Saturday, October 09, 2010

Science is Vital, and Osborne needs to understand the meaning of Investment.

Scientists are on the streets of London,  outside the Treasury at 2pm, protesting against the planned cuts.

Osbore's Treasury mandarins will be inside, sitting in a circle, holding hands, chanting the mantra, "LabourmadeusdoitLabourmadeusdoitLabourmadeusdoit".

Yes, Labour's borrowing to pay for education contributed to our serious ~£150bn deficit, but so also did the banksters who have borrowed and put at us risk a total of £1,200bn of taxpayers' money.

There are other, more realistic, approaches to Osbore's mindless £83bn chainsaw massacre.

Government spending does need a thorough review, but a review that discriminates between good spending and waste. The trouble is that Osbore does not understand the concept of Investment.

Osbore is conducting a simplistic balance sheet rearrangement exercise, doing simple add-and-subtract (mainly subtract) sums in order to propitiate the Market Monster that will otherwise come and Eat Us in our Beds.

Osbore does not understand that the economy is a dynamic organic system, of which some parts, (e.g. Trident and Bankers' bonuses) are a total malignant waste of money, whereas other parts (e.g. wages paid for work that benefits society and environment)  are an investment, expenditure that will bring about income in the future.

Science lies clearly in the second category. Accurate knowledge is vital, essential, in the modern economy. To cut science funding is to eat the seed-corn.

As with all other areas of human activity, there are inefficiencies within science - starting with the fact that very few people (e.g. Gavin Esler) understand what science really is.  In some countries science can get a bit dodgy.

But this is not the time to try to teach the philosophy of science. It is time to teach Osbore to understand investment, to understand that money spent on good science today will generate income tomorrow.

We must keep trying, and not give way to despair. I see today that Chris Hune has very sensibly said that  if (when?) we go back into recession, the cuts will have to be scaled back.  So the Coalition has not taken leave of all its senses yet.

In the meantime, it is good to see the scientists out on the streets at last.

We must all hope they don't get kettled.

Here is Dr Evan Harris' definitive letter to Osbore.


Anonymous said...

I am one of those Scientists out today. Why is it that to you and I, cutting Science is an obvious mistake, yet to the people that can actually do something about it, it's an ideal place to cut? It's madness!

DocRichard said...

Good question. In this case, madness = detachment from reality. Probably Osbore does not experience auditory hallucinations, ideas of reference etc, although the Market he is such awe of does have bipolar features.

The political equivalent of psychosis is idealism - in the philosophical sense, which sets up a single idea as a reference point of all existence and experience. For the Tories, the ideal is of the free market. They are Free Market Fundamentalists, and they are individualists.

These paired ideas lead them to distrust any collective ("State") activity. If the "state" is taking money off individual tax payers and giving it to scientists, they are opposed to it.

Another motive is that to a great extent the Tories are ruled by the tabloids - Murdoch and the Mail. These have a huge influence on Tory voters and therefore Tory party thinking. The tabloids are salted occasionally with research that is daft, or presented as daft. It is motivated by the desire of the thick to believe themselves to be cleverer than smart people.

Third, Osbore does not understand "investment" because it involves multiplication and stuff. He only does adding up and taking away.

That's my feeble attempt to answer the "why".

Your blog looks interesting.
I posted about physics here, but i expect it's wrong.

Thank you for going to the demo. Sorry I couldn't be there.