The March for Science: How is science funded in the United States of America?

There has been a lot of discussion of balancing the federal budget, and the importance of funding for science and technology, but I don’t think many of us here in the United States understand how science is funded, and how much of that science funding comes from federal taxes.

On April 22nd, scientists are planning a March on Washington D.C. over frustrations over the poor funding climate of science in the United States, the politicization of science, which culminated not only from the recent election of a new President, but a Congress, which has grown more hostile to the inquiry of science and technology in America.

Science of-course pre-dates the founding of the United States, and for most of history, including today, much of science is privately funded, or funded through local universities, states, or even individual cities. During the early renaissance science required a noticeable private investment, often by a patron, or was conducted by wealthy individuals who pursued science much like a hobby, and could afford such inquiries into the natural world which did not directly lead to financial personal gain. Hence during the 1600s most of basic science was conducted by wealthy men of the age, and it required a high level of income, or working in a royal court where scientists were given the luxury of observation and experimentation, often at the whims of a monarchy. Reading scientific works during this period is made difficult by the elaborate long dry text dedicating their work to the various courts and patrons allowing them to make such studies or lines of inquiry.

But something changed in the 1700s, which made the pursue of science more noble: The Enlightenment, or Le Siècle des Lumières. The century of light, which was a new philosophy, which stated as its central philosophy, that man (and woman) are created equal.  This idea lead to the American, French and Haitian revolutions by the end of that century.

This new idea, that people are equal, independent of class or wealth allowed for more people to pursue scientific discovery. No longer were young bright minds pushed away from scientific pursuits, but encouraged to do so. Scientific thought became the basis of the Enlightenment. This was the end of feudalism, and birth (or rediscovery) of democratic elected governments.

Now, the United States was founded by a number of wealthy business-classed individuals who’se hobbies included science, such as Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. In forming the government, it is interesting to see how the founding fathers framed the funding of science in the Constitution. In the Constitution, the revolutionaries outline first of all how taxes were to be collected and how money was to be spent. The House of Congress, a representative group of men elected from each state, the number determined by population of each state, but this is back during slavery, so if you have dark skin and were a slave, you were considered only 3/5 a person, so it was not exactly based on “all people created equal,” yet, but we will get to that in a moment. In any case, it is up to Congress to collect taxes and tariffs, and write up a budget to fund or spend those collected taxes.

Now the new Constitution listed what things that the congress should provide money for, which is basically called the Enumerated Powers of Congress. And it includes things like establishing a budget for the army and navy, making sure the post offices are maintained, and good roads. It also over sees the commence between states, other nations and various Indian Tribes.

There is one interesting power within the Constitution is found in Article 1, Section 8 Clause 8 “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries” this set up the Copyright and Patent Offices and the Library of Congress. Sometimes this is referred to as the copyright clause, because it established the U.S. copyright system.

But the first part of this grants Congress powder “to promote the Progress of Science and Useful Arts” …. this is will be important, as the U.S. Constitution gives explicitly the power to fund science.

It is up to congress to fund the progress of science and technology within the country, and not the President, however the President does have the power of a veto, if he or she does not like what the Congress has come up with.

One of the other powers granted Congress was to establish units of measurement, and standards for commerce, hence the establishment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology which is the oldest federally funded scientific institute within the United States. This is a government funded research institute the determines units to use, which is important if you are trading in any goods, making sure that someone’s kilogram is the same as another.

Well, it was a little difficult in those early days to get money from congress to fund basic science. To fund a scientific endeavor would require an Act of Congress, and voted on the floor, pass through the Senate and signed by the President.

The first requests for science funding came in 1803, and it would test the power of congress to fund basic science.

Napoleon Bonaparte wanted to sell to the United States a bunch of land in the American West, as he needed money for his soon to be Wars across Europe, and this land was not really useful to him. America was allied to France, and hated the British as much as the French, and so it was a win-win deal. There was only one problem, the Constitution did not give Congress the right to buy land from another country. So, Thomas Jefferson, the President encouraged Congress to purchase the land, stating that they have the right to negotiate treaties with foreign countries and declare war, this is basically the same thing, so let’s buy this land and expand westward.

So Congress agrees to buy the land for $11 million francs, and suddenly the United States becomes twice as big. But Thomas Jefferson really wants to explore this land, but he has no money. A group of congressmen called the Federalists are a little upset that congress bought this land. They see that congress has only limited power when it comes to spending money. They are upset that they bent the rules as laid out in the U.S. Constitution.

