Science and the Government

September 21, 2011

One of the moral questions that arise whenever we talk about liberty and self-ownership is the liberation of science from the grips of the state or the government.

The common belief is; state helps in creating new things and improving the scientific technology. However, it is a false claim and often it has been observed that the private sector is the working horse behind technology and innovation, and this is true for science. On the other hand, the public sector produces nothing and charges us large for it.

Well, it was a hyperbole, but I understand how much more efficient private sector is as opposed to public sector. It is not very difficult to explain and express. Let us take the examples of public sector in India which includes electricity and water supply to their houses. Telephones were also public sector services till 1991 and during that period only rich and very few people could afford telephones. How can we forget the special STD PCO booths far away from our houses where we used to visit to call to someone close to us but living far away at a dear some expense? Even the local calls were very costly and STD calls were certainly

Now when we are enjoying the fruits of liberalization and the telecom sector is partially privatized, we enjoy very cheap distance talks.

No wonder, people in India don’t have electricity or water supply to their house, but they have cell phones, washing machines, and cable TVs.

Why? Because latter are luxury items so they have been privatized and produced by free market, but former are too important of goods and services to be let on the whims free market.

And guess what the no 1 reason everybody will quote against privatization of anything in India is “because poor people won’t be able to afford it”.

This is not only wrong, but extremely silly, because the examples suggests just opposite. Privatize production and sales of things and they will become cheaper. Same is the case in technology, science and medicines. Remove governmental intervention from technology and science and things will certainly improve.

However, people believe that government can provide things for free. As a matter of fact, this is a fraud, government cannot provide anything for free, however, it can rob (tax) a few people and then redistribute that stolen or robbed money in others, but while doing so, it will waste a major part of the money. Furthermore, robbery or stealing is certainly immoral no matters if it is done by thief or by the government.

When there’s a single thief, it’s robbery.  When there are a thousand thieves, it’s taxation.  ~Vanya Cohen

The so-called public (read government) involvement in science and technology causes countless problems, including politicizing R&D, massive misallocation of resources, and enshrining scientific status quo. A bunch of bureaucrats and or congress critters on the appropriate panel are charged with allocating budget to R&D of some kind. Since they are not experts in these areas about what is and is not good science/technology they ask whatever “experts” will generally not cause them any grief, the “safe” experts, i.e., those of the current status quo positions who have political connections or at least have no political drawbacks. They then fund what these experts recommend. This tends to perpetuate what was previously approved / funded or what the current acceptable experts approve of. This makes it difficult at times to get government funds for truly innovative work.

More interestingly, the dividing line between government and private is not always clear. An F-16 is built by the private sector, but in close co-operation with the government. Is an F-16 government technology, or private technology? Some people may say they are public, since they are tied with government money intensely. But the military doesn’t take too much bullshit when it comes to changing companies if their products fail. Since lives are directly at risk.

Yet, you must realize that such public spending on military projects creates a huge wastage, corruption and poverty. There must be intense amounts of corruption since so much power is concentrated in people not directly chosen, but chosen by people that have been chosen by people that have been….There is a good movie exploring the corruption and inefficiency of military contracts. It’s called “The Pentagon Wars.” It’s a comedy, based on actual events, with some historical license taken.

Furthermore, most of the public sectors nowadays are only partially public. The US space industry, as an example, started out entirely as government contracts, but since 1996, more than half of all money put into space technology in the US has been private, and the percentage has increased every year.

I believe that government in science technology and medical sector is a huge fraud. Well I am an Indian and I can study the issues related to my country. Here government provides free vaccinations yearly for infants and kids and obviously, we the tax payers are forced to pay for it. The very first thing is vaccinations are not a proven solution for these major diseases such as polio, small pox, and a few more. However, the issue becomes murkier because this governmental activity demands a huge working force during the vaccination period. Government workers (teachers, junior medical practitioners and other government servants) are forced to provide those services. Since it is not their job and mostly they are not interested (rather find such works a burden without any proper incentive) they often commit mistakes due to carelessness and hence a number of children suffer ill-health and death in some cases because of the vaccinations which are expected to preserve them from certain diseases.

Secondly, such charity programs by government to provide free medicines/vaccinations are nothing but advertisements, if administration is service and political parties are registered companies for providing this service, then such free vaccination/medicine programs are nothi9ng but advertisements for attaining good will of voters for the corresponding political parties ruling in different states, and city municipalities. But for these Political advertisements, the tax payers are forced to pay, no matters if they want to use these services or not.

Such charity works which in fact are a mode of advertisements can effectively be used by private sector as various companies will willingly take part in such works. The thing is, these private companies will gain a platform to connect with consumers directly and well, only those consumers will be paying the overall spending on these services which are using the products of such companies, and there are possibilities that such companies may offer a huge part of the spending from its own profit. In case of government, only tax payers are the real payers of such works.

Government knowingly doesn’t allow or encourage private companies from engaging in such works because such activities are a good means to establish the importance of government in masses who believes that if there is government, they may attain cheaper or free services and this actually is a fraud.

Governments push “science” based upon politics, not knowledge. Speaking about the internet, with which I am more familiar than other fields, the standards which allow computers to communicate are written by voluntary associations of individuals. (Google RFC to learn more). Government efforts to impose standards from the top down (such as the Ada language) have failed badly. Until recently, the government’s role in computer security was pretty much non-existent; government agents could barely explain the difference between 32 and 64-bit computers. The government has tried to horn in on the field, partly to make itself look good, partly to defend itself (government computers are notoriously insecure), and partly to weaponizing computer surveillance and hacking. The real work is done in the private sector by individuals and voluntary associations. Government takes credit for the internet all the time but most of the work was done by private companies, individuals and volunteers. Especially the IETF which is what worked through almost all the thousands of network sub-protocols. The old DARPA-net and precursor were funded by government but much of the rest since is not government or even mainly government funded.

Government also impedes progress through so-called “Intellectual Property” – software development is greatly slowed down through the need to avoid conflict with massive portfolios of absurd “software patents.” Google Stephan Kinsella for more

Conclusion: State or government and science must be separate; keeping science in the realms of government is equivalent to keep religion in realms of government. We cannot accept theocracy and we should not accept government control over science, technology and medical sector.

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