As I have written before, my family and I are just above the so-called poverty line, so although a person who makes $180,000 a year is not filthy rich, he is a lot richer than I am. Given that the person I speak of has also made another million or so on the side, he is way, way richer than I am. The person I speak of is a scientist in a government sponsored job. In other words, every person who pays income tax, directly or indirectly, is paying him. (Even those who pay no income tax, like me, pay it indirectly because we purchase things from people who pay it, and it is undoubtedly part of the price that we pay.)
His name is James Hansen, and he works for NASA at the Goddard Space Institute. On top of his quite nice salary that taxpayers fund, he has made a lot of money on the side–in ways that some people think are in violation of federal regulations. That part remains to be seen, but it is clear to me that what he has done is unethical in the general sense of the word. He apparently has used his position in a government agency to make extra money, to advocate a position that he is being paid to advocate, and to advance an agenda that makes many of his backers wealthy, too. And it just so happens that his agenda is quite controversial and is not accepted by all of the taxpayers who fund his work.
I find it disgusting, deplorable, and despicable. Yuck, yuck, yuck! And I woudl dislike it even if he was being paid by some oil company to oppose the global warming movement. In other words, I am against this sort of thing in principle–not because of my personal views on what Hansen has been advocating.
This situation is a straightforward and clearcut example of why I believe in the separation of business and state. Climate research should be conducted and funded solely by private individuals and groups who have an interest in it. Any adovocacy or promotion of a certain approach to climate should likewise be done privately. Otherwise you run the huge risk that people will do what could easily be construed as taking bribes. And, as I wrote above, I don’t care if the cause is something I believe in. I want the government out of it.
If it is as important as people say it is, then people will support research on Climate Change. They will support efforts to reverse it. The govenrment, that is, the state, won’t have to. If people are not in favor of support climate change research and propaganda, then the government should not do so. “We the people” are actually the government. Our representatives are supposed to–imagine it–represent us.
Since I wrote about Ayn Rand in the post below this one, let me make one thing perfectly clear. In recent discussions I have had, it seems that many people would assume that Rand would applaud this man, Hansen, because of the large amount of money that he made for himself. Not at all! She would be appalled. She believed, like me, that the government should have no involvement with business–either for good or ill. She would certainly admire Hansen if he made a lot of money as a research scientist working for a private foundation or private business, especially if his work also happened to contribute something good to the world (think: Harold Roark in The Fountainhead and Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged). But she would not admire somebody living off public money and using his public position to further enrich himself. Such a man is the antithesis of Roark or Rearden.
I think this leads me to another point. Based on what I have written, it would seem that I object to the existence of NASA in the first place. Actually, I do. The work of NASA could have been done by private organizations and individuals. You might say, “But private people do not have the great resources that the government has.” I would first say, “Huh?” First, the government is you and me, ultimately–”we the people. . . .” Second, all the resources (or nearly all) that the “government” invested in NASA came from private people and private businesses. Our government leaders don’t have a magic money machine or a big pile of money hidden under the Capitol building. They get money by taxing us. Therefore, all the money that has been poured into NASA could just as easily have been donated to a private space foundation or have been earned by a private space exploration company.
It’s the same money. The same money that the government spent on space exploration was the money that once was in the hands of all of us. So, it might have been nice for our leaders to let us decide if we wanted to spend our money on a space program or not. If there was overwhelming support for such a program, it would have happened anyway, without the state’s involvement. Just as there is a movie industry and a sports industry that does not depend on the state to exist and to thrive.