In this episode Saifedean talks to Dr Terence Kealey, adjunct scholar at The Cato Institute, about government funding of science. They discuss the history of technological development including how the Industrial Revolution was able to take place in Britain at a time of limited government and no significant state support for science. They cover how western government involvement in science accelerated during the atmosphere of panic that followed the 1957 launch of Sputnik, and why the misguided policies that followed were based on flawed economic assumptions. Terence and Saifedean also critique some popular misconceptions about how scientific progress happens, including the influential work of Philippe Aghion, Ken Arrow and Mariana Mazzucato.
Saifedean Ammous: [00:05:03] Hello and welcome to another episode of The Bitcoin Standard Podcast seminar. Our guest today is professor of clinical biochemistry at the University of Buckingham in the United Kingdom, Terence Kealey. Professor Kealey is the author of The Economic Laws of Scientific Research, 1996, and then Sex, Science & Profits in 2010, and Breakfast is a Dangerous Meal: Why You Should Ditch Your Morning Meal for Health and Wellbeing, in 2016.
Professor Kealey's book The Economic Loss of Scientific Research was particularly influential on my Intellectual development, as well as my career. I read it when I was in graduate school about 13, 14 years ago.
And it fundamentally transformed the way that I thought about economics and research. And it helped me become more friendly to free market ideas and ideas of how economic [00:06:03] systems function without the need for central planning. And that led me down the path of studying Austrian economics, which later on was enormously important in my ability to understand Bitcoin and then write about Bitcoin and eventually leaving my career in academia.
And working independently in producing Bitcoin research and Bitcoin podcast and teaching economics on my university as an independent scholar, running a business online rather than working at a university. And I think a lot of that was down to what professor Kealey taught me about the way that scientific research works and the economics of scientific research.
I'm very pleased today to welcome professor Kealey here. Thank you professor for joining us!
Terence Kealey: Thank you. That was a very exciting introduction, I'm delighted! What you said is a story that's very exciting for me. So thank you!
Saifedean Ammous: Thank you so [00:07:03] much. So I think the the focus of our discussion today is probably going to be on The Economic Laws of Scientific Research.
So could you tell us a little bit about that book and what drove you to write it and what are the main arguments of it?
Terence Kealey: Thank you. What drove me to write it was, I was a biochemist in Britain, working at the bench in the 1980s when Mrs. Thatcher who has a very radical prime minister, cut in a small way, the government funding of science.
And she did so because the British government funded more science per capita than any other country in the world. And yet the British economy in the late seventies, early eighties was doing so badly. And so she said, clearly if the British government is funding more science per GDP, per capita than other Western countries, and yet we're falling so far behind, it can't be as important as everybody [00:08:03] said. What struck me was the consequences of her cutting, her very modest crossing by the way.
But the British scientific community erupted in rage and very quickly started producing statistics, showing how British science was being destroyed by Mrs. Thatcher. But the problem with those arguments is that I was a scientist, both at Oxford, and then later at Newcastle.
And my experience was in both universities that in Thatcher's time, the pressure to grow was incredible. We were getting more scientists in the lab every year. We were building more labs every year and we were getting more money every year. At the same time, the scientists both in Oxford and Newcastle, were going out saying that British science was collapsing. And when I challenged them, I got a very interesting story from the Oxford scientists.
I was told you don't understand. Oxford, Cambridge and London are being protected by Mrs. Thatcher, but the rest of the country is a desert. When I was in Newcastle [00:09:03] they said you don't understand, for electoral reasons mrs. Thatcher's protecting the provinces but the heart of British science, Oxford, Cambridge and London is a desert.
And that was the first time I realized an entire scientific community can just say something that's simply not true. Then I started to find out what the truth was. And the truth comes down to a very interesting phenomenon, which is very rarely talked about, it's called crowding out. And what that phenomenon means is that when the government funds something, it crowds out its private funding.
So for example, if the government supplies all the schools for free, people do not send their children to school and pay for it because the government is providing it for free. And all the full payment schools close. And it was the same in British science, but I discovered, it wasn't hard to discover, but it was as if no one else wanted to discover.
What I discovered was that when the British government under Mrs. Thatcher [00:10:03] cut funding for university science quite modestly, but it did cut it, the growth in the private funding of university science both from charities and companies, more than doubled.
For every Pound the British government took away from the universities, the private sector is putting in more than two Pounds. So what I discovered was that as the British government pulled out of funding universities in Britain, the private sector more than compensated, and yet the British scientists in an extraordinary act of collective blindness, hadn't seen that. And I thought that was very interesting.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. I think that's very interesting too. I think the particular most interesting part perhaps of your book is the historical analysis that looks deep into the history of the industrial revolution and the nature of government funding of science there. One pretty amazing fact, which doesn't get mentioned [00:11:03] many places other than in your book is the fact that Britain was one of the very few places in the world that did not fund science or specifically one of the places in Europe that did not have public funding for science during the time of the industrial revolution.
And that doesn't seem to have hampered industrial progress much, has it?
Terence Kealey: It's even more dramatic than that. Let me just show you something, I brought this book just to show you. It's called The Power of Creative Destruction. The prime author is Philippe Aghion, who's a French professor of economics, very distinguished.
This was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The Economist. It came out only a few weeks ago and at its launch there was an international conference, lasted four days. Over a hundred economists spoke, 11 of them were Nobel prize winners. One of them [00:12:03] was Emmanuel Macron, the president of France.
How many book launches get a country's president along and yet what Philippe Aghion says in this book is that it is impossible to industrialize without the government funding of science. It is inconceivable he says, that a state could take off economically unless the government funds science.
And it is extraordinary that such a historical misconception could be written today in 2021. You're absolutely right, the one country in Europe where the government did not fund science was Britain. And that's actually why there was an industrial revolution, because Britain was what they called a nightwatchman state.
The British state did essentially nothing but run the police force and not even very efficiently by the way. But the result is that no one had captured the state. And so taxes were very low, people were free to do what they wanted. Whereas in France and Germany, huge [00:13:03] taxes, people were not free to do what they wanted because they weren't particularly free citizens.
And those companies and those interests that were already established doing whatever it was that were threatened by innovation, but able to use the power of the crown to stop innovation. It was because Britain was the nightwatchman state, laissez-faire state that between about 1790 to 1890, it created the British industrial revolution, which was the world's first.
What's really interesting, is the world's second industrial revolution was the United States of America. And from 1890 to the present day, the United States of America has been the richest most successful country in the world. But the American government did not start funding science until 1950. So between 1890 and 1950, the America was the richest, most technological developed country in the world, actively no government funding of science.
And so the two great industrial nations, first Britain and [00:14:03] America became industrial because the government left their economy alone. And that is the most important lesson that the history teachers and yet the major teachers of scientific economics today to this day propagate a story that's just incorrect.
It is an extraordinary phenomenon.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, it's absolutely amazing. And the complete ability to ignore the evidence, the lack of government funding for science that went into the industrial revolution is also amazing. If you think about it, the most important things that gave us the industrial revolution, probably the steam engine and the proto-steam engines that existed before it, you discuss the evolution of all of these during the industrial revolution.
It was people out there in workshops innovating and coming up with more [00:15:03] efficient ways of doing things over decades and centuries that gave us the engine. And it wasn't these, we later developed theories study the thermodynamics involved, but it was not the thermodynamics that gave us the steam engine.
Terence Kealey: Absolutely not. You're absolutely right. It was surprisingly ill-educated, sometimes even near illiterate workmen playing with machines that were essentially developed to pump water out of coal mines and tin mines. And they were basically playing with the technology in their very isolated communities.
There must have been an awareness of what was going on in gas science in London and in France and in the Netherlands, but essentially these were men, all men I'm not being sexist here, it just was all men. These were men working in their workshops, improving the tools that inherited from [00:16:03] their fathers and through trial and error in the absence of academic science, creating the industrial revolution.
The Industrial revolution in Britain owes nothing to science. It was absolutely all in the workshop. As Adam Smith explained very clearly in 1776 in his book, The Wealth of Nations, he had of course observed the early part of the industrial revolution.
And he said, look it's got nothing to do with universities and nothing to do with science. These are men, again I'm not being sexist, it's just how it was in those days, these are men in their workshops improving technology through common sense and creativity and trial and error. And that's how we got an industrial revolution.
And it is extraordinary that the story is completely forgotten now. But I can tell you why it's forgotten. Would you like me to tell you how the era grew?
Saifedean Ammous: Please!
Terence Kealey: It all happened, funnily enough, in the United States of America. The United States of America is the dominant power. Everything that happens in America, the rest of us copy.
[00:17:03] That's just how the world is. And what happened in America essentially was Sputnik. Before 1957, the American government, there was a small amount of funding from the national science foundation, but it wasn't very important. And in any way it failed, I could go into that, but I'll leave that for one side.
There was a small amount of funding, but it was largely nominal. The American government didn't essentially fund science until 1957. But in 1957, the Russians launched Sputnik. And it's very hard to believe, very hard to understand now, but the crisis of terror this caused in America.
If you go to read the literature of the time, the Americans really believed that Russia was going to destroy them by dropping nuclear bombs on them from space. And then of course it wasn't just Sputnik which was the first artificial satellite, then the Russians put the first animal into space, it was a dog. Then the Russians put your first human into space, Yuri [00:18:03] Gagarin.
