If we look to the answer as to why, for so many years, we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here, in this land, we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth.
—Ronald Reagan. First Inaugural Address, Tuesday, January 20, 1981.
Science should not be encouraged, discouraged, or undertaken by government. Incentives paid or tax breaks given to promote research and development simply distort the economy. Small government and low taxes are the best incentives for R&D; this explains why the Soviet Union never produced a company like Microsoft or Intel. Indeed, if Bill Gates had been born in the USSR, he probably would have been conscripted into the army and spent his days being bullied rather than revolutionizing technology.
Pure science, which is unattractive to commercial ventures, is best undertaken by charitable trusts (such as the Wellcome Trust or Howard Hughes Medical Institute) or universities (privately or charitably owned). Aside from the moral arguments, there are strong practical reasons for favoring private enterprise. The Soviet Union undertook all sorts of publicly-funded research over many decades—but in the end it all came to nothing. By contrast, all the thousands of drugs and advances in medical procedures, diagnostics, aeronautics, engineering, plastics, computers and software that were achieved by humanity in the twentieth century were achieved in the Free World by private companies, charitable trusts, and academia.