Sorry this section still in work!
"...one of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, ..." --- Albert EinsteinLet me say first that my intention in this essay is not to denigrate the groups that will be specifically named herein. No, the reason for this essay is to somewhat counter the irrational belief that many people have that the various groups -- the government, the military, the law enforcement agencies, the universities, and others associated with the public welfare -- are acting to improve your life and mine. They are not. They are acting for their own selfish reasons. That is not to say that some of what they do will not benefit you and me.
Also, I want to make clear that I am not trying to say that what they are doing is necessarily wrong. In fact, passing judgment on what they are doing is not my purpose at all. My purpose is to try to convince you to realistically judge the actions of all these groups. Your life will be better if you understand the truth about the actions of others. "We are doing it just for you" is not the truth for any of the public welfare groups, as well as McDonalds!
Right! If you haven't given it much thought, you may accept that all those public servants are making every effort to make you happy. In a way, they are. Under certain circumstances they will try to make you happy. In other situations they may simply ignore you. But whatever they do, it is all easily explained if we look for the underlying, root motivation. When we find that basic motivation, we find it is simply: what they do is for themselves.
Strangely, this rather obvious observation that politicians and other public "servants" actually act out of self interest was not generally recognized in the science, philosophy, and academia worlds until the 1950's or so when the Theory of Public Choice was developed. Now, however, most academics, philosophers, and even jounalists accept that public "servants" act out of self interest -- just like the rest of us!
So why does it sometimes appear that they are looking after your interests rather than theirs? What about all those dedicated social workers and law enforcement people? Why do they put in long hours and endanger their personal safety? Well here is an analogy that might help. Let us say you are the owner of an apartment house. Let us say that a drain line stops up and you go over and repair it in the middle of a very cold night. Why did you do that? Did you do it "just for them"? No, you did it because you realize that it is in your best interests to keep your tenants moderately happy. And if you can make your tenants believe that "you did it just for them", you will even benefit more from you efforts!
Now, I'm not saying that all of our public servants are always acting only in self interest. I'm not saying that there aren't exceptional public servants who really are motivated to help others. For various reasons, not all of which are complimentary , some people do seem to unselfishly work to help others. But these are the exceptions. What I am talking about in this essay are the typical, the normal, government employee, soldier, policeman, or educator. These typical, normal humans are driven by self interest. Again, I wish to emphasize, I'm not knocking that motivation. It is normal and it is, no doubt, what is best for us. What my purpose of here is only to correct the misconception that many of you have that they are "doing it just for you".
Throughout history as well as today, we have many dedicated, talented, individuals that, in their pursuit of research have benefited all of us enormously. These people work long hours at great personal sacrifice to develop their theories, solve medical problems, carry out successful research, etc. We enjoy the fruits of these labors every minute of every day. It is a fact that society as a whole benefits more from many of these dedicated individual's efforts than they do themselves. Yet, it is still true that they are acting from selfish motives. When we have this situation, it is a wonderful bargain for both society and the researcher. It is a "win-win" situation. Unfortunately, for every one in which this is true there are hundreds of others in which it is not. These others are the ones that this essay is mostly about.
Now let us look at a couple of important examples.
Government employees and the contractors they support are all acting in their own self interests. When they spend many billions building a new plane they are doing so because an aerospace company is trying to make money and government employees are trying to improve their personal position. Contractors are constantly trying to create new products that will make the products presently owned by the government obsolete. It is very naive to think that the government has some super intelligent group that carefully assesses the dangers of the world, determines the technical devices needed to combat these dangers, and then writes a purchase order to the contractors for these devices. Doesn't work that way at all! Instead, what the government buys is driven by what the contractors can invent.
That is, what the government buys is primarily driven by technological developments -- just as businesses are and just as you and I are. There is a BIG difference, however: you and I and the businesses are limited by economic return. The government is not. Businesses will generally only purchase new technology if it results in a better profit for them -- which it often does. The government has no such restraints.
Let us look into how the weapons business actually works. How do I know? "Been there, done it!".