And the Americans felt that they had lost the space race. And the danger was, as I said, that Russia will destroy America from space. And so America under John Kennedy of course, created this huge desire to go to the Moon first, but in 1958 and this is the key date, in 1958 before Kennedy, after Eisenhower, in 1958 the Americans produced DARPA, which is defense advanced research projects agency. NASA, again 58' and also the defense education act.
This was pouring government funds into science, which created a problem. And the problem was this, this meant that America was accepting that the Russian Soviet system seemed to be more efficient than the American free enterprise capitalist system. And that was very difficult for America to accept. An organization called RAND, [00:19:03] the RAND corporation employed two economists, Kenneth Arrow, and Richard Nelson, and basically charged them with inventing an economic model which basically said the free market is best, but it depends on the government funding of science, only the government funding of science, other than that, it has to be the free market.
And that's what Richard Nelson and Ken Arrow did, but they did it I'm afraid, in ways that are simply intellectually not acceptable. Economists have two sorts of market and here, people have to understand something very important, economics is not intuitive. The science of economics is completely alien to normal people, and this makes it very difficult for society to judge what economists are saying. Economists believe in two sorts of market, classically competitive market and neoclassically competitive markets.
[00:20:03] Classically competitive markets are the markets we all understand. The markets that Adam Smith described or David Ricardo, classical markets of companies competing with each other. But neo-classical markets are the ones that economists invented around 1890, 1900. And it's a very interesting exercise in neoclassical market.
You have an infinite number of companies and an infinite number of producers and an infinite number of consumers and an infinite number of products, all of which are interchangeable and knowledge is shared. There are no company secrets.
In this mythical market and it's completely mythical, certain things happen and certain things don't happen. Of course they don't, because it's a myth. One of the things that doesn't happen in a neoclassical competitive market is research. It's very easy to show why that should be, we don't have to get into that. But what Richard Nelson and Ken Arrow said, look, they said, the most competitive market of all is a neoclassical competitive market.
We have all these companies competing [00:21:03] with all these consumers. What could be more competitive than a neoclassical market? But research doesn't happen in a neoclassical market, therefore governments have to fund it. And because 99.99% of people don't know how to read an economics paper, everyone said fine.
Ken Arrow won a Nobel prize by the way, Ken Arrow and Richard Nelson have proved economically that governments have to fund science because the more competitive the market, the less science that happens. It's a total myth. The only people who knew it wasn't true were fellow economists. But they weren't going to explode the nest because the consequence of the Ken Arrow Richard Nelson story was that governments poured science at American universities.
And the American academic who said, actually we don't need this money, would suffer the sort of fate that I suffered when I first started saying that, universal hatred. Because people want their university to be funded by the government. None of us believes in conspiracies. None of us is a conspiracy [00:22:03] theorist, but this is the nearest you're going to get to a real conspiracy. The economists knew this was rubbish on the part of Richard Nelson and Ken Arrow, but it was in their interests. And no one else could see through it.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, and I think in general, the incentives around science and economics are quite blatantly conflicted in a way that is obvious to everybody who should know economics. And economists themselves will talk about the problems of monopoly funding and price controls in all kinds of different fields.
But somehow that does not really apply to the analysis of their own field and the funding of their own jobs. But if you really look at it, it's just another example of a monopoly provider of a good. And the [00:23:03] monopoly provider themselves decides for the consumers how much they need of this and they decide how much funding is needed.
And I think the key concept that is really important in my mind is, there is no opportunity cost for the central planner. And this is I think the central fundamental insight that Ludwig von Mises brings into his critique on socialism. The problem of socialism, there is the incentive problem, we know of the incentive problem but even if we assume we get rid of that and we create the new socialist man who is a complete angel, the real problem of socialism is not incentives.
The real problem with socialism is calculation. And it's precisely about the fact that without the private ownership of the factors of production, the owners of those factors of production or the ones who are able to make the decisions with them, cannot make efficient productive decisions and cannot know where to allocate these [00:24:03] resources unless they can calculate it in terms of its real opportunity cost, unless they are the ones who face the opportunity costs.
So if you don't have private property, they can't think of the opportunity cost of the capital that they're allocating and that necessarily results in the collapse of socialism as an economic coordination mechanism. Without private ownership, there can be no division of labor and there can be no extensive economic capitalist system.
And there can be no long-term accumulation of capital. And that's exactly the same thing that happens in the process of education and in academic research, because there is one buyer, it's the government that buys for everybody. The government decides how much science society needs. The people who are in charge of these allocation decisions do not face an opportunity cost.
They are not allocating capital from their own pocket. They [00:25:03] don't face a real opportunity cost for it, in fact, they face the incentive to spend as much as they can. And the scientists obviously want to receive as much money as they can, and the universities want to get as much money as they can.
So everywhere the incentives are towards more and more money, whereas because it is not a free market, the market discipline is replaced by a process where everybody faces that incentive to increase more and more of the production, rather than focused on the quality.
Terence Kealey: You're so right. And you're so right about von Mises, of course he together with von Hayek pointed out that under a social system without prices that are a true reflection of the cost of production and without the profit that comes from allocating the resources accurately, then that just builds on the chaos that you've described. Your analysis [00:26:03] of von Mises and the free market and socialism is completely correct.
It's even worse than you described though, because for the scientists, they have to sway their government, all governments, that the money should be distributed by the scientists. And so what happens is the money is given by government to National Science Foundation or National Institute of Health or the MRC in Britain.
And it's the same all over the world. And then the scientists discuss amongst themselves where the money should go. It's complete capture by the producers, it's absolutely brilliant but every vested interest is aligned. So the government loves giving money to science because the sums of money are relatively small, 1% to 2% of GDP.
Although if you look at the sums of money, they're not that small, but in exchange for these sums of money, they can go around, the politicians pretending to be like Medici patronizing Galileo. And for example, when in 2000 the human genome was [00:27:03] sequenced, the person who declared it to the world, standing on a podium with all the television cameras was president Clinton.
And he was taking all the credit, even though ironically, this was a largely privately funded exercise, but politicians take the credit. In Britain, we've seen the politicians take credit for the vaccine, and one can carry on with this. But we can talk about the vaccine separately, perhaps, but the point is cause the vaccine was a private success by the way.
But the point is, although the vaccine was a private success in England, Boris Johnson was able to take the credit for that. So politicians love funding science, scientists love the government funding science, because they do it on their terms. And funnily enough industry loves it because the industry doesn't understand. Industry thinks it's getting a subsidy for its own science.
That's what it thinks. That's why it supports it. What industry doesn't see is crowding out. The reason government funding of science does not stimulates economic growth, and I'll come on to the empirical evidence in a minute, but the reason it doesn't work [00:28:03] is that all the best scientists, if the government funds science the way it does, with the scientists funding each other, all the best scientists in that system, they go to work for the universities. Who wouldn't? Because you're not answerable to taxpayers.
You are not answerable to investors, you're not answerable to management, you're just answerable to fellow scientists. And so all the best scientists go to the universities, but there aren't that many good scientists. The numbers of great scientists are relatively small. And if all the good scientists are in the universities, you don't get the great scientists in industry, which is where you really want them.
And so industry starts cutting back on its investment in research. Because they're not getting a return on that investment because all the people who could have given them a return are working in the university sector. So all the vested interests are aligned, the net result is slowing rates of economic progress.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, that's fascinating. Ultimately the problem with all government spending ideas [00:29:03] is the opportunity cost. It all sounds wonderful when you think, they're giving all these scientists money and the scientist are making all this new science that's going to make our life so much better.
These people, the smart people that are there would in the absence of this funding, they are smart people. They'll be out there, they'll be doing something useful for somebody. They'll be using their skills in this field in order to produce value for themselves and for others.
You would get this kind of scientific experimentation and the learning process and the new inventions that have come from it. If people were in the market, they don't have to necessarily be financed by the government. In fact, you could arguably say as we see from the example of the industrial revolution, we could say that when they have the market pressure, when they have the market telling them, this kind [00:30:03] of pump is good but if you could run it a little bit faster it would save us a lot of money. How do we make this faster? Let's look at all of the options.
Arguably, that's a better place to be applying the scientific method perhaps than university journals. You know, maybe without the bureaucratizing. And I think this is really the issue because the point I was getting at earlier, because without without the ability to measure things in terms of profit, without there being a boss was saying, we could really use a faster pump, without there being a bottom line, you're ending up having to judge scientific output through ticking boxes of basic requirements.
And essentially, numbers and metrics that will inevitably be gained. You look at the academic publication industry today, [00:31:03] in order to get a certain job, you need a certain number of articles and a certain number of journals.
And there's just an enormous inflation of journals, an enormous inflation of articles, an enormous inflation of titles, but very little actual content in these journals. Very few people read what is actually in academic journals because it's not really in any sense related to the real world and the real market. It's based on ticking bureaucratic boxes.
Terence Kealey: It's even worse than you suggest right there. Your analysis is completely correct, but it's even worse than you suggest. I don't know if you know this, but science is going through something called a reproducibility crisis. Have you heard of the reproducibility crisis? There's a great man in Stanford called John Ioannidis and he has shown that half of all published papers are wrong.
