Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Can Long Term Research Survive the Coming Age of Austerity? 306

Hugh Pickens writes "Alexis Madrigal writes that everyone agrees you need science and technology R&D, but when budgets get tight, research into quantum dots or the fundamental forces that cause earthquakes has a hard time holding the line against health care or tax cuts for the richest Americans. Different countries are taking different approaches. Japan is focusing on its most elite researchers, giving up to $50 million to 30 different people. Other countries are just giving up on some areas of research to focus on others; for example, US particle physicists who will spend their careers trying to drive from the backseat as our European counterparts run the Large Hadron Collider. A third approach might be to reduce redundancies in research. 'An idea to provide funding in a larger number of key areas that would avoid duplication is to create dedicated research centers where several investigators can work in parallel on complementary topics,' writes Joerg Heber. "If we do less research we need to do it right. And using this crisis to think about our research infrastructure needn't be a bad thing. It should be seen as an opportunity to reform the academic research system in a more comprehensive and fundamental way than the academic community and the politicians normally dare to think about.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Can Long Term Research Survive the Coming Age of Austerity?

Comments Filter:
  • by BitHive ( 578094 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @04:10PM (#36815508) Homepage

    Can Progress Survive Austerity as a Foregone Conclusion?

  • What everyone misses (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @04:15PM (#36815568) Homepage
    Diminishing marginal returns are very relevant for where government funding should go. Thus in general, small scientific programs are much more likely to have a very high output proportional to their cost than large programs. Since all science funding is tiny, cutting into it makes very little sense in that context. Of course, this is aside from the other serious issues with the recent pushes for austerity such as how in the US this apparently means cuts to absolutely everything except for military spending.
  • by YodasEvilTwin ( 2014446 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @04:18PM (#36815592) Homepage
    Bad example. There are a whole lot of back and joint problems that don't require surgery to be fixed but can be fixed / helped by physical therapies, massage, stretches, exercise, etc. I'm sure there are some chiropractors who are quacks but for the most part it seems like evidence-based medicine to me.
  • by gubers33 ( 1302099 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @04:19PM (#36815596)
    Multiple people working on the same thing leads to different ideas and more innovation, having only one group of people working on something adds only one perspective.
  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @05:31PM (#36816468) Homepage

    the rich benefit disproportionately from government services, they should pay their fair share for them.

    So to you, "fair" is that out of 10 people, 1 person pays almost the entire bill, 4 people pay a little bit, and the remaining 5 pay nothing at all? On top of that, those non-paying 5 people are the ones consuming most of the benefits! This all seems "fair" to you?

    Yes, it's completely reasonable, for 2 main reasons:
    1. Trying to get anything out of the non-paying 5 is about as effective as trying to squeeze blood from a stone. They don't have the money, that's why they aren't paying. Trying to get anything more from the chipping-in-but-still-not-huge contributors also is hard to do right now.
    2. The guy who's paying almost the entire bill has the ability to make the rules about who gets what.

    The other issue is that once you take away the silly analogy of a country with 10 people in it and get back in reality, you discover that your numbers are misleading at best: The groups you've described only apply to income taxes, and ignore all other kinds of taxes (most notably payroll taxes). And the 1 guy with a lot of cash is paying about 70% of the total bill, not "almost the entire" amount.

    The alternate analogy here: Imagine 10 people living in a house with a roof that needs $20K worth of repairs. 1 person makes $100K, 4 people make $50K, 2 people make $15K, and 2 people make nothing. How would you going to come up with the money to pay for it? Would you kick out the people making nothing, knowing that they have nowhere to go and will likely die of exposure or starvation once winter comes? Would you try to ignore the need for repairs until the roof collapses?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @06:22PM (#36816954)

    That's just wrong in so many ways. The first, and most fatal flaw is to consider the tax/investment situation as a straight line. It's not. We were more prosperous as a nation in times when taxes were significantly higher, so at the very least, you'd need to consider the possibility that there were local maxima and minima rather than a straight line, or even a simple curve.

    And considering the overall decline of the average American's real earning power over the past decade, it's fair bet that we're not at one of those "sweet spots". Any objections due to temporary distortions can be ruled out - we've been through and/or into at least 2 distinct recessions since the tax rates for the rich were so dropped, and the wealth still hasn't trickled down. Quite the contrary.

    Actually, there's not even a simple "tax rate", especially when you're rich. You do a a la carte, which blows even a complex curve off the map and puts the whole thing into the realm of linear programming. Or in layman's terms "tax shelters".

    We gave away the farm. Worse, we did it at the worst possible time. The time to cut taxes is at the BOTTOM of a cycle, when you know what you can afford to give. Instead, we did it at the TOP, right before the Clinton prosperity era tanked. We did our budgeting based on the naive assumption that things would continue to be wonderful, when in fact, even the best Bush years were pretty feeble.

    "The Rich get Richer", like the related phrase "Nothing succeeds like Success" is just a reflection of the positive feedback that is an inherent part of unregulated cash flow. It's the reason no true "Free Market" can last. Absent regulatory meddling or progressive taxation (same thing), the winners will take over, the losers will go extinct, the middle will evaporate, and the Free Market devolves into Monopoly, where the winners can afford to make the cost of new competitors entering the game prohibitive.

