"To the frontier the American intellect owes its striking characteristics. That coarseness of strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness; that practical inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grip of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends; that restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism, working for good and evil, and withal that buoyancy and exuberance that comes from freedom—these are the traits of the frontier, or traits called out elsewhere because of the existence of the frontier.
"What if the frontier is truly gone?
"What happens to America and all that it has stood for? . . .
"Currently we see around us an ever more apparent loss of vigor of our society: increasing fixity of the power structure and bureaucratization of all levels of life; impotence of political institutions to carry off great projects; the proliferation of regulations affecting all aspects of public, private, and commercial life; the spread of irrationalism; the banalization of popular culture; the loss of willingness by individuals to take risks, to find for themselves or think for themselves; economic stagnation and decline the declaration of the rate of technological innovation. . . .
"Without a frontier from which to breathe new life, the spirit that gave rise to the progressive humanistic culturethat America has represented for the past two centuries is fading. The issue is not just one of national loss-human progress needs a vanguard and no replacement is in sight. The creation of a new frontier thus presents itself as America’s and humanity’s greatest social need. Nothing is more important. . .
"Without a frontier to grow in, not only American society, but the entire global civilization based upon values of humanism, science, and progress will ultimately die. . . .
"I believe that humanity’s new frontier can only be on Mars. . . .
"The universe is vast. Its resources, if we can access them, truly are infinite. During the four centuries of the open frontier on Earth, science and technology have advanced at an astonishing pace. The technological capability achieved during the twentieth century would dwarf the expectation of any observer from the nineteenth, exceed the dreams of one from the eighteenth, and appear outright magical to someone from the seventeenth. The nearest stars are incredibly distant, about 100,000 times as far away as Mars. Yet, Mars itself is about 100,000 times as far from Earth as American is from Europe. If the past four centuries of progress have multiplied our reach by so great a ratio, might not four more centuries of freedom do the same again?"
From The Case for Mars by aerospace engineer Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society
There is a good reason why one might expect Egypt to start running into problems with energy and food subsidies. Its own financial situation is declining at the same time that the cost of food imports is soaring.
Starting about 2010 or 2011, Egypt will change from an oil exporting nation to an oil importing nation, if there are imports available on the world market.
The oil that Egypt exports provides funds for the subsidies that it offers, so reduced exports mean less funds are available for subsidies.
Egypt subsidizes both oil and natural gas sales internally, so it is likely that the government is not getting much revenue related to be portion that is used for internal consumption.
Egypt was already significantly overspending its revenue in 2009 (the last year available), with revenues of $46.82 billion and expenditures of $64.19 billion.
Cutbacks in oil production and in Suez Canal transport can be expected to exacerbate unemployment problems. The Egyptian unemployment rate was listed at 9.7% in 2010 by the CIA World Factbook.
As population grows, the amount of land needed for housing and businesses rises, and the amount of land for agriculture falls. So Egypt can produce less of its own food, as time goes on.
Egypt is reported to be the world’s largest importer of wheat. In 2010, the oil minister stated that Egypt imports 40% of its food, and 60% of its wheat.
With oil prices higher now (because world production is close to flat, and as countries come out of recession, they want more), food prices of all types are higher as well. Oil is used directly in the production of grain and indirectly in storage and transit, so its cost becomes important.
"The loss of Egypt and Jordan would also have dire consequences for Israel. Thirty years of peace with those Arab neighbors would come to an end, and Tel Aviv would (again) be surrounded by hostile foes, committed to the eradication of the Jewish State, and supported by an Iranian regime on the verge of going nuclear. That must be a part of our strategic calculus as well. If Mubarak goes, the tenure of Jordan's King Abdullah will be measured in days, and the West Bank will probably fall under the control of Hamas as well. Meanwhile, Israel's most implacable foe (Syria) sits on the Golan Heights, while Hizballah controls the "new" government in Lebanon. If that isn't a nightmare scenario for Mr. Netanyahu, we don't know what is. What is the U.S. prepared to do to ensure Israel's security in that sort of environment.
And beyond that, how do we respond when the protest movement advances to the Persian Gulf Region? Those oil-rich states, long controlled by autocratic monarchs, are ripe for revolt as well. This is hardly a movement that is limited to Egypt or Tunisia, and there are plenty of Islamists (read: terrorists) ready to stoke the fires of revolution in places like Saudi Arabia; Oman, Dubai and Kuwait."