Sex, Science and Profits: How People Evolved to Make Money
Terence Kealey / Heinemann
Back from hols suitably refreshed, and before anger overtakes me at what I'm reading in the papers of the last 10 days, here's something more constructive: a short review of a very good book.
Coherent arguments based squarely upon inconvenient and messy reality are to be prized above mere ivory-tower hypotheses: and biochemist Kealey genuinely understands the facts of life about us Capitalists. We seek to identify and monopolise market niches (just as successful species dominate niches in nature), to which end we will, inter alia, exert and employ all available ingenuity to advance proprietary technology - and sometimes pure science into the bargain.
Thus, contra Francis Bacon and hordes of vested interests ever since, science is not a public good but a complex private good. As such it should not be funded by the public purse. Throughout all history (which Kealey surveys magisterially, if erratically) science and more especially technology have thrived when allowed to respond to market forces, and have languished or even declined when insulated from markets, e.g. when subsidised by the state. And although the developments thus stimulated start out as proprietary (and are perhaps intended thus to remain), they rarely fail to enter the public domain shortly thereafter. To the benefit of all.
This book is sustained polemic, albeit from an academic operating mostly to high standards of reasoning. It is stylistically casual: “When [eugenicists] encountered the Hardy-Weinberg Principle, they did not cry ‘falsifier, pants on fire!’, they simply ignored it.” “Male chimps obtain the monkey meat. Now, what do female chimps possess that male chimps might fancy in exchange? Yup, you’ve got it.”
And the editing has been casual too: repetition and typos abound and, more seriously, there are a number of discontinuities and even non-sequiturs in the account. But it is unfailingly entertaining and illuminating: most unusually (for me) I found myself starting back at the beginning again as soon as I had read it through. Buy This Book, as they say: you will be enthralled by Kealey’s bravura and compelling account of one aspect of, err, Capitalism at Work.