    I don't especially like having MY taxes raised. On the other hand, I was a LOT more prosperous back in the day when a paid a tax rate now considered unthinkable. If that's what it takes, so be it. We've got a lot of people sitting on money and they're refusing to spend it. Having the Government come in and take it and spend it in their own typically inefficient ways may be an ugly solution, but the bottom line is that spending is spending, and doubly-so when the government pays citizens (as it commonly does), instead of foreign outsources whose revenue feedback into the local tax system is minimal. And given that it's pretty much accepted that spending is what it's going to take, someone's got to do it.

  • by Fned ( 43219 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @08:01PM (#36817632) Journal

    There are some people who view the above as a problem; this problem is called "the rich get richer". Even if the poor get richer also, which confuses me. How will you increase jobs without someone who is rich getting richer? And how does that rich person hurt the poor by getting richer?

    The majority of the public has no problem with "the rich get richer". Look at the path of Clinton's approval rating; we were ALL getting richer and it was fucking great, no matter what kind of douchebag shit he pulled.

    What people have a problem with, though, is when the rich get richer but the rest of us get fucking poorer. How the rich have been doing that lately (they've always been doing this, but sooooo much more during the last decade) is by making themselves richer without actually producing anything of value. You don't increase jobs by funneling money into your pocket, you increase jobs by investing in actual enterprises.

    Yes, we have been getting poorer. Average wages haven't been increasing when adjusted for inflation -- unless you make over 100k. But many things have been getting more expensive compared to inflation -- food and shelter, which everybody needs, and for which poor people have to pay a far, far larger percentage of their income.

    It's nice to think that more investment and job creation will be the natural result of lower taxes and deregulation, but recent history is pretty clear: all rich people need to do to get richer, is spend money in a way that accomplishes that. If that means investing in industry, they'll do that. If it means rolling up a gigantic tarball of toxic debt and hot-potatoing it around the marketplace until it crashes the economy, and then run begging to the US government to wash the hands of whoever caught it last, they'll do that, instead. For example, Koch Industries, who fund Reason Magazine, made a pretty penny in 2008 via "contango" oil price manipulation. They got more money, but produced no additional value. They brazenly enriched themselves at the cost of the rest of us.

    Multiply that action by thousands, or hundreds of thousands, and you start to see the path that led us here. Money going upstairs and nothing of value coming down.

    Lower taxes and looser regulation is what we've been DOING FOR TEN YEARS. it's what GOT US HERE.

  • Re:Rounding Error (Score:4, Interesting)

    by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2011 @11:01PM (#36818964) Homepage Journal
    This, exactly this. The Republican "debt cutting" is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, more than political retribution for opposing them. Republicans philosophy on freedom seems to resemble Stallman's quite a bit, "You are free if and only if you do everything that I tell you to do and never, EVER oppose me, your benevolent ruler".
  • by fearofcarpet ( 654438 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2011 @01:14AM (#36819802)

    There have been several times in the history of the USA where the overall tax rate was lowered, and tax revenues went up. This is because "the rich" moved money out of tax shelters and started investing it, which grew GNP. In other words, tax revenue went up because government was collecting a lower rate on a much larger amount of money. And "the rich" paid more taxes than they paid before.

    Three examples from the late 20th century where tax-cuts lead to increased revenues: JFK, Reagan, and Clinton. However, on closer inspection, JFK cut taxes while closing loopholes, citing his own family as an example of how the wealthy evaded taxes. Rich people pulled their money out of tax shelters because that is exactly what JFK forced them to do by closing said loopholes. Reagan's tax cutting lead to a decrease in tax receipts, but they were coupled with deregulations of financial markets (and two subsequent tax increases) that increased revenues overall. This deregulation arguably lead to the creation of bubbles (e.g., Black Monday), which landed in the lap of Bush 1.0 and lead to him raising taxes. Clinton cut taxes as well, but focused them on the middle class, and again tax receipts were not the primary source of growth, it was the Dot Com Bubble, which arguably lead to the 2001 recession at the start of Bush 2.0. Speaking of Bush 2.0, he also cut taxes--dramatically--and passed on a huge deficit and a Carter-style recession to Obama.

    I am not trying to argue with you, nor am I defending the policies of any administration, I just want to point out that the world is vastly more complicated than "cutting taxes increases revenues." Also, American presidents have developed a habit of increasing spending/cutting taxes and using creative accounting/deregulation to make themselves look good, and then passing an economic shit sandwich on to the next administration.

    There are some people who view the above as a problem; this problem is called "the rich get richer". Even if the poor get richer also, which confuses me. How will you increase jobs without someone who is rich getting richer? And how does that rich person hurt the poor by getting richer?

    If the rich get richer faster than the overall economy is growing, then the poor get poorer--either by direct loss or by incurring more debt. I refuse to use a pie analogy, but the economy is finite in size and when it shrinks, those whose wealth increases are by definition gaining at the expense of others. Reasonable People do not have a problem with "the rich getting richer;" they have a problem with the rich getting richer at the expense of the middle class. Again, not trying to pick a fight, just trying to contextualize your question.

    Disclaimer: I don't even live in the US; I make my modest income in Euros in a country with a 50% income tax rate and a 20% sales tax.

MESSAGE ACKNOWLEDGED -- The Pershing II missiles have been launched.