Editorial: The Grand Hypocrisy of Obama’s Scientific Reform
Randall Munroe, the author of the webcomic XKCD, could not state it much more simply than that. With Obama now taking the reins as president, it refreshing to hear him speak of giving the field of science its proper due. The scientific method has led to most of the great advancements in modern culture.
The Merriam-Webster definition of the scientific method is as follows:
“Principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses”
The theory of Evolution is considered within the scientific community as one of the most important offerings to modern science, proposed by Charles Darwin in the mid-nineteenth century. The theory posits that the natural world progresses based on “survival of the fittest”. The strongest and most useful attributes of a species survive and are passed onto future generations. I’m sure almost everyone knows the rest of the basics from middle school.
Thus far, it appears that Obama is in full support of the natural sciences and thankfully believes in evolution. His administration’s newest budget report even sets aside $7 billion for the National Scientific foundation. The specific highlights include:
- Provides $7 billion for the National Science Foundation, a 16-percent increase over the 2008level, as part of the President’s Plan for Science and Innovation.
- Increases support for graduate research fellowships and for early-career researchers.
- Increases support for the education of technicians in the high-technology fields that drive the
- Encourages more novel high-risk, high-reward research proposals.
- Increases support for critical research priorities in global climate change.
But, I must ask, does he forget that there is more than one branch of science? In fact, there are even specific branches of science to study the very job he holds – economics and political science! With the dawn of a new scientific age, it seems only fair that all areas of science, even social ones, should be covered. Let us now use science to explore why perhaps Obama forgot to do his objective analysis before moving forward with his conclusions and policies.
Problem: Societies need political and economic structure to maintain peace and promote prosperity
Hypotheses: capitalism – purely private ownership and competition lead to prosperity
socialism – centralized/state control and planning can lead to prosperity
United States (1789 – present)
Rose to prominence and power from minimal starting capital to become most powerful and influential country in the world
Socialism (prominent examples, not a complete list)
- Cuba (1959 – present)
Cuba is one of the most Socialist nations, as it has a mostly state-run economy, universal healthcare, government-paid education at all levels, and a number of social programs. It does not have a stock exchange.
- North Korea (1948 – present)
The same is true of North Korea, which has an almost entirely state-run economy, as well as the same social programs mentioned for Cuba. Like Cuba, North Korea does not have a stock exchange.
- People’s Republic of China (1949 – present)
A substantial part of the economy is still state-run, although there are not as many social programs as there once were and universal healthcare has been eliminated. Still has a Socialist-type foreign policy, for the most part.
- Vietnam (1976 [unified] – present)
A significant part of the economy is state-run. Close ties with Cuba, Venezuela, and Belarus.
- Syria (1970 – present)
Although not commonly referred to as Socialist in the West, Syria has a mostly state-run economy and universal healthcare, along with a left-wing foreign policy.
- Sweden (1932 – present)
Mostly private industry, but many well-funded govt. social programs are offered. Universal healthcare and government-provided education at all levels is made available.
Notable Former Socialist nations:
People’s Republic of the Congo (January 3, 1970 – March 15, 1992)
Republic of Czechoslovakia (May 9, 1948 – July 11, 1960)
Czechoslovak Socialist Republic (July 11, 1960 – March 29, 1990)
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (November 29, 1943 – April 27, 1992)
Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (September 10, 1987 – May 27, 1991)
German Democratic Republic (October 7, 1949 – October 3, 1990)
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (December 30, 1922 – December 26, 1991)
- Survived 220 years
- Created the largest economy in the world, also the largest military
- Average standard of living is higher than most of the developed world
- Monopolies have occurred that did harm to industries and working conditions, but eventually competition has always returned
- Bubbles have formed and popped, creating cycles of boom and bust (not necessarily inherent in true free market capitalism)
- Average survival of present socialist states – 53 years
- Average survival of defunct socialist states – 32 years
- USSR was the singular state to rise to the position of being a world power, but only while under dictatorship
Although large public programs, like universal healthcare, have greatly improved living conditions for many, almost none of the programs last longer than a few decades and conditions return to the previous norms or worse.
- Many of the socialist states eventually came to resemble Totalitarian states wherein the state took control of almost all public and private life, including; the USSR, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Ethiopia, and currently North Korea.
- The majority of all socialist societies ever started no longer exist
Only one country can be described as successful in terms of average quality of living and economic prosperity: Sweden.
- Many industries in Sweden are more privatized than America will be if the entire budget plan and stimulus are carried out. Despite having one of the lowest scores for government control, Sweden still ranked 27th worldwide on the national “Economic Freedom” scale.http://www.heritage.org/research/features/index/chapters/pdf/index2008_execsum.pdf
- Sweden has a population roughly the size of New York City.
- One other country can be seen as a rising source of substantial growth: China
This growth began in the 1990’s, around the same time that Shanghai was reacquired by China. Shanghai was previously held by the British and is seen as a major center for free market capitalism.
Just like in the natural sciences, an atmosphere that promotes competition and survival of the fittest appears to flourish. The more centrally planned the government and economy become, the more power falls into the hands of just a few individuals. History seems to confirm Lord Acton’s famous statement, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” While there clearly does not appear to be any perfect political or economic theory, the theory of capitalism does appear to have several distinct advantages over socialism. Although power is becoming increasingly concentrated in the American government, especially in the last few decades, the diffusion of power inherent in the states and the individual citizen has helped maintain great balance for quite some time. President Obama, this may be social science, but I think the proof of history speaks loudly enough.
I can already hear that one argument brewing in your mind; “Obama is not a Marxist/Leninist and only wants to bring about some socialist policies without completely destroying capitalism!” To you, good sirs, I challenge a thorough reading of the Obama administration’s full report found below (pdf form). If after reading about how he would like the government to have more monetary control over education, energy, transportation, banks, small business ect., you are still convinced that Obama isn’t all about central planning, I leave you with this quote from the 1974 Nobel Prize winning economist:
“That democratic socialism, the great utopia of the last few generations, is not only unachievable, but that to strive for it produces something so utterly different that few of those who wish it would be prepared to accept the consequences, many will not believe until the connection has been laid bare in all its aspects.”
- Friedrich August Hayek
The Road to Serfdom
“A New Era of Responsibility”
This article is, in part, a response to the Salon article which I feel tries to give a more comfortable feel to socialism, a dangerous first step that some German scholars took 100 years ago and the world is still trying to recover from. How soon are we to forget modern history?