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Falling Behind

If this turns out to be truly applicable in the real world, it's very good news:

In a scientific breakthrough that has stunned the world, a team of South African scientists has developed a revolutionary new, highly efficient solar power technology that will enable homes to obtain all their electricity from the sun.

This means high electricity bills and frequent power failures could soon be a thing of the past.

The unique South African-developed solar panels will make it possible for houses to become completely self-sufficient for energy supplies.

The panels are able to generate enough energy to run stoves, geysers, lights, TVs, fridges, computers - in short all the mod-cons of the modern house.

Here in the United States, we're barely bothering with solar power. Our idea of reducing reliance on oil is building nuclear power plants. Why? Because the Oil and Nuclear industries give big campaign contributions. No one is going to make money in the long run with solar power.

This is a major failure of capitalism. Why devote time and money researching technologies that would be beneficial to society but won't result in any revenue? (Same philosophy in medical research, for example: we can make more money developing the next Viagra or preventing male pattern baldness than we can curing cancer. Drugs to extend the life of cancer patients? Sure, anything to keep them coming back and buying more drugs. But cure it and you lose your revenue stream.)

The result is that countries that rely on private corporations to develop new technologies are going to fall behind countries that better fund scientists working at public universities, etc. We in the US generally think of ourselves as being "the best", and there's a reason why. At one point, especially under FDR, Truman, and Eisenhower, we directed much more funding to developing infrastructure. But in the 70s the wealthy in this country began devoting their resources to fighting the perception that the wealthy and corporations should be taxed (via groups like the Heritage Foundation and CATO), and they've been very successful. Since then, we've been falling behind.

By fnord12 | March 1, 2006, 3:09 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science