We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

There is no such things as ‘unbiased reporting': example 26,781

There is an example in the Telegraph that demonstrates yet again that we are all prisoners to the meta-context (frames of reference) within which we understand things and explain ourselves to others.

Bush turns back on science to veto stem cell Bill

… is the title of a piece by Francis Harris, reporting from Washington. And what is he writing about? Bush has vetoed a bill increasing government-funded research using human embryo cells. So Bush is not turning his back on ‘science’ at all, but rather is turning his back on providing tax money for activities that some taxpayers regard as murder. Personally I am all for stem-cell research and I do not any moral problems with the use of human embryos for research, but I fail to see why people who take a very different view should be forced to fund something they regard as child-killing… but then I would rather see no scientific research whatsoever funded with taxpayer’s money.

But within the meta-context that constrains Francis Harris’ views, to oppose tax-funding for certain types of research on moral grounds is to turn your back on ‘science’ rather than turning your back on what you may regard as ‘murder’. Just as a thought experiment, ponder this: if Bush managed to get a law enacted that allowed for the testing of dangerous experimental drugs on the inmates in Guantanamo Bay, would the title of Francis Harris’ article be “Bush backs laws supporting the advancement of science”?

Somehow I do not think so, yet logically it should be.

48 comments to There is no such things as ‘unbiased reporting': example 26,781

  • rosignol

    While I am in complete agreement about funding research with tax money, I am shocked that of all the acts of congress that Bush could have vetoed, this would be the first.

    Maybe the era of presidential deference to Congressional spending is at an end.

    About bloody time.

  • toolkien

    Given Bush’s spendthrift ways one can’t believe he vetoed the bill on economic grounds, ergo it must have been some other reason.

  • Pete_London

    There is no such things as ‘unbiased reporting': example 26,782

    And the BBC no less. Who’d have thunk it?

    Scientists and politicians in the United States have condemned President Bush for blocking embryonic stem cell research that could one day save lives.

  • dearieme

    Compliments on the analogy.

  • I’m not sure that leaving scientific advancement entirely in the hands of commercial interests is a good thing. Commerce is about money, and if a company can make money from something that is not in the best interests of humanity because it owns the patent (the whole purpose of R&D nowadays) and it can spend billions marketing it so that the majority thinks it a good thing then surely this is not good. (See the tobacco, alcohol and arms industries)
    The flip side is that say a commercial company doing stem cell research discovers a cure for [Insert preferred uncurable disease here] or even death itself it will then be able to sell this discovery for as much money ass it wants and we’ll have the whole african aids situation again, but on a wider scale and in our own backyards. Those who can afford the wonder cure will live while those who can’t will die. All because of money.
    There will always be advances which it would be unethical and immoral to exploit for financial gain.

  • Paul Marks

    No one said that President Buch vetoed the bill on economic grounds (although he should have done).

    Perry has pointed to the basic assumption (the meta context) in the report – i.e. that all important things must come from government.

    If someone asked Congress where they get their authority to spend taxpayers money in this way the various Reps and Sentors would reply by citing words “the common defence and general welfare” at the start of the Constitution and at the start of Article One, Section Eight.

    Thus confusing the PURPOSE of the long list of spending powers they are given by Article One, Section Eight with the spending powers themselves.

    Of course if there was a general power to spend money for the “general welfare” (as the elite claim) there would be no need for the rest of the Constitution – as Congress could justify all spending as for the “general welfare”.

    If people want to fund work on stem cells they should do so with their own money (although there are also vast subsidies from State governments such as California).

    Although (if “social conservatives” were much powerful than they are) they might run into the problem of Congress banning such research on the basis of its power to “regulate interstate commerce”.

    Since a judgement during World War II, the Supreme Court has defined “regulate” and “interstate commerce” to mean (most of the time) anything the government wants it to mean.

    The spirit of our age is that any problem must be met with either government spending programs or regulations.

    Either it should be subsidzed or it should be banned (some people even hold both these positions at the same time on some things – for example the demands that the sale of drugs should be banned, but that the government should provide drugs for addicts).

    Whilst most people despise both politicians and administrators they regard the state itself as God.

    Unless this attitude changes our civilization is doomed.

    As Mises was fond of pointing out, it is not the form of government that really matters (whether it be democracy, monarchy, aristocracy, some mixture……) – what matters is the ideas in the heads of the population.

