Space, the Final Economic Frontier
AbstractAfter decades of centralized control of economic activity in space, NASA and US policymakers have begun to cede the direction of human activities in space to commercial companies. NASA garnered more than 0.7 percent of GDP in the mid-1960s, but is only around 0.1 percent of GDP today. Meanwhile, space has become big business, with $300 billion in annual revenue. The shift from public to private priorities in space is especially significant because a widely shared goal among commercial space's leaders is the achievement of a large-scale, largely self-sufficient, developed space economy. Jeff Bezos, has stated that the mission of his firm Blue Origin is "millions of people living and working in space." Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, has laid out plans to build a city of a million people on Mars within the next century. Both Neil deGrasse Tyson and Peter Diamandis have been given credit for stating that Earth's first trillionaire will be an asteroid-miner. Such visions are clearly not going to become reality in the near future. But detailed roadmaps to them are being produced and recent progress in the required technologies has been dramatic. If such space-economy visions are even partially realized, the implications for society will be enormous. Though economists should treat the prospect of a developed space economy with healthy skepticism, it would be irresponsible to treat it as science fiction. In this article, I provide an analytical framework—based on classic economic analysis of the role of government in market economies—for understanding and managing the development of the space economy.
CitationWeinzierl, Matthew. 2018. "Space, the Final Economic Frontier." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 32 (2): 173-92. DOI: 10.1257/jep.32.2.173
- H59 National Government Expenditures and Related Policies: Other
- L62 Automobiles; Other Transportation Equipment; Related Parts and Equipment
- L91 Transportation: General