Federalists have a very narrow view of the U.S. Constitution, basically stating that funding should only be provided by the explicit list of the Enumerated Powers of Congress, basically only fund the army and navy, roads, post offices, commerce between states and other countries, collecting taxes, tariffs, maybe the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Patent Office, and that  Article 1 Section 8 Clause 8, does not give congress power to directly give money to fund science, despite that slippery wording “to promote scientific progress.” And nowhere does it give the authority to buy land.

Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States knows that it will be difficult to ask for any more money nor matter what amount he ask from Congress to explore this land, so he asks his secretary to put together a budget for a trip, and to also calculate the cost of bringing gifts to Indian Tribes along the way to establish peaceful treaties. He tells his secretary that it should be a very modest request, as Congress just drained all the money to buy the land. His secretary a guy named Meriwether Lewis draws up the figure and comes up with $2,500, which is like the price of a brand-new BMW in today’s dollars.

Thomas Jefferson is really nervous because this it is not clear how these Federalists would view it, and was afraid that they would say no. He could invoke Article 1 Section 8 Clause 8, but that was tied to intellectual property. So the angle that Thomas Jefferson took was that this exploration team would help establish commence with the Indian Tribes hence fall under the authority of congress to protect and oversee commerce with Indian Tribes. In secret Thomas Jefferson staffed the expedition with scientists, led by his secretary Meriwether Lewis and his friend William Clark. Congress agrees to fund the scientific expedition! Hence the Lewis and Clark expedition is the first fully funded scientific expedition of the United States.

This is the first-time Congress directly funds a scientific expedition, and a scientific endeavor using taxes or tariffed money.

This basically sets a precedent for Congress to fund directly scientific endeavors, but many of the Federalists in Congress don’t really like this idea. They are sort of the like the Ebenezer Scrooge’s of the day from Charles Dickens novel. It is very difficult to secure scientific funding during the early 1800s because of the tight purse of the Federalists, and their ideas. Unfortunately, Congress would become involved in a financial scandal that actually took money set aside for science away.

It had to do with a man that never stepped on U.S. soil, James Smithson. James Smithson would play a big role in compelling the U.S. Congress to fund science much more directly than even Thomas Jefferson would imagine. James Smithson was the bastard son of the Duke of Northumberland and went to school at Oxford University in England, where he studied chemistry and geology. Throughout his life, James Smithson traveled around Europe exploring the local geology and loved science, he was a prison of war during the Napoleonic Wars, and experimented in geology and chemistry, coining the term Silicate for the class of minerals that contain silica, and made a fortunate in glass making. He never married and had no children, so his will when he died left all his money to his nephew, but if his nephew died before him, and had no living family, in the case this happened James wrote in his will. “I then bequeath the whole of my property, . . . to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge among men.” And in June of 1829 he dies, and word travels to the United States that some rich man has left a huge sum of money to the United States.

Andrew Jackson knowing that it is up to Congress to determine what to do with the money, let’s them know that this large estate and a bunch of money has been given to the government to promote science. Congress contacts the United States Minster of England, a guy named Richard Rush, to bring back the money to the United States and they would decide what to do with it. Richard Rush cashes up the estate and converts the funds into gold, large sacks of gold, which is worth in today’s dollars about 13 billion dollars. The money is delivered, and the U.S. Congress is like wow this is a lot of money.

Now there was something very dark in the history of the United States that is happening in 1830, Andrew Jackson is president in large part because of his fame in fighting in the Seminole War, which was a war between the United States and the Seminole Indian Tribe which lived in Florida. Andrew Jackson hated Native Americas and during his 1829 state of the address as President calls for the forced removal of all five of the Civilized Tribes of the South, including the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee-Creek, Seminole and the Cherokee Nations. The Indian Removal Act is passed by Congress in May of 1830.

The military ripped people from their homes and forced marched them hundreds of miles to the edge of the United States, across the border from Arkansas, in what was to become the Indian Territory, later the state of Oklahoma. This event is called the Trail of Tears, and Congress needed money to encourage white settlement in the lands once occupied by these people, and that 13 billion dollars was too good of an opportunity to pass up, so they bought bonds issued by the Arkansas Territory to finance this resettlement of the south, and established Arkansas as a new state very much going against the wishes of James Smithson. The bonds become worthless, and the money was lost.

