Sunday, November 26, 2006

What you buy could affect your future

Humanity also needs dreamers, for whom the disinterested development of an enterprise is so captivating that it becomes impossible for them to devote their care to their own material profit. Without doubt, these dreamers do not deserve wealth, because they do not desire it. Even so, a well-organized society should assure to such workers the efficient means of
accomplishing their task, in a life freed from material care and freely consecrated to research.
- Marie Curie, scientist, Nobel laureate (1867-1934)

Was the Polish-born double Nobel prize winner advocating socialism in this quotation? In a way, but no more than she could have been advocating the same thing for any form of government.

When we look at the countries of the world that are considered to be progressive today, that is in which progress is being made in various fields of study, they all provide the means by which researchers may carry out their work with some degree of financial security.

I say some degree because in many of them science researchers must vie with each other for government grants and university positions to provide the framework in which to conduct their studies. Others who cannot or will not participate in the politics of academia and R&D work under the ones who will.

A decade or two ago most of the new research papers that were published came out of the USA. More recently the percentage has dropped close to 65 percent, down from nearly 90 percent. During the same period the US economy has faltered and the value of its currency has fallen somewhat against other major currencies. Over the same period, government monies for research in science have dropped off, more noticably so during the regime of the current president.

World leaders among nations today have money to spend, to invest and to give to poorer nations. They get much of that money when they export products, technologies, information and skills to other countries who want it. These exports depend to some extent on investments by governments in research that puts the countries' export corporations ahead of the competition.

When research money comes more from corporations than from governments, development tends toward products and services that may be sold for great profit rather than those that may benefit all humankind.

Who is paying for research into the products and skills you buy? No system is without its faults and its corruption. Making the right choice could affect the future of your country.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, encouraging everyone to become educated about what is behind the stuff they buy.
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