Prizes to improve life

According to Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the best way to help improve the state of world is to spend $10 billion of American resources, over the next four years, on large tax-free prizes.

Historically, the greatest improvements in the quality of life have come from two patterns – the extension of the rule of law and the development and diffusion of technology. Unfortunately, the former is a complex and difficult process; therefore, it would be better to focus on the development and diffusion of technology, and rewarding such efforts with tax-free prizes, says Gingrich.

Favouring large tax-free prizes would send signals to everyone that they can compete, and they are payable on achievement rather than on application. Moreover, prizes would be a useful experiment in large-scale breakthroughs.

For example, scientists could be awarded between $1 and $2 billion tax-free prize for developing:

  • A low-cost vaccine or preventive intervention for malaria – possibly the single biggest potential improvement in the quality of life in poor tropical countries.

  • A modestly priced, mass-manufacturable hydrogen engine for cars, which would be the biggest single contribution to reducing carbon loading of the atmosphere and reducing subsidies through high oil prices to dictatorships.

  • The first privately financed permanent lunar base.

  • A method of learning math and science that kids like and would enable us to replace "No Child Left Behind" with a more effective education model.

    However, the modern emphasis on peer-reviewed research has three bad side effects, says Gingrich:

  • It leads people to spend an amazing amount of time on the paperwork of application rather than on actually doing the experiment or undertaking the research.

  • It limits the applications to credentialed people.

  • It is a very cautious process that emphasises relying on the approval of peers who tend to be cautious.

    Source: Newt Gingrich, Prizes to Improve Life, Wall Street Journal, August 11, 2008.

    For text:

    For more on Economic Issues:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 19 August 2008
  • Help FMF promote the rule of law, personal liberty, and economic freedom become an individual member / donor HERE ... become a corporate member / donor HERE