Friday, July 21, 2006

Bush Veto Correct but for wrong and irrational reasons
By Alexander Marriott


President Bush issued the first veto of his presidency this week in order to prevent federal money from funding embryonic stem cell research. His rationale was that because this research is based on the alleged death of a life (the unimplanted embryo) it could not go forth under federal auspices. The immediate reaction of anyone who relies on reason and not mystical revelations in dealing with the world might be outrage. It should be if we are speaking strictly of Bush's reasons for the veto. He is using an irrational and mystical luddite philosophy that, if accepted, would stymie all scientific progress (just as it would be stymied if irrational environmentalists had their way) and cause untold harm to humanity. But, while his reasoning is horrendous, the decision was the right one regardless. If any of us ever want the great benefits this research may promise us then we must make sure federal money, or any government money at all, stay out of it.

Embryonic stem cell research is the province of private drug companies and research labs, universities, etc. The federal government has no authority to interfere in such research (which Bush has not done, unless we mean to say he is interfering by preventing federal dollars from pouring in) and nor should we desire such interference either by preventing it altogether or by flooding it with subsidization. Government subsidization never has had results tied to it. The goal of people being subsidized by the government is to extend the subsidization. The private sector, on the other hand, must produce some sort of result in order to make profits, it is not the goal of a drug company to research on end without producing some marketable product. To ruin this incentive process with federal subsidization will mean that results will either be needlessly prolonged or indefinitely delayed.

Bush's reasoning (or lack thereof) should be decried and combatted. The principle of keeping the government out of the economy and scientific research should not be sacrificed in combatting Bush's mysticism. Bush made the right call in spite of himself (since he has no objections to economic interference, without his irrational mysticism he would surely have signed the bill). That does not mean we let his justification escape the condemnation it so richly deserves. Luckily, it also means that embryonic stem cell research can proceed forwith, under private auspices, without unneccessary intereference from the federal government, for now.

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