Not everyone in Congress was for this eviction of Native American tribes in the South, Congressmen like Davy Crockett went against the idea. When the scandal of the lost value of the bonds, finally breaks out, and news of the misappropriation of the funds travels to the public. Congress is called upon to repay the amount, and a new scientific institution is formed called the National Institute for the Promotion of Science, harking back to the specific wording in the U.S. Constitution, and in 1846 the Smithsonian Institute was finally founded in Washington D.C, as wished for by James Smithson.

The track record of the US Congress was not very good when it came to the Promotion of Science as laid out in the U.S. Constitution. In fact, if we were to grade how well Congress did in the first 50 years of the United States as part of its duties laid out in the U.S. Constitution we would likely give it an F, it had funded only $2,500 dollars of its own for science, and mismanaged money donated by James Smithson for the promotion of science, and really had not funded much science at all.

One person was very upset at the miss-management of Congress in its duties to protect patents, and his name was Eli Whitney.

Eli Whitney’s father was an important figure in the Revolutionary War, his family manufactured nails, and when the war broke out started making muskets for the Revolutionaries. Afterward he moved to the south, and invented the Cotton Gin, a machine that allowed for the processing of cotton to make fabric, which was quickly copied by various people living in the south, Eli wanted the Congress to enforce the law over patent infringement, but congress did very little in protecting his invention. Eli Whitney succumbed to making muskets and guns on government contract, which was a more lucrative way to make money. The US Congress was much more likely to fund the purchase of guns for the army than protect patents. And this is still how even today most of science is funded by the federal government, through contracts with the military.   But by 1840 science in the United States was on a better footing. It had a benefactor, and large sums of money, and the Smithsonian Institute, which was to became a major player in scientific innovation in the 1840s and 1850s, just prior to the Civil War.

The Director of the Smithsonian was a Professor from Princeton University by the name of Joseph Henry, who was researching electricity and electromagnetism. The cutting edge of science at the time. One of the things that Joseph Henry was most interested in was the high speed that metal wires passed electrons, and the possibility of using this technology for communication across long distances.

Laying out long wires, and sending a current through the wire to send messages between various places. Now that James Smithson’s money was being used for scientific endeavors to further knowledge, a group of scientists were now working on this technology, not only electricity, but also geology, physics, chemistry and biology. The Smithsonian Institute became a natural history museum for the United States was to grow and grow in its research goals.

Now things become really interesting with the next big request for money that the U.S. Congress received to fund science, and it has to go back to that portrait I showed above of Eli Whitney. This painting was made by an artist who in 1831 took a trip to Paris France to paint the Gallery in the Louvre Museum, to paint this particular painting.

The voyage from America to France was very long and on the way back to America, the artist started thinking how it would be great if Europe and America were a little closer, and could communicate using electricity. On his return, he thought more and more about this, read up on the work of Joseph Henry who was about to become the head of the new Smithsonian Institute, and in 1837 put in a patent for a recording electric telegraph, the artists name was Samuel Morse, and inventor of the Morse code. The dot-dot-dash-dash that predated the internet and telephone.

The electric telegraph was to become a Smithsonian Institute first key invention, and help led to the future of telecommunication in the United States, in fact the invention of the telephone can be traced back to the work at the Smithsonian Institute and inspiration for Alexander G. Bell’s invention, the telephone and the technology that led to the inventions of Thomas Edison.

And it 1845, a conflict arose were such communication would become important. Mexico had become independent from Spain in 1821, but was struggling to form a cohesive government, experimenting with a monarch, the political struggles in the country eventually led to the secession of Texas in 1836 to become its own country, the Republic of Texas. Mexico did not want to see its borders split, and Texas and Mexico went to war with each other. For the most part, the United States stayed out of the conflict, but a number of the Texans were supported by American Immigrants, including Davy Crocket, who left the United States for Texas, because of his hatred of Andrew Jackson and what he did to the Indian Nations. But after Dave Crocket died in the war, the Republic of Texas went to the United States Congress in 1845 and asked if it could become a state, knowing that it would bring a much stronger army into the conflict with Mexico.

The United States Congress decides to declare war on Mexico, and for the next few years, we have the Mexico-American War, which gives the United States not only Texas, but much of the western United States, including California. During the war, communication using a telegraph became important, and it was wildly adopted across the country. Telegraph lines began to be put up providing communication between widely spaced regions of the country, but this was all privately funded.

