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The Almighty Buck United States Science

The Billionaires Privatizing American Science 279

An anonymous reader writes "Government-funded science is struggling in the United States. With the unstable economy over the past decade and the growing hostility to science in popular rhetoric, basic research money is getting hard to find. Part of the gap is being filled by billionaire philanthropists. Steven Edwards of the American Association for the Advancement of Science says, 'For better or worse, the practice of science in the 21st century is becoming shaped less by national priorities or by peer-review groups and more by the particular preferences of individuals with huge amounts of money.' Vast amounts of research are now driven by names like Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, David Koch, and Eric Schmidt. While this helps in some ways, it can hurt in others. 'Many of the patrons, they say, are ignoring basic research — the kind that investigates the riddles of nature and has produced centuries of breakthroughs, even whole industries — for a jumble of popular, feel-good fields like environmental studies and space exploration. ... Fundamentally at stake, the critics say, is the social contract that cultivates science for the common good.'"
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The Billionaires Privatizing American Science

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  • by glennrrr ( 592457 ) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @09:00AM (#46497753)
    Given the many trillions of dollars committed to Social Security / Medicare, and the amazing ability of baby boomers to get their way politically, it seems pretty obvious that everything that isn't Social Security, Medicare better be prepared to go private.
  • by dabridgham ( 814799 ) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @09:28AM (#46497851)

    I don't think so. Basic scientific research has been privately funded for most of those centuries. Government funding is a relatively recent change.

  • How much is enough? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jamesl ( 106902 ) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @09:47AM (#46497927)

    The poster asserts, "Government-funded science is struggling in the United States."

    The Federal Government spends more than $130 billion on research and development (R&D) each year, conducted primarily at universities and Federal laboratories. []

    How much should the taxpayers spend on research? Show your work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 16, 2014 @11:10AM (#46498299)
    The president doesn't spend money. Congress spends the money. Perhaps you should check your 'facts.'
  • Re:Good! (Score:5, Informative)

    by microbox ( 704317 ) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @01:13PM (#46499165)

    Interesting attempt to paint the "rightmost elements" of government as being responsible for our dysfunctional government.

    A 30-year senior GOP insider said explicitly that the agreed strategy to destroy government, and then blame the other guy. []

    I suggest, instead, that the primary problem with our government, and our economy, is the Federal Reserve.

    Ah, I see we're dealing with a crank []. Well no-one expects a true believer to give due diligence to counter-arguments, but for those reading... both provided links are pithy, and highlight just how screwed up our situation really is.

  • by garyisabusyguy ( 732330 ) on Sunday March 16, 2014 @02:00PM (#46499523)

    Actually, Reagan initially cut taxes and then (unlike the teapartiests of today) realized that he would have to raise taxes, which he did

    Reagan also (like the op said) increased military spending dramatically and cut social programs, effectively diverting the tax revenues from the poor to the wealthy

    Bush 2 played the game much harder and kept tax cuts in place while riding the national debt to new heights. As far as military spending went, they kept the mounting war debt off the books, which magically made Obama responsible for it when he brought that debt back on the books

    It IS all the childish games that the gop has decided to play on Americans that have put us in this position and no amount of o'really bloviating or hannity shouting down the truth will change that

  • Re:Good! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 17, 2014 @02:13AM (#46503211)

    How exactly is the Fed impoverishing the nation? Low taxes and high spending are impoverishing the nation.

    Blaming the Fed is vital part of the alternative universe of "popular knowledge." ... Low taxes and high spending, on the other hand, would seem to lead to predictable results.

    Are agnostics skeptical of unicorns too?

    In case you really want to know a literal agnostic (a la Huxley), would draw attention to the fact the 'God' and 'unicorns' are in clearly distinguishable categories.

    'God,' by definition lacks corporeal existence. Nor is God held (by those who "believe") to have a merely mental or cultural existence, as a fictional character has. Thus God is supposed to exist in a third kind of sense, neither material nor mental, but a (for lack of a better word) spiritual existence. The point of agnosticism is that this kind of existence is inherently unknowable (a - gnosis), rendering all discussions thereof futile.

    A unicorn, otoh, were it to exist, would presumably have corporeal existence. The existence (or not) of unicorns, unlike that of God, is a simple empirical matter. Thus from an agnostic position, the existence of unicorns is at least capable of being the subject of coherent discussion.

  • Re:Good! (Score:3, Informative)

    by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <> on Monday March 17, 2014 @10:54AM (#46505929) Journal

    No, Social Security is a bad example. It is actually not subsidized. It does not do much wealth redistribution. Yes there is some from rich to poor, but mostly it moves wealth from your present self to your future self. Since the money that it puts aside for the future is a huge amount, the government borrows it, paying some interest. It's a much safer deal for Social Security than all these schemes to privatize it by putting those savings into the stock markets.

    If Social Security money is ever placed in the stock markets, we will see the biggest yet pump and dump scam in history. The last few times that calls to privatize Social Security grew loud were just before stock market crashes. We've all heard their noises. They whip up studies that claim Social Security is not solvent and will go bankrupt, and we must do something like cut benefits and lower payments, or raise the retirement age, or ... privatize it! They call it an "entitlement", when it really is not, as it is fully funded from payroll taxes. They try to exploit the perception that government can't be trusted to do anything right and that the money could be better used in the markets. And that would be true, except that these market manipulators are even less worthy of trust than the government. The finance people weren't interested in helping retirees, they were scheming to save their own necks from their reckless gambling by raiding any source of cash they could find, and public pensions and retirement funds had a lot of cash. It would have kept them bubbling for another few years, that's all. Then the market would crash anyway, and where would all of Social Security's money be then?

    Billionaires really have a poor track record on philanthropic investing. They simply cannot use the money as effectively as a swarm intelligence. Warren Buffett jumped on Bill Gates' bandwagon because he realized he couldn't donate effectively on his own, and thought a smart tech guy like Gates could do a better job. He was half right. We see that Gates is struggling to make his donations mean something. Finding cures for terrible diseases is certainly noble, especially if they pull it off. But can they? History suggests not. They're trying for too much and going for the glamorous rather than the practical. In the past, we've seen such white elephants as the Bass Brother's Biosphere 2, and largely useless stunts and entries for the Guinness Book of World Records like balloon flights around the world and skydiving from great heights. It's a lot like the desire to put a man on Mars. Very impressive if it can be done, but at what cost? Is it worth it? Look back at some of the things envisioned in the 19th century, a sort of steampunk colored view. And one of the big dreams of the mid 20th century was the flying car. How much effort was wasted trying to turn that idea into reality? Similarly, there was and still is the jetpack. The savvier, smarter billionaires invested in people, like the railroad tycoon Stanford did in the creation of Stanford U.

    Now it seems likely we will see self driving cars and electric cars before flying cars. We will have flying cars, just as soon as our devices can approach birds' or insects' mental abilities to handle flight, and our materials improve even further on the strength to weight ratio, and we figure better ways to store and release energy.

Keep up the good work! But please don't ask me to help.