[ExI] Against government science funding was Re: New Hope for Alzheimer's Disease Vaccine

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Wed Apr 9 08:01:14 UTC 2008

On 09/04/2008, Rafal Smigrodzki <rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Tue, Apr 8, 2008 at 9:35 AM, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> >
> >
> > Most of the basic science breakthroughs which have ultimately given us
> > the medical care we enjoy has been publicly funded, and elaborate
> > bureaucratic hoops have had to be jumped through to obtain that
> > funding. Moreover, although they need money for equipment, most of the
> > scientists doing this research have not been pursuing personal profit
> > (it's crazy to go into research if that's what you want), but the
> > approval of their peers. The free market only has a role to play when
> > someone catches wind of a marketable product.
> >
> ### Do you know that 85% of all science funding in the US comes from private
> money? I used to think that due to the difficulty in owning basic research
> results there would be underproduction of such results in the absence of
> coerced funding but now I no longer believe it. Many rich people seek the
> approval of their peers too, which is why the Gates foundation is
> outspending the NIH on many of the most pressing health needs in the world.
> Rockefeller, Carnegie, Mellon, Hughes and dozens of lesser captains of
> industry gave more to science than most governments. If there were no taxing
> parasites feeding on capitalists, there would be so much money sloshing
> around and looking for a good cause that even FAI researchers would be
> swimming in it.

I suppose we can't stop charity but do you really want to rely on it,
and is it a success of the free market if you do rely on it? The main
purpose of taxation is to pay for that which the taxpayers consider
worthwhile but which the free market won't provide, or won't
efficiently and fairly provide. Charity is fickle and degrading; when
I'm given something I want it to be because I'm entitled to it.

> BTW, if we are talking about government funding of research, let's see what
> it gave us: The atomic bomb. Thermonuclear bomb. Weaponized anthrax. Napalm.
> V-gas. Tuskegee syphilis study. The International Space Station. The list is
> long but easy to summarize: Most government research spending goes towards
> destruction (weapons), or propaganda (ISS). Useful, peaceful basic research
> is an afterthought, comprising less than one percent of all spending. You
> can't reasonably speak about the great achievements of government research
> without devoting appropriate attention to the monumental failings.

A lot of government research spending has been into war-making
techniques, especially in the US and the Soviet Union. That's bad, but
it doesn't negate the fact that most of the outstanding scientific
discoveries of the past century have been funded by government,
usually directly but even if you take into account outstanding private
institutions such as Bell Labs, at least indirectly through the public
education system.

As for propaganda and the space program, so what? It's a tragedy that
the propaganda appeal of manned space flight wore off after the first
few moon landings. Do you see private entrepreneurs stepping in with a
few trillion to colonise Mars or the asteroids?

Stathis Papaioannou

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