Davos Newbies Home

Big science  

“The modus operandi for most big science projects is to play down the sheer fascination of intellectual investigation and emphasize supposed economic benefits.” George Johnson explains some of the politics behind big science. What interests me is that you encounter the same strategy in so many other fields. Take education. I’ve been on conference panels where educationalists were frantic to prove the economic benefit of higher education. Why can’t they have the confidence to argue that education is good for the individual and good for the society, even if no economic benefit whatsoever accrues? Why does the economic argument have primacy?

Exposure  

Responding to the sad tale of the plagiarised Iraq dossier, The Observer makes an important point on how the rules have changed for governments and other powerful institutions. “It is not only the Government which has access to the internet. Every claim made will be scrutinised more closely, and by more people, than ever before.”

You’d think The Observer’s usually estimable John Naughton would have the same understanding. He makes the valuable point that equating intellectual property with physical property is dishonest, but he fails to credit the many people who have been discussing this in weblogs and other media for weeks. His column seems to me a direct crib from Doc Searls’s analysis of the Eldred case. Credit where credit is due.

C – 7 

The Guardian has a revealing analysis of the congestion charge and the politics and thinking behind it. “The congestion charge may be the sort of unpalatable but essential social reform — backed by the experts but deeply divisive — that modern politicians are increasingly reluctant to initiate. Or it may turn out to be a very public folly: the Millennium Dome of transport policies.”

Roll on C Day. I can’t see anything else even remotely tackling one of London’s biggest problems.

Circle of friends 

By way of explaining why he is interested in the history of economic thought, Brad DeLong makes some wonderful points about long-dead authors. “It is very nice to add some highly intelligent, extremely witty, and very thoughtful people living far away — for the past is indeed far away, and in its strangeness provides an important element of perspective — to our circle of friends.”

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