Gary Becker and Jim Heckman's strange, self-serving argument for more government funds for economists
In any case, it is not like the vast majority of economic research requires much money. I personally have done studies on crime after compiling the largest data sets used to study the subject, but it never dawned on me to get government subsidies.
The claim about the health care savings from reduced smoking are also wrong. People have to die at some point. Smokers die earlier and their illnesses are shorter before they die. That saves Social Security payments for the government as well as medical costs.
The argument surely comes across as economists appearing self-serving. It also shows how the temptation to get government money warps people's perspectives, and it provides a reason why the government should stay out of education. From today's WSJ:
The federal deficit has ballooned in recent years, and even larger deficits are coming due to the expected growth of entitlement spending. There is little disagreement among members of both political parties that federal spending should be reduced. In such an environment it is crucial that the right criteria guide the cuts that will be made. Across-the-board cuts are not a thoughtful way to make choices. . . .
We cannot expect the market alone to support basic economic and social research, including data collection, since they are public goods that are difficult to appropriate privately. In cutting out the considerable fat from the public diet we should not cut the muscle that has helped make our economy the largest and strongest in history.