It is highly unlikely that we will see a reduction in military spending any time soon. We could be having peace, happiness and universal love-ins throughout the world and our massive defence industry will keep on rolling. There is a huge amount of money at stake and just because a country as massive as the former Soviet Union folds its cards and drops out of the game is absolutely no reason to shut down our very profitable weapons business. One company alone, Lockheed Martin Corp. is expected to have revenues of 30 thousand million dollars in 1996, according to a recent article in Washington Technology!
The politicians and bureaucrats would like for you to think that their spending is driven by necessity -- by the "threat". But if the threat goes away you will notice some real fast shuffling to come up with a new threat! A case in point is the decline of the Soviet Union threat. For a few months there some of us thought that the government and its defence contractors must be terrified at losing all that money. Not so. They quickly came up with a new threat. Now, we are told, the threat is "multiple skirmishes" at the same time. Now we must be able to fight wars in several places around the globe at the same instant. Therefore, we have to build back up again. There will be no significant reduction in our defence spending.
Another very important aspect of the spending equation is the so-called "Revolving Door". Outgoing politicians and retiring government employees are eagerly sought by the government contractors where they are given plush and influential jobs (now they not only draw a fat retirement check funded by you but also draw a very plush salary -- also funded by you!). The ex-government bureaucrat, now employed by a contractor can be very effective in getting juicy contracts for the sponsoring company. This disgusting activity is well known, has been going on for years, and is not likely to stop soon. There have been some feeble attempts to stop it but all were unsuccessful. So why do you thing they were unsuccessful? (Your homework).
Of course, politicians see another huge bounty with regard to the poor and the disadvantaged: votes! In this country, every person has exactly one vote whether you are rich or poor, a hard-worker or a bum, intelligent or stupid, etc. But there is one interesting fact that politicians discovered long ago, a vote from a poor person is a lot easier to buy than from a financially secure person.
That this is true is obvious from the inaction that politicians are guilty of with respect to the several social programs that are headed for financial disaster (due to over-spending) in the next few years.
But, you argue, there must be some good that comes out of all of this. Sure there is. We are surrounded with wonderful technology in which a considerable portion was developed by government funded grants. Note that I did not say that society received no good from the efforts of academic researchers. No, what I said was is that they are doing it for their own personal benefit.
On the other hand, you should realize that most -- by far -- of university research never does you a whit of good. Further, you should realize that there is no unselfish, all-wise, government agency that makes sure that when they spend your tax money that some good will come to you and me. No, those government agencies that fund the universities are also looking after their own personal interests. And so it goes.
All Research and Development efforts are ultimately based on desires of the individuals involved to satisfy their own wants. When a government bureaucrat awards a grant to an individual or an agency, it is based on many factors of which whether the public really needs or wants it is way down on the list. Grants are made based on such things as prestige, friendship, return of favors, technical challenges, political favors, redistribution of income from the populace, and on and on. Be assured that there is no high level agency that is looking at the long term needs of this country and deciding on what research programs would be needed to satisfy those needs. No, the justification for nearly all research programs is "bottom-up driven" not "top-down driven" as would be much more rational.
2: Is it fair to lump ordinary working level government employees in with politicians and career administrators under the accusation that all act selfishly? I think so, for they all do what they do for selfish reasons -- just different selfish reasons. Ordinary working level folks make statements such as "I am so thankful that my brother-in-law got me this job. This job has saved my life. I have security, I really don't have to work very hard and there's little stress". Or you might here, "My cousin, Elbert, says he thinks he will be able to get me a job at NASA where he says I will have good pay and don't really have to know a whole lot." Notice that there is no mention of serving the public. In fact, I have never heard a working level government employee mention that they do what the do to serve the public. Politicians say those kinds of things.
Gross, Martin L.: A Call for Revolution (How Washington is Strangling America -- And How to Stop It). 1993. Ballentine Books, New York.
Mead, Lawrence M.: The New Politics of Poverty. 1992. Basic Books, New York.
Martino, Joseph P.: SCIENCE FUNDING - Politics and Porkbarrel. Transaction Publishers, 1992
"Military Spending Working Group", on the net at "http://www.fas.org/man/index.html"
"Discretionary Spending: Military Takes as Much as All the Rest Put Together" on the net at "http://www.cdi.org/issues/discret.html"
"The Center for Defense Information" on the net at "http://www.cdi.org/"