It is the most extraordinary statement. The title of his paper is half of [00:32:03] all published papers are wrong and it turns out he's absolutely right. It's worse in some fields than others. Some fields are very soft, epidemiology and nutrition. That's why I read the book on breakfast, by the way, as an illustration of how an entire field can be completely wrong.
So on the other hand, my instinct is that pure physics and chemistry, the numbers of false papers is much smaller. So it depends on the field. But nonetheless, if you look at the entire and of course there are relatively few scientists in physics, an awful lot of people in nutrition or epidemiology. So if you look at more than half of all papers are wrong, how could this possibly be?
And the answer is that these people are not being tested by the market. They're being tested by the National Science Foundation or the Medical Research Council through a process called peer review. And peer review basically says, if you don't agree with me, I'm not going to pass this paper. So if you come up with something really [00:33:03] important, a classic example for example was IVF.
In vitro fertilization first came out as it happens in Britain, I'm not being nationalist, I'm just saying it happened to come out in Britain and the scientists and the gynecologist who first developed it, couldn't get government grants for it. Why not? Because the government granting bodies did not approve of the IVF, in vitro fertilization.
It works the other way as well. In the field of breakfast where everybody says breakfast is the most important meal of the day, if you try publishing a paper that says breakfast is bad for you, you try getting a grant that says breakfast is bad for you, and by the way, breakfast is bad for you. But that's for the book.
Or if you look at fat, everyone is told, has been told for the last 50 years, fat is bad for you. We must all eat carbohydrate. The exact opposite is true. But the point is, if you're not in the market, if you're not being tested, it's [00:34:03] technology that keeps science honest. Science has to be tested against reality, which basically means the market.
If science, on the other hand, simply is tested by peer review, then if you can satisfy the peer reviewers, your career flourishes. And if you have something like epidemiology or nutrition, where there's so much data, you can always select just the bits of data you want to give the results you want without actually cheating or lying.
Then you get this terrible situation. Half of all published papers are wrong because people are simply publishing papers to satisfy the peer reviewers, selecting the data accordingly with absolutely no concern as to what is actually happening in reality. Only markets, because they are a test of reality or technology, technology is what happens in markets. And so it's exactly as you described, but even worse than you described.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, absolutely. If you think about dispassionately, the peer review system is perfectly [00:35:03] suited for developing group think. It's a perfect mechanism for a bunch of people to get together, or what is called the, I think the firehouse effect.
Where firemen spend a lot of time with each other, doing nothing but talking. And then they develop weird beliefs that they share with each other because they spend all this time alone, isolated from the rest of the world. And I think that there's an element of that. It's highly likely that once research has taken one direction in a certain field, such as for instance, the ridiculous notion that animal fats are bad for you, but industrial waste is good for you.
Which is a favorite recurring theme on this show because we've also had Nina Teicholz who wrote the book, The Big Fat Surprise. And we've hosted her before and we've discussed this, it's an astonishing story. And it's very easy with statistical papers, [00:36:03] there's always a way around it.
And in all those fields that rely on statistics, you need to take everything with a bucket of salt. Because it's very easy to make papers that achieve whatever result you want. You're doing statistics and you can cherry pick the data. You can cherry pick the methods that you want.
You can keep running data until you get the result that you want. You're likely to always find spurious correlations that can fit with the narrative and the story that you want to sell. And nutrition has gone completely down that path in a way that is completely devastating. It might be the deadliest mistake on Earth.
If you think about it, this has killed possibly more people than all the wars of the 20th century combined. Think about how many people die early because of the fact that they think they're looking out for their health by avoiding the traditional animal fats that all their ancestors [00:37:03] ate. And instead of replacing them with this industrial sludge.
Terence Kealey: Nina is a great person.
There are three giants in nutrition and what's extraordinary about the three of them, is they're not scientists, all three of them are journalists. Nina was a journalist, Michael Pollan, who talks about the importance of plant products and the one who discovered all about sugar and also salt.
Saifedean Ammous: Gary Taubes.
Terence Kealey: Thank you. So Gary Taubes is a journalist, Nina is a journalist and Michael Pollan. They don't fully agree, Michael Pollan would have us be much more vegetarian, but all three of them essentially have shown that the established story is completely wrong. And the reason that it had to be journalists who broke the news for us is exactly your business of group think.
There's a very very great man, really a very great man called Fleck. [00:38:03] His first name will come back to me was the first scientist who in 1935 showed that scientists work in groups and he influenced hugely people like Thomas Kuhn, Robert Merton, and all the later philosophers of science.
And he pointed out that scientists work in groups. And the reason they work in groups is that knowledge is tacit. That's to say knowledge is not explicit. If I produce for you, I know you an awful lot about Bitcoin, if I were to give you a piece of paper telling you how to clone a gene, you wouldn't have a clue.
Only professionals in the fields can clone genes, can read each other's papers. And so only very few people have the specialized knowledge to help each other. And you need people, you can't do things alone. You have to work, even your competitors, you have to work with. It's very easy to show that. And so Fleck back in 1935 said that what scientists do is they [00:39:03] actually create group think organizations and he gave names to them and all sociology and philosophy of science subsequently has completely concurred with that. That's what scientists do.
But the result is the peer review system. Which is in a sense a horribly confining way of thinking. Now Aristotle, two and a half thousand years ago said the scientists should pursue truth respective of how many people he offends.
But the trouble is in the modern world, if you have to worry about offending people, you won't get your grants. You won't get your publications. You won't get your promotion. You won't get your tenure. You won't get your jobs. And so science is built on subscribing to established points of view. It's very dangerous.
Only the market, very important, only the market protects you. Because the market doesn't give a damn about your group think. The market wants to know does this car actually work? Does this airplane actually work? And all the science in the world is irrelevant. All that they want is technology [00:40:03] that's good.
Once you move away from the market, that's when you enter into these terrible fields. That are actually rather sworded in the end.
Saifedean Ammous: This is to a very large extent a reflection of some of the arguments in my next book, The Fiat Standard, which will be out in a couple of months. In The Bitcoin Standard I discussed Bitcoin and I explained Bitcoin from first principles as a monetary system and how it works and what the implications of it are.
And then in The Fiat Standard, which is my next book, I looked at the fiat monetary system and tried to explain it also from first principles, which in my opinion, turned out to be a a pretty useful way of understanding the economic forces that are created when you have this mechanism for money that is centralized and under central control, which is the central bank. And effectively under the fiat monetary [00:41:03] system, new money is mined into existence, we mine Bitcoin, we mine gold.
We mine fiat when any entity guaranteed by the government or the central bank issues debt.
Terence Kealey: You're absolutely right. It's bankers lending money that create money.
Saifedean Ammous: Exactly. And so when you think about it this way, the government's credit is what is the native token of the fiat monetary system. And that allows the government and enormous amount of influence on all of these non-monetary aspects of society, including science.
There's just never been a real genuine crisis of funding for science, because there's always more debt, there's always more money printing and the funding numbers always go up. The amount of money being spent. It might go through a hiccup for a few years here or there, Thatcher might make a cut here or there, but in the long run, looking [00:42:03] at the past 60, 70 years, the amount of funding for science, like the amount of funding for pretty much everything else only goes up.
It's only heads in the direction of up because there's no opportunity to cost and because the money is constantly devaluing. And this inevitably means more and more government influence on these aspects of society. The market for food is heavily influenced by the government's ability to grant credit.
And so large farmers, large farming conglomerates can get credit at better rates than small farmers and they can produce with better economies of scale. So that has completely distorted the market for food production. We see the same thing in science and we see all of these patterns repeat in many sectors of the economy that are massively distorted because when one part of the market has a money printer where they can just grant credit infinitely, they are going to have a [00:43:03] very strong influence on the market.
And I think this is what we see in science, and this is what we see in nutrition. And we see it in medicine and many, many areas. And this in my mind is kind of, if I were to sell you on the bigger picture of why Bitcoin? Bitcoin is a free market way of doing money.
So it's a way to undercut the entire government monopoly and all of the government influence on all of these aspects of society, which is primarily down to the control on the monetary system. Bitcoin is an alternative monetary system whose supply can't be controlled by government and whose protocol rules are distributed and controlled by the users individually and which doesn't have a central authority in charge of it.
Terence Kealey: So let me just ask you a question, how therefore is the decision made to increase more currency in the Bitcoin system?
Saifedean Ammous: So there's a schedule that was [00:44:03] put for the production of Bitcoin before Bitcoin started to operate. And the network has been basically going by that schedule since then, so nobody can really change it.
The way it works is every 10 minutes, new block of transactions is mined. And with it, there's a reward of a new amount of Bitcoin that is produced. So if the first four years it was programmed to do 50 new Bitcoins every 10 minutes. And then for after the first four years, approximately four years, it drops to 25, every 10 minutes.
And then four years later, it dropped to 12 and a half. And now it's a 6 and a quarter. So at this point we've already had about 18.8 million Bitcoins mined and as time goes on the daily production declines, because it drops by half every four years. So we've still got another about 2.1, 2.2 million coins to be [00:45:03] mined roughly over the next century or so.
Terence Kealey: That's very interesting.
Saifedean Ammous: Nobody can make more of it.
Terence Kealey: And you were the early adopter, were you?.
