Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ignorance is Bliss?

Senator Tom Coburn is trying to strip Political Science funding from the National Science Foundation. I have received a small bit of funding via my participation in the Minorities at Risk project, so, sure, I have something directly at stake. But really, the arguments used are ridiculous as Dan Drezner documents so well.

To quote from Dan and from Tommy "Captain Ignorance" Coburn:

Here's the key paragraph in Coburn's explanation:

If taxpayers are going to get their money's worth from the significant funding increases being entrusted to the National Science Foundation, the agency should be held accountable for how those funds are being spent. The political science program which does not withstand scrutiny should be eliminated immediately. Theories on political behavior are best left to CNN, pollsters, pundits, historians, candidates, political parties, and the voters, rather than being funded out of taxpayers' wallets, especially when our nation has much more urgent needs and priorities (emphasis added by DD).

OK, dear readers, I want you to close your eyes and imagine a world in which your entire knowledge of political behavior emanated only from CNN, pollsters, pundits, historians, candidates, and political parties. (end of quote by DD)

I would doubt that such a laughable set of claims would make it very far, but who knows? I have a friend who was part of an NSF grant that asked a very basic but understudied question: who chooses to become a candidate for political office and who does not? This became controversial because, I guess, some folks thought that they might actually find some good ones by accident. What bug crawled up Coburn's butt? I have no clue.

This should be of concern because one crank in the Senate can actually be an incredible obstacle, as Jesse Helms repeatedly proved. My hope is that Coburn is as dim about political processes as he wants everyone else to be.

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