MOON SHOT VERSUS CHEAP SHOT | 2004-01-17
William Proxmire was a liberal Democratic senator that conservatives loved dearly. Each week he presented a Golden Fleece Award to a government agency for the biggest waste of money.
But finding out about real waste took work. Then Proxmire made a discovery that saved him all that work.
Each week every congressional office receives a report from the National Science Foundation (NSF) on the grants that it has made that week for basic research. Proxmire was delighted to discover that the title of almost every basic research project funded by the NSF was incomprehensible jibberish to the average layman.
From then on the Golden Fleece award was no strain, no pain. Proxmire just picked a title that no one understood and declared it a waste of money.
Let me explain to you how this Proxmire Method works out in real life. Let us say you have a serious medical condition and your doctor needs to find out about how to deal with it. The journal he is reading will make no sense to you at all. So Proxmire would ban it.
Right now there are life-saving medicines being developed from deep sea animals. Proxmire would have said, "Why waste all that money sending diving bells a mile down in the ocean when we have Real Problems here on the surface?"
No one could have told him, because we didn't know what would come of deep-sea research. That, to repeat, is why it is called BASIC research.