technocratic domination: when government funds science, government controls science

eisenhower feared the rise and dominance of the military and industrial might that had driven fascism and imperialism to the fore in the 1930’s. he saw it in germany, in italy, and in japan. he saw it ongoing in the united states and in the soviet union and the cold war that was ripe to be waged and to come to dominate public perception and geopolitics as a result. largely, he was correct. for this reason, his farewell address is well remembered for its warnings against the “military industrial complex.”

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together

this is a wise and principled man who had seen enough of war and of war mongers to wish to see no more.

his stark warnings about industry and government riding around in the same car resulting in the driving over of we the people and the need for an informed, alert public protective of its liberty and agency that it might thrive and prosper in freedom rings as true to today as it did then.

oracular as this was, even more prescient was this less remembered but, to my mind, far more presently important admonition:

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.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocation, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet in holding scientific 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.

because unlike many generals who are mired in the past and determined to fight the last war, ike saw the shape of the war to come for this, not the arms races of great powers, is the threat to the lives and livelihoods of today and it is further reaching and holds the potential to be FAR more terrible.

this is the “tyranny of experts” and the utter dominance of discourse and the foundational freedoms and order of society that it can attain.

such technocratic domination comes to pass because of a feedback loop that establishes the framework, both political and scientific, to create a “rule by experts.”

the problem is that by the time this loop has run, there are not experts, merely commissars, chosen and promoted for fealty, not foresight or accuracy. science becomes a guild of medieval bards singing the false praises of feckless leaders because more so now that ever, science runs on money and just as in the courts of kings, he who pays the piper shall call the tune.

the government picks scientists who tell it what it wants to hear. these are elevated. others are starved. soon, anyone entering a field knows that “if you want have a career, you need to study X and your conclusions must look like Y.” this is not exploration, it’s justification. this, in turn, supports the “right sort of government,” a technocratic government, not one pushing choice or a small state. that’s no use to the grant grabbers and subsidy snufflers. so “the science” always comes down on the side of fascist systems because that’s where the gravy train is.

and this is a bad, bad cycle for those in search of personal rights and agency, for the whole point of a technocratic state is to tell you what to do for your own good and get rich and powerful while doing so.

so it all comes down to money and who gets to hand it out.

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the grant and subsidy system for american science has become VAST and this vastness poses several problems:

  1. it crowds out private science. you cannot compete against those getting free money with money you have to raise, pay back, and provide return upon. this is especially true in basic science whose time to return is longer and outcomes less certain. this pushes the private sector out of entire fields.

  2. it allocates funding based on non-market considerations. there is no valid system to compare alternative uses of scarce capital. it is instead allocated using patronage and the preferences of bureaucrats aspiring to be princes. this becomes both self serving and self supporting. it results in deep and enduring regulatory and public choice capture.

  3. this concentrates the power of the purse and thereby the power to literally direct and shape the sweep of scientific endeavor into the hands of a small, unaccountable aristocracy who in turn, feed a set of select universities, ideologies, and organizations drawing them into their financial and dogmatic orbits. and the gravity of such systems comes to dominate everything.

the establishment of such systems is always done for what sound like the best of reasons. “the government should fund studies in tropical diseases!” this sounds great. who is not favor of more tropical disease solutions? let’s cure it! huzzah!

but this is a trap.

it’s easy to pass this off to the citizenry as “the good kind of government” and the “solving of real problems to the benefit of the general welfare.” but it’s not. generally, it’s a huge waste, a carnival of cronyism, and the setup for the ideological domination of science by a few unaccountable agents so that that science can, in turn, be used to justify and dominate government opposing anything remotely libertarian in favor of central planning.

consider the above points:

so we fund research into tropical disease with government grants and projects. this crowds out the private projects. but it also prevents unrelated projects. it takes scarce capital and research talent and allocates it to studying, say, zika. even if they find a cure, was this a good outcome? how can you even know? what else might we have done with the same resources?

this is one of the great governmental sleights of hand.