Saifedean Ammous: Not early enough, unfortunately. I heard about it, but I was an academic. Unfortunately, I heard about Bitcoin relatively early, but I had too much of the smartass academic attitude of, oh here's why it can't work.
And so I heard about it early and I kept watching as it continued to rise, but I always thought, clearly it won't work and I wasn't very well informed about it. Basically all Bitcoin critics are generally uninformed about it.
So for a very long time, to be fair I wasn't a Bitcoin hater, I wasn't hoping that [00:46:03] it would fail, I couldn't see how it could work and so I wasn't early enough to get in on it. But then later on, I began to really pay attention and start to read it and start to realize, okay this is very interesting because it's a new invention.
You can think about it as a technological invention rather than a network. It's not Facebook, it's not Amazon. It's not a company with a CEO. It's more similar to the steam engine. It's a way of doing money. And it's an idea that just gets around. Anybody in the world can run some software on their computer in the same way that anybody in the world can make a steam engine in their workshop.
So anybody can make Bitcoin, anybody can join this network and it's an open network that nobody controls. And it operates through the fact that nobody controls it. And we've seen it over the last 10 years, it's really proven over and over that nobody really is in charge
Terence Kealey: Just very quickly, because I [00:47:03] don't want to bore your viewers who all know this, but just for my sake, what sort of academic were you and where were you in academy?
Saifedean Ammous: I was a professor of economics at the Lebanese American University.
Terence Kealey: Oh, really? So when I talk about classical and neoclassical economics, you knew what I was talking about.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. I'd done a PhD at Columbia university in sustainable development. And before that I had a master's degree from the London School of Economics in development management.
So I had studied economics from a mainstream perspective, but then toward the final years, I started reading some Austrians and started reading things that are not recommended in the syllabus. And so then here I am.
Terence Kealey: Very good! Delighted to hear that story.
Saifedean Ammous: One thing led to another, and now I'm in Bitcoin!
Terence Kealey: What is [00:48:03] very interesting about the government funding of science, by the way, is the numbers of studies that have come out showing empirically that the government funding of science doesn't work in terms of economic growth and the best source of these studies, incredibly, is the agencies of the American government.
So the Congressional Budget Office has produced two reports over the last 20, 30 years. Huge analysis of the actual, just the empirical data showing that the government funding of science simply doesn't work, whereas the private funding of science is what yields all the economic growth.
The OECD produced a report in 2003, again only empirical, showing that the government funding of science across all nations, the OECD over a 21 year period had produced no economic growth, only the private funding. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington DC had also produced such a study and the defense department had produced such a study.
And I think it's a very interesting [00:49:03] fact, which is very hard to understand. I don't really understand why the most effective destroyers empirically of the fact that government should fund science have come from agencies, either the American government or OECD, which is of course usually influenced by America. But these reports that are so beautifully written and they're so defensively written because they know they're going to be attacked.
They've made no impact at all. 99% of people still believe that government should fund science. Even though the empirical data is very clear that this is not the case. Very interesting example of how people believe one thing in the face of evidence in the other.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, it's absolutely fascinating. To their credit, I think we should give them credit for coming up with this, but yeah, the track record is pretty obvious when you look at it a little bit critically.
Other points that you mentioned in your book which would be worth discussing, Japan. A lot of people bring up Japan as an [00:50:03] example of government funding of technology and science leading to economic growth. What is your take on that?
Terence Kealey: It's a complete myth.
When I wrote that book at 1996, by the way, I'm writing a new book bringing everything up to date. But when I wrote that book in 1996 it was very obvious. What the facts were, Japan contrary to all myths in those days was the only country, the only industrialized country in the world where the government funded less than half of all academic science.
So in 1996, when that book came out, every other industrialized country in the world, the state was funding something like 85% of academic science, but not in Japan. Less than 50%. Equally, Japan like Switzerland, when you look at R&D, which is this broader, so academic science is just academic science, research and development is a much bigger thing which is all the stuff that industry does as well.
And Japan and Switzerland as it happened, were funding, the state was funding only 10, 15% of R&D. [00:51:03] Whereas in every other country, it was about 50-50. So Japan completely contrary to myth, was the one industrialized country where the government didn't fund science. And yet bizarrely the myth arose that METI the ministry of industrial technology had somehow led Japan into this fantastic economic growth.
All this of course was before the crisis that Japan got into. And how myths like that grow I really don't understand. Because even if you look at the projects that METI had propagated like nuclear power, the METI inspired projects have all failed. And so in the end, what you have is a story that METI, as a very good ministry, had helped coordinate the companies of Japan, what their needs were.
So if this company said we need protectionism, and of course, Japan grew behind protectionism. No one ever talks about it now, but Japan like Britain, like America grew behind protectionism. They exported like [00:52:03] anything, but it was impossible to import into Japan. And basically what METI did is it went to the big companies and said, what do you need in the way of protection?
We'll give it to you. What do you need in terms of access to foreign markets? We'll negotiate that for you. And METI put out a brilliant, but the reality is that Japan was the most laissez-faire country in the world, right up to the time that its system collapsed. Since the collapse of the system, it's been growing much more slowly because actually it got as rich as everyone else.
And you can't grow more than 2% a year once you're in the lead. Then the government in Japan put much more money into science in the hope somehow, I'm guessing back to the magical days when Japan was growing at 10% a year, but once you're in the country, you can grow at only 2% a year, and Japan has continued to grow at that percent or even less.
And the government has poured money into science to absolutely no effect. Japan proves the point of Britain and America, of growing under laissez-faire, no government or little government funding of science behind [00:53:03] protectionism. That's how you grow. Trying to get these facts out in the public domain, apart from you, very difficult.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. Once you've gotten to the point where you think and accept that Bitcoin can work, then you've already made an enormous leap against consensus when it comes to economics. You know, you're being called a sociopath by the New York Times. So you develop a little bit of a thick skin and you become willing to do discuss and look at other concepts.
And so that's why I think among Bitcoiners and among readers of my book, there's more of a receptivity to these kinds of heretic ideas. We've discussed many heretic ideas that you wouldn't hear elsewhere. And I think it's a wonderful testament to the corrupting influence of government on [00:54:03] science. Which is that everywhere else, there's so many universities out there all regurgitating the same stuff, ticking the same politically correct boxes, talking about the same problems and suggesting the same solutions and very little diversity of thought in any meaningful sense when it comes to these questions. Your university incidentally is a private university, Buckingham University.
Terence Kealey: I just want to say, I want to support something you said, because you said something very interesting. And I want to prove to you that you're right, because I think you don't know this. There are very, very few economists who argue that government should not fund science. In fact, basically none, but there is one exception, a professor of economics in Melbourne at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology called Jason Potts.
I don't know if you've heard of Jason Potts, but he also believes that governments shouldn't fund science, but his particular area of research is Bitcoin. [00:55:03] Very interesting. So the one unconventional professional economist out there is also the one economist, he's got all these grants studying Bitcoin.
You should look him up because he completely proves your theory that it's the unconventional thinker who both understands that government shouldn't fund science and supports Bitcoin. Jason Potts, very good man.
Saifedean Ammous: That's fascinating, yeah. I'll be sure to look him up. So your University of Buckingham is a private university.
I did not even know that there were private universities in the UK. What's it like operating in the black market for knowledge?
Terence Kealey: I'm no longer at Buckingham. I left about five years ago. I'm now essentially the Cato Institute in Washington DC. Since the epidemic I've gone back to England, but I'm still a researcher there. I've been at Buckingham for 15 years.
So the thing about Buckingham is, since you've asked I will answer your [00:56:03] question, because not many people understand this, why should they, but I got to tell you, so actually in Britain, all universities are private. This is something that's very rarely understood. And I'm only telling you because you asked, I wouldn't normally bore people with this, but in Britain all universities are private.
And that comes right back to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the Bill of Rights of 1689, when the British freed themselves from monarchical rule and became in all but name, a Republic. We essentially became a Republic for 1688, 1689 but we kept the queen because it looks pretty. And at that point, the decision was taken because of what the terrible thing James II had done, he was the king we threw out in 1688, he had tried to rule the universities. In 1689 the Bill of Rights, universities were declared to be independent of the state. And so in fact, until 1919, all British universities were like Harvard, Yale and Stanford, because if you look at America, the vast majority of students in America go to state universities [00:57:03] owned by the state.
But a small number of students go to the private universities, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton. So the other ones we've all heard of, but they only educated about 10% of American students and yet incredibly, and it's no coincidence, the best universities in America, are this small group of private universities. That cannot be a coincidence.
It's very interesting. They're all independent charities, the Harvards and the Yales, but as I said 90% of students go to the state universities in America. In the rest of the world, you look at Europe, almost every university is owned by the state, nationalize. The first universities in Europe came out in Italy, Bologna, Padova, universities like that.
They were all private initially. But over the centuries, the states throughout Europe, nationalized their universities. It is a very interesting fact. The best universities in the world are Oxford and Cambridge, which are private, Harvard, Yale and the American ones. And private [00:58:03] universities are so much better, go to France, go to Germany, go to Spain, go to Italy, these countries are all as rich as Britain and America, per capita, but the universities are rubbish compared to the ones you have in Britain and America.
And it's because only Britain and America essentially have all universities or at least some universities being private. What happened in Britain is very sad because in 1919, the British universities had been bankrupted by the first world war.
