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Thread: Stance on Science Funding

  1. #1

    Default Stance on Science Funding

    Does anyone know what Ron Paul's stance on science funding is? It seems to me that a strict application of libertarianism would preclude RP from supporting government-funded scientific research (from the NSF, NIH and NASA to name a few).

    This would actually be a terrible move on RP's part, if my intuition is correct. Science funding is one place where "letting the market decide" is a bad, bad idea. I would appreciate it if someone could please clear this up, because there does not seem to be much reliable information on the subject.

    Thanks.



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  3. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Isotope Guy View Post
    Does anyone know what Ron Paul's stance on science funding is? It seems to me that a strict application of libertarianism would preclude RP from supporting government-funded scientific research (from the NSF, NIH and NASA to name a few).

    This would actually be a terrible move on RP's part, if my intuition is correct. Science funding is one place where "letting the market decide" is a bad, bad idea. I would appreciate it if someone could please clear this up, because there does not seem to be much reliable information on the subject.

    Thanks.
    You should keep in mind that RP's view of the role of the federal government is based on the Constitution. Nowhere in the Constitution -- other than the part dealing with promoting science and invention via a patent system -- is the federal government authorized to subsidize science (or big oil, for that matter).

    That is not, however, the end of the analysis. RP would have nothing to do with the individual states funding state-sponsored science; you can see that California has passed bonds to be in debt pretty much forever in order to sponsor state-funded stem cell research because the federal government isn't doing it.

    Scientific research, however, would still be done via the military (including space research) because that is important to our national defense.

    When there are fewer federal regulations and federal subsidies of established corporations (like the pharmaceuticals companies and big oil) there will be more incentive and fewer barriers to innovative scientists and science-based companies entering the market.

    Don't forget that the following were invented in the U.S. without the help of the federal (or any) government:

    -- The light bulb

    -- The radio

    -- The cotton gin

    -- The telegraph

    -- Bifocals (Ben Franklin pre-1776)

    -- The telephone

    -- Radio astronomy (From wikipedia: [In 1931] While trying to track down a source of electrical interference on telephone transmissions, Karl Guthe Jansky of Bell Telephone Laboratories discovers radio waves emanating from stars in outer space)

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Isotope Guy View Post
    This would actually be a terrible move on RP's part, if my intuition is correct. Science funding is one place where "letting the market decide" is a bad, bad idea.
    Thanks.

    I don't believe that for a second. For example, at the moment, Google's having a contest in which they'll pay $30 million to whoever can get a robot to the moon and send back images and video.

    If there are incentives, there will be funding. Essentially, there will always be the incentive to progress forward.

  5. #4

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    Defunding the science agencies of government (e.g. NSF, NIH, etc.) are low priority for the Paul presidency. - I think this means that he'll continue to fund these agencies.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by james1844 View Post
    Defunding the science agencies of government (e.g. NSF, NIH, etc.) are low priority for the Paul presidency. - I think this means that he'll continue to fund these agencies.
    Ya. Plus he'd have to work with the legislator.
    "You know not what you are given, but forever will you know what has been taken away from you..."

    "As long as we live beyond our means we are destined to live beneath our means." - Ron Paul at a CNBC Debate in Michigan (10/09/07)

  7. #6

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    october 13-19th issue of the economist has a special report on innovation. didn't see it online on the public website. it is 20 pages. i didn't read it all but i remembered a chart; most significant sources of innovative ideas; % of respondents (765 CEOs and business leaders) who chose up to 3 of the following:
    employees, 41%
    business partners, 37%
    customers, 35%
    consultants, 22%
    competitors, 20%
    associations, trade shows, conference boards, 18%
    internal sales and service units, 17%
    internal r&d, 16%
    academia, 13%

    i would expect government funded research to be coming in at the lower end of the scale generally...

  8. #7

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    I'm a self-proclaimed astronomer... to make myself sound cool. But really, I love astronomy! I really think that the next step in the human cylce is to become space-faring. We already have a space station, NASA has plans to put another station on the moon. NASA also has plans to colonize Mars. Although I am personally all for NASA and space exploration and study, it is something that can be done by private corporations. For example, the first ever privately owned spaceship has launched into orbit around the Earth just a couple years ago. That company (I forget the name) has plans on being the first space-tourist agency to allow affordable space travel. People would be able (if they could afford it) to go into space and have picnics, propose to their love, etc. This is HUGE! HUGE!
    أميركا أفضل-حرية الذهاب
    امریکہ
    امریکہ کی
    ازادی

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Isotope Guy View Post
    Science funding is one place where "letting the market decide" is a bad, bad idea.
    Why?

  10. #9

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    Central planning and control is pretty craptastic for most things, including deciding what "science" deserves funding. You end up with a bunch of research groups fighting for funding by trying to out orthodox each other. Crazy fringe ideas, that could possibly lead to huge breakthroughs, get marginalized because they don't seem mainstream enough.