    Whilst most people have statist ideas (such as “government must research to find the cure of various terrible things”) no system of government will work.

    And nor will the elimination of government – as if government was destroyed, the statist population would simply set up new governments (most likely worse than the old ones).

    “But our most people really statists?”.

    Quick test – the Democrats have put increases in the various minimum wage laws on the ballot in many States. Someone has to be rather statist to vote “yes” to the idea that the way to improve wages is to pass a law.

    We will see in November.

  • There will always be advances which it would be unethical and immoral to exploit for financial gain.

    Is it more moral not to have them at all? I don’t have much faith in the ability of governments to deliver breakthoughs that require creative thinking or ignoring special interests.

    If government must pay for this it would surely be better if they bought the patent after the cure had been found. Better yet, altruistic persons could voluntarily give their money to buy the treatement for others less fortunate.

  • Those who can afford the wonder cure will live while those who can’t will die. All because of money.

    And your point is…? People with more money already get better houses, drive better cars, wear better clothes, eat better food, tend to marry more attractive looking people and live longer. Why is this a bad thing? If you live longer that does not make me die sooner. There is no fixed quantity of ‘goodness’ so one person’s gain is not another person’s loss.

    However my article is really not about the ethics of how medical reseach is funded.

  • Jack Gannaway

    Perry, you need to read the work of Paul Romer on the ‘new’ economics of ideas. Where the public benefit exceeds the commercial gain of an ‘idea’, there is a place for government to step in and subsidise the work of a private reserach organisation. In some cases, the commercial profit that can be made form an idea is so small that no one would have bothered to invent it. For example, there is almost no commercial profit that could be made from calculus, Newton only researched it because money was donated to support his work.

    Medical research is a particular case, where there are commercial profits to be made but the research costs are so astronomical, and the failure rate so high that most labs couldn’t afford to research socially beneficial treatments without government money.

  • Lusiphur

    And from this we can deduce the Telegraph is as crap as any other media outlet, as they all push their bias on to us on any subject.

    However, I would be wary of making the assumption that government funded research can never do good. It’s admittedly not the best way to do things in many cases but that’s probably more because the ‘shareholders’ in government (ie us) are terrible about ensuring we get value for our money (taxes).

  • Newton only researched it because money was donated to support his work.

    Donated by whom? Were you under the impression Newtonn was funded from general taxation rather than patrons? Moreover Newton did not reveal his ideas regarding calculus until thirty years after he came up with them.

  • Sigivald

    mandrill: People like to drink and smoke regardless of marketing. Alcohol has been popular as long as it’s existed, and tobacco was popular among the pre-Columbian Americans who had no inkling of corporations at all (and became popular among Europeans without the significant aid of tobacco companies, who were formed to make money off the existing popularity of tobacco).

    And arms? Well, if you think that the ability of the individual to defend himself from a group of others who wish him ill is a bad thing or the desire to do so the result of “marketing”, I don’t know that we even live in the same universe.

    Arms predate even alcohol as a universal invention, and the universal (theoretical if not actual) possession of all that are not slaves.

    (Not to mention that you speak of money as if it blocks good things, rather than encouraging them.

    The rewards for a cure for various diseases are immense, which provides a much surer goad to research than the nice feeling one would get from helping one’s fellow man. The latter may certainly motivate individuals, but it’s a lousy way to acquire lab equipment, buy supplies, pay for lab space, etc.

    And of course if the government pays for such research, what makes you think it’ll give the goods away to the rest of the world?

    Better that cures be found and some die in the short term because of scarcity than that the cures never be found and nobody ever be saved by them. The latter may be “fairer”, but isn’t very attractive.

    Money is not only not the root of all evil, it’s the best and nearly only means we have of determining resource allocation. This is Economics 101 material, and it’s not even uniquely libertarian, though Hayek is the most eloquent stater of the fact that I know of.)

  • maxheadroom

    but then I would rather see no scientific research whatsoever funded with taxpayer’s money.

    Ironic that the argument you make is being seen via technology that would not have been possible if not for taxpayers money.

  • “Ironic that the argument you make is being seen via technology that would not have been possible if not for taxpayers money.

    Certainly some of the vital work done on the internet was government funded. That is an inevitable feature of our mixed economy. However some of the wealth that exists in the former Soviet Union was created under communism. That is not to say that it was only made possible by communism, it’s just the system they had at the time.