All their young men had gone to fight, so there was no fee income. And the inflation, we had no inflation for a hundred years, between 1815 and 1914, the end of the Napoleonic wars, 1914 a hundred years later, the British Pound actually increased in value. There was actually over a century, some slight deflation. That's the gold standard, of course.
And so all the investments when fixed, return 2,5%, 3%. They have names that we all now remember, but all that was destroyed in the first world war when inflation destroyed the value of the pound. [00:59:03] It lost 75% of its value down to 25%. So the universities, which were private institutions lost all their investments and all their fee income. By 1919, every single British university, including Oxford and Cambridge, was trading insolvently, actually trading insolvently. Their debts, exceeded their assets and they were in marked deficit on their annual accounts.
And so they went to the British government and said we want money or we're all going to close. And so the British government started giving them money and then with the money came control. And so by the time Buckingham was created in 1975, the entire British university system behaved as if it was nationalized.
All the money came from the state. The research money came from the state, the fee income came from the state and the capital money all came from the state. And so they were completely nationalized in spirit. And the result of that was that the universities were particularly monolithic. And what they taught, the universities taught socialism. Governments have to fund, not just universities, but schools, science, [01:00:03] transport, housing. The universities were just total centers of socialist propaganda, because that's just what had served them so well. At least they thought it had.
And so Buckingham was created in 1975 to say we need a university to defend the market. Even to this day, you go to a British university and start talking about the market, people practically spit at you. And I see you nodding because it's true. Now Buckingham has done quite well.
It came top for many as it came top on the National Student Survey of satisfaction. So year after year, the university was proven to be the university that most satisfied the students. Of course, because they were paying fees, so of course we looked after them.
I left and it's not doing quite so well now but essentially it was a brave attempt to show that the private sector, even in Britain could do a better job than the government. And that was really proved by the fact that it came top, beating [01:01:03] Oxford and Cambridge even, in the national student survey, every year. It produced the most satisfied students every year. So Buckingham is experiment that worked.
As I said, I left five years ago and unfortunately it hasn't done quite so well in recent years, but I'm sure it will recover.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. And of course, we've got to remember, the cards are rigged against it because it has to pay taxes. Whereas all these other universities are beneficiaries of tax money or more accurately inflation money.
Terence Kealey: No, that's not quite true. Buckingham, like all the other British universities is a charity, it doesn't have to pay taxes. But the other universities get huge sources of money from the government. And of course that's not happening to Buckingham.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. The game is a little bit rigged against them, but this is highly fascinating for me because so many things have that origin in 1914, 1919 and in particular, the move [01:02:03] away from the gold standard.
And the fact that you tied this to the university system is absolutely fascinating for me. I discussed this to an extent in The Fiat Standard and I'm going to see if I'm going to be able to sneak it into the draft since now, it's almost on its way to the printers. Maybe I can work in a couple of paragraphs on this point, but I think that's that makes a lot of sense. Because the currency was being devalued and there was more than a hundred percent rise in prices over the period of the war.
And so obviously. Everybody there, universities like everybody else were facing massive liquidity problems and solvency problems. When this happens, ironically, and this is the terrible thing about monetary manipulation is that it's the one market wherein the more the government messes up, the more power the government tends to get. Because it ruins everybody else financially and ruins their ability to remain financially [01:03:03] independent.
But its own printing press continues to be the only savior available for others. That's why hyper inflation ends up really weakening societies and centralizing them.
Terence Kealey: You know, I think we're still suffering from that first world war actually.
Saifedean Ammous: This is a recurring theme in the show. Generally, here we think World War I has not ended.
I think one of my more controversial opinions is that Bitcoin is the only way that we can end World War I. Because it's what's going to finally take that government money genie and put it back in its bottle. Because it's going to take money out of the hands of the government.
Terence Kealey: That is a very interesting argument. Certainly if you look at 1914 or 1913 you see that, both in Britain and America, the government was taking only something like 10% of GDP in taxes. But ever since then, that percent GDP taken in taxes has [01:04:03] risen. And it's 1914, 1918 total war that started that process of accrediting British government.
I think you've got some questions that your viewers are asking.
Saifedean Ammous: Yes, absolutely. Flavio wants to ask you a question. Flavio, go ahead.
Flavio: Thank you, Dr. Kealey. This has been a very interesting conversation. I wanted to ask about, when there was this transition into the low fat, high carb diet in the seventies, which we know it's been very deadly for so many people, I live in the US so I see people that are being affected by this change in diet everywhere, all over the place.
It's been greatly attributed to the big food industries. In principle, this wouldn't be a attributed to government funded science. So what would be the argument of government funded science being responsible for this change?[01:05:03]
Terence Kealey: I'm afraid it is the government funding of science. It's not the food industry. By the way, the food industry are not a group of angels. Please do not think that I, but as it happens the food industry in this area have followed the science. And it was Maynard Keynes who once said very interestingly that we all think the world is run by vested interests, but actually it's run by ideas.
And that's certainly the case in American nutrition. So the story in American nutrition is very simple, you had in America this fantastic and very frightening epidemic of heart attacks after the second world war. And there was a time when something like a quarter of all deaths in America were heart attacks. Eisenhower had a heart attack, he didn't die from it, but it was a real epidemic.
And no one understood where it came from. We now know it's largely cigarettes, largely not exclusively cigarettes, but it was also the increase of nutrition in a population that had previously [01:06:03] been relatively malnourished or at any rate not overnourished. So we do know that if you have people who in their youth eat moderately and then at some point are given a great deal of food, that tends to give you heart attacks.
Whereas if people have always eaten too much and you continue eating too much, funnily enough it's not so dangerous. But cigarettes are probably the worst thing of all. And so an American physiologists in Minnesota whose name will come back to me in a second, Ancel Keys, that was his name. Ancil keys came up with the idea that it was because Americans are eating too much fat.
And he produced these data saying, look Japanese people don't eat much fat or they don't get heart attacks. Americans eat too much fat therefore they get heart attacks. And of course, if you look at the tube of the blood vessels, the atherosclerosis is full of what seems to be fat. So it all made sense.
It was complete rubbish. Ancel Keys and Nina Teicholz would have been saying this a few [01:07:03] weeks ago on this podcast, cause she's very good on this. She's very good on this. Ancel Keys just came up with a theory. And the trouble is, he was a monster and he was a bully and he was a brute.
And what he did was he went to the various funding agencies, American Heart Foundation, for example, were run by doctors who knew no science and he presented themselves with complete confidence. He says, I can show you that all your patients are dying because of this fat in their diet, only gives me the grant money and I'll prove it to you. And what he did was he leveraged this grant money given by these doctors who knew nothing about science to produce all this data.
And he then captured through his acolytes, PhD students, some post docs, who themselves were looking for jobs and grants. Having captured the grant giving body of the American heart. You then captured the grant getting bodies in the National Institute of Health. And he then captured the grant giving bodies of the NSF [01:08:03] until it became impossible in America to publish a paper, to get a grant, or to get promotion, unless you selected your data to show that fat kills you and carbohydrates saves your life.
And there's really only one word one can use, well I'm not going to use a really bad word, it's just not true. It's just not true. By the way, in my book, Breakfast Is A Dangerous Meal, I'm going to show it to you cause it's got a funny cover.
She's got a little sharkfin in the bowl, sharkfin made of Weet-Bix. I studied the first such example of mass error in science, which is breakfast. People have been saying for a hundred years that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I trace where those ideas came from, because it's such an interesting story.
And yes, the cereal companies take the story on, but initially it's the scientists actually, and then the cereal companies jump in. So to come back to Nina [01:09:03] Teicholz and fat and carbohydrate, once the story was embedded,
So Harvard in particular, the nutrition people at Harvard, but also Cambridge in England are the same people who said breakfast is a dangerous meal, also saying that fat is dangerous. The same group of people using the same scientific method of selecting data because there's some strange way, they felt they knew better.
They knew better than the data. They knew what was right, and they were going to select the data to show they were right. And to repeat myself, it came from Ancel Keys, professor of physiology in Minnesota, and only then the food companies jumped in. But initially it was the scientists and it was their capture of the government funding of science that enabled them to do it, sadly.
Saifedean Ammous: That's interesting. I mean what was their motivation for this? Was [01:10:03] it religious in your opinion? Cause in my mind it makes more sense that it was industry.
Terence Kealey: No, Ancel Keys was looking for fame. Ancel Keys ended up on the cover of Time Magazine. Ancel Keys when he retired, he retired in a little village on the coast in Italy, about a hundred miles south of Naples. And to this day you drive there, there's a big sign in the village saying we live underneath the home of Ancel Keys. Ancel Keys became famous! He was the man who saved the world from the terrible problem of heart attacks. He was a man who discovered what was a good diet and what was a bad diet.
And he destroyed those scientists who knew that he was wrong, he destroyed that careers. In my book and in Nina Teicholz's book, we tell similar stories. We chronicle, both of us, the scientists whose careers he crushed. And he crushed them by making it impossible for them to [01:11:03] get grants.
And then, such a wicked thing, one or two of these scientists, particularly in Britain, got money from industry because that's the only source of money they could get for their research. And Ancel Keys turned around and said, look they're getting money from industry, they're prostitutes, you can't trust them. So they couldn't win.
