Saturday, May 2, 2009

When Politics Drives Policy

My husband and I are in Colorado attending a scientific conference. Most of the information has been exciting to him, but tonight he wanted me to join him in attending a talk(s) on how science affects society and policy.

We were late getting to the talk, but the usual "politically correct" policies were being on the front burners of conversation.The scientist we heard was giving a talk and graphs on energy consumption and populations in a global perspective. He showed how the majority of the world's populations are expanding, while most of these don't even have electricity and live an impoverished existence. The discussion ensued over the questions of limiting our comsumption, limiting the expanding populations, and seeking new energy resources. He suggested that the government could underwrite R&D through a special tax. But, since he was from Europe, he made a remark about how Americans don't like taxes. The government cannot be the moral policman when it comes to R&D because then there is limited incentive for scientists to pursue a highly competitive and time-consuming career. And those who have benefitted from government money through grants have government "control" over how the money is to be used in pursuing R&D.

The media becomes useful to "educate" the public to the "wishes" of the government and the "pet projects" of those who want to control the resources of government in funding or limiting funding in specific scientific areas. Not just the "propagandizing of the media" for educating the public on "politically correct" scientific endeavors, but, this particular scientist said, it is difficult to get the proper information to the public and the politicians, who are not understand science. He gave the example of when scientists gave the media information regarding electricity usage and the media picked it up as energy. Policy ensued over incorrect information. Needless to say, that this policy will not be "met", as "mandated". So, public servants wasted time, the public's interest was disinvested, and the public good will not benefit through such means of legislation.

This president has made it his goal to be informed and to base his policy on "good science". This is good policy formation, but if, there is an agenda to "moralize science", limiting the "free market" and private industry, then, the economy cannot flourish and will not promote new innovations, and discovery, because there will be limited incentive and limited ability to engage science in new and original ways, unless it is done under the auspices of governmental oversight.

C.S. Lewis said, "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated,; but, those who toment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." HOW TRUE!

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