Why Should Taxpayers Fund Political Science Research?


That's the rare and sensible question posed today by the Washington Post's Charles Lane, in regards to an amendment proposed by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to cut off funding for poli-sci research via the National Science Foundation. Excerpt:

Christopher Zorn, a political scientist at Penn State University, writes in a Web posting that it would be "dangerous" if "individual members of Congress should sit in judgment over individual programs of scientific ­research." […]

Why shouldn't Congress, or its "individual members," define "science" for purposes of federal funding? That's what Congress did when it decided in the late 1960s to include political science in the NSF.

It horrifies Zorn that Rep. Flake would override the NSF's "peer review system" and the "hundreds of very smart people" who participate in it. "Politicization of the scientific process," he cries.

I would have thought that the politicization comes from the political science academy's dependence on federal money in the first place. […]

The relevant question, however, is whether society could have reaped equal or greater benefits through other uses of the money — and how unreasonable it would be to ask the political scientists to rely on non-federal support. […]

The NSF's budget includes $247.3 million for social sciences. At a time of trillion-dollar deficits, and possible cuts to defense, food stamps and other vital programs, this is a luxury we can live without. Cut the NSF's entire social science budget. Use half the savings for hard science and the rest to reduce the deficit.

Whole thing here. Reason on government-funded research here.