Friday, December 28, 2012

How valuable are government employees?

There seems to be a general feeling that people who work for the government are bureaucrats who are a burden on the economy. I suppose that most people would feel that the Navy Seals that went into Pakistan and took our Osama Bin Laden were not overpaid or doing an unnecessary job.

How about Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases? Obviously he could head the research branch of any of the major drug companies, run a major hospital or medical school -- all of which would no doubt pay him more than his current salary. He has led a major effort to develop medical approaches to HIV/AIDS. When the next flu variety arrives capable of causing a global pandemic, and such a variety will surely arrive, our safety will depend in significant part on the work done under his leadership at NIAID. I could go on about the achievements of NIAID under Fauci's 28 years as its head, but you get the idea.

How about the work of DARPA in leading the development of the Internet, or that of the NSF in managing the transition of the Internet to serve the private sector? Or the work of NASA and the DoD developing satellite communications and satellite remote sensing. If you don't make overseas calls you may not realize how good and cheap the telephone connections are, but the businesses that depend on international phone and Internet connectivity do. I am old enough to recall how much  better our weather forecasts are than they used to be -- improvements due to efforts of the weather bureau, drawing on remote sensing and computer advances that the government has stimulated and funded. Farmers can tell you about the economic benefits of those weather forecasts.

I could go on and on, and I may do so in future posts.

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