Interesting case of science vs the market

Posted on January 15, 2012 by


One of the least explored yet most important aspects of how spontaneous orders manifest in the modern world is that of the tensions between them, tensions that undermine the traditional classical liberal vision of harmony arising out of voluntary interactions. A fascinating example is that of the tensions between the incentives rewarded by the market order versus those rewarded by science.

The Scientist reports  that In December US Representatives Darrel Issa (R-CA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced a bill into the House to abolish the National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy requiring published research funded by the NIH be submitted to the publicly accessible digital archive PubMed Central upon its acceptance for publication . Issa and Maloney’s bill would also outlaw other agencies pursuing similar open access policies.

This blow against the free flow of scientific research is supported by the corporate publishers of academic journals.  In the market order scarcity plus demand leads to value.  In science abundance plus demand leads to value. They pull in opposite directions. This point is not just theoretical.

For example, the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology  created what it terms a “knowledge hub”  where papers presented at their annual meetings are put online by 5 pm the last day of the meeting, to be made available free to anyone in the world.  Within a few years the Knowledge Hub was visited millions of times by doctors and scientists around the world, enabling the latest scientific research to be easily available in every corner of the world.  No corporation made a dime, but the Academy grew to be the largest such organization in the world, and having a paper accepted made a person the world expert on the topic for that year.

This innovation grew out of Dr. David Hardwick’s work in emergent order theory and practice, by the way, and many who have attended our conferences have met him.

Science was enriched immeasurably even as corporations lost profit opportunities. Interestingly, “free market” advocates in Congress seem to be doing their best to make sure science is subordinated to corporate profits, regardless of the damage done to scientific research. In terms of the paper I gave this fall, soon to appear in this journal, I hope, this is a clear example of the distinction I made between capitalism and the market, with only the latter a part of a free society.