Arnold Kling

Nanotechnology and Big Government

Arnold Kling, Great Questions of Economics
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Should libertarians be happy about government support of nanotechnology research? Yes, says Reason's Ronald Bailey.

"The small has become as limitless as the large," declared National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Rita Colwell in her keynote kickoff to the NSF’s Small Wonders: Exploring the Vast Potential of Nanoscience conference held in Washington, D.C., this week.

No, says TechCentralStation's Ryan Sager.

State funding of science assumes that private industry is not as wise or as clever as government bureaucrats are - a contention hardly worth dispelling. When there is huge profit to be made from technology that will improve cell phones, computers, telecommunications, fabrics, and medicines, and has potentially thousands of other applications, the market will lead the way.

Economic theory would say that generic research is a public good that deserves some government subsidy. However applied research to develop products for the market is best left to private firms.

Discussion Question. How could one decide which nanotechnology research projects are generic or basic research, and which are applied research?

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