Eisenhower’s Dual Warnings: “Military-Industrial Complex” and “Scientific-Technological Elite”

Reposting here a comment I made on Michelle Malkin’s site in her post “The global warming scandal of the century deepens”…
On February 16th, 2010 at 11:32 am, ITookTheRedPill said:

   On February 15th, 2010 at 11:59 pm, Republicanvet said:

Science has morphed into researching what those controlling the grant purse strings want, and concluding what is necessary to obtain those grants.

Indeed. And that is precisely what President Eisenhower warned could happen.

Virginia Patriot brought this up in an earlier comment.

Many people are familiar with only one of the two warnings Eisenhower gave in his farewell address. Many people are familiar with the warning about the “military-industrial complex“, but they are not familiar with the warning about the “scientific-technological elite“:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades. In this revolution, research has become central, it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

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2 Responses to Eisenhower’s Dual Warnings: “Military-Industrial Complex” and “Scientific-Technological Elite”

  1. Aaron says:

    Mr Red, you do have a good point about too much government involvement in R&D.

    However, I have a counterpoint which is not aimed at disputing your, but rather at balancing it against a different perspective.

    The overwhelming majority of advancement in R&D within the last 100 years has been in areas of large scale tech that require greater investments of resource than any solitary inventor could hope to mass. While any garage tinkerer can build a better mousetrap, he won’t single-handedly develop a game-changing airliner such as the Boeing 707 was when it first took off. For many areas of tech, it requires battalions of engineers and researchers to take it from concept to widespread use. Most large scale tech is like that.

    What i do agree with you on, is that it should not be the government influencing where the development in these areas are. At least, no more than when it becomes a customer and needs a better mousetrap to suit its own internal needs, but that is it.

    Governments’ needs for R&D to get better mousetraps has yielded a wide array of new technology which revolutionized the world in the 20th century. Without Uncle Sam’s need for better artillery spotting, we wouldn’t have airplanes. Without his need to strike targets from the home land, we wouldn’t have space travel. Without his need for navy ships to go faster and farther, we wouldn’t have coal, oil, or nuclear power. (both electric gen and ship drive) I could go on, but my point here is clear.

    At the same time, it has been the private, corporate side that has taken those shiny new mousetraps and made them for their (and subsequently our) use. Without private, corporate R&D, jets would still be only fighters and bombers, space rockets would only carry nukes or spy sats, and global cargo would still be carried by wood and wind or WWII Liberty Ships.

    Because necessity is the mother of invention and not Uncle Sam, it doesn’t matter how much money the government throws at a certain area of tech development, it will never amount to anything more than a Smithsonian display piece until someone actually needs it for some real use.

    Basically, government financial expenditures on R&D which are not for its own needs (i.e. trying to further some politician’s cause like solar-powered cars instead of needing a new military communication system) is wasted.

  2. Red Baker says:

    Science is held in high regard, the supposed repository of progress, based on truth. But like any human institution it can be wrong, or it can be misused. The main problem in the case of global warming is the willingness of alarmists to use the reverence for science to promote their political agenda. That agenda and its fingerprints are all over the creation of the UN IPCC. The agenda is glaringly obvious in the Climategate papers. The agenda should be alarming to all observers because of their arrogant refusal to debate the issues. The main pillar of the alarmists is the supposed “consensus” of scientists who believe in global warming. Science is about skepticism, and it never takes a vote on anything. One man can move the Earth, if his theory is correct.
    The alarmist theory is based on the obviously false idea that today’s temperatures are far above normal. Actually, they are below the average of the last 10,000 years of geologic temperature history. That 10,000 years has been a warm period, a typical 10,000 year island of warmth in what has been a sea of about seven successive ice ages in the last 800,000 years.

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