The US government has historically shown a great lack of foresight in many important technologies.
DARPA/CERN are proof of the opposite. They gave us the internet.
People have this religion that private funding is any more stable.
The Dodgers were caught up in a nasty divorce proceeding
Now, thankfully, it didn't get quite that nasty for Elon:
But is easily could have.
You need a gov't institution that cannot be hurt by any one divorce, death, etc. Rickover was a major force in the founding of the Nuclear Navy, but le left a system whereby it would continue on after him.
A lot of folks talk about the problem being NASA centers looking out for themselves, "standing armies," etc..
But that is a benefit you see. These form constituencies that vote, and support space funding, even in areas opposed to gov't spending for other things.
Now imagine that all the NASA centers were put into one state--Florida being the best example. No more Houston control, MSFC, etc.
Then imagine if Musk made all the rockets.
You think--"Hey! That's smart! That will save money!"
That would be the worst thing to happen, in that NASA would just seem to be pork for that one state--and that one person--and funding my drop what with less folks looking out for it.
Social Engineering is very important.
After all, Musk may marry a Melinda Gates type one day who wants her man to dump space for food relief or something.
You don't rick humanities future in space that way. Now you may not always like the direction--but the breadth of support will always be there. What space needs isn't so much an Elon Musk, but a Curtis LeMay. A brazen military man who dared carve out his own branch of the service, making USAF the leading Pentagon budget customer.
Space advocates here in the USA are too nice by half.
The ruthless, Stalinist Soviet Chief Designers were never so retiring. Even though von Braun had more money to work with, rocket men actually rose higher in importance in the Soviet military. Nikita knew that he could spend less on trying to match America Blue Water Navy for Blue-water navy, bomber for bomber--if he supported missiles first and foremost.
Remember Ukraine's president poisoned by dioxin soup? His predecessor was one of Barmin and Utkin's men: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonid_Kuchma
Asif Siddiqi, Bart Hendrixx and others wrote about Glushko--and one of his followers who worked on Energiya tried to overthrow yeltsin in a coup.
Over here, about as good as it ever got was Pete Worden. The USAF was so successful a pilot's union that space advocates got edged out.
We need an American Kuchma.A ruthless space advocate who will push for space like Rickover pushed for the nuclear Navy--like how LeMay pushed for the USAF. That
is what we need--not Rand Simberg.
The closest we ever got to a Chief Designer was Mike Griffin--and I miss him.