There is an old movie cliché where someone stands up in the middle of a town meeting and bellows, “There oughtta be a law!” My friend, Fen, Libertarian-leaning lady that she is, has a favorite phrase: “Just because it’s a good idea doesn’t mean it needs to be a law.” Brushing and flossing after every meal is a very good idea. But this doesn’t mean the government needs to pass the Dental Hygiene Act.
Yet not everyone believes as Fen does. Don’t think so? Some people thought it would be a good idea for Americans to use only 1.6 gallons of water with each flush. Did they communicate their idea to the commode makers, buy commercial time, or create radio spots to explain the benefits of using less water? Of course not! Their idea was so good that the government had to mandate the manufacture of all new toilets to conform to their specifications. This scenario has occurred time and time again.
I have harped before (and again and again) on the Constitutional responsibilities granted to the Congress, and by extension, to the whole federal government. Article 1, Section 8 should be engraved in three-foot-high letters in the House and Senate halls. This section of the Constitution should be the first page of every proposed law, with the part(s) that grant Congress the authority to make that legislation highlighted in red. What a great idea! There oughtta be a law! Well, no, my Libertarian leanings recognize that just because it is a good idea, it doesn’t mean that there should be a law. Let me modify Fen’s statement a bit more: “Just because it is a good idea, it doesn’t mean that the government should be involved.” Which brings me to the main point of this article–stem cell research.
Stem cells are special cells that can become any type of cell in the body. Your skin cells are different from your muscle cells, and they are both different from your brain cells. If they divide, they divide into more skin and muscle and brain cells. They cannot, for instance, suddenly shift into blood cells. Stem cells are blanks that can become any type of cell. You can think of them as the basic building blocks of the body. At the critical moment when a human egg is fertilized and starts to divide into two cells, then four, eight and sixteen, it is hard to see any difference between these first cells. After a short time, the cells of the growing embryo begin to differentiate; some are destined to become skin, muscle, or brain cells. It is this early stage of development that has drawn the attention of scientists and, more recently, politicians.
In the last Democrat weekly radio address, Senator and presidential aspirant John Kerry took President Bush to task for not doing more to fund stem cell research. The CNN article summing up his address says Senator Kerry is “pledging to lift a partial ban President Bush put on the research three years ago.” On his political website, Senator Kerry has the following text: “John Kerry And John Edwards Support Lifting The Ban On Stem Cell Research.” But here’s the dirty little secret that isn’t mentioned much by the media–there is no ban on stem cell research. Senator Kerry said, “We are a land of discovery, a place where innovators and optimists are free to dream and explore.” And he is right! In this country, innovators and optimists are completely free to dream about and explore stem cell research, and no one will stop them, regardless of what the media and the Democrats would have you believe. There are no laws against private stem cell research–it is completely open to private organizations and companies.
The problem is that some people think stem cell research is such a good idea that the government should be involved. Read “involved” as “paying for it.” After all, curing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, rabies, scabies, and babies is worth every dime of taxpayer money, right? Okay, so we don’t want to cure babies–but babies are actually part of the stem cell debate. Scientists harvest stem cells primarily from the unborn. Senator Kerry believes, as do I, that life begins at conception, but he is calling for the government to step in with money to increase the research on stem cells. Harvesting stem cells from the unborn and from viable embryos makes them unviable–in other words, each harvest ends a potential life. Is it right to be opposed to the destruction of life? If you hold the opinion that life begins at the moment of conception, as Senator Kerry does, then scientists are committing murder as they harvest these cells–unnecessary murder, in fact, since scientists have recently found stem cells in the bodies of grown adults.
If adult stem cells continue to perform as well as they have in early research, there is no need to destroy the unborn. And if we aren’t murdering the next generation, then there is no moral reason to oppose government research into stem cells. After all, Democrats like John Kerry and John Edwards and Republicans like Nancy Reagan support funding stem cell research with government money. And when I say “government money,” I mean “your tax dollars and mine.” But again, just because something is a good idea, it doesn’t mean that the government should be involved. And if the government pays the bills, then the government can call the shots. That’s pretty involved.
I am completely in favor of scientific research, both practical and theoretical. But I do not see the need for government to spend a dime of tax money on research. Please find for me the part in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution that grants Congress the authority to fund stem cell research. While you are doing that, I think I’ll spend some quality time on my low-flush toilet–the one forced on every American because some eco-freak shouted, “There oughtta be a law!”