    In fact, politics is like the total opposite of pure science. Politics is all about public opinion, while science is about reality, regardless of what people want to hear. Just imagine where we'd be if the Vatican had been financing Galileo's research.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by SeanEdwards View Post
    Crazy fringe ideas, that could possibly lead to huge breakthroughs, get marginalized because they don't seem mainstream enough.
    Emphatic case in point:
    The connection between Helicobacter pylori and gastric ulcers.

  12. #11

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    The best (mainstream) thing to do would be to simply legalize competition free market will kick the government program's ass everytime, unless the government starts to regulate again

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by sickmint79 View Post
    october 13-19th issue of the economist has a special report on innovation. didn't see it online on the public website. it is 20 pages. i didn't read it all but i remembered a chart; most significant sources of innovative ideas; % of respondents (765 CEOs and business leaders) who chose up to 3 of the following:
    employees, 41%
    business partners, 37%
    customers, 35%
    consultants, 22%
    competitors, 20%
    associations, trade shows, conference boards, 18%
    internal sales and service units, 17%
    internal r&d, 16%
    academia, 13%

    i would expect government funded research to be coming in at the lower end of the scale generally...
    Right, but what do you expect CEOs and business leaders to say? Their minds are constantly on their own business. For that matter, CEOs and business leaders might be good judges of "business innovation"... but that doesn't make them good judges of "scientific innovation." I mean, for all we know, "innovation" to a CEO might include Pam the receptionist's idea to make Thursday "Hat Day." That's not science, though, and I doubt that most CEOs and business leaders had science in mind when the answered that poll.

    Why don't we ask scientists the same question about the most significant sources of innovative thought? Do you think that their response would be even remotely similar?

    Those numbers really don't apply to this thread...
    Last edited by Isotope Guy; 11-04-2007 at 01:13 PM.

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by james1844 View Post
    Defunding the science agencies of government (e.g. NSF, NIH, etc.) are low priority for the Paul presidency. - I think this means that he'll continue to fund these agencies.
    This is pretty much the only post that comes close to answering my original question. (To the other people in this thread, I realize that Ron Paul believes in the Constitution, free markets, etc. That wasn't my question).

    I suspect the same as you, but I can't find any direct quotes from Ron Paul.
    Last edited by Isotope Guy; 11-04-2007 at 12:51 PM.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by MS0453 View Post
    I don't believe that for a second. For example, at the moment, Google's having a contest in which they'll pay $30 million to whoever can get a robot to the moon and send back images and video.

    If there are incentives, there will be funding. Essentially, there will always be the incentive to progress forward.
    Sigh.

    When I said that it would be a bad idea to "let the market decide" the direction of scientific research in this country, I was not suggesting that the market should have NO SAY in the direction of scientific research. Obviously the market DOES have a say, as in the case of Google's aforementioned incentive... and this is a good thing.

    However, if we were to let the market -- and ONLY the market -- decide the direction of scientific research in this country, then I think that the quality of scientific research in this country would plummet. Who would fund basic science research (the mission of the NSF)? Who would fund scientific research that would not have an immediate benefit to the market?

    I can't help but feel that if RP were to dissolve the NSF, NIH and other government funding agencies (not likely, because he would need the approval of Congress), that science would become profit-driven. Guess what? That doesn't always lead to good science. Fields such as paleontology, anthropology and archeology would probably fall to the wayside.

    And even if RP, as President, didn't get the approval of Congress to dismantle the NSF (etc), he would still have the power to veto new funding for those agencies. I know that the tendency around here is to think that government spending is bad, but... we have to show more discretion than that. Quite simply, we would rapidly lose our competitive edge in science if RP slashed government funding to science. That is not something that we can afford to lose.
    Last edited by Isotope Guy; 11-04-2007 at 01:12 PM.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Isotope Guy View Post
    This would actually be a terrible move on RP's part, if my intuition is correct. Science funding is one place where "letting the market decide" is a bad, bad idea. I would appreciate it if someone could please clear this up, because there does not seem to be much reliable information on the subject.

    Thanks.
    Why do you think that it would be bad? There are some amazing discoveries coming out of the private firm that Elon Musk founded.

    Look what the government does to the science! They refuse to fnd research on things that don't suit their platforms. Reagan didn't even want his Surgeon General to talk about the AIDS crisis.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Isotope Guy View Post
    However, if we were to let the market -- and ONLY the market -- decide the direction of scientific research in this country, then I think that the quality of scientific research in this country would plummet. Who would fund basic science research (the mission of the NSF)? Who would fund scientific research that would not have an immediate benefit to the market?

    I can't help but feel that if RP were to dissolve the NSF, NIH and other government funding agencies (not likely, because he would need to approval of Congress), that science would become profit-driven. Guess what? That doesn't always lead to good science. Fields such as paleontology, anthropology and archeology would probably fall to the wayside.
    What benefit does government get from funding basic scientific research? There is obviously some benefit to it, or else they would not fund it. If there is obviously some benefit to the government to fund this research, then why do you believe that there wouldn't be benefit to any private industries to fund that same research? Right now, perhaps private industries don't fund some areas very much precisely because of government funded competition?

