Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Does big science require big government?

What does Lawler think of this? I’m leaning toward Fukuyama on this one.

Discussions - 14 Comments

In a nutshell, the answer is yes...we need big government to sponsor big science. The holy private sector (heavenly incidental music) is extremely short-sighted when it comes to basic science...there are more things in Heaven and on Earth that are dreamt of by Proctor and Gamble. New and improved paper towels will only take you so far in civilizational terms.


I prefer "control" or "rein in" to "sponsor."

Yea, that too, but sponsorship is important, particularly in the physical sciences.

What we need is some third way...

Seriously, though, neither option looks very attractive to me, although I’m inclined toward the regulatory side.

I didn’t need to read the whole Reason article before I could see that it would conclude with a rather lame complaint about "imposing morality."

An unregulated Bart Simpson-esque attitude "God, Schmod! I want my monkey-man!" is at least as scary as "government bureaucracy" making "eugenic decisions."

I’d rather have the regulatory agency limited to prohibiting things, rather than mandating what parents "must" do.

I find this idea amusing as a few posts above someone was invoking how the GOP needs to run on the Constitution. Where in the Constitution does it say that the federal government gets to control scientific research? I suppose the patent clause would give Congress the ability to refuse patents to any scientific discoveries it thought unethical, and that might stop development of them since profit could not be had (at least as on grand a scale).

If private money wishes to conduct scientific research, and STATE law allows it, I see no possible Constitutional way to stop it. The reason the GOP CANNOT run on Constitutional principles is that social conservatives care more about their social agenda than any Constitutional limit; in this the agree with 60s radicals and Supreme Court liberals; the only difference is the aims.

Joe is right. Definitely rein in and control, though I am pessimistic about finding persons with the beliefs and gumption. Just teaching Bacon and Descartes and wishing some Aristotelian would instruct them in the architectonic art.

Steve Sparks is right. So much for Republicans and the Constitution. Even if we create a regulatory agency and establish controls, that only works until the corruption of the agency is effected by those with a different ethic, or agenda. These agencies mutate from whatever good intentions put them in place into something else altogether, gobble money and in twenty years we’ll be furious about it. DoE, anyone?

This administration will regulate and control in one direction, the next administration or the one after that, or the one after that will change direction and will demand eugenics. It will be in the public interest and there will be lots of people for it in a democratic way, and lots of bio-tech companies lobbying for it like mad. It will be well-regulated and controlled AND government sponsored: our tax money at work. No, thank you.

I’m not sure I understand this complaint about being "unconstitutional." Does that mean that the Federal government shouldn’t have an FDA, or an EPA, an any other regulatory agency that’s not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution? And does this mean that if two private parties wanted to engage in, say, weaponizing a bacteria like anthrax, it would have to be allowed?

I encourage those that care to look more carefully at both the Fukuyama and the British schemes. Considerable regulation is surely required, and we have much less than other leading countries. And the reason we don’t have it is our focus on rights: The "libertarian left" is against all regulation (and Ronald Bailey seems convinced that all dignity-based doubts about the unlimited progress of science are plots to kill Ronald Bailey), and the "right" wants regulation that pays due attention to the rights of the unborn and even the embryo. Having said that, Frank’s scheme only outlaws reproductive cloning and puts no real limits on research cloning involving the destruction of embryos. In his opinion, we show the embryo the respect we show, say, a dead body, but common sense and public opinion suggest go no further. In the Senate, it’s been Brownback who’s resisted regulation based on his principles. So what gets in the way of regulation in our country is fundamental disagreement about the principles guiding regulation. In a way, Canada has done better than both us and Britain by not thinking about the relevant issues in therms of rights; their country is short on both libertarians and pro-lifers. But arguably they like regulation in general too much. So to make a short story long--I have lots of reservations about the specifics of Frank’s regulatory scheme, and Brownback fan is unlikely to embrace either his approach or Bailey’s.


Whether those things are Constitutional depends on how one reads the Interstate Commerce Clause. Prior to the New Deal it was read narrowily, the activities regulated had to be interstate and commerce. Today we have a clause that allows regulation of activities that are not commerce, and if commerce, are not interstate.

The 2 most famous cases concerning this are Wicard and Raich. In Wicard the farmer grew 5 extra acres of wheat in Ohio, for use in feeding his cows, and was found to have violated a federal law resting on the commerce clause. Raich was decided a couple of years ago. In that case a man was found to have violated federal drug law, which rests on the Commerce clause, because he grew medical pot in CA for his wife’s personal use.

Another relevant question is whether the Clean Water Act, applies to ponds in States, due to Interstate Commerce. The Court has yet to rule, nut they indicated it was suspect.

You can think regulation is a great idea, but do not argue that the Constitution should be obeyed if you do. Simply argue that times have changed, individuals have too much potential power to be unregulated, and therefore there should be no limits to federal govt regulation. That would at least be honest. It is the "Living Constitution" position.

One of the benefits of the cold war (which I miss increasingly nowadays) was that there would be no question of government funded science. We HAD to have better technology than the russkies! I think if we still had a soviet bloc to show up, we’d have a mars colony by now.

Steve, I think the "original construction" argument was pretty much killed by Lincoln. As you know (if you’ve read many of my posts), I’ve always doubted the power of "paper rights." In real terms, either you have the power to enforce so-called "rights" or you don’t. If paper and lawyers are all that you have to enforce your "rights," then inevitably you will lose those rights. Legal fights can slow down the erosion of "rights," but history clearly demonstrates that all people live in societies of men rather than law. Just the way it is...I don’t like it any better than most of you.


Is there an alternative to Fukuyama that’s palatable and politically sustainable?

The short answer is no to Joe, but F.’s plan, in truth, isn’t going anywhere. I’ll say more about this later.

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