The Coburn Amendment on Political Science

Folks are pretty riled up that Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced a floor amendment to prohibit the National Science Foundation from funding research on political science.

Now, before I go on, I should point out that I have a political scientist on my dissertation committee!

Now, that said, Senator Coburn’s argument makes sense for anyone who has been following this blog:

When Americans think of the National Science Foundation, they think of cross-cutting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Most would be surprised to hear that the agency spent $91.3 million over the last 10 years on political “science” and $325 million last year alone on social studies and economics….

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are the future of education in America. Coburn is trying to focus the National Science Foundation like a laser on STEM. Good for him.

That said, Coburn’s amendment is misplaced for four reasons.

1. As a matter of policy, I trust NSF bureaucrats to set NSF priorities more than I do politicians
2. Generally, while STEM is the foundation of a modern education, political science is heavily scientific and mathematical. Coburn is thinking about STEM from a student’s perspective, not a practitioner’s perspective
3. There is only one natural world out there. Pretty much any breakthrough has consequences for political science and political behavior.
4. Senator Coburn is confusing punditry (which is a form of entertainment, on an intellectual par with docudramas about famous sluts) with political science.

While I understand Coburn’s concerns, he should withdraw his amendment.

Notes: The Obama administration has published new rules for bloggers, that are designed to allow easy prosecution of bloggers that the administration does not like. Specifically, the Administration has let it known that those who accept gifts and favors cannot blog about topics that concern the sources of those gifts and favors without full disclosure. Again, the obvious purpose of this is to use this as a “gotcha” way of throwing the book at someone who publishes something embarrassing to the President in the future. Nonetheless, this one time, I will comply out of a sense of my deep respect for Obama administration bureaucrats