With victory over Mexico, Congress establishes the Department of the Interior in 1849 to manage the new land, and help establish the western borders of the country. Suddenly the US Congress gains a new power not made explicit in the U.S. Constitution, managing federal lands.

The next request for public funding for science came again in 1858, after peace was settled in the west, when a group of British Scientists wanted to stretch a wire across the entire Atlantic Ocean. After much debate the U.S. Congress agreed to provide some funding to extend the wire cable down into the United States from Canada. The debate over this funding may sound very familiar to scientists today. Congress barely passed the bill, in large part because they viewed it outside of their power, and they were not really interested in communicating with the British that much. Many congressmen view that the U.S. Congress should not be involved in the construction of the telegraph lines, and say out of science in general.

The pre-civil war U.S. Congress was extremely divided, with bloody fist fights erupting on the house floor. And it ignored much of the spirit of the founding ideals of enlightenment philosophy that helped found the country in the first place, and Congress ignored its duty “To Promote Science and the Useful Arts”, or what we would call science and technology today.

One of the prime examples of the poor standing in science for the United States occurred in 1851. The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations was a large event that was planned in London that year, sponsored by the Royal Family in Britain. England was the place to be if you were scientist, its funding was massive compared to the funding for science in the United States. The British Empire controlled nearly half the world at the time. This event was organized by the guy who invented commercial greeting cards, so it was going to be a major event were nations all around the world would show off their major industries, innovations, scientific discoveries, and it was the First World’s Fair. American’s would love to go, but Congress did not want to support any science and well, only those who could afford to pay their way attended the event. A large hall was set up in the Crystal Palace, a massive building constructed out of glass for the event, the delegation from the United States was given one wing of the hall and unfortunately the United States Congress did not really support funding for the event. Instead the exhibit featured Native American inventions and industry, including the tipi, head dresses and two statures for support of the arts. Hiram Powers stature of a woman in chains in protest of slavery (later a strong symbol of the coming Civil War), and Peter Stephenson’s wounded Indian, highlighting the poor treatment of Native American’s in the United States.

In the corner of the hall, Samuel Colt brought with him, a new gun. A gun developed out of the consent wars in the United States, the 1851 Colt Navy, which depicts a battle between the Texan Navy against the Mexican Navy, and inspired by manufacture standards of Eli Whitney, with replaceable interchangeable parts.

The only major industry and innovation inside the United States was a new type of revolver, its construction funded by the U.S. Congress, and which would play a major role in the Civil War.

The 1850s Congress was exploding over the issue of slavery, and had no time to fund science. The Bleeding of Kansas, which was a proxy war that would set off the Civil War as the new frontier state fought to be either a Free State or a Slave State, inspiring the guerrilla military actions of John Brown, that would lead to outright war between the states.

During the Civil War from 1861 to 1865, the United States of America self-exploded over the issue of slavery. Over 620,000 American’s died by the end of the war, and the failure of the United States was heartfelt by every citizen in the country.

Abe Lincoln turned back to the writings of Thomas Jefferson, in his Gettysburg’s address.  Which ends with “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

The United States failed to fund science and promote innovation. From 1800, until 1861 the US Congress had not lived up to the standards of the United State’s Constitution, and the people of the United States were hungry to strengthen the country.

The ideals of freedom had not been lived up to. Too many compromises had been made to permit slavery, Native American’s were treated horribly, and forcibly removed, and the country needed to reinvent itself, and one way it began to do that was to fund science.

During the Civil War, Abe Lincoln saw the advantage of having scientists around, and established the National Academy of Science in 1863. The National Academy of Science is not directly funded by Congress, rather it is a composed of selected scientists who do “pro bono” or free service to the government when asked pressing questions, such as is Climate Change real or not? How can we improve the educational system? Does smoking cause cancer? The National Academy of Science provides valuable information to Congress to help legislate new laws, but is not directly funded by Congress itself. One of the first requests of the Academy was to research ways to navigate the coast, and help make maps of the coastline to aid travel between battle sites during the Civil War.

Another interesting thing happened during the Civil War, an idea had been floating around about building a Transcontinental Railroad connecting California to the Atlantic States. It would require large sums of money, that private businesses did not have. During the years leading to the Civil War, Congress opposed the idea, but when the southern states split, the remaining northern members of congress decided to fund such an endeavor, despite the ongoing war. The funding went through with a deal were bonds were issued at 6% interest with the hopes that land given to the rail companies could be sold for profit once the rail line was built, and investors would get their money back.

