Sunday, August 14, 2011

Kealey on the Myth of Science as a Public Good

Terence Kealey from two years ago. He has some good nuggets here but I think he misinterprets their implications.

Kealey apparently wrote a book to this effect in 1996 and he had a new book out in 2008 (looks like it's got an evolutionary psychology and economics type focus). He's written some stuff in the popular press and for groups like Cato too. Does anyone know if the 1996 book made much of an impact? Were there many responses to it?


  1. Had you seen it before or read him? - what do you think of him?

    The main presentation was very simplistic but he did point to some important empirical findings. Some very interesting issues were raised in the Q&A - my one complaint about the Q&A is that he argues from anecdote an awful lot. So of course examples of successful government investments don't prove that only governments can do science. Anyone who makes arguments like that isn't worth paying attention to. He acknowledges that and the problem of arguing from anecdote, and then turns around and argues the mirror image claim from anecdote himself.

    Anyway - the Q&A gets into a lot of equity v. efficiency arguments and the economics of public education and I think he's dead on with a lot of that stuff regarding subsidizing those who can't pay but charging what the market will bear for education.

  2. Yeah, I pointed this video out to you some months ago (in one of our back and forths when I was in San Diego). It has been a while since I saw it though; I'd have to re-watch it.

    Well, this is a relatively informal talk to a campus group at Oxford; I've watched a few of these and I don't recall anyone having powerpoint presentations, etc.

  3. Oh - I didn't realize that. I had found this earlier in the week. Have you read any of his books?

  4. I haven't read his book; I do have have saved (amongst others on the subject) to my bookmarks these links:

    There were also reviews of the book in both Nature and Science (1996 and 1997 respectively) - the reviews were critical of Kealy's position but they are worth reading.

  5. Before I read/saw this stuff I agreed with Ronald Bailey that government funding of science was a public good, etc., I am much more skeptical of that claim now.

    I do wish we could come up with a different word for something we find untrue besides myth though; myth and mythology refers best to stories where Gods and Goddesses are the main characters in the story working through history.

  6. I read the book. It's pretty good. Long story short, according to Kealey, in history most technological advancements were produced privately, and whenever the government got involved in funding science, technological growth stagnated. It's more of a historical than economic argument, really. The logic is basically that when the government funds science, scientists can focus on problems they find interesting rather than the problems of the day, so the technology they produce is pretty useless. Look at the CERN dudes who churn out black holes or artificial mechanical limbs as examples.

  7. A question for the libertarians here:

    Which blogs and books do you think are most valuable for someone on the left trying to understand your viewpoint. I've been quite disappointed with sites like Cafe Hayek and am curious if there are any sleepers I should be aware of. Introductory books would be especially valuable.



  8. Free to Choose by Milton Friedman is the classic, I believe.

  9. Doherty, _Radicals for Capitalism_ will give you a nice history of the libertarian movement.

    Boaz, _The Libertarian Reader_

    Miron, _Libertarianism, A to Z_

    Since Rand will always come up:

    Burns, _Goddess of the Market_

    Vellentyne, etc., _The Origins of Left Libertarianism_

    Howmany, _The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism_

  10. Simon,

    Here's a nice video:

  11. Thanks for this. What about blogs?


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