Brad DeLong first points us to a cringe-worthy announcement by Biden that the government's going to show how tough it is by shutting down a desert tortoise website, which collects and disseminates data on the tortoise. This is the grip that the austerity narrative has - politicians are constantly focusing on "waste", which is (1.) next to useless when it actually makes sense to control government spending, and (2.) exactly the wrong thing to be talking about right now.
DeLong follows up with a point about public investment in science: "Providing scientific information as a public good is one of the core competencies of government. That was what the fracking Lewis and Clark expedition was for..."
Back to the foundation of the republic our founding fathers knew what "provide for the general welfare" meant even if modern libertarians want to scrap that bit of the Constitution, and they knew - Jefferson especially, but others as well - that it included public investments in science. Scientific research is a positive externality - it provides lots of benefits that can't be internalized into market transactions. So, while the market does invest in necessary science, it underinvests in it. Certain science requires public investment for a healthy, vibrant society. That includes studying endangered species, which don't have much market value, and exploring and colonizing new worlds - which may have market value far into the future, but not now. It includes making large investments which may pose collective action problems for private actors. Government is one of many emergent social institutions that the human species has developed to get things done. One of the things a healthy state institution does is invest in science - although as Eisenhower warned we need to guard against militarized science and promote public investments in science for purposes of peace and the expansion of our understanding of the world.
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