Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Just When you Thought You Needed State-Funded Science

I hate state-funded science. It is a product of welfare-state mentality, and advocated by statists on both the right and the left. While the choice of research targets differs depending on what side of the political aisle one is one, the fundamental idea that basic research is a province of the government goes unchallenged.

Fundamental research is much better directed by private, entrepreneurial and corporate interests, than it is by the government. The profit motive drives better research than does the arbitrary whim of government beaurocrats, open to political pressure.

So it was with mixed feelings that I read the August 16th, 2006 Wall Street Journal article, "Donors Sustain Stem-Cell Effort In California Amid Funding Battle",

Amid court challenges from groups opposed to the state effort, private donors have contributed more than $100 million in recent years to prop up the new stem-cell research agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, as well as research programs at state universities, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal. Among the donors are Ray Dolby, the founder and chairman of Dolby Laboratories Inc., who has devoted $21 million to stem-cell-research programs in the past two years. Los Angeles real-estate developer Eli Broad has given at least $27 million. Venture capitalist John Doerr, bond-fund manager Bill Gross, and Qualcomm Inc. founder Irwin Jacobs have also been major contributors.

Such donations underscore the strong support for the controversial research in some corners of the philanthropic world, even as a larger debate rages about the role of government funding. Without these private contributions, the state might have been forced to sharply curtail operations. At the same time, the money has raised concern about the potential for private individuals influencing the direction of the research.

While I wholly disagree with state-funding of medical research, there in the midst of a beaurocratic log-jam was a perfect example of what would happen if the such research was abandoned to private interest. They'd step in, that's what; faster, better, and with more money than that state could provide by raiding its tax coffers.

If only those on the right who claim they favor limited government could dam the log-jam permanently, and redirect basic research to its rightful caretakers.

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