William Tivol tivol at
Fri Apr 19 14:41:28 EST 1996

Herman Rubin (hrubin at wrote:

: We need to get the government to ease out of both funding and control
: of research, and to encourage private funding by both for-profit and
: non-profit voluntary organizations.  

: The government should never have gotten into it in the first place.

Dear Herman,
	This goes under the name "tragedy of the commons".  What happens
for many situations is that there are activities which benefit everyone,
but it is more profitable in each individual case to let someone else
bear the cost of doing the activity.  I might, for example, be willing
to build a road from my house to my job, but if my next door neighbor
also works near me, it would be to my advantage to build a road only as
far as to connect to his, and from the other end of his to my workplace.
As a result, nothing gets done until we all get together and decide how
to divide the costs fairly.  This process--getting together to decide
how to prioritize and pay for activities which are in the common good--
is why there is a government in the first place.  Those representatives
who are accountable to us are the ones who should decide priorities, not
representatives of industry (for-profit) or special interests (not-for-
profit).  I'd hate to have my research priorities decided by a committee
from AT&T or from Friends of the Earth.  These may both be wonderful or-
ganizations, but their agendas are not aligned with my research.
	The problem is not that the government got into the research busi-
ness in the first place, but that it is not dealing with its job of prior-
itizing and budgeting for research in an optimal fashion.
				Bill Tivol

More information about the Bioforum mailing list