Abe Lincoln also worked with the remaining Congress to establish the United States Department of Agriculture, in 1862, at the height of the Civil War. This department today is responsible for food security and grew out of the Patent Office and has a budget directly from Congress, it has a staff of scientists, including biologists and chemists, and is also responsible for drug safety standards today, the FDA, which is part of the Human and Health Services Department, which includes the National Institutes of Health.

The final act that was made by the northern Government was the Morrill Land-Grant Acts, which gave federal lands to states, that was sold and the proceeds of that money used as the state wished for the establishment of local universities within each state.  The Morrill Land-Grant Act actually established Utah State University where I teach science. So the northern states during the war, we’re laying out a new vision of the United States with stronger support for scientific funding to support the people of the country.

After the civil war, in 1867 there was a major mobilization of funds to support education with the founding of the Department of Education, distributing federal funds for education in states to help heal the country. Prior to this there was no federal public funded education in the country in the United States.

Most Americans could not read or write, unless they attended an expensive private school or lived in a state that provided public education, like Massachusetts, which started its first state funded school system in 1839.

It was not long before the United State Congress was asked for money to provide specific scientific funding outright to an individual, and it came from an unexpected person, a veteran of the civil war who had lost his arm, and his brother who was suffering from post- traumatic syndrome.

His name was John Wesley Powell, and his story would help establish direct funding from the United States Congress to fund science and exploration. Prior to the Civil War, Powell loved adventure, he completed three self-funded explorations on his own, traveling down the length of the Mississippi River from St. Anthony, Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico in 1856, rowed the length of the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to Saint Louis in 1857, and the Illinois River up the Mississippi River across the Des Moines River to central Iowa in 1858. During the Civil War, he had lost his right arm at the Battle of Shiloh from Cannon Fire. After the war, John Wesley Powell got a job as a professor of geology in Illinois, settled down with his wife, and well still had the bug to travel west into the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and collect natural history specimens for the museum in Illinois. One on of these trips he ends up in a cabin in the small mountain town of Hot Sulfur Springs, with a guy named William Byers in 1868. Byers is running a newspaper out of a saloon in Denver, called the Rocky Mountain News, and loves the stories of Powell’s adventures on the rivers of the mid-west. Together they plan a more daring river run, down the Green River starting in Wyoming and heading all the way down to Yuma, Arizona, near the Mexican Border. No one knows much about this area, and it would be a grand story to sell. John Wesley Powell pins a two-page letter on his return to Congress asking for funding.

Congress approves his request, and in 1869 Powell, with his brother and a couple of friends make the journey down the Green River, until it runs into the Grand, or Colorado River, then discovers the Grand Canyon of Arizona. The trip becomes an international news story, his notes and fieldwork is published as a best-selling book, and the Congress starts funding more exploration of the American West, through a series of geologic and biological surveys. Lobbyist from the rail companies support funding of geological surveys because of the need of coal to provide fuel for the rail lines that were planned throughout the west, and possible gold and other mineral resources in the west.

In 1872, one of these surveys stubbles upon Yellowstone, which becomes the first National Park, through an act of Congress, a new tourist destination in the American West. In the decade following the Civil War, science was being funded at an unpredicted rate.

In 1870, the Weather Bureau is founded, which today is known as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one of the largest employers of scientists, and United States Geological Survey was founded in 1879 to provide land surveys and geological maps of the country.

By 1880 the amount of money invested in Science in the United States was more than ever before, and this would lead to a greater role of the United States globally. Much of this science was staffed through the various departments of the executive branch of government, with appointments made by the President, but the funding for these agencies was through acts of Congress. Now to pay for some of these new programs the government enacted for the first time an Income tax that was passed in 1861, after the war it ended income taxes, until the passage of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution which reintroduced the income tax, and helped to curb income inequality that was happening during the 1890s and 1910s. This income tax and the growing rights of woman with passage of the Nineteen Amendment gave woman the right to vote in 1919.

Science was funded throughout the early twenty century, but this funding had to be wrapped up in either the Department of War, Commerce or Transportation. Congress was still reluctant to fund science for the sake of science, but this was about to change with the advent of World War 2.