    Without government, I am not only sure we would have the internet, I am quite convinced in would be in a more advanced state than it is now. Moreover, most of the developments that have made the internet useful to us, and the overwhelming majority of content that makes it what it is, were in the private sector.

  • Economics Geek

    Ironic that the argument you make is being seen via technology that would not have been possible if not for taxpayers money.

    What nonsense. If government had not monopolised and then regulated telecommunications for most the time that telecommunications have existed, we would probably have had something not unlike the internet 30 years ago. It is rather like saying without the NHS, Britain would have no hospitals.

    Innovations happen in spite of government, not because of it.

  • Nick M

    I honestly don’t see how basic

  • Nick M

    Oops! I know not what went wrong there.

    I was going to say that I don’t understand how basic research can be funded except through the state. If anyone can suggest a tractable alternative, I’m all ears.

  • Noel Cooper

    If anyone can suggest a tractable alternative, I’m all ears.

    Try this for starters, four hundred million pounds a year on medical research (much of it basic) with neither a commercial imperative nor the involvement of the state.

  • Pete_London

    Jack Gannaway

    For example, there is almost no commercial profit that could be made from calculus, Newton only researched it because money was donated to support his work.

    I’m confused. In opposition to Perry you assert that taxpayers should be forced to fund research. In support of that statement you cite the example of an important piece of research by Newton, who was funded by private voluntary donation. Eh?

  • J

    “Without government, I am not only sure we would have the internet, I am quite convinced in would be in a more advanced state than it is now. Moreover, most of the developments that have made the internet useful to us, and the overwhelming majority of content that makes it what it is, were in the private sector.”

    Without government?! That’s a rather huge leap. I mean, I firmly believe that without government, we would by now have robot maids in our homes. But this is truly a statement of blind faith rather than anything that can be argued one way or the other. Just how far back in history would the libertarian revolution have had to have happened for us to have a better Internet today?

    I agree that most of what makes the Internet useful has been developed privately. But then most of what makes roads useful (namely, cars) has been developed privately. That doesn’t really mean that motorways would have sprung into existence without the state.

  • Economics Geek

    That doesn’t really mean that motorways would have sprung into existence without the state.

    Quite so. It would have been interesting if we had been able to develop without imposed CPO’ed motorways and see what alternatives came into play. Alas we will never know.

  • John_R

    Perry, “government-funded” should read “Federally funded”. There is nothing preventing state governments from funding stem-cell research like California(Link), which was approved by the voters via referendum. Which recently survived a legal challenge(Link)

    IIRC, Conneticutt and Wisconsin are also funding Stem cell research.

  • James

    but I fail to see why people who take a very different view should be forced to fund something they regard as child-killing

    So no more adventures abroad for the US military, then?

  • Nick M

    I’m going to sound awfully unlibertarian here but…

    I simply don’t believe that important subjects like pure maths, astrophysics or the areas of biology and chemistry without applications* would ever be suitable funded without the government. I think it is one of the few areas where the state is vital. I can understand how something like the Wellcome Institute can raise the cash privately for medical research (however “basic”) but would research into abstract algebra or superstrings be able to do the same? I doubt it.

    The quantity of GDP needed for this sort of stuff is so small that the difference in the tax rate would be infinitessimal. OK some libertarians/minimal government types might protest that on principle but they can hardly protest it practically.

    And, yes, research in these “esoteric” fields matters. It matters a lot.

  • Noel Cooper

    I simply don’t believe that important subjects like pure maths, astrophysics or the areas of biology and chemistry without applications* would ever be suitable funded without the government.

    This is another example of the state crowding out alternatives which inevitably leads to the state making itself necessary. Basic research can be (and is) funded by university endowments and private foundations, or stimulated by the award of prizes funded by benefactors, to give a few examples. Increasing such funding requires wider knowledge of the enormous value of basic research, so that cash can be obtained by free will rather than by state force – perhaps difficult but certainly achievable. However if the state doles out what you require there is no need to engage with the public, so basic science remains obscure and state funding inevitably becomes essential. There is a practical libertarian solution and it is the opposite of becoming yet another special interest group seeking favours from politicians.

