Skip to comments.George F. Will: Rev the scientific engine
Posted on 01/02/2011 12:11:23 PM PST by neverdem
New Republican legislators should come down Capitol Hill to the National Museum of American History, which displays a device that in 1849 was granted U.S. patent 6469. It enabled a boat's "draught of water to be readily lessened" so it could "pass over bars, or through shallow water."
The patentee was from Sangamon County, Ill. Across Constitution Avenue, over the Commerce Department's north entrance, are some words of the patentee, Abraham Lincoln:
THE PATENT SYSTEM ADDED
THE FUEL OF INTEREST
TO THE FIRE OF GENIUS
Stoking that fire is, more than ever, a proper federal function, so the legislators should be given some reading matter. One is William Rosen's book "The Most Powerful Idea in the World," a study of the culture of invention. Another is the National Academy of Sciences report "Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited," an addendum to a 2005 report on declining support for science and engineering research.
Such research is what canals and roads once were - a prerequisite for long-term economic vitality. The first Republican president revered Henry Clay, whose "American System" stressed spending on such "internal improvements." Today, the prerequisites for economic dynamism are ideas. Deborah Wince-Smith of the...
U.S. undergraduate institutions award 16 percent of their degrees in the natural sciences or engineering; South Korea and China award 38 percent and 47 percent, respectively. America ranks 27th among developed nations in the proportion of students receiving undergraduate degrees in science or engineering...
An iconic conservative understood this. Margaret Thatcher, who studied chemistry as an Oxford undergraduate, said:
"Although basic science can have colossal economic rewards, they are totally unpredictable. And therefore the rewards cannot be judged by immediate results. Nevertheless, the value of [Michael] Faraday's work today must be higher than the capitalization of all shares on the stock exchange."...
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
Yup. I’ve seen the model of Abe Lincoln’s invention, dunno if it went anywhere.
“..Lincoln started work on his invention between sessions of Congress in 1848. On his way home to Illinois his boat became stranded on a sandbar. As Herndon told the story, “The captain ordered the hands to collect all the loose planks, empty barrels and boxes and force them under the sides of the boat. These empty casks were used to buoy it up. After forcing enough of them under the vessel she lifted gradually and at last swung clear of the opposing sand bar.”
Herndon observed, “Lincoln had watched this operation very intently. It no doubt carried him back to the days of his navigation on the turbulent Sangamon, when he and John Hanks had rendered similar service at New Salem dam to their employer the volatile Offut. Continual thinking on the subject of lifting vessels over sand bars and other obstructions in the water suggested to him the idea of inventing an apparatus for this purpose.”
Lincoln created a scale model of his invention with the help of Walter Davis, a Springfield mechanic, who provided tools and advice. Herndon recalled, “Occasionally he would bring the model in the office, and while whittling on it would descant on its merits and the revolution it was destined to work in steamboat navigation. Although I regarded the thing as impracticable I said nothing, probably out of respect for Lincoln’s well-known reputation as a boatman.”
With some relief Herndon said, “the invention was never applied to any vessel, so far as I ever learned, and the threatened revolution in steamboat architecture and navigation never came to pass.”
The crap that schools pass off as “science” won’t get us anywhere.
I actually temped at the front desk of the Patent Office library at the new HQ in Alexandria several years ago.
Quite an inspiring foyer, unfortunately there’s more money made in the much-advertised-on-TV industry designed to fleece the would-be inventor. I have a friend who is a patent researcher, he tells me the system is stacked against the little guy with the Big Idea. You actually have a revolutionary invention, chances are it will be stolen from you and you’ll die in poverty with those many others.
Patents won't sell their vote in return for an EBT card. For that reason, the politicians in DC don't give a fat excrement about them. End of story, Mr. Will.
THAT would be a proper function of the federal government.
Will flips between Hamilton and Jefferson and here’s he in full Hamilton mode:
” But the public should not now be punished by penalizing, with diminished funding, the scientific disciplines that have been mostly innocent of the behaviors that have sometimes made academia a subject of satire.”
He tells how the ‘humanities’ have been corrupted but puts ‘faith’ in the sciences - typical nerd posturing as an ‘intellectual’ - when in fact, it is the junk science that the universities have used to help corrupt the ‘humanities’ and political science.