No, Ancel Keys wanted fame. Most scientists want fame. And it's a very honorable thing to want in an Aristotelian sense. You want to show that you've done good work and you want to be a man who is respected and credible. SoAncel Keys had that, I'm afraid to a pathological extent. And for him it worked, he became one of the most famous scientists in the world.
As I said, how many scientists find their names in the front cover of Time Magazine?
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, fascinating. Shikhin has another question for you.
Shikhin: Hey, thanks Saif! So I wanted to talk a bit about basic sciences. So I guess [01:12:03] we were talking about steam engines and these applied technologies, but I don't think it's always been the case historically that we've had mechanics or craftsmen developing machines.
And then in retrospect, academics, scientists or basic scientists coming in and trying to build a framework for why they work the way they work. So a classic example would be somebody like Maxwell, could be something like semiconductors superconductors. So that's something that I would contend.
But more than that, I think you mentioned something very interesting that almost no economists mention, are you for private funding of basic science? And I guess the reason is that they just don't realize that historically, private organizations and patronage have played a great role in funding that, and as you talk about that in your book, that in private investments have exceeded government investments in this.
So [01:13:03] I often hear from my scientific friends, and I'm coming from a physics background specifically, so I hear a lot about experiments like the LHC, I hear about the Hubble telescope and you get all these giant telescopes that are being built and clearly they have given us a lot of new insight and knowledge into the physical world. They always ask, how do you think this would have happened if it were not for state funding?
And of course after having read your book and going down this rabbit hole, I realized that there are always opportunity costs that they don't account for. And there are always parallel mechanisms through which many of these developments could have come about. So what I wanted you to share your views on is if in a parallel universe, we had the 20th century without the massive state funding of basic sciences, what would that have looked like?
So would we have had something like an LHC, would we have had these giant super array telescopes? What would be the state of fundamental knowledge [01:14:03] there?
Terence Kealey: That is such a nice question. I think it would be pretty similar, but it would look different. The universities would look different. The universities would be much more involved in teaching and much less involved in research.
The shift of universities from teaching institutions to research universities would have been much less prominent than we've seen. On the other hand, we would certainly see more research taking place, basic science taking place in industry and also as you have described so well by philanthropists.
So you talk about astronomy. If you look at astronomy, astronomy is an entire field, an entire discipline that came out of the private sector. For example, radio astronomy was actually a by-product of Bell Labs. It was the Bell Labs who discovered that radio waves were coming from the stars.
It wasn't government funding or anything like that. In fact, Bell Labs [01:15:03] won a Nobel prize for it. And if you look at the great optical telescopes of the 19th century and indeed the early 20th century in California, again all of these telescopes are being funded privately.
The discovery of galaxies was a privately funded discovery made by a man in Ireland who had the world's greatest telescope and he was a very rich man and he funded telescopes. In fact, trying to get rich people not to fund telescopes becomes a bit of a problem. It's like rich people going up to space today.
Once people become rich and in the capitalist country, people do become rich, then they like to spend the money on these sorts of prestige projects. Would we have CERN? I suspect we wouldn't have CERN and I suspect we wouldn't have the Hubble telescope, at least not quite with the expense that they have currently engaged in.
However, I once did a calculation and I asked myself, you look at the huge amount of money that the Gates Foundation [01:16:03] has. The Gates Foundation could easily have paid for CERN if it had wanted to. So we do have private funders who could have paid for what were essentially fantasy projects. CERN is not going to advance the wealth of the people of the world. It might in 300 years time, although I'd be surprised, but CERN like the Hubble telescope is about science purely for its own sake.
Now we have decided as a nation or nations that we're going to fund that out of the tax payer. I am prepared to concede to you that in a world of strictly of only free markets, it's possible that CERN would be smaller, we would still have it. In 1940 when the American government first needed cyclotrons like CERN, they had to go to the private sector and borrow them.
The Manhattan project started off by borrowing cyclotrons from the private sector. So we would still have these things, but they would possibly be smaller, I don't know. Never forget, of course that the [01:17:03] Americans in 1991 canceled the supercollider project because it was essentially a defense initiative that was pretended not to be.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, the [?] had closed two years later, three billion dollars lost, all those people made redundant. So the point I'm trying to make is that, and the other point I wanted to make before I go, 7% of all R&D industrially is funded by, it's for basic science.
You can't run a successful company without doing basic science, because basic science is so useful to that company and companies that neglect basic science tend to go bust. And there's a direct correlation between the ammount of money a company funds in basic science and its subsequent profits.
All that is in that book that you very kindly read, all that data is there. So the for-profit sector is of course going to pay for basic science. Without basic science, it's not in position to make the next advances. And on top of that, what you could [01:18:03] call trophy science like CERN or the Hubble telescope is going to be paid for, I think by philanthropists.
After all the 200 inch Palomar telescope, paid for by private philanthropists. The whole of space exploration, all of Goddard's work was paid for by the Guggenheim Foundation moon. Goddard in the twenties and thirties invented the stage rocket.
So it goes up into space, you lose the first stage, you lose the second stage and then you're there. He invented the gyroscoped control rockets. He invented liquid fuels to control rockets. These rockets are going up to 7,000 feet. If the second world war had not intervened, Goddard in Massachusetts funded by the Guggenheims would have got a missile in space, an artificial satelite before the end of the 1940s.
Unfortunately the second world war intervened. And he was sent off to work on bazookas and these things of course happen. And then of course, we then had the Germans and the Russians. [01:19:03] But space exploration was funded by the private sector. So I'm being rhetorical here, I'm not being aggressive, but don't tell me wouldn't have the Hubble telescope without the private sector.
Dammit, we wouldn't have had space rockets without the private sector and never forget the first thing NASA did when it was created in 1958, its very first act was to buy Goddard's patents at the cost of a million dollars. In 1958, a million dollars is a lot of money. But apart for the second world war, he would have been there 15 years earlier.
So the whole of astronomy from the 200 inch Palomar telescope to Goddard being the first person to really get up there, all of this came from the private sector. The state then moves in and crowds out and then the military come in and then the army come in, but there's no evidence that the private sector would fail.
However, I'm prepared to grant you that Hubble telescope might be, today under the private sector, might be smaller. CERN might be smaller, but the trends would be there because the philanthropic money is there. As long as it's not being crowded by [01:20:03] the government.
And never forget, just to repeat myself, 7% of industrial R&D goes on basic science and industrial R&D is huge. So we're talking about big sums of money.
Shikhin: And I guess there's a bigger ethical argument, if I may just comment on that, which doesn't seem to get across to so many people is simply of coercion. Of coercing causing a large part of society to pay for something that they wouldn't have otherwise paid for, through taxation. I just find that ethically wrong. That's something that never gets picked up by the state advocates for basic science.
Terence Kealey: I could not agree with you more. I personally feel very strongly about that. I personally think that we're spending money on CERN and it's doing good work and this is not an attack on CERN please don't missunderstand, but there are so many other things that we could be spending our money on. People are starving, people are poor and I [01:21:03] could not agree with you more. I totally agree with you.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. Peter has a follow-up question to this.
Peter Young: Thank you, Terence and thank you Saif. That's all really fascinating stuff. I have a follow-up question to what Shikhin has just asked, it relates to funding for applied science rather than basic science.
And I wanted to ask you, because I'm sure you're familiar with the arguments that she's made about the work of Mariana Mazzucato, who's been very influential in informing UK policy on innovation funding. Since about 2012-13, she wrote a book called The Entrepreneurial State, which became very influential and essentially what Mazzucato argues is that it's a misconception to attribute lots of the [01:22:03] technological successes of the past few decades, such as the invasion of the iPhone to private industry.
She makes the case that although private industry in the form of Apple in the case of the iPhone, took a number of different technologies and combined them in a novel way. Actually, if you look at the individual pieces of technology that lie within the iPhone, for example lithium-ion batteries, the micro hard drive, microprocessor, the artificial intelligence behind Siri, the multi-touch screen of the iPhone.
She argues that all of these individual technologies were developed through government funding of science. So in the case of lithium-ion batteries, that was something that was developed by the department of energy. In the case of the microprocessor, that was developed by DARPA.
And she goes through systematically, we mentioned CERN, HTML was [01:23:03] invented in CERN. So she makes this case that actually government funding of science has been fundamental to transforming particular digital technologies. Given that narrative is so prominent, I just wanted to ask what your response was to people like Mazzucato that made the case that actually although we think of these innovations as privately funded, they have a very heavy reliance on government funding for the applied research that went into them.
Terence Kealey: This is a very good question.
Mariana Mazzucato is hugely influential and it's therefore very important to show that she is in fact completely wrong. And two people have done this, or attempted to do this. I have twice written, so you just look up my name and Mazzucato on Google. My two articles will of course come up, I've had more than two actually.
[01:24:03] But there's also a very good Italian political economist called Alberto Mingardi who's written a very careful analysis of where she is wrong. In my articles, apart from Alberto's articles, I made the following points to which she has never responded.
Point 1, not once in any of her publications does she discuss crowding out. So for her, the government funding of science has no opportunity cost. Government does this and not once has she worked out, where do these scientists come from? Who has been deprived of the activities of these scientists? Point number one.
