Trickle-down economics works: SpaceShipTwo is a prime example
Why billionaires should spend stupid cash on innovation
Eccentric billionaire's toy 'the car' really caught on, didn't it?
But here's what happens next in this strange world of a roughly capitalist and free market economy. Once that rich man's pleasure has been tried, people take a gander at how well everyone seems to like it. The world's not covered with luge parks because it so obviously appeals only to the lunatic minority.
However, that similarly odd frippery, the car, so obviously appealed that only 25 years after the first rollout (Olds was first to mass-produce an automobile, with parts standardisation, then Ford with the moving assembly line) one capitalist, Ford himself, was selling sturdy and reliable models for only four months' wages of one of his own workers.
This trickle-down stuff works. And we don't know about private space travel yet. We don't know whether it can be made cheap, reliable, nor how many would actually want to go on a sub-orbital hop. But if it is ever going to be true that we can all go to the Moon, or the asteroids, then it will in part have been funded by precisely what Branson is doing now: financing the next baby steps in the progress of the technology by fleecing the rich, and asking them to spend their considerable discretionary income on this frippery.
Or perhaps you'd prefer another example more close to a technologist's heart. The Apple iPhone, that first one, came out not even a decade ago at some eyewatering price and my didn't we all laugh at the fanbois as they panted for one. Except, except, those covetous capitalist bastards noted that covetousness, and that industrial capitalism thing swung into action. Now there are predictions that better-than-iPhone (original anyway) landfill Android will be arriving for $25 in the next few months. Trickle-down economics doesn't work? My arse.
It is that experimentation being done by the rich as a hobby that, sooner or later, trickles down to the rest of us in products that we can afford. To return to the car industry, just about everything that makes automobiles safer – disc brakes, ABS, crash protection boxes, you name it – all of that has trickled down over the years from the more expensive to the cheaper models.
As the wise man pointed out: the Industrial Revolution made no damn difference to whether either Queens Elizabeth I or Victoria got to wear woollen stockings, but it did make damn sure the factory girls of the later period could.
But then it's so unlike The Guardian to get the wrong end of the economic stick, isn't it? ®