They make an excellent case for it in the Wall Street Journal here (google the first sentence and you should be able to get the whole, ungated article).
Aside from the usual arguments for public funding of scientific research, they make the important point that economic research is particularly important for good government. Government has an interest in funding this research, simply as a matter of fulfilling its basic functions, in the same way that a retail firm has an interest in funding marketing research or a pharmaceutical company has an interest in funding drug trials.
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