Should political research by funded by the Government?
Washington Post editorial argues that in a time of budget cuts, the lack of “science” in political science is a luxury we can live without.
Though quantitative methods may rule economics, political science and psychology, these disciplines can never achieve the objectivity of the natural sciences. Those who study social behavior — or fund studies of it — are inevitably influenced by value judgments, left, right and center. And unlike hypotheses in the hard sciences, hypotheses about society usually can’t be proven or disproven by experimentation. Society is not a laboratory.
The NSF’s budget includes $247.3 million for social sciences. At a time of trillion-dollar deficits, and possible cuts to defense, food stamps and other vital programs, this is a luxury we can live without. Cut the NSF’s entire social science budget. Use half the savings for hard science and the rest to reduce the deficit.
In my professional life, and out of sheer interest, I would miss the research (less the analysis) that political science delivers.
But my personal interest is a niche obsession, and my professional interest is for the commercial gain of clients, and the political gain of politicians.
It perplexes me that working politicians generally eschew the political science for the transient thinness of polling and focus groups. They don’t make sufficient use of the output of political science.
Anyway, I’m not sure how to argue that any of that is to the wider benefit of society.
If politicians themselves under-value political science, there’s precious few people left to arguing for State funding. Then, who else would fund it?
It seems to me that those who do benefit from political science – such as lobbying strategists and political advisers like myself, and our clients – should consider setting up political research funding Trusts.