During the war, science became really really important. Radar, radio transmission, development of the nuclear weapons, vaccines, and new bombs all were credited to winning the war. The United States suddenly was putting together scientific investigations like never before, and this innovation became the driving force of its success. At the close of the war, the government realized the need to continue to support and promote science within the country during peace time.

Much of the vision of federal scientific funding for science comes from the work of Vannevar Bush. During the war, he was appointed head of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development or the OSRD, which also over saw the Manhattan Project. The Office of Scientific Research and Development was in charge of research and development for the army, and with the end of the war, the U.S. government saw a need to continue to invest in science research.

Vannevar Bush was instrumental in foreseeing not only a need for science funding in the United States to continue after the war, but predicted the advent of personal computers, the internet and even imagined the tiny digital processing, and computer chips found in all the devices we use today.

In 1945, he wrote a report to the President Roosevelt called “Science, The Endless Frontier”, calling upon the government to continue to fund basic science within the United States. In July, a bill was introduced into Congress, while congress passed the bill, it was neglected by the President and took another 5 years before it was passed. This bill eventually formed the National Science Foundation.

The report “Science, The Endless Frontier” urged the nation to promote science, called upon the great benefits science allowed for the people of the nation, and really rallied the country to support science funding unlike any time in its history. I highly recommended that you read the report in its entirety, and I have provided a direct link below to the text of the document.

The National Science Foundation is a pool of money established by Congress, with an Appointed Director by the President to fund basic research. The proposed scientific investigations are judged by panels of scientists, much like peer-review, and grants are awarded to researchers. This foundation freed Congress from the labor of debating each request for money, freed researchers from having to be employed by a government agency, and finally follows the U.S. Constitution duties to Congress for the Promotion of Science as outline in article 1, section 8.

Things moved further in this direction in the 1958, National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed which established NASA, which grew out of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics founded in 1915. During the 1960s growing concern about the health of the environment, clean water and air, established the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.

Note that both of these agencies were passed by a Republican President. Today NASA and the EPA fund a large amount of scientific research and have budgets larger than the NSF.  The final large investment of science came in 1977, with the newest Scientific Agency, the Department of Energy. The DOE, formed in response to the importance of energy resources following the oil embargos that occurred in the 1970s, when the nation reach peak oil production. Long lines at gas stations, and inability of people to get fuel for their vehicles, resulted in the U.S. Congress to act, and establish an agency that directly is involve in scientific research of better fuel and energy efficiency.

With so many government agencies supporting science, it may appear that all is good, and science is well funded in the United States, well not quite. This is why Scientists are Marching in Washington D.C.: In the last few years there has been a resurgence of the ideal of Federalism, of limited federal government, of slashing funding, of small government rule, for reducing or eliminating the U.S. Government. There is even talk of eliminating both the EPA and DOE, of drastically reducing the funding of NASA, of eliminating NSF, or restructuring it to allow for general debate by Congress over individual grants, and proposals for funding, as advocated by representatives from Texas and Oklahoma.

The current Republican President adores the ideals of Andrew Jackson, which if you are not from the United States, may seem odd since Andrew Jackson was the first Democrat elected President, but the idea of a government that supports commence over people, racism, state rights and isolationism harken back to the ideals of pre-civil war America, a time before science was well funded in the country.

Members of this select group of Republicans also detest strong federal U.S. government. These new masters of the American system view the span of time in the 1830s and 1840s as the time of greatness for the nation. They adore Andrew Jackson, and his populist ideas, when guns and muskets where the primary industry of the United States.

There is a weird reverence to the early American government before the Civil War by these groups of politicians. They argue that there are too many agencies, too much spending of money by the government. They would love to see the elimination of income tax, and revert back to the tax structure of the early 1800s, based on tariffs and taxing goods rather than people. It’s a Romantic notion, but it is an idea that was tired out, and failed, ending in a Civil War, and a failed state of government.

Scientists are not really fighting against anti-science or religion or liberal ideals, they are fighting for a government “of the people by the people”, to elevate everyone’s standards of life, from clean drinking water, to safe food, to protect property from damage from climate change and rising seas, to education for your children, to space travel. Science is the pathway to a more stable, safe, enjoyable country to live in. If we let these institutions be cast aside we risk falling into a nation that we no longer want to live in. The March of Science is important because it highlights the value science has on the well-being of the United States.

If you want to learn more about planned Marches for Science on April 22nd, around the country, you can check out this website for a location near you.