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]

Samizdata quote of the day

Government crowds out productive research by betting on the wrong horses—those who seek funding by dipping their hands in the public till. As Ridley puts it, “If the government spends money on the wrong kind of science, it tends to stop people working on the right kind of science.” Before you cheer for politicians promising medical breakthroughs, realise their actions may prevent the discovery of cancer cures.

Barry Brownstein

10 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • President promises to fund curing of cancer. Other presidential candidates are now at it too.

    So nothing new under the sun: Nixon 1971.

    I will also ask for an appropriation of an extra $100 million to launch an intensive campaign to find a cure for cancer, and I will ask later for whatever additional funds can effectively be used. The time has come in America when the same kind of concentrated effort that split the atom and took man to the moon should be turned toward conquering this dread disease. Let us make a total national commitment to achieve this goal.

    Meanwhile, in the real world, progress continues to be made; things are (always) usefully better than a few years previously (thank goodness, and thanks to the people doing the work); “conquering” remains an overstatement.

    Best regards

  • Fred Z

    This is a special case of the general law that government demand crowds out private demand.

    Only private demand and the trades resulting from it are capable of maximizing value.

    Government specializes in buying us stuff we do not want at the price offered, as evidenced by our refusal to buy it at that price.

  • Stonyground

    Fred is bang on target, especially that final sentence. I would also add that the same thing applies to investment. If the government is “investing” money in something it is usually because private investors have worked out that it’s a terrible idea.

  • Caligari

    I think that this quote is not that bad. Yes, gouverments or “the people” can turn science in a way. That is not bad at all.
    The problem is the idea that you just need money and you can do anything.

    My point is. If you spends 1000 EUR or Dollar or Pounds to, for instance of cource, Gender Studies, you can’t spend it for other scientific projects.

  • NickM

    Compre and contrast Samuel Langley (funded by the Smithsonian) and a couple of bike guys from Ohio (funded by themselves).

  • thefattomato

    the point of goverment research has degenerated into a justification for taxation rather an attempt to find solutions.

  • Government favours articulacy over ability.

    As chance would have it, one minute before seeing this post, I had picked up and put away a copy of Dava Sobel’s “Longitude” – a history of an able but inarticulate artificer, opposed by a less able (for the task at hand) but articulate and well-connected public official, working on just such a “we must solve it” problem.

  • Runcie Balspune

    The underlying issue is that the government normally jumps on the bandwagon by the time everyone else is abandoning it. I have relatives in the health services, and frequently they are doing stuff in management that I saw happen in the private sector and is now being abandoned.

    Government initiatives are always behind the technology curve as well, for example, investment, promotion and subsidization of low energy light bulbs was being done whilst the vastly more efficient LEDs were coming to market. Similarly, when private industry is investing in self-driving cars and drones, the government is pressing ahead with manually operated HS2 rolling stock, even when self-driving trains have been in existence for decades (see DLR), although this is probably more a “union thing”.

    Its the blindness of those who think the government can do anything better, the logical choice is to allow many people to try different (competing) strategies and then let market selection pick the best.
    The worse things about government decisions are that the people making them are normally unaccountable or out of office by the time it goes TITSUP.

  • Paul Marks

    Good post.

  • Runcie Balspune writes:

    Similarly, when private industry is investing in self-driving cars and drones, the government is pressing ahead with manually operated HS2 rolling stock, even when self-driving trains have been in existence for decades (see DLR), …

    Several minor things. Fistly, government also seems to be ‘investing’ enthusiastically in autonomous cars. Secondly, there are currently no autonomous cars (ie without human supervision and realistic possibility of taking control). Thirdly, people should be a lot more sceptical about the possibilities of (and timescales for) truly autonomous cars – driverless trains are much easier.

    More importantly, the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) has a maximum usual operating speed of 40mph; the planned equivalent for HS2 is 225mph. I think this speed difference makes a very big safety difference between a driverless train and a train with driver (presumably significantly assisted by technology).

    Best regards