Fed funding of education should cease as unconstitutional and let the best succeed on their own feet. Junk science is driven by gov’t grants.
How does this fit into Will's thesis that research universities need more money? Microsoft and Apple were founded by college dropouts.
“How does this fit into Will’s thesis that research universities need more money? Microsoft and Apple were founded by college dropouts.”
Such an excellent point - you’d think that he would have thought of that.
Will and others like him still cling to the belief that big government can do good things, that it just needs to be better directed.
That idea that we need to redistribute wealth into research is just as destructive the idea that it should be redistributed to a class of people.
It’s not what the redistributed wealth is used for, it’s the forced redistribution that’s important.
Will will never get it.
Science has been corrupted by politics. Will should stick to baseball.
Pray for the Tea Party Congress
Try it without millions of men in new manufacturing starts, and the “scientific engine” won’t “rev” very high. We’re in a depression caused by the vanity of rebellion against Creation (political correctness), and men of ingenuity are preparing for the consequences. They’ll work again, when that work is properly appreciated and compensed.
True, just like the guy that sold bill gates the first operating system. His check was 65000, bills was for 65billion.
I’m gonna be blunt:
I took some advanced computer classes at a large university. They were so happy to see a white American they could barely contain themselves. The fact that most of the faculty were none white immigrants didn’t stop them from their excitement. I was a novelty conversation piece. The rest of the student body was composed of arrogant Chinese, cheating Indians, and scary, smoking Russians. It was a very depressing atmosphere. There was an easy undergraduate track called “Management, Information Systems” for our domestic minorities and women. It was non-technical (one introductory programming course), but corporations are so desperate for minorities and women “in science”, they hire them for more money than the technical “Computer Science” graduates.
The world is up-side-down.
The cure would be to balance the tax and mandate burden of foreign and domestic production. Our over burdened domestic producers cannot compete with unfettered foreign producers.
Naturally, reducing domestic taxes would be the proper solution, rather than adding tariffs to imports.
As a rule, "better products" are the realm of the small business and the entrepreneur. Large "Wall Street corporations" have never been leaders in innovation -- nor will they ever likely be. The culture just won't allow it.
The exception that proves the rule are scientifically oriented companies with a vested interest in research (e.g., pharmaceuticals).
Change the H1B fiasco. There is no need for greater than 60% of all engineers employed in high tech companies to be foreign nationals when there are literally tens of thousands of US engineers un and under employed.
This will require a tariff to level the playing field in place of corporate income taxes, but it can be done. Lord knows US companies face significant barriers when attempting to penetrate the protected markets of the countries we are exporting our manufacturing to.
Silly article. Economic nincompoops like George Will often have absolutely nothing to say, but their bread-and-butter requires them to fill up a page in a magazine, so they bluster about something.
How about this:
Quality, not quantity. Despite our “paltry” 16% in science and engineering, we get most of the Nobel Prizes in physics, chemistry, and medicine, and most of the world’s modern inventions — everything from the lightbulb to the computer — came from us.
How about this:
Despite their higher percentages, South Korea and China garner no Nobels in physics, chemistry, and medicine, and have contributed little in the way of innovation.
How about this:
The same idiocies used to be spouted by the George Wills of the world in the days of the former Soviet Union; i.e., “look at how many degrees in science and engineering they hand out; they will surely move ahead of us in science and technology!” The facts were these: (i) many bright students in the Soviet Union personally would have liked to go into one of the humanities — history, philosophy, economics, psychology, sociology, journalism — but DARED NOT DO SO, because those fields had been completely taken over by the State for the purposes of propaganda. If a historian or economist, for example, told the truth about Marxist history or Marxist economics, he would find himself in a gulag or a re-education camp. So many otherwise fine historians, economists, etc., went into the “hard” sciences and became mediocre engineers, physicists, and chemists, instead. They went into so-called “value-free” fields to keep themselves out of possible trouble with the political authorities. (ii) Despite the high number of students who became engineers and scientists, it didn’t help the Soviet Union; they still crashed and burned.
