Big Science, Low Taxes

The physicist Steven Weinberg wrote an article in the New York Review of Books a few months ago about “big science” — the kind of science that requires large amounts of money. The two main examples of such science are particle physics and cosmology, the sciences of the very small and the very large. In each case, scientific progress has made the problems to be investigated more difficult and more expensive. One of the stories he tells is how concern over federal spending resulted in the death of the Superconducting Super Collider in the early 90s.

Instead of simply calling for the government to devote more money to particle accelerators and space-based telescopes, however, Weinberg puts spending on big science in the context of overall government spending and taxation.

In the last part of his article, he calls attention to the need for more spending on a number of important priorities (education, infrastructure, drug  treatment, patent inspectors, regulation of the financial industry, etc., etc.). Professor Weinberg concludes:

“In fact, many of these other responsibilities of government have been treated worse in the present Congress than science….It seems to me that what is really needed is not more special pleading for one or another particular public good, but for all the people who care about these things to unite in restoring higher and more progressive tax rates, especially on investment income. I am not an economist, but I talk to economists, and I gather that dollar for dollar, government spending stimulates the economy more than tax cuts. It is simply a fallacy to say that we cannot afford increased government spending. But given the anti-tax mania that seems to be gripping the public, views like these are political poison. This is the real crisis, and not just for science.”

The anti-tax mania isn’t gripping the public as a whole, but he makes an excellent point.

One thought on “Big Science, Low Taxes

  1. Billionaires would rather spend the money ,that could go to taxes and keeping the country solvent, on rigging the system against everyone else. They aren’t Americans anymore, they are corpratists, above the law and taxes. They get a great return on their investment in bought politicians. Their speech is more valuable than yours or mine because they can value it in the millions and billions. Until people wake up and realize what is going on, they will continue to own us and our illusory freedom they pretend they are saving by empowering us with less taxation and also less public education, public roads, public healthcare and public infrastructure. They are generous with sharing the costs of their defense to protect their investments, and very giving with all the pollution they share with us.

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