  • Nick M

    Noel,
    Your point is essentially taken – to an extent. I see what you mean about raising funds and raising awareness going hand in hand. But a lot of basic science (especially my area of interest – maths and physics) is obscure by its very nature. When I’ve been to the US I’ve always been deeply impressed by the amount of private cash going into all sorts of cultural things – science, opera, art galleries etc. – and while this is excellent I still don’t think that it can ever cover all aspects of scientific research. A huge majority of the UK population can’t even factorise a quadratic – how are they going to appreciate the importance of research into some of the more baroque aspects of number theory? I hope that doesn’t sound patronising. It isn’t meant to be. I guess, above everything I lament the abysmal quality of current UK state-school science and math education.

    I mentioned number theory because research into it resulted in the RSA algorithm.

  • Daveon

    Without government, I am not only sure we would have the internet, I am quite convinced in would be in a more advanced state than it is now.

    I’m not. I think we’d have multiple competing solutions, running probably more basic systems on systems which just don’t interop. I recommend Charles Fergussons High Stakes, No Prisoners about the creation of front page and his interactions with Netscape, AOL and Microsoft. Very interesting, and essential reading for anybody interested in how to manage a start up buy out.

    Sometimes governments do good things, or rather avoid bad things. I’ll freely concur that it’s often through luck rather than judgement but I think the internet was something that just wasn’t going to appear through private action. For things like the internet and also mobile comms, having organisations impose a standard helps.

    From my time inside the coms industry, my feeling is that without the government the web would have spent a lot more time as BBS systems and Usenews than it did.

    Charlie Stross (www.antipope.org) has some interesting thoughts on this at the moment.

  • B's Freak

    Doesn’t government funding by its very nature bring politics into the equation? Doesn’t that mean that the research will be moved in the direction most likely to satisfy whatever lobbying group is capable of applying the most pressure on the politicians?

    Seems to me that this naturally ends up with junk science. Science directed by political debate and not scientific debate is how we ended up with the Kyoto Accord.

  • hey

    Nick and Mandril are doing a nice job trolling.

    Nick M: You should investigate the Perimeter Institute. A pure physics research lab, privately funded, devoted to doing things that government labs can’t, don’t and won’t do. You should also look at Bell Labs. Privately funded and did all sorts of things related to basic research, with the hope of coming up with something useful (also, the phone company relied on high end advances in information theory, electrical engineering, and physics to make their network work). The government screwed up the situation through their anti-monopoly efforts, hiving off the incentive to innovate, as did the socialist investigations of Dupont post WWI, so that they refused any gain from the critical work they did in atomic energy research.

    In terms of past work, you should look to your very own Cavendish Labs, fully privately funded by an aristocrat who was interested in science.

    As always, government involvement screws things up, rather than helping, by forcing the “one right solution”, elevating process over results, etc. Look at how Nasa has completely botched spaceframe research until now.

    As to the Internet… a great example of a free market program, DARPA acts like a private entity, with no oversight, working on all sorts of things. That is not how the government normally operates and not how it can operate at a large scale. Government research is ridden with fads and politically correct activity, wasting billions on me too research rather than looking to innovative ideas. It’s the nature of the beast, more so than private funding (which does it as well, but has more freedom and many independent actors who have different ideas on the “best” ideas).

    Daveon: look at the “benefits” of government involvement in mobile comms. Europe is legally mandated to use GSM, and has no good transition to 3G and has a very crappy 2.5G implementation. Conversely CDMA systems turned out to be the way to go for 3G (hence why all 3G is some form of CDMA), and the CDMA carriers have an easy path to transition from 2G to 3G. Everyone has a business model problem, but technically CDMA transitions better (look at the Koreans and Japanese). Government is bad because it mandates a single solution, a single decision, that is “best” according to political reality. If you’re anything close to an engineer, you’ll recognise that as a Single Point of Failure and a VERY BAD THING!

  • Kim du Toit

    Considering that Bush vetoed the funding for any number of reasons NOT economic, can we ignore the red herring?

    Here’s the deal: using human stem-cells for research makes a lot of people feel icky — me among them — because I get a horrible feeling that one day, there is just the wee chance that people may be bred for the sole purpose of “advancing science”, and because the potential benefits for society as a whole are “just to vast” to let a little thing like a small inner voice of disquiet give one pause.

    And THAT is why Bush vetoed it. He hasn’t stopped the process, simply refused to allow federal funding for this kind of research, for the same reasons that federal funding may not be spent on abortion clinics.