they point to a benefit and ignore not just the cost, but also the opportunity cost. what else might we have done with that money? sure, we cured zika, but what if we could have reduced heart disease by 25% using the same inputs? that would be a FAR greater benefit and central allocators have no way to weigh such things or even get a real look at the universe of options.

should we fund work on prions or stem cells? should we pursue vaccines or means of treatment or possibly ways to make people more innately healthy? these are questions you need a market to answer. government will never get them right. it does not even have incentive to try to get it right.

so you get a program that sounded good, but is almost certainly a huge net loser relative to what you could have had and you lose unpredictable advances because they are starved of funding and staffing.

this then concentrates the power in the hands of a very few people.

you get things like the fauci fiefdom. he’s the highest paid federal employee. he’s paid more than the president. and he’s not even the head of his agency.

but he is the top gold giver, the funder at the center of the spider web who has half the universities in the US on payroll and who knows how many non-profit and corporate collaborations ongoing. this makes him untouchable. he can color WAY outside the lines on gain of function and nothing happens even when the evidence surfaces that the NIH probably paid peter daszak and co at EHA to design covid-19 in wuhan. (and yes, despite what many claim, the evidence on this is extremely compelling. the systematic suppression of that evidence stands testament to just how much power and fealty one can amass in 40 years of scientific patronage.)

these fiefdoms exist at the sufferance of and therefore must be of benefit to the governmental powers that be.

modern government has been veering dangerously into technocracy. they claim “this is too important to be left to markets” or “markets cannot account for X.”

this is, of course, exactly wrong. only free markets and well designed rights structures can assess trade-offs in any meaningful sense and generate the pareto-optimal outcomes that do not strip from high value projects to fund those of low worth.

the state is not seeking to fix this, they are seeking to break it because they have projects that suit their desire for power, ideologies, and the financial weal of themselves and their conies and collaborators.

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fascism is foremost a corporatist system of organization. it creates a connected aristocracy where the government dominates the companies and the companies dominate the government as one filthy hand rubs another and the dirt winds up all over we the people, for everywhere and always will gato’s first law of political economy pertain:

“as soon as you allow politicians to determine that which is bought or sold, the first thing to be bought and sold will always be politicians.”

this is what politicians and big business alike want. politicians need the money to run their campaigns and seek to dominate business focus as a means to express and consolidate power. big business wants to be bigger business and as such is no fan of competition or free markets. they want regulation, subsidy, preferencing, and means to exclude others from their spheres.

and the solution to both of these sets of desires is the same:

technocracy.

if you have government by experts telling us what to do, where to allocate resources, dictating regulation, taxation, and social mores for “the common good” then government gets to bend you to its vision, and big business gets to do the bending and profit handsomely from it.

this inherently pits special interest against the public interest.

but the public is notoriously sensitive to such and so pretext and justification is needed.

and this is why federal funding of science is so unspeakably dangerous.

once federal funding comes to dominate scientific endeavor, it leads to rapid and inevitable corruption of science. it ceases to be an adversarial field of challenge and contest and becomes a form of techno-clerisy, a priesthood protecting its doctrine.

the feedback loop rapidly reduces whole fields into dogmatic dross of purified fealty highly suited to political purpose but anathema to any sort of endeavor that the likes of sir francis bacon would have recognized as science.

governmental money is the alkahest of scientific method. it dissolves it into politics and strips it of its vital nature.

we’ve seen this in 100 fields. climate science was ravaged and reduced to a one note flute of backbench hacks elevated to prominence like so many soviet commissars who had never even seen a farm placed in charge of agriculture to ensure the ideological purity of turnips.

and so we get vast subsidies for renewables and electric vehicles that could not compete in a market unaided and likely make little or no overall environmental sense. other options (like nuclear) are discarded out of hand not because they are dangerous, but because they work and the cronies cannot compete against them. power grids become more expensive and less reliable. the RTO policies purported to bring market forces to electricity instead brought double the rules and even more cronyism.

the system is fully captured.

it justifies its crony corporatism by waving around “the science” that it bought bespoke for just that purpose under the auspices of the state. it fudges figures, adulterates data, and uses models with no proven predictive power as basis for world shaping policy and punditry.