Point 2, her understanding of the economics of risk, as I have explained and I'm not going to go into the publications here, but her understanding of the implications of risk is economically incorrect. I [01:25:03] shall come up to that in a minute if we have time.
And thirdly, it's all anecdotal. If you look at the quantitative GDP data, if you just look at rates of GDP per capita growth in Britain, America, and the world and then you compare that to when governments started to fund science, both in Britain and America, there's no deflection of the longterm trends.
What she's actually described are situations where governments have set up programs, pulled really good scientists out of the market for these programs, some of which, but only some of which have worked, most government programs produce absolutely nothing. And then she said, look we wouldn't have this. And she has not looked at the fact that these scientists has been pulled out of the market.
She's not looked at the costs of that, the opportunity cost of that. And she's never addressed crowding out and she's never addressed the fact that successive government reports themselves have shown, if you look at GDP per capita, as opposed to looking at anecdotes who get no benefit from the government funding of science.[01:26:03]
Mazzucato's work only gets a free pass because everybody wants it to get a free pass. She works at University College London, which is basically acting as a sort of great cheerleader for the government funding of science. And because she says nothing that isn't itself actually wrong. She doesn't tell untruths, but because her truthes are so utterly partial, by only giving a partial truth, in a sense it's very dangerous. But I've written at some lenght, as has Alberto Mingardi on Mariana Mazzucato and I'm very happy to point people to those publications.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, I agree with you entirely on this. I think her entire case rests on the idea of not examining opportunity costs. Peter, you wanted to follow up?
Peter Young: It was a follow-up question, a bit tangential. It was on patents. So I don't know if you have a further comment other than that.
Terence Kealey: I [01:27:03] only have a further comment and then I'll come back to patents. The other thing Mariana Mazzucato doesn't do is she doesn't understand radical uncertainty.
She says the reason that the private sector doesn't do funding science is because of radical uncertainty. You're uncertain, you don't know what the profit is going to be. So it's exactly the other way round. The only reason companies invest in research or anything, marketing, whatever, is because of radical uncertainty.
It's because they're trying to do something that's different from everyone else that they can get a return on their profit. The reason people invest in projects is because radical uncertainty means that's where the profit is. There is no uncertainty, you don't invest in it because it's a neoclassical perfectly competitive market.
I think she's got that completely wrong. But please talk to me about patents because I have very strong views on patents and I'm happy to bore you all with them.
Saifedean Ammous: Yes, please go ahead. Unfortunately, I have to leave at this point, but I'll join you in a couple of minutes.
Peter can [01:28:03] continue moderating this, but I do want to hear your take on patents.
Terence Kealey: They're a scam. They should be abolished, except in pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals are a special case because you can cost relatively small amount of money to copy another drug, but the costs of producing a drug, the first one, hugely costs of regulation.
90% of the cost of a new drug are regulation and safety and all that. And the empirical evidence shows very clearly that the stronger the patents in pharmaceuticals, small pharmaceuticals you get, but in every other field of industry, the empirical evidence is very clear that patents do not stimulate rates of invention.
They do not stimulate rates of innovation and they don't stimulate rates of GDP per capita. They makes certain companies rich but the price of patents is absolutely terrible. Patents are a form of securing a monopoly, that's what they're about. And therefore they enable companies to make excessive [01:29:03] profit. People like Bill Gates are absurdly rich because of his exploitation of IPR, intellectual property rights.
What we actually want is competition. We want companies to enjoy a first mover advantage. So you make a discovery, you can benefit from it for a time but then what you want is other companies coming in and competing with you and catching up. Then you have to do more research to compete with the people who are competing with you.
And the whole point of patents is to try to stop that process from happening. Let me give you an example, the most interesting example I think, in 1903 the Wright brothers in America invented the airplane. Not just the way they did the wings, but also the propeller and all sorts of things. The Wright brothers invented the airplane and the result is that they patented it.
And every time someone else tried to fly an airplane in America without paying the Wright brothers a license fee and they didn't pay license fees in America for complicated reasons that I'm happy to talk about, but for now let me just tell you the facts, the Wright brothers sued [01:30:03] them in court and won.
So when America went to war in 1917, the American army, because the air force is part of the army, the American army didn't have any airplanes. The British, the French, the Germans, the Italians, there were fantastic numbers of airplanes. The Americans, where America had invented the airplane, had no airplanes. The Wright brothers didn't make any more airplanes because they were in court all the time. Glenn Curtiss and the others who tried to copy them didn't make airplanes cause they were sued to destruction.
So the extraordinary thing is in 1917, the country that invented the airplane had no airplanes. And even by the end of the war, the Americans were flying British airplanes to British designs, but only a few days after the war was declared, Woodrow Wilson declared a patent pool. And a patent pool is where you can file a patent, but you can't actually exercise it.
So you file it but you can't exercise it. Between 1917 and 1975, [01:31:03] long period of time, there were no patents in American aviation. In 1917, the most primitive country in the world for aviation was America. By 1975, the leading country in the world of aviation was America. Richard Nixon in 75, then reintroduced patents because he was trying to protect incumbents. Because Richard Nixon was a bit of a thug, was Richard Nixon.
He didn't believe in free markets. He believed in helping rich people becoming richer, not a very nice man. But the history of patents in American aviation illustrates beautifully because it's so clear cut, that patents are designed to inhibit innovation because that's their purpose. You take out a patent so you don't have to do any more research because you've got the market for the next 20 years.
So you don't have to do any more research and no one else obviously do research because they can't break into your market. That's what they're about. And we only get economic growth despite patents, not because of them. They're a medieval scam. We used to have hundreds of patents.
In England [01:32:03] until 1601 famous parliamentary debate. Everything was patented, every industry in England was a monopoly, everything. Soap was a monopoly. Salt was a monopoly. Beer was a monopoly. Even textiles, everything was a monopoly. And then in 1601, parliament abolished all monopolies except for innovations, Francis Bacon persuaded them to keep it for innovations and inventions.
But actually even those patents are just a medieval hangover. We should've got rid of them a long time ago and all the empirical evidence shows very clearly that patents have nothing to do with economic growth and all to do with rent seeking by a privileged minority.
Peter Young: Thank you. The thing that I'll ask as a follow-up to that then is whether your position on this has changed?
Because I'd heard in a couple of your previous podcasts that you've made similar anti-patent arguments. But when I was reading The Economic Laws of Scientific Research, and this is in the first half, I haven't quite finished the [01:33:03] book yet.
So maybe you come on to this more later, but it's on page 42 and you say that Italians invented the patent because they increasingly discovered that when they were developing new products, they discovered they had a disincentive. Why would a man devote time and money on developing a better mousetrap so the professor can then sell an identical copy?
And you described this as a problem, and that leads into a historical introduction of how Florence came to introduce the first patent in 1421. And it sounded a bit from that discussion, like you acknowledged that there was a genuine problem in innovation. So I was wondering whether that's the position that you've developed over time and if so, what was changed?
Terence Kealey: I've just checked out page 42, you're absolutely right. I wrote that in 1996, which is what, 25 years ago? Long time ago. And I was still very much a practicing scientist. I don't think I even talked to an [01:34:03] economist. I don't think I've spoken to an economist in my entire life when I wrote that book.
Since writing the book, I've been very lucky. No, I knew Nathan Rosenberg, so I had met an economist, but I was writing as a practical scientist and my experience of patents in my field, because I am a cell physiologist, I'm a clinical biochemist and there's no question that patents are important in pharmaceuticals.
They just are because of this problem of regulation. And so I was arguing from inexperience. But I've now known or believed for the last 15 years. Now I've looked more widely, particularly outside pharmaceuticals which was the only industry knew about, that patents are a scam. And actually they're quite a wicked scam.
And if you look at the development of the third world, there's this thing called TRIPS which is this international IPR deal, which is part of the WTO. And under TRIPS, basically all patents have to be [01:35:03] recognized so that poor countries could no longer do what Japan did, which is behind protectionist barriers, copy.
Japan grew rich the way Britain grew rich, copying the Netherlands behind protectionist barriers, the way America grew rich copying Britain behind protectionist barriers and Japan grew rich the same way, copying behind protectionist barriers. That's no longer available to the third world. So you hear people saying, why is that this middle income trap?
That's because since the WTO and TRIPS, since 1995, the traditional routes to middle income countries becoming richer have been blocked off. You're no longer allowed to protect infant industries. You're no longer allowed to copy for free. All that you're allowed to do, if you're a third world country trying to get richer, is to use cheap labor to undercut Western markets through cheap labor, and of course export labor in the form of immigrants.
And it's all, I'm afraid, it's all a bit of a scam. [01:36:03] Rich people may find it very easy to do R&D and make new discoveries and then exploit them more to maintain their wealth, so they don't have to do any more R&D.
Peter Young: I'd be interested to get Saif's take on that because I think for most of us in this group the idea that protectionism was something that contributed to the success of countries like Britain and America would sit fairly uncomfortably with our understanding of the economics of that situation.
Terence Kealey: Before Saif answers, let me just invoke two important people, Schumpeter and Keynes. Both Schumpeter and Keynes said the same thing. Schumpeter particularly, very interesting, said look if you actually look at the history of him and he wrote this sort a very famous paper published in 1941, it's easy to come across, he's looking at the growth of America.
