In March 1971 the Congress voted to end government financing for development of the supersonic transport (SST). Upon hearing of the final vote, one of my daughters said, "Well, at last we have stopped progress."
"Progress" is what supposedly results when American government, business, technology, patriotism, national prestige, and world leadership are mixed in one common effort.
The outstanding recent achievement in the pursuit of progress was the landing of men on the moon. President Nixon said his three greatest thrills were his election to the presidency and two of the moon shots. Some people thought this was a rather expensive way to keep Nixon happy, but opponents of the moon shots were unable to stop them.
Three other projects supported by the military, industry, and organized labor -- the TFX, initiation of the ABM system, and the Lockheed loan guarantee -- were also challenged, but with little success.
Why did opponents of the SST succeed? Its technological difficulties were no more serious than those associated with the ABM or the TFX. It was not so costly as the moon shots, and its economic potential seemed greater.
A general rule in the Congress is that if there is only one good reason to be against a bad project which has strong support and on which millions have already been spent, the chances of successful opposition are almost nil. If there are two good reasons to be against it, the chances of defeating it are only fair, and the odds remain against a successful challenge. But when there are at least three good reasons for opposition, the project is in real trouble.
By 1971 there were three good reasons for opposing the SST, not all of which were clear when the project was initiated.