Washington DC Program – Week 3 – Psychics, Poverty & Space Tourism

Micha Gartz

None of us truly know what the future holds, we often don’t know what the next great idea will be or who it will come from. We are not psychic. Neither is the government.

As Deirdre McCloskey shows in her book,  The Bourgeois Virtues, capitalism allows wealth to develop and accumulate. Trade inevitably helps, but increasing inter-dependence is becoming a liability to national security. America’s trade policy is frequently making headlines – from broad-based product restrictions on steel imports to more country-specific practices. We discussed two prominently-used tools, S232 of the Trade Expansion Act (1962) and S301 of the Trade Act (1974), with Australian Embassy First Secretary of Trade Suzanna Fischer. Such government decisions, as distant as they may seem, directly influence our everyday. We need to be sure that the decisions being made are the right ones.

The goal of any great civilisation is – or should be – to advance human flourishing. If we can all agree on that objective, then logically good governance is the next step in pursuing human well-being and economic success. China’s staggering success comes largely from its ability to allow individuals to experiment and develop good ideas into great ones. We met with Dr Mark Lutter from the Center for Innovative Governance Research to discuss the impact of charter cities on national human development – and the challenges of promoting them – notably a lack of academic research and data. However, charter cities and special economic zones foster growth and innovation. With less red tape, costs are lowered, start-ups have a greater chance of success and less need for government grants (which frequently require advance planning and leave little room for manoeuvring).

Continuing with the theme of innovation, my mid-week visit to the National Air and Space Museum really emphasised the role of human ingenuity in development. From the first solo nonstop transatlantic trip in the St Louis through to the Space Race and, more recently, airlines such as Virgin developing technology for space tourism. I can’t help but wonder if we will take the lessons learnt on earth and apply them to the cities we build in space. 

Back on Earth, I returned to the Museum of Natural History to visit the upper levels – and came across their ‘Geology and Gemstones’ exhibit. Where I saw the world’s largest flawless quartz sphere (which weighs 48.5 kilograms and is 32.7 centimetres diameter).