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Thursday, October 22, 2009


Government shall be required to increase funding, directly or indirectly, of prizes for technological achievement by 10% more than the rate of growth plus inflation until it reaches 4% of its spending or 1% of GNP or half its military budget, whichever is the least & maintain it in that condition.

Following declaration of an emergency Parliament may authorize, by a two-thirds vote of both Houses, suspension of this law. Such suspension to be renewed annually. When it restarts the first year's funding will be not less than the amount, in money terms, than it was at the time of suspension
Currently we spend over 2% of GNP on the military & government is over 50% of GNP. For X-Prizes to fall under 1% of GNP military spending would have to be under 2% & total government spending under 25%. 1% of GNP is now about £14 billion, however we currently spend zero on X-Prizes so technically a continuous increase of 10% is still zero. If the country was willing to pass this I am sure they would also be willing to put at least £1 bn into an X-Prize Foundation. Note that "technological achievement" prizes are not limited to space, indeed I have written of the M-Prize which looks like an extremely good use of money.

A rise of 10% annually above growth is not painful if starting at £1 bn yet would reach 1% of then growth in 28 years. The "directly or indirectly" bit is to allow government to support private prize funding, by tax rebates or otherwise. X-Prizes have been almost entirely privately funded so far so I would not be surprised if private prizes would be less politically correct & thus more successful. It is quite likely that if the entire 1% went into tax rebates on private prizes about 3% would be raised in total. Because a Prize Foundation is going to hand out its prizes, if at all, several years forward it is of great benefit that they have a good idea of how much money they will have then. The fact that this is a constitutional requirement, rather than being subject to committee's push & pull, allows them to make that assessment.

The 2nd paragraph is just to allow a suspension during wartime or a severe economic crisis (though economic crisis may be exactly the wrong time to cut technology investment).

In US terms 1% of GNP would be about $150 bn, 8 times what NASA now gets, though NASA is only a part of scientific spending. However, at its height, the US spent 5% of GNP on the space race. 1% is not a lot compared to many other programmes & I have no doubt that, if the results were there, people would be very happy with this investment. Experience shows that prizes, which only pay for results, are a very much better use of investment money than grants & keep bureaucracy & "jobs for the boys" to an absolute minimum.

This is what Jerry Pournelle said about the initial X-Projects programme & thus I am quite certain that any country which amended its constitution in this way would, very quickly, increase its GNP by considerably more than 1% extra & move speedily up the technological ladder.
The X projects were greatly successful. They were effectively ended in the late 1960’s. The X programs were not canceled in the name of economy. Knowledge gained through the X programs helped U.S. aerospace firms to dominate the world industry. In the 1970’s US high technology, particularly aircraft, were the largest single cash export of the nation. They were very important in making up the deficits in our balance of payments.
Certainly by the end of the 28 year period mentioned for a small British spend above we would be many per cent better off because of the new technology.

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