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NateTheGreat

"Separation of Science and State"

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Rand held that there should be a separation of science and state, just as there should be a separation of economics and state and church and state. One needn't convince me that when they are mingled, the state can go too far (shrimps on treadmills rings a bell)..

However, I am curious as to why a private science entity would exist. Why would someone, for example, fork over money for space travel? Sure there may be resources out there, but those resources will be many dollars and years away, and it doesn't seem to be the best investment. Another example would be travelling to the depths of the sea: why would an entrepreneur spend the money to go down there?

Answers would be appreciated. :)

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However, I am curious as to why a private science entity would exist. Why would someone, for example, fork over money for space travel? Sure there may be resources out there, but those resources will be many dollars and years away, and it doesn't seem to be the best investment. Another example would be travelling to the depths of the sea: why would an entrepreneur spend the money to go down there?

Answers would be appreciated. :)

Worthwhile question, I think. I don't know, except that not everything every tycoon does is necessarily for profit motive. What about the individual's sheer pleasure of exploration and knowledge for its own sake? If he can afford it. Even if it won't pay dividends till after his lifetime?

I certainly would rather that a bunch of like-minded super wealthy combined resources to accomplish missions in space (or the oceans) than the State decreeing that it should be done - or arbitrarily pulling the plug when it is no longer in 'our interest' - using tax dollars to do so.

Fact does remain though, that if it weren't for the government of the USA, we would not have come as far as we have in our understanding of the solar system.

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Well there's a few things. One is that given a total separation of economy and state, the economy would grow faster and be more stable than it is today--governments wouldn't constantly be mucking up the works with regulations and taxes, nor changing conditions arbitrarily with new regulations, taxes, or manipulation of interest rates for political purposes. As a result, the amount of wealth in the society would be increasing faster than today, making more resources available for less immediately productive purposes. The more capital there is to invest, the longer range can be the investment goals and the more risk that can be reasonably taken on. And with a stable legal environment, investors would be able to plan longer range as they would not have to concern themselves with shifting legal conditions that could harm very long term (20+ year) investments.

So a totally free market would be significantly better able to take on risky, very long-term, and/or low-return projects than it is today. With that in mind, people would invest in basic science research because it is profitable in the long-run. Basic research doesn't cost much, generally (except perhaps for physicists and their big toys like the LHC), and so supporting it would be quite within the realm of possibility for large corporations. Bell Labs comes to mind as an example, and there were other private research labs before WWII, when the government took over the funding of scientific research from private industry almost entirely.

As for space exploration or undersea investigation, there could be any number of reasons. It could be good press, something like "Virgin Galactic-- Forging a Bright Future for Mankind" or something like that, with backgrounds of their moon and Mars colonies, or asteroid mining facilities. Ad revenue could be one way to subsidize the cost of space travel ("Coke--the official drink of Mars"). And of course there is the possibility for turning a profit in the very long range. Or simply the "Awesome" motive--"Google is launching a mission to Mars because it would be really really cool."

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Worthwhile question, I think. I don't know, except that not everything every tycoon does is necessarily for profit motive.
True. Money isn't everything, and most tycoons get money because of their drive for something else. Example abound. One could ask: why does Bill Gates give so much money to charity: where's the profit in it? In space itself, people like the Ansaris, Paul Allen and Bezos have not put money into the field primarily because they think there's a big profit to be made. it's quite possible that a private system will spend less, in total dollar terms, than is spent today; but, most of what is spent will be enthusiastically driven and managed, not doled out by some bureaucratic grant-process. Science may actually gain from having such a scalpel taken to it.

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...Why would someone, for example, fork over money for space travel? ... Another example would be travelling to the depths of the sea: why would an entrepreneur spend the money to go down there?...
Neither of those examples are science or doing science. Both are demonstrations of proven technology, the building blocks of which are merely being shuffled. Science is a way of thought that may lead to truth, it is not gee-whiz.

The answer to the question of why one might go down or go up, is because one can (or should be able to).