    I have a horrible feeling that opening this can of worms is going to lead to unpleasantness somewhere in the future. I don’t have any proof for that feeling, and I sincerely hope that my misgivings prove to be groundless. GWB feels the same way as I do, hence his veto.

    Using “discarded” human remains brings back too many memories of the arguments used by Nazi “scientists” when they used Jews for their ghoulish experiments.

    I seem to recall that their published findings were destroyed by order of either Truman or Eisenhower, because he felt that the cost of such knowledge was too high.

    I get that same feeling now, and no amount of clever rationalizing will dispel it.

  • rosignol

    I have a horrible feeling that opening this can of worms is going to lead to unpleasantness somewhere in the future.

    The same could be said of damn near any invention, Kim.

    BTW, I recall hearing somewhere that the information that resulted from the nazi experiments with regards to disease, incubation, etc were actually assimilated into the general body of medical knowledge, not destroyed.

  • Kim du Toit’s reasons for disliking this are clearly also Bush’s and it really is that simple. It does not make Kim (or Bush) anti-science, it makes them anti-using human ‘bits’ for research.

    THAT (and only that) was the subject of the article.

  • “For example, there is almost no commercial profit that could be made from calculus”

    ????????????????

    Find me JUST ONE SINGLE invention of any importance in the last 150 years where differential calculus does not underpin the mathematical or physical principles that govern its operation.

    As Rutherford famously said, “All science is Physics. The rest is stamp collecting”.

    And all physics is just maths. And most of that is calculus.

  • Daveon

    hey,

    look at the “benefits” of government involvement in mobile comms.

    Actually, that’s exactly what I was also thinking of.

    I actually don’t think the points you raise really help your argument.

    I am “close” to being an engineer and I work in the mobile phone business and GSM has nothing like a single point of failure. In fact, it’s a massive and vibrant market with lots and lots of competition and technological inovation. More than you get working in the straight CDMA market place where one company, with some hard to deal with execs, pretty much rules the roost.

  • “That doesn’t really mean that motorways would have sprung into existence without the state.

    I wasn’t claiming a causality, I was arguing against the premise that this site is somehow a product of government spending. That the internet would have been invented without the state, and that most of what makes the internet work was devloped privately, are separate assertions that go to this point.

    I don’t know why you think motorways would not exist without government. I have heard the “public good” for some roads but it does not apply here (non-excludability is a requirement). There is obviously a demand and it is easy to charge for use. Railways in England devloped without the state and were nationalised later – so why no motorways?

    Daveon, I also believe we would have had competing internets but the trend with technologies is for a standard to develop. With VHS and Beta Max, the sucessful technology was not the one experts believed best (because experts have less information than the market).

    Thankfully most decisions over standards on the net have been made in this way but some have not. I believe competing standards may have produced a better internet in the end.

  • toolkien

    ***No one said that President Buch vetoed the bill on economic grounds (although he should have done).

    Perry has pointed to the basic assumption (the meta context) in the report – i.e. that all important things must come from government.***

    I agree that those who are criticizing him are steeped in tax and spend paradigms of their own, I was just merely pointing out that Bush has spent like a drunken sailor and has (now) the grand total of one veto to his name. I’m perfectly aware of the Statist mind set that nothing is good unless it is State sanctioned and funded.

    Given his overall spendthrift ways, it is obvious that he is trying to curtail money spent on something that he doesn’t like the nature of, which is really the substance of the attack by those who do like the nature of such research.

    Branching off a bit perhaps, but a hard definition of when life is preservable by collective force needs to be made (and no, I don’t want another exhausting internet debate just now). At what juncture is a person “vested” with the right of collective protection (if we are to have such a thing)? And THAT should be what is paid for collectively, and if fertilized eggs, or a collection of cells, don’t meet the standard as preservable, then whatever is done by private individuals is their own concern, and no collective resources should be used for research. Easier said than done, I know, but we really need to have it out once and for all as to what is preservable.

  • Daveon

    I believe competing standards may have produced a better internet in the end.

    They may have. I suspect they wouldn’t have. My gut feeling is we would have had something more akin to a huge number of AOL type serivces and, probably, more government funded “walled gardens” like Minitel and Prestel.

