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My point of view - Jul 28, 2006 at 7:14PM
Hardin Dunham Avatar
Hardin Dunham
Texas
8 Posts

Can't believe no one's discussing this here, so I thought I'd start off the discussion.  (I'm a political junkie though so beware ;) )


So Bush vetoed stem cell research funding...  the FIRST veto in his tenure.

I'm torn on the issue.  

As a scientist I see this as one more way we're letting the religious crowd dictate what we work on (no offense to religious folks, my mom and father-in-law are both 'preachers').  But the 'moral' arguments for not supporting this research through government funding are just putting us one step behind the rest of the world.  We should be out there pushing research boundaries on all fronts.  We should be ethical with our use of technology and resarch, but we shouldn't use morality to dictate what we research and what we don't.

On the other hand, as a liberty minded individual, I disagree with the federal government spending any money on resarch at all.  That's our tax dollars!  I guarantee I can spend my money better than the federal government can, and I'm betting so can you!  I have a bit of a connundrum here in that as a grad student, I'm paid for by your tax dollars.  It's a violation of the constitution for the federal government to be sponsoring all this research in the first place.  Granted, only government entities can afford to do a lot of the fundamental research that goes on (it's just too expensive and not profitable for industry to do it).  But it's still our tax dollars doing the work and is part of a bloated federal government operating outside of its constitutional bounds.  

So, good thing or bad?  I dunno.  If it's so important and so promising to do, industry should just go ahead and do it.  I do NOT agree with 'legislating morality'.  But will it get done otherwise?  Not sure.  

What do you all think?


Democracy is 3 wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.

Replies to My point of view

Re: Stem Cell Veto - Jul 29 2006 3:27AM
Lyle Avatar
Lyle
Hilo, HI
109 Posts

Political junkie, eh?

In answering you, I think first we should start off with if you think the federal government shouldn't fund 'any' research, or only 'some' research?

1. Should they fund research into government programs to see if they are as efficient as possible?  If they have the desired impact?

2. Should they fund military research or research that could potential benefit military operations?

3. Should they fund research into determining if companies are harming citizens through either their products or emissions?

4.  Should they fund research into products that could potentially help millions of citizens stop suffering?  (such as the Polio vaccine)

Also, I believe the argument that a person can spend all their money better than any government leads to ruin on a large scale.

That leads to those without children not paying for schools, those without tvs not paying for material science research to make tvs more energy efficient.  In both cases, these are things that benefit the public, but aren't things that would be thought of to be paid for by an individual or necessarily cost effective for a company.

As to funding research violating the constitution, please state what you mean specifically.  Blanket statements scare me.  I'd be pretty surprised if military research or potential for military benefits would be 'against the constitution' as you seem to imply.

As to the stem cell veto, I believe it is moralistic posturing based on a mistrust of science.  It will put us further behind in regard to this research area, and export some of our best intellectual capital as cell researchers go to other countries to pursue their research.

My 2 cents,
-Lyle



Re: Re: Stem Cell Veto - Jul 29 2006 11:07AM
Hardin Dunham Avatar
Hardin Dunham
Texas
8 Posts

----- Posted by Lyle -----
In answering you, I think first we should start off with if you think the federal government shouldn't fund 'any' research, or only 'some' research?
-----


----- Posted by Lyle -----
As to funding research violating the constitution, please state what you mean specifically.  Blanket statements scare me.  I'd be pretty surprised if military research or potential for military benefits would be 'against the constitution' as you seem to imply.
-----


It's a hard question.  Ultimately there is no real constitutional basis for the federal government to be involved in science research.  Scientific research is not an enumerated power of the federal government.  (Hold this thought...)



----- Posted by Lyle -----
4.  Should they fund research into products that could potentially help millions of citizens stop suffering?  (such as the Polio vaccine)
-----

Article I Section 8 states "The Congress shall have power to ... provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States;"

It's this general welfare clause that this type of research certainly falls under.  However, in my opinion, statements such as this and the interstate commerce clause are poorly written portions of the constitution that have been utterly abused in the name of expansion of federal powers.

The answer is 'some' research.  Done on a shoestring budget that fits within the enumerated powers of the federal government.