The ISS Blackhole One and its attendant Space Scuttle are mere technology demonstrators for which we traded away the Super Conducting Super Collider - that could have done Real Science® Welcome USA to the third world and NASA to Muslim meals-on-wheels.

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Thanks for the answers everyone. I was told the other day that without the government, we would be nowhere in space travel. They additionally suggested another place for the government to put its money would be into deep-sea traveling. I had no answer for them.

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Thanks for the answers everyone. I was told the other day that without the government, we would be nowhere in space travel. They additionally suggested another place for the government to put its money would be into deep-sea traveling. I had no answer for them.

The most crucial point here is this: even if without government funding there'd be no space travel, it wouldn't logically follow that it is moral for the government to use coercion to fund such programs, and funding science is not a proper role of the state.

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Thanks for the answers everyone. I was told the other day that without the government, we would be nowhere in space travel. They additionally suggested another place for the government to put its money would be into deep-sea traveling. I had no answer for them.

This is not a valid argument. Many private companies are exploring space travel. This includes the creation and launch of both satellites and spacecraft. There are huge profits to be made in space. Tourism can potentially produce huge returns on investments. In addition, there is good reason to believe that mining operations on the lunar surface could be highly profitable. Space exploration can occur without government help. Finally, the initial intention of the space program was not so much science as it was an investment in national security.

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As Nigel said, the private sector does have interest in funding space exploration and other scientific ventures. I truly believe we will have commercial space flights in the next 10-20 years. It is a complete myth that the private sector can't or won't drive the wheels of science. There always has been an incentive to conduct scientific research. Just look at all the different private industries that employ scientists: pharmaceutical and drug companies, processed food companies that need to invent food additives or just look at the label of your shampoo bottle and you will realize all the chemistry research that went into producing the product. Also, technology companies are constantly innovating. Look at how far computer science and engineering has come in the past few decades… that was all fueled by private investment and entrepreneurial incentives. Science is a major part of the economy and to claim that government spending is required to keep science going is just pure lunacy. As far as larger scale ventures such as space travel, there is no reason to assume that it won’t be done privately. It may seem that way now because private space travel is a big leap from where we are today due to the immense cost of conducting space flights. But if the cost is too high for individual entrepreneurs then that also must mean it’s too expensive for government. As science progresses, the materials and labor involved in space flights will become cheaper just like computer technology has become much cheaper. Once it becomes affordable, I have every reason to assume that private space flights will become common.

For the sake of argument let's suppose it were true that the private sector isn't interested in investing in science, and one argues that government funding via taxation is required to keep the wheels of science moving.

First of all, if such a scenario were taking place it would mean that individuals are not interested in investing in the sciences for whatever reason. Whatever that reason may be it would have to have some rational explanation because people make economic choices based on their rational self interests.

It would also mean that government, for the good of "society," (or the collective) is telling the individual that he must fund a given science project against his will, because "society" requires these investments to progress.

However "society" is simply a collection of individuals. "Society" itself is an abstract and does not exist. It is individuals who exist and who, out of their own rational self-interest, choose to interact socially and economically.

So when someone says that government is needed to fund what individuals are unwilling to invest in, for the good of society, it is a contradiction because it’s like saying “individuals can’t see the rationale in this investment, but a collection of individuals can.” It’s basically a way to create imaginary value. If individuals don’t see any value in a given investment, there’s no way that value will magically arise if you substitute the word “individuals” for “society” because they both mean the same thing.

Another argument for separating state and science is the fact that every time government gives money toward a given science project means that they must take money away from another project. As a result, the way it is today is that the majority (represented by the government) decides what science projects are worth studying. Not only does this infringe on scientists’ freedom because they are forced to direct their focus on whatever projects the government happens to be funding, but it also hurts science as a whole since scientists are forced to go against their better judgment and ride the course that the government is steering for them. Rather than studying what they have a personal interest in or see value in, they must study what “society” has deemed important. If individual scientists do not value a given science project enough to study it, there is no way that the government can create value in it, for reasons stated earlier in my post.

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