Expanded scientific activity is thought to benefit national economic development through improved labor force capacities adn the creation of new knolwedge and technology. However, scientific research activity expands as a global process and reflects the penetration of societies by a general rationalistic world culture. The authors point out that scientific expansion and the accompanying cultural penetration legitimate a board progressive agenda of social amelioration (e.g., by identifying environmental and health problems, and social welfare and human rights issues) that can result in regulation and direct constrainsts on productive economic activity in teh short term. Thus, science can be seen as encouraging a trade-off between short-term economic growth and boarder (and longer-term) social development. The effects of dimensions of scientific infrastrucutre on national economic growth are examined over the 1970-1990 period. Cross-national analyses show that the size of a nation's scientific labor force and training system has a positive effect on economic development, supporting conventional theories. However, indicators of national involvement in scientific research activity show negative effects on economic growth. Corollary analyses show that this negative effect is partially explained by the expansion of scientific activity into more socially relevant domains (e.g., medicine, environmental sciences, etc.) thus supporting the main arguments.