In Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, former Energy Secretary (and Stanford professor) Steven Chu and his colleague Thomas R. Cech penned an opinion piece entitled How to Stop Winning Nobel Prizes in Science, in which they argue for better long-term planning and consistency in the public funding of science. Cato adjunct scholar Dr. Terence Kealey agrees, suggesting the right amount would be consistently $0.
In August, 2013, Kealey wrote precisely about this in that month’s edition of Cato Unbound. Since then, he has stepped down after a long and successful tenure as vice-chancellor (the equivalent of college president in the U.S.) of the University of Buckingham in the United Kingdom.
First, Kealey considers the notion that science is a “public good,” i.e., something that should rightly be funded by government because scientific developments would otherwise be underprovided from the perspective of society as a whole.
The myth [that Science is a public good] may be the longest-surviving intellectual error in western academic thought, having started in 1605 when a corrupt English lawyer and politician, Sir Francis Bacon, published his Advancement of Learning.
Kealey went on to document that there is no evidence the public good model (as opposed to laissez faire) is more efficient at providing for the betterment of the public: