The Left Stuff
Rand Simberg adds, understandably enough, NASA to the list of Michael Barone's "The Surprising Roots of Liberal Nostalgia;" it was the last Big Government program to be looked on as fondly by the American public as say the TVA* was in the 1930s:
I would note that the current nostalgic longing among some for a big-government space program has its roots in that same “liberal” impulse, though many, perhaps most conservatives don’t understand what an unconservative project Apollo was. NASA was, after all, one of those big-government institutions in which so many had faith in the post-war, early sixties. If you take away the raw rent seeking on the part of those who don’t want to see their home-state pork going away, this nostalgia lies at the heart of much of the outrage over Obama’s sensible new space policy. But unfortunately for NASA, the current justifiable disillusionment with government institutions in general is bleeding over to them as well.
These days of course, NASA has more important goals in mind than aeronautics and space.
Update: Related thoughts on Barone's piece from Matt Welch of Reason:
For more on the subject, read Brink Lindsey's great Reason essay "Nostalgianomics." Or buy our new book, The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, which features a chapter titled "The Disorganization Man" that examines this and similar themes. The ongoing left-of-center brainscrub of its own 20th century anti-authoritarianism remains one of the great curiosities of our time.
Of course, there was plenty of "soft" totalitarianism lurking just around the corner back then as well.
* Despite their differing goals, the two were very similar in conception as well; as Rand noted last year, "the U.S. space program very quickly became high-quality pork. As vice president and later president, Lyndon Johnson was determined to use the program to help industrialize the South, not unlike what the Tennessee Valley Authority had done during the Great Depression."