With Dubya promising to spend zillions of dollars to send a few privileged civil servants to Mars, I am irresistibly reminded of this quote from one of my favorite books, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, by Neil Postman (RIP) and Charles Weingartner:
Consider this: The first hole ever dug on the moon by a man-made machine is now done. It is the most expensive hole in the history of the human race. Now what does that mean? How do we know whether this is one of man's noblest achievements or if it is a game being played by a small group of lunatics for their own amusement -- at our expense?
Postman hits the nerve, he knows what questions to ask, what assumptions to question. But being a depraved leftist, he can provide no justifiable criterion to answer. Ayn Rand does, in her essay Collectivized Ethics, as included in her essay collection The Virtue of Selfishness. Too bad it's not on the web yet, but here's a purchase well worth it: concise, compelling, to the point. And no, I prefer not to retranslate to English the relevant excerpt back from the French translation on my laps.