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Politech is the oldest Internet resource devoted to politics and technology. Launched in 1994 by Declan McCullagh, the mailing list has chronicled the growing intersection of law, culture, technology, and politics. Since 2000, so has the Politech web site.

Risks of politicians choosing what science is "best" to fund


There is a central myth about British science and economic growth, and
it goes like this: science breeds wealth, Britain is in economic
decline, therefore Britain has not done enough science. Actually, it is
easy to show that a key cause of Britain's economic decline has been
that the government has funded too much science...

Post-war British science policy illustrates the folly of wasting money
on research. The government decided, as it surveyed the ruins of
war-torn Europe in 1945, that the future lay in computers, nuclear power
and jet aircraft, so successive administrations poured money into these
projects--to vast technical success. The world's first commercial
mainframe computer was British, sold by Ferrranti in 1951; the world's
first commercial jet aircraft was British, the Comet, in service in
1952; the first nuclear power station was British, Calder Hall,
commissioned in 1956; and the world's first and only supersonic
commercial jet aircraft was Anglo-French, Concorde, in service in 1976.

Yet these technical advances crippled us economically, because they were
so uncommercial. The nuclear generation of electricity, for example, had
lost 2.1 billion pounds by 1975 (2.1 billion pounds was a lot then);
Concord had lost us, alone, 2.3 billion pounds by 1976; the Comet
crashed and America now dominates computers. Had these vast sums of
money not been wasted on research, we would now be a significantly
richer country.

Terence Kealey Wasting Billions, the Scientific Way, The Sunday Times,
October 13, 1996.

Posted by Declan McCullagh on Nov 29, 2004

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