A friend on an email discussion mentioned Carl Sagan and noted he was good on skepticism of pseudoscience and mused about whether he was good on politics. Alas, no. As is typically the case of engineers and scientists brainwashed with scientism (The Trouble with Libertarian Activism, Libertarian Activism-comments, Yet More on Galambos, Engineers’ Syndrome and C.P. Snow’s “The Two Cultures” and Misesian Dualism), he was a clod on this issue. From a review of one of his books:
My second critique is with regard to Sagan’s contradictory political views. On the one hand, he argues against authoritarianism of any sort, he points out government waste, discusses how the government shouldn’t be anti-choice, and is upset that politicians only work for the short term since they are only working to get elected again. I agree with his assessment to this point. However, then he seems to argue out of the other side of his mouth that the government should be there to provide ever larger social safety nets (i.e., welfare, social security, entitlements, etc.), collect more taxes in some cases, give U.S. tax dollars to other countries, and fund projects that don’t justly benefit those doing the funding (taxpayers). I don’t understand how someone can reconcile the seemingly opposed views. If the government can’t do its current jobs well, why give it more to do inefficiently and ineffectively? If individuals should be the responsible party, why shift all the burdens (in the form of more tax dollars and more government spending) to governments?
And another friend stumbled across this amusing anecdote, which illustrates what a statist and/or arrogant jerk he was. From the Wikipedia entry on Sagan:
In 1994, Apple Computer began developing the Power Macintosh 7100. They chose the internal code name “Carl Sagan”, the reference being that the mid-range PowerMac 7100 should make Apple “billions and billions.” Though the internal project name was never used in public marketing, it did come up in Usenet postings and news of the name grew from there. When Sagan learned of this he sued Apple Computer to force the use of a different project name. Other models released conjointly had code names such as “Cold fusion” and “Piltdown Man“, and Sagan was displeased at being associated with what he considered pseudoscience. (He was at the time writing a book discrediting pseudoscience.) Though Sagan lost the lawsuit Apple engineers complied with his demands anyway and renamed the project “BHA” (for Butt-Head Astronomer). Sagan promptly sued Apple for libel over the new name, claiming that it subjected him to contempt and ridicule, but he lost this lawsuit as well. Still, the 7100 saw another name change: it was finally referred to internally as “LAW” (Lawyers Are Wimps).
This reminds a bit of the story in Shades of Galambos!