He said look, America absolutely confirms the strength of the, list was the German [01:37:03] economist. Alexander Hamilton, we've all heard of him and List learned from Alexander Hamilton, Alexander's story of protecting infant industries and Schumpeter absolutely was opposed to globalization in that area because he said the historical record is very clear as I've just described, of copying other people behind protectionist barriers.
And it's worked historically successively. This sits very badly in with the ideology of libertarianism and my friends at the Cato Institute glare at me and growl when I say these things, but the empirical facts are very clearly there. And the reason it's important to recognize those empirical facts is that economic growth does not come actually from competitive or comparative advantage.
We all hear about these things and we all worship Adam Smith, we all worship David Ricardo and then of course those give you efficiency advantages and they give you one-off static advantages, of course they do. But economic growth comes from [01:38:03] replacing velum with paper, from replacing horses with motorcars, and that doesn't come from comparative advantage.
That comes from R&D and innovation and the spread of ideas. And funny enough, those things are not dependent upon the free movement of goods, capital services or people, that depended on ideas. That's all you need. Capture the odd traitor Slater, who moved to America with the textile industry factory in his head and the Japanese of course allow in a few products to copy them.
But if you understand that economic growth is not about competitive and comparative advantage, economic growth is about innovation and the spread of ideas and copying other people's ideas, then you start to look at the world in a very different way. And that's what my next book is about.
It's called, it's some way yet, I've written the first draft but it's not ready to go yet, but it's called something like Economic Growth of The First Thousand Years in which I point out that unlike Schumpeter and Keynes, [01:39:03] both of whom understood this by the way, we've been sold a neoliberal story of competitive and comparative advantage that's very convenient for the rich of the first world, actually ain't so good for rest.
Peter Young: So I think Saif is back and just to recap Saif, Terence was making the argument that part of the economic success of Britain, the Netherlands, and the U. S. and Japan was due to that protectionist barriers.
And I was saying that for many in this group, that idea won't sit particularly comfortably with the way that we have analyzed those economic phenomena in past discussions. So I was asking what your thoughts would be in response to that notion that protectionism was a positive force for the early economic development of countries like Britain and the U.S.
Saifedean Ammous: I'm skeptical, I mean at the risk of a challenging [01:40:03] professor Kealey and getting my ass kicked. I'm going to say, sure there were some elements of protectionism, but I'd be more likely to think that the growth was happening in spite of the protectionism, rather than because of it.
In other words, if the UK was more closed off to trade and if it had higher trade barriers and if it had the higher import tariffs, then probably things would have been slower. I don't think things would have been better. You know, people like to point, for instance, recently to South Korea as an example of a country that had trade barriers and interventionist government.
But I think when you compare it to North Korea, you see that it had relatively little trade barriers and that's what meant that it grew much faster than North Korea. [01:41:03] So I'm sure those things existed, but I struggle to see how they could have benefited Britain and the U. S. and made them develop industrially better because in my mind having the ability to import the inputs that you need for the production processes at the lowest cost possible is an enormous driver of innovation.
Peter Young: I wonder also whether Hong Kong would be a good counter example Terence, to the idea that protectionism leads to this rapid development.
Terence Kealey: Hong Kong and Singapore, they're entrepose. Hong Kong, import and export. Hong Kong is not a great manufacturing base. So Hong Kong is of course an exception and I agree with you completely.
I'm talking about a much larger country trying to become a manufacturing industrial country. Then what the empirical evidence is clear in the case of Britain, America, and South Korea, [01:42:03] as these countries get richer of course, it becomes in their interests to start exporting.
And then under those circumstances, they become very keen on intellectual property because they want to protect what it is they are themselves producing. I would argue that what's important is a free enough and big enough internal market. The United States had a huge internal market and it was completely free.
And so it was free to innovate. I certainly believe a small country can't be protectionist for reasons that are obvious, cause it hasn't got the internal market to generate the competition. But the reason I've come sensitively to this whole business of protectionism is bluntly, and I say this with some reluctance actually but there we are, we are moving into a world of great populism and I personally believe that the populus threat, I think we're handling it well, I think the Western world is not going to collapse into populism.
But you look at countries like Poland and Hungary and in a mild way, Brexit or Trump and the [01:43:03] supporters and what's going on in Brazil and what's going on in Indonesia and places like that, there is this protectionist thing that's developing and we have to ask ourselves why.
And I think globalization has contributed to that because of the undercutting of jobs for the poor. I also think we're moving back into the world of geopolitics. China is definitely going to be a challenge to the rest of the world. And I think India and the United States and Western Europe and Russia, these countries are going to start becoming, we're moving to a different geopolitical world.
And therefore I asked myself, if we were to move into a world where the worlds are broken down in say five essentially separate economic blocks. Would that be a problem? No. Each room big enough to have enough competition in turn is all that it needed. As long as ideas move between them, that's all you would need for these things to work.
And the reason I think that I've become more protectionist, I'm coming back to my earlier [01:44:03] point I'm sorry, is that I think that the disaffection of voters from a sense of powerlessness that comes from a globalized world is very dangerous. And so we need the electorate to feel empowered and globalization disempowers the electorate.
That's in a sense, the point of globalization, and I think it's become dangerous to that sense. I could be wrong. You'll notice that I'm talking about globalization in much more tentative ways than I am about other things. I'm prepared to be told I'm wrong, but there's a very good book actually I've just read by Johan Norberg called Open, and this is about the first, so if you haven't read it I recommend it, and Johan is the first libertarian I know to write a book about libertarian economics. So the first half of Open is all about how wonderful free markets are. I believed every word that was no problem, but the second half is, but look there's this anti-globalization reaction and it's a very unpleasant reaction. Some very unpleasant people are being [01:45:03] elected. As libertarians, we at least have to look at it.
So I'd go as far as to say let's look at Open by Johan Norberg and let's think about to what extent globalization fuels populism. And after all, 1933 Hitler in the wake of the globalization of the 1929 financial crisis, there are precedents for globalization causing great damage.
Saifedean Ammous: I think I would disagree with you here because I think the problems of what are being blamed on globalization are really the problems of a fiat monetary system. The fact that global trade becomes a problem, if two people across an imaginary line in the sand are deciding to trade with one another, they both must see benefit from that trade, otherwise they would not have agreed with it.
If this ends up being a problem for either of them or for other people involved, it's almost always the case that it is because of the manipulation of [01:46:03] the currency. And it's because of the problems that people face with international trade in a hodgepodge of currencies, which is essentially devolved the global monetary system into a system of partial barter.
Whereby if I wanted to buy something from the UK, I need to first buy your money in the UK. And then I need to buy your things because you can't accept my foreign currency. So this leads the uninvention of one global monetary system, which was the case under the gold standard, leads to this world of balkanized trading blocks and high inefficiencies in barter.
And then of course, the fluctuation of the values of the currencies. And of course the constant inflation, all of which gets blamed on globalization and effectively the scapegoats end up being the idea of international treat trade. But I think those are really distinct things.
I think if if we had a sane monetary system, these things wouldn't be a problem. There [01:47:03] was probably more globalization in 1910 in the world than there was in 1990, but people were complaining much more about it in 1990 because it was built on a quicksand of shifting national currencies.
Terence Kealey: 90% of redundancies are caused by new technology, not by imports. You're absolutely right. And the world was very globalized in 1910, but look what happened in 1914. People like Keynes did actually blame the outbreak of the first whole war to some extent on globalization, but to come back to your earlier point that we are into these blocks, the trouble is we live in nation states.
We just do live in nation states. So now I'm moving away from economics since it's geopolitics. If we live in nation states, then we have to ensure that those nation states are happy. So if a trade between A and B makes Z unhappy, then actually that's a problem for the nation state, that's really all I'm saying.
But I [01:48:03] find your interpretation very interesting. I'm sure that you are at least some degree right, you may be wholy right, I'm not qualified to tell but I like your explanation. Of what I would say with Johan Norberg, who is a great libertarian, he talks exactly like you by the way, about trade, is that we live in nation states, if they're made unhappy by globalization, we should at least look at it and try to work out why that is because an unhappy nation state can result in some very unpleasant people being elected. I'll stop there.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, there's a constant running theme in this show that we discuss a variety of topics, whatever they are.
But the conclusion of each one is that Bitcoin fixes this. And so today, the issue of government funding of science, and I think a lot of the discontents around globalization, I would like to believe that these are things that can be fixed by a strong, [01:49:03] hard monetary unit that wins its value on the market and achieves market acceptance.
Terence Kealey: By so doing, you will hugely destroy and disempower the nation state. So that feeds into my argument. So we may be saying the same thing.
Saifedean Ammous: Perhaps, I'd love to send you a copy of my book. I'll be emailing you about it. I'd love to get your thoughts on it!.
Terence Kealey: I think I've been sent an e-copy, is that not right?
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, Peter sent you one.
Terence Kealey: But a hard copy would be nice, I find it much easier to read. I would love a hard copy.
Saifedean Ammous: All right, absolutely. You got it.
Terence Kealey: Thank you.
Saifedean Ammous: All right, thank you very much, Professor Kealey for joining us.
Terence Kealey: Yes, it's been a real pleasure.
Saifedean Ammous: Thank you.
Terence Kealey: Bye.