Losgin It

August 2005


Once having had a clear advantage in science and technology, the US is starting to lose ground. Apart from denying this fact, there is little being done to address this problem.

The National Bureau of Economic Research reports that:

"Rapid development of a science and technology base by populous Asian countries soon may threaten the economic position of the United States. Not only is the U.S. losing ground in high technology exports, but its very capacity to develop new technologies is declining rapidly with respect to the rest of the world."

According to Richard Freeman, the paper's author, "the sheer population of Asian countries may allow them to train more scientists and engineers than the U.S. while still devoting a smaller share of their economy to science and technology. ... The phenomenal growth of China's industrial base has been widely publicized, but what is perhaps the more important long-term indicator of a nation's prosperity is its re-investment in science and technology education."

So, here we are again: insufficient funds to properly pay for an adequate education for our children, but with sufficient funds ($500 billion next year) to fund military adventures all over the globe to "protect our interests."

The reason why we spend more on military expenditures than the rest of the world combined is that we have become a global empire and empires control things by the threat of military force. The United States owns, or controls by proxy, a substantial majority of the world's wealth -- far more than our share by population, and yet we are falling behind other industrialized countries in our average standard of living (as well as other important measures of national sanity like infant mortality, homelessness, rates of incarceration for petty crimes, poverty, and illiteracy). There is a very simple reason for this. Those global interests are managed for the profit of an increasingly small group of people -- an elite class of Americans that neither cares about, nor feels any sense of loyalty to, or responsibility for, ordinary Americans.

Another important reason why the US is falling behind in academics and research is that we have sold off our academic institutions to the highest bidder. Schools respond to business needs and are largely funded by business. Research departments, instead of participating in the global enterprise of extending the frontiers of human knowledge, are instead engaged in intensive proprietary research, in secret, for the profit of their sponsors. Ask any senior university researcher or administrator why it is so expensive and difficult to conduct research anymore and they will say it's because of security. It is much more expensive to provide secure premises, secure methods, and adequately vetted staff than it is to engage in open research in cooperation with a global learning community.

We need to understand that our national interests are best served by serving our people best... and I do not mean that we make it even more possible for people to fill their homes with useless commodities that they do not need. We need to start working on real solutions to real problems, not just symptoms. We need to get the government out of the hands of big business and turn it back to its primary purpose: serving the people. We need to embark upon a national policy that does not result in an international policy that makes half of the human race our enemies. We have hard choices, but the alternative to making those choices is much harder to bear.

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