It might seem daunting to mount a defense of a practice that almost defines bad government, but Daniel Greenberg tries in his Aug. 8. op-ed article, "Some Pork Is Good for Us." Without earmarks, he warns, all the research money would be hogged by a few major research universities. That's a curious argument. People build grain elevators in Kansas because that's where the wheat is, not the other way around. Research money goes where the scientists are.

In any case, earmarking does nothing to correct an imbalance. Nearly all the money goes to institutions in the home states or districts of members of the appropriations committees. If the appropriators happen to come from districts with major research universities, these schools just get richer. At the other extreme, funds go to institutions that are ill-equipped to use them. The specific projects often are cooked up between greedy university administrators and highly paid lobbyists with little or no scientific background and rarely have anything to do with national need or scientific priority. Nor is there any assurance that the university will use the money for the designated purpose. This is no way to allocate precious research funds.



The writer is a professor of physics.