Why are there few scientists/engineers in politics?

  • Thread starter Hercuflea
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  • #26
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Herbert Hoover was an engineer. Fourier was governor of Egypt and did a pretty good job, I believe. Legendre (or someone like that) was given a government post after the French Revolution and was a flop. Napoleon said "He brought the spirit of the infinitely small to politics."

Anyone who is dedicated to truth is going to have a tough time as a politician. You will get much further telling people what they want to hear.

People want to hear what they want to hear.

People don't want to hear what they don't want to hear.

Feynman couldn't tolerate politics. He quit the Nobel committee because of it. He almost refused to sign the Challenger disaster report because everyone else on the committee was more concerned about pleasing the powerful than telling the truth. That's how you get ahead in politics.
Interesting. It seems unfortunately this is true in most cases. I am a math major but I have participated in my university's Student Government organization as a senator. Of course, university politics is on a much smaller scale than national politics, but a lot of the same ideas apply. I came in with big ideas for my college, such as creating a new math and science library and getting a computing cluster for our relatively small math and science college. I was basically told we have no money for that and I'd be better off just attending the meetings and going to student activities (in other words just use my position as a resume booster.) People in government are too caught up in the day to day drama and issues to see the big picture.
 
  • #27
StatGuy2000
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I think it is quite clear that in democracies like the US (and many other countries as well), scientists and engineers have very little influence in government or in setting government policy, partly because they are not well represented in the national legislatures, partly due to the very process of democratic politics in many countries (basing decisions on loyalty to party as opposed to objective truth), and partly due to a lack of voting power or funds to form special interest groups to pressure politicians to advocate for them.
 
  • #28
BobG
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Herbert Hoover was an engineer. Fourier was governor of Egypt and did a pretty good job, I believe. Legendre (or someone like that) was given a government post after the French Revolution and was a flop. Napoleon said "He brought the spirit of the infinitely small to politics."
(Bolding mine)

It was Pierre LaPlace (there's even a town named after him in Louisiana). He should get at least part of the credit for the Louisiana Purchase. France's colonies in America became pretty much a huge headache for Napolean. Haiti and its revolution was a bigger headache than the Louisiana territory under LaPlace, but Napoleon obviously wasn't impressed by LaPlace, either.

Napoleon was glad to get rid of France's American colonies (plus France needed the money pretty badly, too).
 
  • #29
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(Bolding mine)

It was Pierre LaPlace (there's even a town named after him in Louisiana). He should get at least part of the credit for the Louisiana Purchase. France's colonies in America became pretty much a huge headache for Napolean. Haiti and its revolution was a bigger headache than the Louisiana territory under LaPlace, but Napoleon obviously wasn't impressed by LaPlace, either.

Napoleon was glad to get rid of France's American colonies (plus France needed the money pretty badly, too).
There was a huge speculative bubble around the Louisiana territories that was a financial catastrophe for France when everyone in the New Orleans colony died. So it was a sort of "good riddance thing."

Besides, if the Americans wanted to simply take the land then there was nothing much the French could do about it. If the French had refused the money they would have wound up with nothing. I see it as a sort of good will payoff to France for helping out during the Revolution.
 
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(in other words just use my position as a resume booster.) .
Yes, that is the true purpose of student "government." that and getting a few chances to schmooze the big shots and make some contacts. Most people seem to understand this without being told.

People in government are too caught up in the day to day drama and issues to see the big picture.
.
Maybe. They may see the big picture, but maintaining their jobs is often (understandably) their first priority. I mean, they have bills to pay too.

Another good example of an engineer in government was Jimmy Carter. Peanut farming is technical: maybe farmers could boost their image by reinventing themselves as "bioengineers," but farmers just aren't image/status conscious. He also was a nuclear technician of some sort in the Navy. Anyway, Carter tried to govern using objective criteria in pursuit of the public interest. He alienated all of Washington, which united against him. His cancellation of Congressional water projects was particularly notorious, gaining him the hate of many powerful Congressmen.

In my advanced age I appreciate the difficulties politicians have to deal with. It is a tough job. The mindset is very different from engineering. The priority is keeping people happy. Nothing so terrible about that, is there? :-).
 

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