23 April 2012

The Decline of Big Science

In an essay in the New York Review of Books, Stephen Weinberg ends The Decline of Big Science with the rare observation:

We had better not try to defend science by attacking spending on these other needs. We would lose, and would deserve to lose. Some years ago I found myself at dinner with a member of the Appropriations Committee of the Texas House of Representatives. I was impressed when she spoke eloquently about the need to spend money to improve higher education in Texas. What professor at a state university wouldn’t want to hear that? I naively asked what new source of revenue she would propose to tap. She answered, “Oh, no, I don’t want to raise taxes. We can take the money from health care.” This is not a position we should be in.

It seems to me that what is really needed is not more special pleading for one or another particular public good, but for all the people who care about these things to unite in restoring higher and more progressive tax rates, especially on investment income. I am not an economist, but I talk to economists, and I gather that dollar for dollar, government spending stimulates the economy more than tax cuts. It is simply a fallacy to say that we cannot afford increased government spending. But given the anti-tax mania that seems to be gripping the public, views like these are political poison. This is the real crisis, and not just for science.


  1. this is of course true, but perhaps education standards in the US have already dropped to a level where the majority just dont get it

  2. I'm inclined to agree with that comment, Raf. I believe it's not necessarily the fault of the US education system in itself, but due to other influences of the Western lifestyle - the media, technology, and weapons of mass distraction from the heart of issues.