Government and Science: A Dreadful Mix

Tom Woods interviews Terence Kealey

“In one of the strongest episodes of this show ever (see also here), Terence Kealey, professor emeritus at Buckingham University and a research fellow of the Cato Institute, makes a stunningly powerful case for the separation of science and state.”

Here is an article by Kealey on the same subject:

Governments Need Not Fund Science (at Least, Not for Economic Reasons)

From the conclusion of the above:

The evidence that governments need not fund science for economic reasons is overwhelming, and it is ignored only because of self‐​interest: the scientists like public funding because it frees them to follow their own interests, companies like it because it provides them with corporate welfare, and politicians like it because it promotes them as patrons of the public good (witness Bill Clinton’s leading the celebrations over the mapping of the human genome.) So the empirical evidence is ignored in favo r of abstract theories.

There are, of course, non‐​economic reasons, such as defense or the study of pollution, why a government might want to fund science (and a democratic polity, moreover, might not wish to be dependent only on private entities for its expertise in science) but in this document I cannot pronounce on these non‐​economic justifications for the government funding of research: only democratically‐​elected representatives have that competence. Here I can make only the technical argument that there is no credible evidence that governments need fund science for economic reasons.

But we can nonetheless note that in his own farewell address (known for its regrets for the “industrial‐​military” complex and for the “three and half million men and women directly engaged in the defense establishment”) Truman’s immediate successor as President lamented the effects of the federal government’s funding for science. He lamented the effects on the universities:

In the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery … a government contact becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.

The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by federal employment … is gravely to be regarded.

And he also lamented the effects on the federal government itself:

We should be alert to the … danger that public policy could itself become captive of a scientific‐​technological elite.

And here is another:

Don’t Be like China: Why the U.S. Government Should Cut Its Science Budget