    The issue with Betamax wasn’t down to experts. There’s no debate, Betamax was a technically better solution than VHS. VHS won the marketing game and got the market. The market isn’t perfect, it often makes astonishinly bad decisions. Warren Buffett frequently points to this as being one of the reasons he’s as rich as he is.

  • Jack Gannaway

    1. My point about Newton, ill stated though it was, was more about the lack of a direct commercial application for calculus, than about his funding. Newton did not, and could not have, sold calculus. (He kept it secret out of scholarly paranoia and because he was already suspected of being a heretic, he probably didn’t want to aggrevate The Powers That Be further with smart alec maths)

    2. People are talking about an ideal situation re philathropy funded research. If there is not a culture of educational/scientific philanthropy, as in the UK, then what is the alternative but to let government help out?

    All these suppositions are made upon the assumption of a near perfect world with perfect information, where everyone understands the importance of funding research, and not giving your money to animal charities instead.

    N.B.! information is not perfect, people do not make the ‘right’ decisions, they are not rational and spend their money in unpredictable ways. Government sometimes has to compensate for this lack of rationality.

  • information is not perfect, people do not make the ‘right’ decisions, they are not rational and spend their money in unpredictable ways. Government sometimes has to compensate for this lack of rationality.

    Expecting a government tp compensate for a ‘lack of rationality’ is rather like expecting a bunch of alcoholics to compensate for a lack of sobriety. Governments are motivated by political considerations, not ‘rationality’.

  • veryretired

    This is a great thread about a significant subject—the use of “people bits” to make other, useful body parts and repairs, but some of the posters here are making two fundamental errors regarding the use of state funding for any purpose, good or ill.

    First is the assumption that, because the state was involved, a particular innovation or type of activity or kind of facility could not have existed without the state supporting and funding it.

    This is a basic tenet of the statist mindset, and it creeps into any discussion of how to do things because we have all been taught since childhood that any major advance in society has to have had some form of state sanction or involvement.

    It is often seen in discussions about poverty or other social needs. Any criticism of statist programs is automatically met with the response, “Oh, sure, just let them starve in the street then, huh?”

    It is literally impossible for some people to imagine a society in which kindness, charity, and compassion could possibly operate without state action. Indeed, to be opposed to state action, and for private, voluntary organizations to give aid to the needy, is deemed to be lacking in compassion, as if good works require statist formulations.

    The obvious and rational response to this argument, whether regarding poverty, science, medicine, or any other subject is similar to an argument discussed at Chicagoboyz the other day—if you have a choice between free, independent people making a series of decisions, based on their own interests and expertise, or having the decisions made by a politicized, uninformed process manned by people whose primary motivation is securing votes in the next election, which do you choose?

    The statist, because they truly fear the former, will always pick the latter.

    Secondly, and even more pervasive, is the misguided notion that a desirable, positive outcome justifies the process to achieve it. This is used both to explain the need for state action, i.e., “None of this could ever have happened if the gov’t didn’t provide huge sums of money.” and to justify libertarian or other non-statist approaches, i.e., “There would be a much more efficient or positive outcome if the state kept its nose out.”

    Both of these variations of the argument are in error.

    Liberty, individual freedom, the right to make choices as free adults is its own justification, regardless of outcome. It does not need to be justified, and is not invalidated if some people make foolish, wrong, or tawdry choices.

    Inalienable means just that—no other justifications are needed. If a free society and its members don’t spend their money, individually or in aggregate, as wisely or justly as you would like, then it is your complex and difficult job to persuade them to change their habits and realign their priorities.

    Maybe some things would not have happened, or been built, or been provided, if the state had not stepped in to take the money from its citizens and drive those outcomes. But, just maybe, a few hundred million more people would be alive today to go bumbling along living their lives as they see fit if so many states had not decided that they required, and had a right to, the lives and treasure of their citizens.

    For every moon shot there is a Bergen-Belsen. For every node on the internet there is the ghost of a man, woman, or child who cries out from beyond this life.

    The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not justified by some positive outcome, but by the minds and spirits of individuals as ends in and of themselves.

    The state, for all its good intentions, may not pave its highways with the bones of its citizens.

  • My gut feeling is we would have had something more akin to a huge number of AOL type serivces and, probably, more government funded “walled gardens” like Minitel and Prestel.

    The question is why would people want this? The market aims to provide people with what they want, otherwise capitalists cannot make any money. AOL had the option of not allowing its customers access to the web, but they did because that is what people wanted.

