Five years ago, the federal government spent $169 billion to fund basic research and development. This fiscal year, it’s down to $134 billion.
People who believe in public belt-tightening applaud drops like that. I understand why: There are many reasons to reduce government spending. But in this case they’re wrong. We need to boost the government’s investment in research and development, not slash it.
Let’s begin with the federal government’s record, which is nothing short of impressive. The bar codes that revolutionized inventory control and tracking were developed with a grant from the National Science Foundation. Google’s founders depended on government grants for their early research into search algorithms.