Government Spending

Why Should Taxpayers Fund Political Science Research?


Research THIS!

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.

NEXT: Romney Defended the Massachusetts Mandate, Appoints ObamaCare Profiteer as Campaign Adviser

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. It’s not science, so fuck it.

    1. I was about to make the same comment. Every time someones tells me they majored in Political Science I give them a puzzled, what the fuck look.

      1. Poli sci usually translates as pre-law.

        1. Oh I know, that’s another thing that irritates me about it. The concept of “pre law” is absurd.

          1. There is no pre-law. Literally any major works.

            1. At least the “Gender Studies” majors will be able to use their degree for something besides toilet paper.

        2. Poli sci usually translates as pre-law.

          Funny, I thought it translated to “unemployed.”

        3. Or, it translates to pre-“fucking the American people”…

        4. Hoover: Don’t screw around, they’re serious this time.

          Otter: Don’t worry man, I’m pre-law.

          Boone: I thought you wre pre-med.

          Otter: What’s the difference ?

      2. What exactly does one do with a political science degree ?

        1. Either go to law school or become a poli sci professor.

        2. Sales.

          1. “Would you like fries and a opinionated political discussion with that”

            1. “Would you like fries and a opinionated unjustifiably smug, pompous, douchey, left-wing hackery filled political discussion with that”


        3. Write columns for a major national newspaper about how your political science degree has prepared to to declare that the Constitution is over 100 years old and thus totally incomprehensible.

          1. Oh, yeah, let’s not forget Journolist.

        4. Middle management.

        5. Frame it and put it up on the wall?

          What do you do with any degree that is not technical or professional? You either learn to do something useful, become an academic, or complain that your student loans are too high.

          1. The other night some douchebag was on CNN complaining/asking for advice about repaying his student loans. Apparently he used them to fund his travels.

        6. My sister has two political science degrees (a BS and a MPP). She stays home with her cute babies.

          1. Ah, the MRS degree. Always a popular one.

        7. Livw in the park and complain about the 1%ers.

          1. Ironically, the park provided by the 1%’s tax wealth.

      3. Yeah, the general rule is that anything with “science” in the title, isn’t.

  2. in regards to an amendment proposed by Rep. Jeff Flake

    “In regards to” is considered non-standard. You should say either “in regard to” or “as regards.”

    1. Thanks, will make note for the future.

      1. You are quite welcome.

  3. “”hundreds of very smart people””

    Top. Men.

    1. Beat me to that one!

  4. “Cut the NSF’s entire social science budget.”

    Hmmmm. How about “Cut the NSF’s entire budget.”

    Politicizing science is poison. Nothing has done more damage to the credibility of science, ever. Scientific research should be funded out of tuition and by companies in private labs. The research community now is filled with bullshit artists doing bullshit research for the sole purpose of acquiring govt grants. I am not saying all of it is, but there is an awful lot of it going on.

    1. The research community now is filled with bullshit artists doing bullshit research for the sole purpose of acquiring govt grants.

      Global Warming Climate change?

      1. Yeah, that was the first one that came to mind but I didnt mention it.

    2. And force monkeys to buy there own cocaine?

      1. Many of them are quite talented thieves.

    3. Even positing that when the NSF grant program started, society did not realize the salutary effects of funding basic science research (Bell Labs might disagree with this), at this point, everybody believes what they will about joining funding to fundamental research. Why should the gummint do it anymore?

      1. Possibly true, but considering the relatively small size of the NSF’s budget and the large potential return, defunding the NSF isn’t exactly a top priority, and may even be a pretty bad idea. Some research and development is naturally funded by business, but basic science and the odd little bits of research that end up having unanticipated results are often what moves the science forward.

  5. “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.”

    Because it shouldn’t have done so in the first place and any time you can correct a mistake is a good time to do so.

    1. Top Men disagree. Correcting a mistake would mean admitting that you made a mistake, which any politician is incapable of doing.

  6. Why are taxpayers funding any kind of research (that doesn’t directly relate to national defense)?

    1. Commerce clause, climate change, childrunz… pick one.

    2. Because fuck you, that’s why.

    3. Because we have a limitless amount of wealth to tap for the benefit of future generations?

      1. “tap” means “take from”?

        In college, I once said I’d tap a fresh keg, and I disappeared out the back door with it, so I guess it works. I should run for office!

    4. Probably because Congress passed a law appropriating funds for research.

      1. Appropriating….I like that word. I think it translates from mealy-mouth to english as ‘stealing’.

    5. Because we’d all be living in cold, damp caves if it weren’t for government funded research.

      Do you want to live in a cave, Drake?

      1. Only if it’s got bats.

    6. This is one of the rare cases where “promote the general welfare” may actually make sense. Scientific research has made all of our lives much better.

  7. Political science is particularly important for Congress to plunder us for, since new ways of pussifying and transforming people into progressive assholes are needed in pre-Utopia!

  8. It’s a shame that people aren’t more willing to do experimental government. Why not cut all funding of all scientific research for a few years. If science seems to be severely curtailed because of that, then we can talk about restoring some funding. Or on a bigger scale, let’s try 5 or 10 years of libertarian minarchy and see how that works. If it is really so terrible, we can go back to something else.

    1. People do not seek power for the purpose of dismantling it. People seek power for the purpose of keeping and increasing it. Didn’t Machiavelli teach you anything?


    2. SOMOLIA!!!!!!!!111111ONE

      1. Homeless grannies?

        1. Why do you hate children?

  9. The NSF’s budget includes $247.3 million for social sciences.

    For perspective, mathematics is supposed to get around US $260.4 million in FY12 NSF budget.

    1. There aren’t as many budding party apparatchiks studying math.

    2. Math isn’t science either!

      1. Math is the queen of sciences. It is a science in that before you decide to embark on proving a conjecture, you have to convince yourself it is true (or even provable), which in many cases requires experimentation. The new mathematics being developed today will be the language of the sciences 100 years from now. Non-euclidean geometry and GR is the canonical example, but just look at what knot theory is beginning to be used for!

        1. Depends on how you define science.

          It’s distinct from the natural sciences for sure, since it is built up from human-chosen assumptions, rather than being “discovered” in nature like physics, chemistry, and biology (and others). We’ll never “know” whether the Axiom of Choice is true because it’s entirely up to us to decide. Personally I think it’s obviously true, and the Well Ordering Principle is obviously false. Not sure about Zorn’s Lemma.

        2. Student: Professor, what’s your favorite area of math?

          Professor: Knot theory.

          Student: Me neither!

  10. How dare you politicize political science!

    1. How dare you call political science a science!

  11. Here’s a novel concept: let’s have the National Science Foundation only fund science. Political science and its bastard cousin social science are not science. Both are pure bullshit and add absolutely nothing of value whatsoever. Which, now that I think about it, is the main reason why they rely on government funding. No one in the private sector would fund that shit.

    1. Right, it’s not like billionaires would fund think tanks producing political research, like the Reason foundation, the Cato institute, the Heratige foundation, the Hoover institution, the American Enterprise Institute, etc…

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.