Science: Funding and Morals

Gregory R. Harriman gregoryh at
Wed Jan 24 13:14:30 EST 1996

In article <4e3nc5$8ju at>, tivol at
(William Tivol) wrote:
>         The priorities of our (USA) society are decided by what people are
> willing to pay for.  True, the benefits to society would be vastly greater
> if teachers were paid a lot and (e.g.) Michael Jackson earned only a little,
> but the truth is that many people will pay lots of hard-earned $$$ to see or
> hear a rock star, so Sony only pays MJ according to what it can earn from him.

     This is certainly true, but you state the obvious.  Yes, people are
rewarded according to how much society values their activities.  But my
previous point (which perhaps was not apparent) is that these rewards are
often grossly distorted.  In other words, much of what our society (USA)
currently "values" is not in the best long term interest of that society. 
I should be careful not to seem overly pessimistic but analyses of past
civilizations have shown that decadent behavior is often a prelude to the
downfall of that civilization.

> Part of the problem is a time lag.  If all teachers (or scientists) went on
> strike, they would not be missed for years--perhaps generations.  There is no
> good way for markets to assess such future values accurately, so education
> and research have to become common enterprises.  Unfortunately, the nature
> of governments is also very short-term, so such admittedly valuable comodi-
> ties are undervalued.

     True, and it's so much easier to ascertain the economic impact when,
to use your example, Michael Jackson becomes ill and can't perform.

Greg Harriman

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