Why has this happened? Let me give both a libertarian and a conservative answer. The libertarian answer is that we have basically outlawed everything in the world of atoms but have left the world of bits mostly unregulated. It costs $100,000 to start a computer software company; it costs $1 billion to get a new drug approved through the Food and Drug Administration. Therefore it’s not surprising that we live in a world where people start video game companies rather than work on drugs that would save people’s lives. There is an extraordinary regulatory double standard.
From a more conservative perspective, there is the sense that we have become a more risk-averse society. We have lost hope for the future. I think this has seeped in in many subtle ways.
Among both libertarians and conservatives there exists a bias that the government can’t do things. But this isn’t absolutely true. The government succeeded with the Manhattan Project in the 1940s. It succeeded with the Apollo program, putting man on the moon.
Now we’re at a point where we can’t even get a website for Obamacare.
Whatever you think of the morality of nuclear weapons, building an atomic bomb is a far harder undertaking than building a website. We should not let our ideological biases obscure the objective decline that has happened.