“The manned moon shot, like the war on terror, is an example of the inferiority of the political allocation of resources. In their choices of projects, political leaders do not seem to display a high degree of rationality, or at least their rationality seems distinctly below what common sense or even a small amount of thought might produce. The reason for this is that they have power to implement what they think is right or want without having personally to face the full measure of the consequences. They do not directly face the market test, which is this: Will consumers fork over their hard-earned money for the product? Politicians have a higher chance of implementing hare-brained schemes based on false theories. And if they can con the public, the degree of rationality falls even more steeply.”
The entire essay is worth reading.
Those who have been following the discussion here re: state investments in spaceports – that last bit should be particularly of reference.