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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • If you put your tin foil hat on just right, you may think that stem cell research could be the biggest area of financial gain in the field of medicine.

    And, you wouldn't want to spoil that by mixing in federal funds and possibly having to put the findings into the public domain.

    Taking the federal money out of the picture makes it a nice... um... "investment opportunity".
    • Backing up in general and ignoring the ethical issues ... that's the way I think it should be, anyway. The government should never fund stuff like this, because then it sets itself up in competition with private business. We should let private investment drive the space program, the educational system, disease research, etc. And I promise you that things would continue to be funded ... witness all the breast cancer marathons and such. In fact, I'm personally pledged that if the government quits taxing m

      --
      J. David works really hard, has a passion for writing good software, and knows many of the world's best Perl programmers
      • The Logic of Collective Action [amazon.com]. Whose basic thesis you can find outlined here [about.com]. (The book does a far better job though.)

        Believe it or not, the fact is that public goods are chronically underfunded. Flawed as government may be, there is no real question that in many areas government intervention is clearly a net positive good. (It is also clear that in other areas government intervention is negative, particularly when small groups manage to succeed in regulatory capture.)

        One of the areas where government intervention is key is basic research. The successes of basic research are essentially impossible to capture by existing companies. A fact that companies sometimes forget, to their loss. For example take a look at how much Xerox did not profit from inventing the GUI. This failure was not due to unfortunate coincidence, read The Innovator's Dilemma [amazon.com] to understand the intrinsic causes of that failure. If you wish, here is a sample chapter [businessweek.com] to start with.

        The moral is that Machiavelli was completely right when he said, It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new one. Which is why private industry is not a good foundation for basic science research.

        Luckily the return on investment of having public support for basic science is so outrageous that it has been provided. Otherwise, even with occasionally generous people such as you claim to be, we would get far less of it done than we do currently. Which would be very much to our detriment.