Guess you haven't heard of Airbus. Or this:
The heavy investment costs associated with shipbuilding and its role as an industrial flagship industry in China, Korea and Japan have made the shipbuilding sector an attractive target for government subsidy. Japan used shipbuilding in the 1950s and 1960s to rebuild its industrial structure; Korea made shipbuilding a strategic industry for its economic development in the 1970s. China's shipbuilding sector has enjoyed strong government support since the take-off of its industry at the end of the 1990s.
You have to have what many call 'pork' to keep things propped up until times get better. That worked for China quite well.
Note that Japan lost out to Korea, which had cheaper labor, and Korea lost out to China, which had even cheaper labor. Eventually China will probably lose out to India, and then India will lose out to someplace like Nigeria. Do you really want the government to subsidize welding hulls together out of cheap steel? If any of these countries really made a lot of money welding ships together, the government wouldn't have to subsidize it because the industry would be profitable, and thus attract private investment. Large transport ships, being inherently mobile
, will always be built in the country with the lowest production costs, and the cost of a ship is just steel and semi-skilled labor. Breaking up a ship doesn't even depend on cheap steel, just ultra-cheap labor, so India has already beaten China in that market.
Let's say Musk put everyone out of business, wrecked NASA like some of you seem to want--then goes under. The damage has been done, the in-house capability lost, and America loses space infrastructure. Time to turn talk radio off, and to treat Ayn Rand as nothing but a fiction writer, folks.
What in-house cabability would we lose? NASA can't even put a man in orbit. If Musk puts everyone out of the launch business, guess what? He's established a monopoly
. Guess what else? He's established it by providing launch services so cheaply that no one
in the industry could possibly compete with him, not even in a niche. To maintain his monopoly he has to keep launch costs below what competitors could manage, otherwise venture capitalists would just create a new company, hire away a bunch of his employees, and beat him.
Oh, I'm not calling for that now--that was what STS should have been to start with. That way, ISS would have been launched with larger Polyus type modules and finished more easily. Buran, unlike the shuttle's hypergolic OMS pods, carried kerosene, and might even have been modified to have landing jets, as the analogue did. This means it could have done more in space. It had a 30 tons interior payload.
Since the Shuttle is dead, I don't think it would be replicated for use in parallel with an existing HLLV because the large payload bay (a huge driver of the Shuttle's design) would be redundant.
I think spaceflight would have been much farther along in that station construction would have been shorter, allow more actual science on ISS than construction using fewer, larger modules to hurry things along. Then separate modules could have had, say, space manufacturing. Then the orbiter would drop off a 30 ton ATV type craft at one end, and retrieve a 30 ton craft at the other end with finished goods. A separate, more roomy one piece free flyer would allow human studies without all the pedaling throwing off crystal growth in another. The craft could still dock in any emergency. That is where the Energiya's modularity could have gotten space operations up and running.
But none of that happened because the Shuttle was a government
program. The operating costs were due to its extremely high labor rrequirements, and their funding was dependent on that very inefficiency and the ability to use their government status to lock everyone else out of the space services business - indefinitely. This situation only changed because their vehicle kept exploding due to its many design flaws.