Daily Archives: June 20, 2005

This notion that the private sector ought to automatically have primacy over the public sector

Here’s a news item from Slashdot reporting that the American Chemical Society is pressuring the US government not to make publicly available the results of research payed with taxpayer money. Their rationale is that the government shouldn’t provide what the private sector is already providing, but should be understood as “anything that is hurting us is bad and should be outlawed”.

I am particularly saddened by this due to the fact that when I was actively working as an engineer I was writing software that facilitated the migration from paper to digital for organizations like the American Chemical Society. (I know ACS was a client of the company where I used to work… I just don’t remember whether I actually worked on one of their projects…) While in the business, at times I did have the impression that our clients had interests that were at odds with that of the general public. Now, I’m finding that my impressions were indeed founded.

When those publishers explained their projects to us, it was always for the benefit of students, researchers, teachers, widows and orphans. (Alright, nobody talked about widows and orphans.) In fact, the only benefit they really care about is their own. The benefit of others is taken into account only insofar as self-benefit is directly influenced by it. A particularly flagrant case of this is Questia about which you can read more here.