U.S. public education is completely screwed up, but it appears to be so across the board: it’s as screwed up in the quantitative sciences as much as it is in the social sciences, so the “paltry” 16% that somehow manage to tolerate the system and get through it to earn advanced degrees in science, probably represents exactly that proportion of the population that actually WANT to go into those subjects. There is absolutely no reason to force a greater number into a field that they have no gifts for.
George Will — like many ignorant journalists — doesn’t understand the idea of division-of-labor under conditions of freedom: everyone contributes, in his or her way, to the total economic health of the economy and therefore the country as a whole. The social sciences have as much to contribute to a country as the quantitative sciences do. And like everything else, it’s the quality of the contribution that counts, not the quantity.
I would hate to live in a country where a first-rate economist like Thomas Sowell was forced, for political reasons, to work as a third-rate engineer.
Our world economic leadership was created by our once unmatched ability to bring new breakthrough technology to market and is unlikely to survive if we do not restore that capability.
All of the official institutions of “science”, such as the National Academy of Sciences, have been taken over by religious crackpots styling themselves as “climatologists”.
Giving them any more money is not a wise idea.
As I recall Nikola Tesla didn’t revolutionize our world with the help of tax money, he did it with risk capital from an entrepreneur named George Westinghouse.
Government is the problem, not the solution!
” and protect his idea for commercialization, then to be allowed to actually keep the majority of profit from his idea “
No invention or idea - even if it’s world-changing - will bring our Nation out of its doldrums, as long as the only way it can be commercialized is to be manufactured overseas...
Abolish the anti-comptetitive regulatory alphabet agencies (and their underlying laws), and rationalize the taxation environment which rewards the entrenched and punishes the innovative - and then, maybe, we might breathe some life back in to the economy of this once-great Nation....
How long until Thomas Sowell’s job is outsourced?
Poor old George is someone, I'm sure, who thinks that government is a refuge for the nice. Unlike in the private sector (according to commonplace), nice guys with good ideas finish first in government: that's what he almost surely believes.
Granted that I myself am questionable on this count, but there's a fine line between "above it all" and "out of it." Poor George doesn't seem to realize that the fedral government is a refuge for blamers. If you chance upon a bureaucrat who seems to be monumentally stupid, best odds are you bumped into one who washes his/her hands with Blameum soap and considers then clean.
The rot is well-established in even our so-called ‘elite’ institutions - talk to any recent graduate/student at Cal Tech, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, etc. and listen to their sincere belief in and babble about “Green’ energy, etc. you get Sesame street logic wrapped in big words. When an MIT graduate level degreed ME claims the internal combustion engine was one of man’s (this was several years ago) most damaging inventions - you are NOT talking to anyone who understands engineering.
The rot is well-established in even our so-called ‘elite’ institutions - talk to any recent graduate/student at Cal Tech, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, etc. and listen to their sincere belief in and babble about ‘Sreen’ energy, etc. you get Sesame Street logic wrapped in big words. When an MIT graduate level degreed ME claims the internal combustion engine was one of man’s (this was several years ago) most damaging inventions - you are NOT talking to anyone who understands engineering.
Apple is still led by its founders -- and thus retains its innovativeness.
Corporations have a life cycle. And the more mature they become, the more likely they are to be led by the finance department or the legal department than they are by the engineering, operations or sales departments.
At that point, they usually become more concerned with maintaining their share of market and maximizing profits -- including acquisitions and mergers -- than they are with building share and internal product innovation.
The exceptions are, as I said, those companies with a vested interest in research -- which would include petrochemicals as well as pharmaceuticals.
A good example of what I'm talking about is the railroad business. By the late fifties, virtually every President or Chairman in the industry had come out of the Legal Department. And they were dying...
That is the nature of government. It cannot be reformed, it cannot be fixed, it can’t be run like a business. It can and must only be minimized.
IBM sold it’s personal computer business lock stock and barrel to China, which now not only makes them as “Lenovo” but also owns that business.
Apples are made there.
Neither is helping American jobs.
“These Boards of Directors need more scientists and engineers and less MBAs and Attorneys.”
I believe it was the head of Michelin that said if he needed MBA’s he would send his engineers back to school. He didn’t need anyone that didn’t know how to make tires first.
Businessmen, surprise!, respond to the market. If more money can be made by financial manipulation, then they will manipulate rather than innovate. That's what businessmen do, indeed it is their proper function in society. Sniff out the way to make the most money with a given investment.
