Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Glenn Reynolds points to a news story detailing the numerous conflicts of interest of one Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, an IPCC official. Reynolds rightly notes his abuse of government power as he quotes from the article:
In December 2007, [Pachauri] became a member of the Senior Advisory Board of Siderian ventures based in San Francisco. This is a venture capital business owned by the Dutch multinational business incubator and operator in sustainable technology, Tendris Holding, itself part-owned by electronics giant Philips. It acquired a minority interest in January 2009 in order to "explore new business opportunities in the area of sustainability." As a member of the Senior Advisory Board of Siderian, Dr Pachauri is expected to provide the Fund and its portfolio companies "with access, standing and industry exposure at the highest level."I have no quarrel with Reynolds, but I do have a question.
If, as Wikipedia puts it at the start of its article on the subject, "A conflict of interest ... occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other," [formatting dropped] when will people stop taking for granted government funding and "supervision" of science, and start to ask whether and when one's involvement in both government and science can constitute a conflict of interest?
The answer to that question is possible only with a proper understanding of the nature (the only social institution that can legally wield retaliatory force) and proper role (to protect individual rights) of government.
The answer is not always, No. For example, a scientist working as a patent examiner is acting in a manner proper to both a scientist and a government official by bringing his expertise to bear on how to protect the rights of inventors. A scientist who performs research for the Department of Defense on how to make a smart bomb is being paid to perform a legitimate function of the government (national defense) that happens to coincide with his research interests. In each case, there are objective ways to detect, deter, and punish conflicts of interest.
But a scientist receiving government funding for climate research is -- in today's context of a government-controlled economy -- in a postition to "justify" vast new plundering and control by the government with his findings or even just a willingness to sew panic. He is paid by what is effectively a giant guild of thieves intent on finding a ready excuse to plunder even more.
As the nation speaks of "going Galt" regarding the Bush-Obama economic crisis, perhaps it should remember another figure from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged regarding Copenhagen, ClimateGate or not:
"Why did you refuse to work for Dr. Stadler?" she asked.The second speaker and the name Copenhagen ought to bring to mind is Quentin Daniels: He refused to work for a once-great scientist who sold out by accepting state control of science.
The hint of his smile grew harder and more stressed; this was as near as he came to showing an emotion; the emotion was anger. But he answered in his even, unhurried drawl, "You know, Dr. Stadler once said that the first word of 'Free, scientific inquiry' was redundant. He seems to have forgotten it. Well, I'll just say that 'Governmental scientific inquiry' is a contradiction in terms." (p. 355)
Advocates of big government, including the vast majority of today's scientists, see state funding removing many financial constraints from their work, but they fail to recognize that this is inherently a devil's bargain. Many will object that private benefactors or corporate employers would exercise too much control over their work in the form of being interested in certain types of results -- while ignoring the fact that this will be true of any sponsor of scientific research. (Otherwise, why not just hand money out to any passer-by?)
To them, I pose the following question: What is a cleaner motive for funding research? The hope that valid results will lead to profit from free trade or the hope that spin will lead to plundered loot and coercive power?