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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: The Role of the Federal Government in Scientific Research

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Role of the Federal Government in Scientific Research

Last week I wrote an email to two of my favorite talk hosts Larry Elder and Neal Boortz asking them each a question on the role of government in scientific research. I happen to respect these hosts more than others because of their libertarian leanings and because both have practiced law. Because they are both attorneys they have a greater understanding of the law than the average commentator. This knowledge is demonstrated daily on their respective shows. Much to my delight and surprise, Larry Elder responded with an answer to my question. This is the question I emailed to Elder:

Dear Larry:

As a Libertarian and Elderado, I have been struggling with the constitutional question regarding government funding of scientific research. Because I consider you an authority on such topics, I hoped you could help me out. This part specifically of Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution seems to be a grey area:


“The congress shall have the power…To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”

My understanding of this is that federal funding of scientific research is legally perfectly permissible. Otherwise, on what basis could the government create a program such as NASA? I thought I would bring this to your attention because of the embryonic stem cell debate.


This is the response I received from Larry Elder:

Dear Stephen:

Thanks for your letter.The way I interpret this constitutional amendment is: the Founding Fathers authorized Congress to protect the original writings and discoveries through the Patent and Trademark Office. It does not authorize government to fund research.

Sincerely yours,
Larry Elder

I responded back:

Thank you Larry! I didn’t think I would actually get a response from you but I appreciate it. I think your interpretation makes perfect sense.

And there you have it: one libertarian lawyer’s opinion on government’s role in scientific research. I would like to once again thank Larry Elder for responding to my question. At this time, I would like to open the comments thread to anyone who has an opinion on Mr. Elder’s constitutional interpretation (especially those who work in the legal field).

Books by Larry Elder:
The Ten Things You Can’t Say in America – A must read!
Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies, and Special Interests that Divide America- Haven’t read it yet, but definitely will someday.

Documentary by Larry Elder:
Michael & Me- Debunks many of Michael Moore’s assertions in Bowling for Columbine. If you have friends who are in favor of additional gun control laws, this movie might well change their minds. If you support the right to keep and bear arms as recognized in the Second Amendment, your beliefs will likely be strengthened even more. Michael & Me is as entertaining as it is informative.
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