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Monday, June 20, 2005

Stem Cell Research Should Be Privately Funded

The anger towards GW about his call limiting federal funding of stem-cell research is not only unscientific but inaccurate according to Jonah Goldberg's latest editorial. GW did not prohibit the research. He just left it to the states and private companies to invest the time, money and effort into the project.

Despite the rhetoric that the US will be lagging the world in this area of scientific research, Jonah writes:

America is still leading the world in embryonic stem cell research. Many European countries - which were supposed to have eaten our lunch in this area - actually have vastly more restrictive laws than our own. There's been virtually no brain drain of American scientists fleeing to more hospitable climes, while thousands of European scientists have fled their own bureaucratic and restrictive lands to work in America. Pharmaceutical and biotech R&D investment is flying into the United States. And many states, led by California, are spending billions to make up for the perceived shortfall from the feds.

Why do people think the federal government can claim it can do anything better than the private sphere in creating products of value? Would we be in better shape if they designed and produced cars, drugs, houses, foods, etc. The federal government's regulation of these items already do a great job of botching up production. Other than the military, with its great inefficiencies, there is nothing that the government has created, discovered or developed of any value. It is the private pharma companies with investors looking for profits, that evil word, that leads to quicker discovery and development.

And, as Jonah points out, since some Americans actually have a difference of opinion on the ethics of this research, why force those people to fund such projects with their tax money? He concludes:

Federalism - sending tough issues to the lowest, most local levels possible - is the best compromise one can ask for when dealing with such issues. The alternative is to ask the federal government almost literally to split the baby. Sure, more federal funding might advance the science a bit faster. But the current system has one great advantage. It doesn't force people who think human life is precious to pay for its destruction.

I favor such research but recognize some of the concerns that opponents have voiced. Their arguments have been unpersuasive to me but merit our consideration. By allowing private businesses the ability to spend their money (and if you wish, you can too!) on such research, the creative thinking will find the various cures much quicker than government can. The government is not noted for "out-of-the-box" thinking.

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