it suppresses alternatives and ideas like adaptation.

the covid response has been little different. the testing industrial complex that fed the terrible and over inclusive definitions of cases and hospitalizations and deaths became something akin to a perpetual motion machine for each new round of testing begat more “covid” and thus demanding more testing to support counterproductive metrics, inflate threat, and, of course, to produce “more covid” to start the cycle again.

we ran 2 million tests a day in the US at some points. overall, we spent on the order of $1.5 billion dollars a week on it, probably $80 billion last year alone. we ran more tests for covid than flu tests in my whole lifetime and maybe ever in our history as a nation.

and it bought us nothing.

we went all in on vaccines that do not stop spread.

it was not “warp speed” it was “warped science.”

because that is how it ALWAYS works.

the “science” was so captured that health agencies literally changed the definition of herd immunity to pretend that natural immunity was not a contributor despite overwhelming data not only that it was (as it always has been) but that it was far more effective than vaccines. the failure of vaccines to stop spread has been total. they almost certainly made it worse. it’s not at all clear they even help with severity. it does not look that way in the societal data and the studies are so riddled with methodological slanting to shift outcomes that their output is literal bayseian datacrime.

and yet every regulator, health agency, and government is signing off (though a few are waking up).

regulatory capture breaks cost benefit analysis.

and it is the inevitable outcome of technocracy which is, in turn, the inevitable and deeply corrupt outcome of government finding science.

you won’t get better experts next time. all the good ones get sublimated off in the ideological rarefication process that concentrates science into “the science.”

they wont seek truth. they will then, as now, seek power.

and it will always come in the guise of “this is a useful thing that you cannot oppose” like “saving the earth, vaccines, or curing cancer.

and this is why you need to oppose it.

these are the same people who just pushed a broken, leaky vaccine, lockdowns, and 100’s of billions in useless testing.

these are the same people who attacked the very idea of treatment and lied about dangers of drugs that worked to push for vaccines that didn’t. they presided over a $1 trillion in biopharma and medical gravy and quite possibly twice that if you add up all the hospital subsidy and managed to actually decrease hospital capacity while so doing.

we could have had better outcomes for 5% the cost by pushing known treatment regimens. instead they did not even develop them, run real trials on them, and used outright threats and bans to stop medical professionals from doing so.

we could have had better outcomes by doing nothing.

these people did not suddenly get better at achieving their stated goals or prioritizing and allocating resources.

this is just the next power grab, the next gravy train, and the next sector of science to be destroyed by patronage system.

it will not cure cancer. it will impede the best search for such a solution.

it will not fund the best ideas, it will jam capital into the pet projects of a few pharma companies and force us all toward a couple of modalities owned by cronies who know how to play ball and provide ideological cover.

it’s just another “sounds great but will break the entirety of an endeavor for a generation” TVA style plan.

they choose targets like this to make it hard to oppose. it sounds awful to say “no, you should not fund cancer research!” it makes a terrible protest sign and it takes 30 minutes to lay out the reasons to say no and 3 seconds to say “save grandma!”

and this is EAXCTLY why we need to rip this out, root and stem and why we need to do it right now while the object lesson of how “the science” can run roughshod over us and pervert, twist, and corrupt everything it touches remains fresh.

stop all government funding of science. stop all corporate subsidy, preferencing, and collaboration.

this is NOT a vampire you want to invite into the house and giving it money is just how that happens. once you do, the cycle starts, the feedback loops of crowding out and ideological rarefication commence, and you wind up here.

again.

the state will once more buy the experts it needs to justify its own ends, mire you in lysenkoism and crony corporatism, and rob you of rights and welfare while arriving at severely sub optimal if not outright pernicious outcomes.

it will happen every time until we stop this hurricane convection of technocratic domination and that ALL starts with money.

this cancer project is a truly terrible idea because all such projects, no matter how noble their aims are truly terrible ideas.

these are not people you want steering anything.

if they announced a turkey moonshot, we’d all be eating bugs for thanksgiving within 5 years…

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