Discover more from bad cattitude
science + politics = political science
federal funding of science is not helping, it's hurting
during the last 3 years of mister toad’s wild ride with “the science™” i think many were initially loathe to believe or even imagine the extent to which “the experts” constituted a captured class who stood not so much as a check on governmental policy but as amplifiers of it.
but none of this should be surprising. they are not independent and this is trebly so for “academics.” they are as beholden as medieval bards singing for their supper and 20 times as vain. so that is only going to go one way:
he who pays the piper shall inevitably call the tune.
add to this “gato’s equation™” and you get some spectacularly bad outcomes.
science + politics = political science
kinda obvious once you see it, huh?
and it’s not as though we were not warned. perhaps one of the most prescient pieces of oratory in american history was the eisenhower farewell address. ike really knocked the cover off that one. it’s mostly remembered for its warnings about the military industrial complex, but to my mind the far graver and more insightful admonition was this: (bold mine)
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been over shadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.
clearly, these last 2 salients fit together in an ominous and mutually-reinforcing fashion.
scientists become dependent on government to fund their work.
government becomes dependent on scientists to determine its technocratic policy and broad aims.
and this rapidly becomes a bias spiral.
government does not fund inquiry, it funds results. “tell me the answer you’ll get and i’ll tell you if i’ll fund the work.”
in space after space, the lackluster back benchers have been elevated to prominence through access to funding and governmental organizations not for the excellence but for their willingness to work backward from conclusions instead of forward from data.
it’s not science, it’s ideological purity tests.
and so science is subverted.
and this subverted science then informs the public and leaders alike.
pretty soon, no one can even remember what was real and what was a bunch of ginned up justification jingo. and that way madness lies.
in the center of these webs lie the fabled few: the perpetual gold givers. their unelected careers span decades, even generations. teflon tony had over 40 years of this. it’s no accident he was the highest paid federal employee even before including his massive speaking fees and royalties on things he helped fund with your money (and need not disclose).
and boy oh boy does THAT become a self serving system…
these folks become all but medieval popes in their spheres and once ensconced, make limpets look easy to dislodge.
no one dares stand up to them. academia winds up cast in the role of beholden beggar. they need the grant money. go against the regent, and sure as eggs is eggs, you ain’t getting any.
whole universities have come to be ordered around this need. grants and publication get tenure and stature. get them and rise, get them not and fall. and this has essentially placed a VERY small number of unelected federal employees and agencies in charge of the direction of research at america’s universities.
if the paymasters say that the french won the battle of agincourt, well, then that is the song we shall sing.
and this is not just about money, it’s about LOTS of money.
you really do not want to underestimate the size of this.
the grants are staggering.
ever avid avian and longtime gatopal™ kbirb made this chart showing health and human services funding to just one university (yale).
this is one agency and one school.
and they got $1.74bn in 3 years of covid.
that’s billion, with a b.
students schmoodents, this one grant source alone is more that the entire income from tuition, room, and board for yale during the troika of years covidian.
you can buy an awful lot of fawning loyalty splashing around that kind of cheddar.
you get adherence to narrative.
you get attacks on your enemies.
and it’s how mere associate professors plot their rise.
some of gregg’s communications leaked during the FOIA festival.
note that he’s speaking to francis collins, head of NIH and to tony fauci.
if this is not a case of acute simpering supplication, i’d love to see your diagnostic definition… (red boxes mine)
this is what you get for all that money.
there is nothing “independent” about a university system that is a dependency of federal grant money. they are not “fact checkers” they are bought and paid for narrative drones. their interests are so utterly conflicted by their funding sources that there is just no daylight between them and federal edict.
every kind of science you can name from biology to ecology to climate to epidemiology has become a ward of the state and as ike predicted:
not only has the employment of academics come to be dominated by public funding, but the government has become captive to a technocratic elite made up of them.
and round and round it goes.
their narrative determines and constrains presidents and congress-critters alike.
much of the machinery of governance has become a circular system for trumping up crises to extract funding and of creating technocrat job security with piles of loot and ever increasing calls for action.
this is not a basis for government, it’s a recipe for disaster.
it elevates the corrupt and venal at the expense of the best and brightest.
no one who follows data is allowed in. only those who will “find what they are told” are getting the goodies and the sinecures.
and science by political commissar is a bad, bad road.
it all gets so tangled and rarified that the scientists selected to push narrative become “the science” that then determines who gets elected and promoted by framing the issues in selective fashion to maximize cash flow and prestige. a fabulous few gold givers become the center of a web of distortions and deviations from sound science that is all but unrecoverable.
and this is why it needs to stop.
“government to allocate $27 bazillion dollars to cancer research” is a feel good headline. no one is pro cancer.
but it’s a devastating trojan horse.
why would anyone trust the state to guess who is best to bestow this funding upon?
why would anyone trust them to pick the most promising use even if they knew it?
and why cancer? why not stroke? why not heart disease? why not longevity or ideas like basic health and better immune function? why not neonatal care?
by what mechanism could this even be judged?
this funding comes from somewhere. it’s not limitless. each new allocation means something else is less funded.
these are trade offs. what did we forgo to do this?
every one of these programs that claims to be “needed science” is almost always a misuse of cash.
if free people would do it, such programs are not needed. if they won’t, well, probably they have a reason.
this whole “private companies do not do basic research” trope is bunk. the few counter examples are odd corner cases and monopolies by the state.
putting limited resources to best use is the work of markets, not bureaucrats. markets face discipline on results, federales do not. and we all know what happens when you allow those who are not affected by bad outcomes to make decisions…
every choice like this is effectively saying: “we know better than the market, we can better allocate resources and judge promise, and even though we have no way (or even need) to measure outcomes you should trust us.”
then they add politics to science and get political science.
this is not the path of progress, it’s the facilitation of fiefdoms.
when you allow bureaucrats to grant the gold that greases the gears of entire fields of inquiry and endeavor, you’ve made them political potentates, dominating and determining the direction of work and the shape of “acceptable answers.”
you’re not funding open research, you’re funding its absence. you’re funding justification, non-diversity, inequity, and exclusion.
that’s the real trade off. it’s not “if government did not fund alzheimer’s research no one would.” it’s “because the government funded alzheimer’s research it spent decades running down a blind alley because amyloid plaques were someone’s hobbyhorse and that is all they would fund and those who claimed they were wrong all got pilloried and deprived of funding, tenure, and publication and we set the science back a generation.”
it’s not enhancement, it’s crowding out.
it’s not systems of science, it’s systematic slanting thereof and it has become endemic rot throughout our governance and our universities.
you wanna know how they got so woke? this is how.
fealty to federal funders.
we’ve mistaken termites for building materials and monoculture for idea ecosystem diversity.
and so we must admit the real trade off:
it’s not about “if government does not fund this no one will”
it’s “if government funds this, you will not get science, you’ll get politics.”
and it’s time we stopped being such clowns about it.