February 3, 2007

Cash for Science

I love everything about this brief story.

Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Let me be linear for a moment. First they think that scientists' professional reputation and labor is only worth $10,000. Seems a bit low to me but maybe they have graduate students in mind. Of course they wouldn't be the best spokespeople when pitted against the caliber of scientists on the panel, but maybe the sponsors would be happy with anybody they could point to as long as they could put the word "Scientist" after the name.

Let's move on to other joys this story brings me. The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) tries very hard to convince us that they are an independent think tank, a gaggle of thoughtful conservatives providing us with guidance. They tell us

Competition of ideas is fundamental to a free society

The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research is a private, nonpartisan, not-for-profit institution dedicated to research and education on issues of government, politics, economics, and social welfare.
(I'm sure you can find the link for yourselves. I don't need to make it easy on them.)

I suppose they would argue that offering cash for an idea consists of "competition of ideas" but some might disagree. Some -- meaning me -- view this as a spectacular example of monopoly capitalism run amok.

More important, though, is the information that AEI is "an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank." Well if that doesn't just scream nonpartisan, competition of ideas, and the elevation of research.

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