Very few issues are more reflective of attitudes toward the future than where politicians and pundits and ordinary people come down toward Research and Development, or R&D.
According to sage estimates, we owe half of the value of our economy... plus most of our increased health and lifespan... to technological advancements wrought by past investment. And very likely the liberty to enjoy them and to argue freely across miracles like the one you are staring at, right now.
Has our rate of R&D declined? Certainly climate-related research has been axed, every time the GOP gets a chance... though it has grown increasingly clear that the hostility is aimed at science, in general.
Some claim that declines in federally-funded pure research are made up for by increases in pragmatic, short-term, product-oriented development in many industries. Let's dive into that for a few, nerdy paragraphs:
But the rise of corporate R&D --
(1) is very near-term and product focused. It does not create seed corn, as farther-horizon federally funded research does, and…
... (3) Ironically, this proves that Karl Marx, while a bright observer, was also really dumb at times. His entire scenario of eventually being able to do without the services of bourgeois capitalists depends upon the assumption that society must build a certain level of capital stock, infrastructure, factories by capitalists stealing and investing labor value from workers. Once they have “completed capital formation,” there’s no further need for capitalists. The Prols take over and no one’s labor value gets stolen any more to invest in factories and such.
But the rapaciously insatiable approach that is now the entire basis of their inflated system risks -
(a) killing the goose that lays golden eggs,
(b) eats away at your moral underpinnings, and
(c) devastates any chance of creating an autonomously fecund local inventing caste.
In other words, bypassing Lenin's Great Mistake does not protect you from making the next one... the assumption that you can maintain a repressive society that quashes individual creativity, by stealing creative elements forever from nations who you deem to be "cattle."
The presumption does not work. It cannot. There are other, braver approaches, with better prospects.
== The crux? You're all nuts! ==
Seriously. Every dichotomy that's zero-sum should be treated with suspicion. Those screaming at sinful-greedy "capitalism" are actually denouncing what Adam Smith called the number one enemy of truly functional, flat-open-fair-creative enterprise -- the rent-seeking and parasitical conniving of oligarchs. The devastating form of cheating that manifested in 99% of societies that ever had agriculture, across 6000 years.
It was the underlying reason for our revolution and new enlightenment. Lest we forget. And neither today's insipid, ill-educated right, nor the reflexive and passionately simple-minded left have even a clue.
Moving forward is going to take a wide stance, utilizing (though never trusting) government for what it does well... and breaking up undue concentrations of cheating power in the world of commerce, so that it will function as well.
Above all, we must want to solve problems. That means investing in tomorrow. It truly is that simple.