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Policy

‘What Kind Of Nation?’

October 3, 2011 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 89, ISSUE 40

I was really surprised by the virulence of attacks against the editorial by Rudy Baum (C&EN, July 18, page 3). Why is it that so many scientists consider politics so low? Teaching science is an excellent way of teaching the ability to think, to criticize, to make decisions; in other words, to be intelligent, and therefore good, citizens. John Thomas Bradshaw is wrong when he states that the European Union governments are of a “socialist type” (C&EN, Aug. 22, page 5). Just look at the European leaders; they are all rightist and/or Christian followers—except, perhaps, the Spanish prime minister, who apparently will soon be replaced. Is it honest to make wrong statements in order to develop a point?

Be quite certain, dear colleagues, that even if you don’t care about politics, politics does take care of you and your future. This is true of people in research as well as those in teaching. Therefore, I felt in agreement with the letters of William Riggs and of Martin Weisman. Out of eight letters on the topic, that number is rather sad.

By Jacques Aghion
Lige

In my view, it is disconcerting that college-educated readers of a professional magazine like C&EN engage in peripheral, futile arguments that are irrelevant to the issues at hand.

C&EN should be discussing why—after decades of outsourcing, and with U.S. industry (chemical industry included, of course) giving away know-how, technology, and capital—some individuals now want to “balance the budget” at the cost of weakening the safety net to the mass of under- and unemployed that resulted from such policies. Such an argument might appeal to the uninformed who think the U.S. economy is run like a family: “We cannot spend more than we earn, right?” This ignores the fact that this country has run trade deficits since Aug. 15, 1971, when President Nixon revoked the Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944 on the interconvertibility between gold and the U.S. dollar.

We should also be discussing the allied subject of how China developed a high-technology industrialized economy a few decades after Mao’s Cultural Revolution dragged its scientists and academics to the rice fields. Nothing short of a miracle could have accomplished that, considering that it took Western civilization 500 years to reach such a stage. Perhaps there are reasons that deserve to be exposed forthrightly to bring the debate to the intellectual level supposedly expected from C&EN’s readership.

By Agustín J. Colussi
Pasadena, Calif

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