    Also, I think it's disingenuous to think that the United States is the only country that can research some things. Even if we completely stopped researching in some areas, research is going to continue in other countries all around the world, and we can still benefit from that research.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zarxrax View Post
    What benefit does government get from funding basic scientific research? There is obviously some benefit to it, or else they would not fund it. If there is obviously some benefit to the government to fund this research, then why do you believe that there wouldn't be benefit to any private industries to fund that same research? Right now, perhaps private industries don't fund some areas very much precisely because of government funded competition?

    Also, I think it's disingenuous to think that the United States is the only country that can research some things. Even if we completely stopped researching in some areas, research is going to continue in other countries all around the world, and we can still benefit from that research.
    Some government-funded science is done merely for the sake of advancing human knowledge. Period. One does not need to come up with any capitalistic justifications for said research.

    I know this because I am personally acquainted with scientists who sit on NSF funding committees... and who actually get to choose who gets funded and who does not. Believe it or not, most of their decisions are not based around whether or not such science will be beneficial to America's economy.

    But that's the way it should be.

    To address another one of your points, if the government thinks that a certain area of research could just as easily be funded by private companies, they will purposely cut (or reduce) funding to that area. By and large, the government sees no point in "competing" with privately-funded research if such research will get the job done just as well. For instance, the NSF is reluctant to fund ANYTHING related to oil, because they assume that oil companies can just as easily foot the bill... and reap the economic benefits.

    In essence, the point of institutions such as the NSF and NIH is to fund research that would otherwise not get funded sufficiently by private corporations.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Isotope Guy View Post
    .

    In essence, the point of institutions such as the NSF and NIH is to fund research that would otherwise not get funded sufficiently by private corporations.
    That's a double edged sword. If the government wasn't stealing the money, then perhaps those projects would get more private funding.

    And I daresay that science predates government funding. They made it work before, they can make it work again.

    I think science is far better left to the scientists than to the government, although I suspect that there would still be military science funding.

  20. #19

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    It is easy for the NSF to be beneficient with money that they didn't have to raise themselves.

    The great coup was when the government managed to make the middle class net government hand out receivers. That cemented in place the welfare/warfare state. And that may be what is written on our tombstone.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by MS0453 View Post
    I don't believe that for a second. For example, at the moment, Google's having a contest in which they'll pay $30 million to whoever can get a robot to the moon and send back images and video.

    If there are incentives, there will be funding. Essentially, there will always be the incentive to progress forward.
    No one will do it being that wouldn't even cover the energy costs.

  22. #21

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    One only need to READ THE CONSTITUTION to see what Ron Paul's "stance" is on ANY issue.
    We have been totally fucked by the machine

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by LibertyOfOne View Post
    No one will do it being that wouldn't even cover the energy costs.
    Don't ignore the huge opportunity here! Just think of all the other financial opportunities that would be available to them. Once you get the robot sending back images of the moon to a website, start getting lots of advertising revenue from that website. Think what other sponsors might be interested in helping out with that project? Don't you think McDonalds or Taco Bell or someone would put up a lot of money so they can then say they helped to get a photo robot on the moon? Or how about if someone like Travelocity paid big bucks for the robot to photograph their garden gnome vacationing on the moon! Or children all over the country could pay $20 to have a letter sent to the moon. The revenue possibilities are endless!
    And then with the experience gained, they could plan more missions to the moon, even letting wealthy people take personal trips there.

  24. #23

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    This debate has strayed in a few ways. For one, Jansky's enigmatic paper was the result of several million dollars in government, in addition to corporate, funding and the paper ultimately meant that he had to abandon the research he was originally working on, against pleas from management. Second, the military is a government institution for which no science funding is constitutionally provided. Lastly, NASA's big name projects have gone downhill, but it still regularly sends up large science missions including the current $3 Billion James-Webb Space Telescope which will explore the infrared sky and answer questions relevant to Cosmology.

    The problem with depending on corporate funding for science is that oftentimes science is too far out to result in imminent inventions. For instance, Einstein's study of the photoelectric effect (not to mention General Relativity) would have seemed a flight of fancy and would have been entirely unapproachable (from a corporate standpoint) as it, in theory, provided no immediate results. We now owe all modern electronics to this work. This kind of discovery requires funding, which corporations are understandably tepid to supply.

    Another problem arises in intellectual property rights. While the constitution does provide for these, it is highly nonspecific. At present, all work done in academia is owned by the institution, not the writer (unless the writer has tenure). This raises the question of how to manage a sudden influx of invalid copyrights (our government has trouble handling one) and how to enforce them. In theory, corporations would then buy and sell this a priori intellectual property, but this violates the constitution.

    Lastly comes the question of managing scientists. As shown by the consistent crash of large biomedical companies, there are problems in managing a bloated R&D division. Namely, the most experienced scientist, the person who is best at his job, is not necessarily the most fit for a management position. In general, this is the way it works. For this reason alone, many prefer the egalitarian bliss of academia.

    I'm basing all of this on a complete destruction of academia, which would not happen. There do still exist some privately funded universities, but the majority of the individual researchers' grant money comes from the federal government. I maintain that ending the NSF alone would put us behind China in papers produced this year and put us behind them in Nobel Prizes won within the decade.






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