    In the scenario you envisage there would ample opportunity for entrepreneurs to make money by allowing inter-operability.

    As for government funded internets, I was arguing against government involvement altogether.

    And Betamax was not superior, the tapes were great quality but the recording time sucked. People decided they would rather quantity over quality. Engineers may lament that but it is what the people actually wanted.

  • Jack Gannaway

    How many street lights are provided by private firms? How many private bin lorry firms are there – collect your rubbish then drop a bill though your letterbox? Who, other than the most absurdly generous individual, is going to fund social science research?

    Consider the economics of state intervention, not the politics and philosophy.

  • How many street lights are provided by private firms?

    On private toll roads, 100% of them.

    How many private bin lorry firms are there – collect your rubbish then drop a bill though your letterbox?

    In many parts of the world, that is exactly how it is done. In many parts of Britain, it is contracted out to private companies, so simply removing the state will not end rubbish collection… “where there’s muck, there’s brass”

    Who, other than the most absurdly generous individual, is going to fund social science research?

    You are goiing to have to be more specific. Which social ‘sciences’ are you talking about?

  • Kim du Toit

    I have a horrible feeling that opening this can of worms is going to lead to unpleasantness somewhere in the future.”The same could be said of damn near any invention, Kim.”

    Rosignol,

    There is a profound difference between (say) the invention of the flying machine (which led, indirectly, to Dresden and Hiroshima) and the use of human parts for medical experimentation, even though the logic for both may be identical.

    Here’s what we do know: using people for medical experiments does not have a good pedigree (vivisection, the Nazi stuff, and so on).

    I’m not an anti-abortionist — I think it’s a horrible but sometimes inescapable evil — so I’m not approaching this from an “all life is sacred” perspective.

    And frankly, using human remains for experiments doesn’t worry me too much — pathologists use cadavers to instruct medical students all the time — but what made me feel really icky was when scientists and some academics said that there was inadequate supply of stem cells from aborted fetuses, and perhaps the supply could be augmented by artificial insemination and test-tube fetus production.

    If anyone doesn’t see the similarities between that proposal and the “Matrix” power supply, then we have no common ground for further discussion.

    No; rather nip that little thought, and any possibility thereof, in the bud (and even that metaphor, in this context, is harshly ironic).

    Or, at the very least, refuse to allow the government to participate in the process, which is what Bush has done, in essence.

    Vis-a-vis the results of Nazi medical experimentation, you are incorrect. All the files recovered by the Western Allies were destroyed. I don’t know if the Russians did the same with whatever they came across.

    Nevertheless, some of the data, or at least the top-level findings, managed to get out. I earnestly recommend this article as background.

  • Kim du Toit

    Perry,

    Sorry if I hijacked the thread. I hadn’t meant to turn this into an ethics discussion. But considering that Bush’s veto was made on ethical, not economic, grounds, I felt I had to set the record straight.

  • Julian Morrison

    Well, actually, yeah he is turning his back on science. It’s just that in the US system, he can veto a loosening of the law, but he can’t tighten it without going through congress – who right now don’t share his concerns.

    It’s not as if mr no-veto is taking any sort of principled libertarian stand against pork!

  • Uain

    Actually Julian,
    I would submit that perhaps he has indeed. Presently there are multiple therapies available from adult stem cells and stem cells from Umbilical Cords (of live birthed infants). The embryonic stem cell discussion is about *potential* learning and *theoretic* therapies. Hence, unlimited pork for the biologic science establishment, since this would start out as Basic Research funding and grow from there.

  • Sigivald: you got the Bible quote wrong. Money is not the root of all evil, THE LOVE OF money is the root of all evil. Money itself is morally neutral.

    Perry: Expecting a government tp compensate for a ‘lack of rationality’ is rather like expecting a bunch of alcoholics to compensate for a lack of sobriety.

    …or a bunch of whores to compensate for a lack of chastity.

    Hmmm…these two ideas need to be tied together somehow. A parliament of whores loving money to the point where they’ll bend over and grab their ankles for anything…unleasing evil with the degree of their love of money, amassing their war chests and campaigning like asking “hey baby, how ’bout you and me and some of this pork?!” They turn it around and pimp it back at us.

    The junkie whores on K street are beggin’ pimp daddy for just another fix to get through the day….