----- Posted by Lyle -----
3. Should they fund research into determining if companies are harming citizens through either their products or emissions?
-----

Does 'harming citizens' fall under the 'general welfare' clause?  It can be argued that way.  But I can argue that anything somehow or another fits under this clause.  That's why it's a weak part of the constitution.  This clause can be used to justify any bloated pet program a congress person wants to get passed.  I think things of this nature are constitutionally supported, but it would be nice for the congress to operate in such a manner that they show due cause.  For instance:  Refineries using Chromium 6, a cancer causing agent in their pipelines.  It gets into the water table and people and animals are getting sick and dying from it.  How hard would it be with that kind of evidence to show that the public health concerns from this happening justify the need for research on chromium 6 and the associated health hazards for the goal of curing or alleviating those affected by it?  That's a far cry different than just setting aside millions of dollars for general research that anyone can apply for under any scientific research basis.

Ultimately though, why can't the states do this?  Why does it have to be done through the federal government?  If folks in Texas don't mind a little oil in there water and we choose to live with that, we shouldn't be taxed so folks in California can find out if it's in their water or not.



----- Posted by Lyle -----
2. Should they fund military research or research that could potential benefit military operations?
-----

This is an interesting one.  One of the federal government's primary responsibilities is to be 'in charge' of the military.  But let's be clear here.  The framers hated the idea of a standing army.

"A standing army is one of the greatest mischief that can possibly happen."  -- James Madison.
"Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army."  -- Edward Hale.


The 2nd Amendment (right to keep and bear arms) was specifically added because the framers knew that an armed populace would always be able to win over a standing army (which could be used by a dictator trying to overthrow the government of 'the people').

"None but an armed nation can dispense with a standing army."  -- Thomas Jefferson.
" . . . if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people, while there is a large body of citizens little if at all inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens."  -- Alexander Hamilton.


Congress has the right to keep and maintain one.  Do research for one?  That is not an expressed power of congress.  And let me be clear; the constitution is about expressing the powers of the federal government.  All other powers are left to the states.  Why can't the states fund the research?  

I'd say these research interests are better left to the private sector.  Cost benefits here would save taxpayer dollars.  Government contracts would be awarded to private corporations for a desired product.  We wouldn't be paying for this research at the federal level, just the products we purchase for the military.  That would better stay within the constitutional powers of the federal government.


Democracy is 3 wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.


Re: Re: Stem Cell Veto - Jul 29 2006 11:08AM
Hardin Dunham Avatar
Hardin Dunham
Texas
8 Posts

----- Posted by Lyle -----
1. Should they fund research into government programs to see if they are as efficient as possible?  If they have the desired impact?
-----

This is almost laughable.  Let's follow this logic:  

Congress creates subcommittee for determining the safety of widgets (constitutional under the 'general welfare' clause).  Congress creates secondary subcommitte on management of the 'Widget Safety Committee' (constitutional?  Only if it proceeds from creation of the first committee).  

Widget Safety Committee takes data on widget use for determination of safety.
Widget Management Committee oversees Widget Safety Committee's process for determination of efficiency of the Widget Safety Committee.

Now the Congressman from California decides he's not happy with the Widget Management Committee because the head of that committee was appointed by his rival congressman from Oklahoma.  So the congressman from California has the Widget Management Committee Management Committee formed to determine the effectiveness of the Widget Management Committee's evaluation of effectiveness of the Widget Safety Committee.

Repeat ad nauseam and you have the current state of affairs which we find ourselves in; a bloated federal government that has expanded well beyond the constitutional bounds it was created in, happily wasting away your tax dollars.

So your answer...  Absolutely not.  Efficiency and impact should be part of a self regulating government.  If the Widget Safety Committee is necessary, then it's the job of the Widget Safety Committee to report back to the Congress that created them and together decide if their work is being done efficiently and having the desired impact.  We don't need to be funding external research to support aspects that should be included within the job description of the original body.



----- Posted by Lyle -----
Also, I believe the argument that a person can spend all their money better than any government leads to ruin on a large scale.
-----

Okay, I seriously can't believe I just read that.  You seriously believe the government knows how better to spend your money than you do?  

