Is Federal funding for research in nanotechnology justified? Declan McCullagh raises some doubts.

First, private sources will pay for basic research. It may not be at the level that all researchers would prefer, but if it can lead to applied research results, the private sector will still do some of it. Second, nanotechnology includes a mix of early-stage research and late-stage research. Intel’s latest generation of microprocessors likely qualifies as nanotechnology, but should Uncle Sam pay for the development of a hypothetical Pentium VI?

The challenge for government funding for research is to match social benefits with social costs. Economic theory does not justify government funding of research that yields purely private benefits.

For Discussion. Will it be possible to identify nanotechnology research projects that would not receive private funding but nonetheless have large potential social benefits?