We get the usual \”scientists should get tax money\” argument rolled out at The Guardian. My comment left there:
Scientist in doesn\’t understand economics shocker!
The argument in favour of tax funding for science is that science is a public good. This means that it is non rivalrous and non excludable. If Mr (sorry, Professor? Dr.?) Khan discovers anti-gravity then we can\’t a) stop other people from using it nor b) does other people using it mean that we cannot.
Because science is a public good economists agree that it\’s something which a pure market system won\’t provide enough of: if you cannot profit from it directly, other people being able to take your results and use them for free, why would you invest in it? Thus we subsidise it from taxes.
However, this very same argument which tells us that there should be tax subsidy also tells us that it doesn\’t matter which country the science is done in. If a German, a Chinee, a Portugee or an American discovers anti-gravity then we are all able to use the discovery as well. Because science is a public good.
So, because science is a public good we should subsidise it, but because science is a public good it doesn\’t matter which country does it.
Now, as soon as you start saying \”Ah, but what about patents\”, what about things that are invented which are then protected, which people can make money out of and thus we really might want to make sure they are invented in the UK….well, when you\’re talking about things which are protected, which people can make money out of, then we\’re no longer talking about a public good, are we? Because this is now excludable. We\’ve a patent on anti-gravity and you can only use it if you pay us.
If it\’s not a public good then there\’s no reason for the tax subsidy.
So, you can either argue that science should be British, because we can make money from it, which has the side effect of destroying the argument for tax subsidy, or you can say that science is a public good and should have a tax subsidy….but you cannot then argue that science must be British.
One or the other please, not both. Trying to argue both just shows that you don\’t understand the science of economics: not a good thing for a scientist trying to make an economic argument.