An even easier way to make money than financial manipulation is rent-seeking from the government. Risk-free money. An example of which is Will's notion of government investment in "research."
When governments determine buying and selling, the first things to be bought and sold are politicians. The problem is not to get business out of the government, it's to get government out of business. A is impossible, B is just really difficult.
I agree, well said
Right out of “Atlas Shrugged”.
Which leads to the question: does steering the government to a less destructive path end up helping or hurting?
As an alternative, one of the big drags on the consumer marketplace and business is patent and copyright “farming.” This means that companies who contribute nothing, make their money from the buying of patents and copyright, the sitting on them, wanting royalties from those who want to put them to good use.
Or worse, as with the immense media libraries: sitting on them, not marketing them, but not allowing anyone else to market them.
So the question should be raised: should the government grant or continue patents and copyrights that are anti-competitive, and a drag on the markets?
Comparatively speaking, the General Mining Act of 1872 was perhaps the most pro-business, pro-consumer, pro-industry law ever written.
It said that the mineral rights to land are separate from the ownership of land, and that anyone had a right to stake a mineral rights claim on any land not claimed, and could not be prevented from mining it.
Importantly, it had a “use it or lose it” clause, so that if you struck a claim, you had to either “improve” it to the tune of $500 a year, or sell its ore to the gross profit of $500 a year. If you didn’t, you lost your claim.
Of course, if you mined on someone else’s land, you had to pay negotiated, reasonable royalties. But the land owner could not stop you from mining.
Now imagine if these concepts were transferred to patent and copyright law.
You could patent or copyright your original idea or product, but to keep your government protection, you had to “use it or lose it”, and let others use it.
This is not impossible, and would cause an explosion in the marketplace, of a huge amount of content available to consumers.
It would be a huge shot in the arm to business as well.
Would you or did you buy a computer made in the USA if it cost 2X what a Lenovo or Mac costs? Don't blame the companies, blame the consumer and the government. High Tech outsourcing is done to remain competitive because that is what the market demands. The only way to change that paradigm is to reduce the cost of doing business in the US (start with the 35% corporate income tax) and impose a tariff on manufactured goods.
Witness DOE. A greater example of using subsidies to push research in wrong directions would be hard to find.
I do blame the companies.
“Free traders” would sell their own mother to Beijing, if it saved a penny on production costs.
America is at risk. This is no longer a parlor game of make-believe “Atlas Shrugged”. We are destroying our own nation.
Time is running out.
Which leads to the question: does steering the government to a less destructive path end up helping or hurting?
Free Traders only play the hand they have been dealt. They are answerable to the share holders and the prospect of losing market share and with it shareholder value will not be tolerated. Further blame the American consumer who price shops for everything. In a free market the equivalent good differentiated only by price will win out. Absent any tariff protections countries with lower labor costs, lower taxes and less regulation will beat the costs of US labor, high taxes and onerous regulations.
Given the right business environment those same "Free Traders" will kick the ass of any top down, oppressive society in the world just like they did in WWII.
And while they are at it, ban research into global warming. That will force them to focus on topics that we all agree on.
Nothing new, what we have in the Iphone etc, is new usage of existing product. Will is taking about a completely new item that will fire growth. Such as a cold fusion motor for cars. Little far fetched but it is only an example.
Let’s then change our system so that producing domestically is the most profitable choice.
That means reducing regulations and bureaucracy.
Getting lawyers out of the way.
But the quickest step to start with, is (significant) import tariffs.
Remove the incentive to outsource.
As of 2009, the dollar value of our imports, was virtually identical (within a single percentage point) to our national tax bill.
So. Let’s shift that tax expense, to somewhere which will encourage production here:
Replace our entire tax code, with one single, across the board 100% import tariff.
Jobs will begin returning to America, immediately.
Of course there will be repercussions, but there are very significant, very real and very dangerous repercussions already to America, resulting from a process more efficient in it’s destructiveness, than if an enemy Air Force carpet bombed America’s factories.
We have destroyed the greatest manufacturing capacity, in human history.
Some day we will need that manufacturing capacity.
History has not stopped.
We need to act now, and begin bringing it back.