Michael Quinn Sullivan of the Texas Public Policy Foundation offers some perspective in this hectic week before the national election.
The smallest fraction of the population might possibly remember the name of a single state legislator and federal representative who served in 1903. A majority would be hard-pressed to recall who was president or governor in 1904. But all of us know the legacy of two brothers named Orville and Wilbur, and their activities in those years on a stretch of beach known as Kitty Hawk.
Within seven years of the Wright brothers’ historic flight, the first reported private air-freight shipment took place – a bolt of silk was flown at the request of a department store from Dayton to Columbus, Ohio, to serve the needs of a customer.
The freedom of the marketplace, not a government program or a politician’s promise, created the marvel of air travel.
Similarly, practical history will likely judge the most important event of 2004 to be not an election, but the small group of inventors working with a budget smaller than the rounding errors used by NASA who put a man in space twice in two weeks, in the same craft. A feat not matched by any government.
Driven by the creative forces of the free market, teams around the world competed for a $10 million privately-funded prize – and a slice of history.