All Commentary
Thursday, April 11, 2013

57 Nobel Laureates to Congress: Just Get the Cash

Earlier this month, 57 Nobel Laureates signed a “Dear Members of Congress” letter urging Congress not to cut federal spending for scientific research. The letter was not accompanied by a translation understandable to nonscientific laymen, which prompted FEE president Lawrence Reed to provide this translation, free of charge:


April 9, 2013

Dear Members of Congress:

We’re smart enough to make a compass—the kind you take on hikes in the woods—but we lack an even more important kind of compass: a moral one. So we decided to write you a letter asking that you cough up some cash. We don’t care how or where you get it.

We thought about using our scissors to cut letters out of the newspaper and paste them on this sheet of paper so you wouldn’t know who sent this. But we’re rather proud and even sanctimonious about our plans. These days, it’s high fashion to stake a claim on other people’s hard-earned money instead of earning or attracting it voluntarily. Besides, getting it from you is a lot quicker even if your bureaucracy rakes off a big bundle of it to administer the distribution. We learned this as students at the government universities most of us attended, where the faculty work for the government and want the government to get bigger.

We think what we do is so important that we demand that you cut other people’s pay or mortgage their children’s futures before you reduce our claim on the federal treasury. After all, how could anybody’s personal desires or ambitions be more vital or future-focused than ours? We have university degrees.

Please don’t reject this demand because you’re already so deep in deficits and debt that there’s no way Americans can pay the bill without crushing them with taxes or ruining their currency. We’re oblivious to that. Remember, we’re Nobel Laureates, just like President Obama. It’s simply not possible for you to spend too much on what we think is important.

Some skeptics say that if our particular cause is really so worthwhile, private individuals, businesses, or charitable foundations would support it. But the problem is, as Dan Aykroyd pointed out in the first Ghostbusters movie, the private sector expects results. We’d rather get the cash from you because we know you don’t ask for such silly things.

The sequester is so draconian that the federal government will still spend more this year than it spent last year, so what’s the problem? We could have asked you to prioritize or maybe eliminate subsidies for green energy flops and aid to Somalia, then use the savings to preserve our funding. But that would just complicate matters and as Nobel laureates, we prefer simple solutions.

So please, just get the cash.

Respectfully (except if you’re talking other people’s money),

57 Smart People out of a Population of 315 Million

  • Lawrence W. Reed is FEE's President Emeritus, having previously served for nearly 11 years as FEE’s president (2008-2019). He is also FEE's Humphreys Family Senior Fellow and Ron Manners Global Ambassador for Liberty. His Facebook page is here and his personal website is