lost except the foreign boatyards and of course, the “obscenely wealthy” who were the original target of the spiteful legislation.)

  • Roue le Jour

    Nick Grey

    Ironically, that is not true….

    Coming from household of radical cynics I was brought to believe the space race was between the American’s German rocket scientists and the Soviet’s German rocket scientists.

  • Nick (Natural Genius) Gray

    Rob, unless the phallus is hollow, even a billion dollars wouldn’t buy enough of it for 50 metres height.
    so, did the Germans get into space first, then? (and if they had, would we have wanted to acknowledge the fact?)

  • Mr Ed

    Nick, the local Post Office where I grew up in London was destroyed by a V2 rocket, so in a sense everyone there acknowledged that the Germans got stuff into space first.

    German rockets were only intended to pass through though, bit of a shame Rudolf Hess didn’t try to use one to come to Britain, but there you go. Had he done so, we would never have known that he thought that the Duke of Hamilton was so influential and his disappearance would have been total, and a bigger mystery.

  • Roue le Jour


    If acknowledging it was the Germans is a problem, we can say it was the Poles, according to Wernher von Braun’s Wikipedia entry.

  • Roue le jour,

    Without endorsing the attitude behind it, I acknowledge the logic of what is claimed to have been the Duke of Wellington’s riposte when someone called him an Irishman: “If a gentleman happens to be born in a stable, it does not follow that he should be called a horse.”

    Von Braun. Hmm. I can’t decide whether von Braun was a visionary forced to be a cog in an evil machine out of his control – he was himself arrested by the SS at one point – or an opportunist acquiescing in murder and slavery so long as his pet project got built.

    Perhaps Tom Lehrer said it best:

    Don’t say that he’s hypocritical
    Say rather that he’s apolitical
    “Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down
    That’s not my department,” says Wernher von Braun