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Seth Robson’s April 25 article “Military cancer research yields promising results” inspired me to write less of a letter to the editor and more of an open letter to the government, though the article merits comment.

I applaud Robson for examining how the government spends its money — in this case, on a vaccine that can prevent the recurrence of breast cancer. But I hope Robson doesn’t stop his reporting there. His piece is a close-up look at how our capitalist economy largely functions, namely, by socializing risk and cost of government research and development while privatizing the profits. In this instance, the pharmaceutical company, Galena Biopharma, has plucked the fruits of publicly funded science, cashing in on a vaccine that will in turn be sold to back to the public for a profit.

In addition to the biochemical sector that Robson sheds a light on, the aerospace, computer and semiconductor fields are also the hatched eggs of this statist system of capitalism.

Regardless, there is an important message here that I hope makes its way back to Washington: Instead of flooding public tax dollars into weapons research, start spending our money on research and development with a return on investment that actually benefits people. The Defense Department is perhaps the world’s largest economic planning agency, with tremendous influence on the economy. The DOD also receives a little more than half of all publicly funded research and development, according to the Congressional Research Service’s 2013 report.

Yet the lion’s share of military research and development expenditures goes toward the science of death and destruction, which contribute little to our economy.

Besides, why does the U.S. response to international challenge have to always be nested in defense terms? The U.S. needs to reprioritize how it spends our money. Funding should go toward research and development that helps others — like the Army’s cancer research — and not hurt them. The Pentagon is hemorrhaging public money toward the war effort, which like most people, isn’t helping my family in the least.

So listen up Washington: A large portion of the American public would prefer to see their tax dollars going toward developments in medicine, science and technology for civilian purposes — and not in developing war machines that draw us into perpetual war.

Nathan Van Schaik

Schweinfurt, Germany

Stripes in 7

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