When the Republicans began their deconstruction of American democracy, under Newt Gingrich, one of the immediate targets was the emasculation of the Office of Technology Assessment. Since that time, the Republicans have mangled, misused and rhetorically denied any science that failed to fit their self-interests or those of their sponsors, as Chris Mooney detailed in his magisterial The Republican War on Science.
There’s an old saying – you are entitled to your opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts. If there is nobody telling American legislators what the facts are, they seem happy to make them up. After all, by the time all hell breaks loose (for Nature will not be mocked or ignored), they will probably not be in office or power and have to fix it up. And their kids won’t be the ones who suffer from their stupidity, you can be assured of that.
Mark Hoofnagle, at denialism blog, and Pharyngula (by some guy whose name escapes me right now) have suggested that what the Democrat Congress ought to be doing right now is revitalising the OTA, so that the idiots can’t claim their own facts when formulating policy. I would go one further, and say that the legislation ought to specify a fixed percentage of the annual budget to fund the OTA, rather than holding it hostage to political fortunes (yes, even by Democrats) every year. It is a vital function of science in government, and should never again be demolished like this, with the drastic consequences we have seen since.
For that matter, being Australian I cannot fathom a politicised civil service either, but baby steps. We can bring America into the democratic community of nations if we try.