Carl Sagan Viral Video Discussing Socialism and Star Wars Watched Over a Million Times

A video of the late scientist Carl Sagan discussing socialism has resurfaced on Twitter. The clip has gone viral as people realize that the U.S. is still having conversations about the issues raised by Sagan 30 years later.

In the video, Ted Turner asks Sagan if he is a socialist, to which the Cosmos host replies: "I'm not sure what a socialist is, but I believe that the government has a responsibility to care for the people. I'm not talking about [the] dole, I'm talking about making people self-reliant, able to take care of themselves.

"There are countries [that] are perfectly able to do that. The United States is an extremely rich country, it's perfectly able to do that—it chooses not to. It chooses to have homeless people."

Three decades ago, billionaire Ted Turner asked astronomer Carl Sagan if he was a socialist.

— raf (@rafaelshimunov) October 5, 2020

The scientist mentions the infant mortality rate in the U.S. and says that other countries have a lower mortality rate than the U.S. because they invest more money: "We are 19th in the world for infant mortality. Eighteen other countries save the lives of their babies better than we do. How come? They just spend more money on it. They care more about their babies than we do about ours. I think it's a disgrace."

In 2018, America's Health Rankings found that the U.S. was ranked 33rd out of the 36 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries for infant mortality. Vox reported in January that compared with other similarly wealthy countries, the U.S. ranks last for maternal mortality rates.

In the video, Sagan also discusses the money spent on Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), nicknamed Star Wars, and says: "This country has vast wealth. Just look at something like Star Wars. The money spent on Star Wars. They've already spent something like $20 billion dollars on it, if these guys are permitted to go ahead they will spend a trillion dollars on Star Wars."

President Ronald Reagan's SDI was a plan to create system armed space-based X-ray lasers that would detect and deflect any nuclear weapons headed towards the U.S., but it was deemed overambitious and expensive.

The nickname "Star Wars" came from Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, who called the program "reckless 'Star Wars' schemes."

From 1983, the government spent up to $30 billion on the project, before it was scrapped by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Sagan criticized the amount of money spent on the program and said: "Think of what that money could be used for.

"To educate, to help bring people up to a sense of self-confidence, to improve not just the happiness of people in America, but their economic standing. To improve the competitiveness of the United States compared to other countries.

"We are using money for the wrong stuff."

Carl Sagan
Portrait of American astronomer and author Carl Sagan leaning his elbows on his knees and smiling in a laboratory at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. A resurfaced video of Sagan discussing socialism has gone viral on Twitter. Getty/Santi Visalli

Carl Sagan was an astronomer from Brooklyn, New York, and one of the most famous scientists of the 1970s and 1980s. He taught at Harvard and Cornell and was a prolific author, but was best known by the public for his PBS television series Cosmos, which reached millions of people in the U.S. and popularized science on TV. Sagan died in 1996, aged 62.