from Inside Higher Ed:
Funding Science, Smartly
March 4, 2009
Rep. John Culberson's Web site shouts that the country should "just say no to federal spending," and the Texas Republican boasted at a House of Representatives hearing Tuesday that he has a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union because he consistently opposes wasteful government spending. But Culberson makes an exception, he told his colleagues on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related, for spending on scientific research and science education, given the contribution those things make to the country's economic stability and national security.
"We should find a way to wall off [the National Science Foundation] and other agencies in a way that will protect" their budgets, Culberson said. "We should be looking for funding that is stable and predictable in the years to come."
Somewhere in my library is an old book titled Science Is A Sacred Cow. Once upon a time I was a Chemistry major in college, and I still enjoy keeping up with that field a bit. Science is a good thing, generally speaking.
Even though that is the case, this is no justification for forcing me to pay for your science, anymore than forcing me to pay for your church’s hymnals.
The usual excuse, of course, is that ‘we all benefit from science research.’ In the end, that is probably true in some sense. We probably all benefit, as consumers, by much of the R&D that is done. But that is not a good excuse to pick someone’s pocket to pay for it.
Because for any kind of R&D to get to a consumer, some company and its stockholders must first and primarily benefit from it. I have no problem with that at all – so long as that company and its stockholders pay for their own R&D – and the science that is behind it.
But what about ‘national defense’? While high tech weapons of defense are very desirable, they could just as easily be purchased by the government hiring private companies to do research and produce the items desired.
If, like Rep. Culberson, you hold to the principle that we should ‘just say no to federal spending’ then you hold a good principle. But if you compromise it for your ‘sacred cow’ then you are a hypocrite.