From time to time on this blog, we discuss the obligation scientists assume by virtue of accepting public money to fund their research. These obligations may include sharing knowledge with the public (since public money helped make that knowledge). And they also include playing by the public’s rules as enshrined in various federal regulations concerning scientific research.
If a scientist takes public money, she expects there will be some public oversight. That’s just how it goes.
Of course, working from this mindset makes it much harder for me to fathom how someone (say a Secretary of the Treasury) could ask for a big chunk of public money (say $700 billion) with no oversight whatsoever. Indeed, in trying to make sense of such a request, I find myself entertaining some pretty odd hypotheses:
- Could this be circumstantial evidence that economics, while dismal, is not a science? Otherwise, an economist would just assume that oversight would be part of the deal, right?
- Maybe Secretary Paulson actually wants extra oversight of the bank bailouts but didn’t think he could sell the expense that would require. By asking for no oversight whatsoever, he ensures that lawmakers will build in that extra oversight with no complaints.
- Secretary Paulson’s college roommate was a Jedi. Paulson is trying to see if that Jedi mind trick he learned from the roommate actually works.
- Secretary Paulson thinks we’re stupid.
This is bugging me way more than most financial/governmental news items do. If you can shed some light on Paulson’s request and return (relative) order to my understanding of the world, I’d be grateful.