Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bush Does the Right Thing-For the Wrong Reason

Apparently, President Bush is close to issuing his first veto during his 5½ years as President-this to prevent a bill passed in the Senate (and previously in the House) that would give federal funding to stem cell research.

Although there have been many occassions in the past where a veto would have been even more important, he is actually doing the right now by vetoing this bill . And I say this not because I believe that stem cell research is "murder"-but because science should be privately funded and not funded by the government.

This is a point missed for example by the ARI-affiliated Capitalism Magazine which last year expressed its approval of the news that the House had passed a bill approving federal funds for stem cell research by posting the news under "dollar" (which means "good news" as opposed to news posted under "cross") and by posting a cartoon that attacks Bush's position on the issue. As it is now, privately funded stem cell research is not banned, or even discouraged (at least not any more than any other business activity). It is simply not subsidized by taxpayer's money. And that is what an Objectivist should think is the proper state of affairs with regards to stem cell research.

I by the way find the closing paragraphs of the BBC News article to be somewhat curious:

"Not since Thomas Jefferson has a US president gone this long without using his veto, reports the BBC's James Coomarasamy.

He says the Bush administration has successfully used pro-life issues to mobilise its Republican base, notably in the 2004 presidential election.

It is ironic that one of those issues seems set to result in the president's first veto, he adds."

And why is that ironic? It seems in fact quite proper that if he attracted voters based on "pro-life" rhetoric, that he actucally pursues "pro-life" policies and uses his first veto for that issue.

UPDATE July 20: I now see that the Ayn Rand Institute explicitly condemns the veto:

"IRVINE, CA--"President Bush’s veto of a bill to remove restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research is immoral," said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute.

"It is revealing that Bush has used his first veto to oppose potentially life-saving research in the name of the dogma that microscopic embryos are sacred. Clearly, Bush and other ‘compassionate conservatives’ are not concerned with the well-being of humans, but with sacrificing them to clumps of cells in the name of religion. Such opposition is rooted in the perverse worship of human suffering.

“Anyone who truly cares about human life must condemn this religious assault on medical progress.” "

Immoral to restrict federal funding? Rather curious position coming from someone who represents a institute named after someone who always maintained that science should not be tax funded.

UPDATE 2, July 22: Apparently, someone must have reminded the ARI that they are supposed to be opposed to government funding of science, so they later issued this clarification:

"IRVINE, CA--"The political fighting over embryonic stem cell research is the inevitable result of government funding of science," said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute.

"It is only because science today is so dominantly funded by the government that restrictions on federal funding can wreak the devastation they have--severely hindering a promising area of potentially life-saving medical research."

"If science were left free, as it should be, funded solely by private sources, a scientist would not have to plead the merits of his work before a majority of politicians, however ignorant or prejudiced by religious or other dogmas they might be.

"The government should get out of the business of funding science. But so long as it is involved, it must scrupulously respect the separation of Church and State. Its funding decisions must be made on rationally demonstrable, not faith-based, grounds. Bush's veto clearly violates this principle."

This sounds a lot more consistent with objectivist principles, although the validity of the last paragraph presuppose that the money saved by vetoing stem cell research would be used to increase funding elsewhere, something I have yet seen no indication of.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for seeing this. My friends have all been so blindsided by the religious angle that the miss the more important fundamental.

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Per-Olof Samuelsson said...

Well... See my comment on this on Carl Svanberg's blog.

11:37 AM  

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