Vladimir Putin has become an alarming figure in the West. But one person thinks that the Russian president’s actions could be a boon for the resurgent California space industry.
It is the military-industry complex where the opportunity for a Putin-inspired California comeback is greatest. The aerospace industry made the state a success — and brought millions into the middle class (including my grandmother, a line worker at North American Aviation), produced innovations from propeller-driven aeroplanes to satellites, and remade the state’s culture (historian Peter Westwick has shown how modern surfing owes a debt to aerospace engineers). Today, the industry is smaller but still cutting-edge, producing drones, satellites for commercial purposes, and space start-ups like Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
He goes on to compare Putin’s provocations to the launch of Sputnik in 1957 — an event that is widely credited with heating up the Cold War and spurring a space race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. that culminated in an American being the first human to walk on the Moon.
To fund a rapid revival of the space business in California, he goes on to suggest a “Putin Tax” on “hard liquor, cigarettes, oil, and big houses.”
This is classic “opportunity in crisis” thinking and, for what it’s worth, Mathews is probably right that the aerospace industry in California hasn’t been the same since the Cold War ended. Absent major geopolitical changes, it was likely to enjoy gradual, limited growth. But with Putin in charge of what’s left of a once daunting U.S. rival, major geopolitical change may be on the horizon.
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