Letter writer makes a point but fails to go far enough

Hyperloop vision or pipe dream?

Tom O’Farrell of Boulder City makes a good point in his letter published in today’s morning newspaper.

He needles Gov. Brian Sandoval for comparing the Hyperloop project at Apex — basically a proposed pneumatic tube that might someday carry passengers and cargo at a high rate of speed — to the first powered flight of the Wright brothers. The writer points out: “The Wright brothers independently conducted all their research and development; designed, built and modified their aircraft; and tested at facilities they built and maintained in North Carolina, while maintaining their businesses and supporting their family.”

On the other hand, the Hyperloop is being handed a $10 million incentive package from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development for its effort. “That’s hardly analogous,” O’Farrell says.

Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk

Or perhaps it is.

Just more than a century ago the federal government gave a $70,000 grant to Dr. Samuel Langley, the head of the Smithsonian, to build a heavier-than-air flying machine. After two of his planes crashed on take-off in the Potomac, Langley complained he was inadequately funded.

If only the federal government had given him more funding, he could have built a whole fleet of planes that could not fly — just like the windmills and solar farms and electric cars and Hyperloop facilities being built today that for the next 20 to 30 years will never fly in the free market but will be carried on the backs of taxpayers and ratepayers because the government, which prints money or takes it from the people and redistributes it, will defy the laws of physics and economics.

In December 1903, without federal grants, the Wright brothers flew their plane at Kitty Hawk, N.C.

Also pay no heed to the fact that Hyperloop is being pushed by Elon Musk, whose Tesla Motors battery factory plan got $1.3 billion in tax credits and abatements from Nevada lawmakers and whose moribund SolarCity has been promised $1.2 million from the GOED and is being paid for creating jobs while it is laying off workers.




15 comments on “Letter writer makes a point but fails to go far enough

  1. Patrick says:


    Wh can’t the government just get off the backs of the entrepreneurs and let them do what they do without interference?


    Oh yeah, that’s right.

    Never mind.

  2. Patrick says:

    And, the US government funding of the Wright Brothers is more complicated than some (including me before I read some stuff) may know.

    Sure seems that the government did indeed play a very important role in getting the plane off the ground.


  3. nyp says:

    You are correct — the Wright brothers is a poor analogy.
    A better one would be to the government funding that developed the internet.

    Or the government-funded research that led to touchscreen technology.

    Or the NIH funding that created the majority of new molecular entities in the past quarter-century.

  4. “The Wrights developed their airplane on their own initiative and at their own expense and received a U. S. patent for their design more than a year before the Army solicited proposals. Their design was not a response to the Army’s specification; rather, the Army’s specification was a reflection of their design. The Army obtained contract funding based on the price they proposed in Wilbur’s private meetings with the Board of Ordnance and Fortification in November and December of 1907. Although the contract did include a performance incentive, the evidence is that it had no influence on the Wright’s design activity. The key features of their airframe and engine had been developed and tested long before the Army issued its solicitation.”

  5. You left out the funding of the railroads. Oh, that’s right, they went bankrupt.

  6. Patrick says:

    You’re not going to hear this Ohio boy deny the genius of the Wright Brothers!

    Course, a legitimate question exists as to whether they’d have been able to build planes without the government’s assistance.

    As the very interesting story pointed out, they didn’t last long in the face of the competition.

    What did you think about the articles on the coal companies? How’s that for private enterprise doing what I keep saying private enterprise does?

  7. nyp says:

    “Apple’s earliest innovations in computers were themselves dependent on government research. But by the 1990s, sales of its traditional laptops were flagging. The launch of the iPod in 2001, which displaced the once-popular but more limited Sony Walkman, and in 2007 of the touch-screen systems of the new iPhone and iPad, turned the company into the electronic powerhouse of our time. From that point, its global sales almost quintupled and its stock price rose from roughly $100 to more than $700 a share at its high. These later breakthroughs were almost completely dependent on government-sponsored research. ” http://tinyurl.com/zc8snr9

  8. nyp says:

    “In the early 1980s, the federal government formed the often-forgotten Sematech, the Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology consortium, a research partnership of US semiconductor companies designed to combat Japan’s growing lead in chip technologies. The US provided $100 million a year to encourage private companies to join the effort, including the innovative giant Intel, whose pioneering work on microprocessors in the 1970s had been central to the electronics explosion.

    “Virtually all experts acknowledged that Sematech reestablished the US competitiveness in microprocessors and memory chips, leading to a sharp reduction in costs and radical miniaturization. The tiny integrated circuits with huge memories that resulted are the core of most electronic products today, long exploited by major companies like Microsoft and Apple. Their development was critically aided by military purchases in their early stages when commercial possibilities were still in their infancy.”

  9. nyp says:

    Same source:
    “The Small Business Innovation Research program—started, it may surprise some readers, by Ronald Reagan—provided research funding to small independent companies, such as the computer security company Symantec and the telecommunications company Qualcomm. The success of this little-known agency, which distributes $2 billion in funding directly, is almost a secret. Yet a survey and analysis of forty-four recipients of funding by several scholars showed a significant positive return on the government’s investment.”

  10. nyp says:

    OK, last one:
    “The Orphan Drug Act, also signed by Reagan, provides funding for drugs designed to treat rare diseases. Novartis drew on such funding in developing its leukemia drug Gleevec, which by 2010 had generated sales of $4.3 billion.”

  11. Funding research and giving tax breaks to one company over another is not the same.

  12. nyp says:

    Oh, OK. So you don’t have any problem with government-funded research. It’s just the targeted tax breaks. Well, you know, Mr. Mitchell, I have a certain amount of sympathy with your position. I don’t have a clear-cut point of view with respect to targeted tax breaks for promising industries.

  13. Winston Smith says:

    Meanwhile, these fascist governments that only want the best for the citizenry are planning another economic mess…


  14. Patrick says:

    “Zero Hedge is a batshit insane Austrian school finance blog run by a pseudonymous founder who posts articles under the name “Tyler Durden,” after the character from Fight Club.[wp] It has accurately predicted 200 of the last 2 recessions.[citation NOT needed]”


  15. Steve says:

    On occasion Zero Hedge makes its way into mainstream financial news and opinion.

    OTOH this might be relevant to the discussion. Lets hope they don’t lose it again.

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