Explain 'ruin on a large scale' please.  Cause when you say that, being in Houston, I immediately think "Katrina was ruin on a large scale".  But wait, let's remember that the Katrina disaster was a direct cause of government's involvement!!  The government was responsible for keeping up the levees, which it didn't do.  The lack of personal responsibility in people expecting the government to take care of them was what lead to the humanitarian disaster of people not getting out when they should.  If people were taught that the government is limited in its powers and that you can't look to government to solve your problems for you, but rather you had to rely on your neighbors and community, the community would have found a way to band together and solve their own problems without government involvement.  But what happened?  Everyone expected government to solve their problems for them.  Many, many people who took responsibility in their own hands got out just fine.  Those that didn't and looked to government to save them were the ones that ended up being in crisis.  It was because they looked to government that they were in that problem.  And this is such a great example because New Orleans is a notorious welfare city.  These are people who've been literally trained by the government run schools to rely on government.  You can see where it got them.

Government involvement was what caused the crisis surrounding Katrina.  Not the weather.  So when you say 'ruin on a large scale' you've got a lot of convincing to do to get across the fact that government isn't responsible for it.

Let's remember that it's governments who start wars; the largest scale of ruin there is.

You may 'believe' this, but the people who 'believe' in other things just got the president to veto this research.  So let's not go off of 'belief' or how we may 'feel'.  Let's base our decisions off of facts.


Democracy is 3 wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.


Re: Re: Stem Cell Veto - Jul 29 2006 11:09AM
Hardin Dunham Avatar
Hardin Dunham
Texas
8 Posts

----- Posted by Lyle -----
That leads to those without children not paying for schools, those without tvs not paying for material science research to make tvs more energy efficient.  In both cases, these are things that benefit the public, but aren't things that would be thought of to be paid for by an individual or necessarily cost effective for a company.
-----

Let's take school funding first.  This is done by state governments.  This is within their power as a state right.

Do I think that people without kids should pay for school?  Why should they?  They're not requiring that service from the state.  

Should the federal government be involved with school funding (No Child Left Behind...)?  Absolutely not!!  This is gross overstepping of federal government's power.  Education is a state responsibility and the federal government should have no say in the matter.

Let's not get confused between 'government' and the federal government of the US (what I'm talking about here).



----- Posted by Lyle -----
As to the stem cell veto, I believe it is moralistic posturing based on a mistrust of science.  It will put us further behind in regard to this research area, and export some of our best intellectual capital as cell researchers go to other countries to pursue their research.
-----


Is it a mistrust of science itself, or just those doing the science?  I tend to think both.  Will they necessarily go to other countries or will they just have to look to industry to fund their projects instead?  It'll be interesting to see.

On this note, what about NASA?  Do you think that space exploration should be privatized or continue to be run by the government?  I think we can both agree that the NASA budget isn't what it should be if we really want to accomplish anything in space.  If industry could advance that front, there's a ton of cash to be made there and they could do it efficiently, safe, and a lot faster than the government could.  What's your thoughts on that aspect of research?  And is that view consistent with other areas of research?




I'll go back to the point of thinking it's hard to believe that funding certain research isn't constitutional...

Again, research funding isn't an enumerated power of the federal government.  That's where I agree that Bush should have vetoed the stem cell bill.  He should veto all portions of the federal budget dealing with research.  (Especially research that's just the pure scientific stuff... we know the type...  research with no obvious benefits or uses... fundamental science aspects.)  

What is enumerated is 'promoting the general welfare' and 'providing a common defense'.  This perhaps justifies some federally funded research.  It's a stretch of the vocabulary to include these things in the language of the constitution, to the least extent.  I still think these things research areas are better handled by private industry (efficiency, productivity, monetary, etc).  Like the example above, I don't see why industry can't work towards making stem cells into something viable that points to a real cure of something that gives the government a clean 'general welfare' support towards funding it.

But overall, it'll be interesting to see how this is handled.  Industry could really take stem cells research and show the government what privately funded research can do.  Or it won't and we'll continue to feed the doctrine that only governments can be in charge of such things.  It'll be interesting to see where it leads.


Democracy is 3 wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.


Re: My point of view - Jul 29 2006 11:00AM
Dave Avatar
Dave
San Marcos, Texas
353 Posts

There are actually two issues raised in your post, so I'll deal with them individually.

First, the Stem Cell Veto:

The veto was really nothing more than an attemp to appease the religious right.  The text of the bill was such that only embryos scheduled for destruction would be used for research, so the veto in fact "preserves" nothing except Bush's connection to the religious right.  For more detailed and informed discussions from the life science community I recommend looking att he discussions on scienceblogs.com.

Second, the question of government funding of research:

Hardin maintains that the responsibility for funding research really lies with industry.  I think if you talk to someone in industry, you will get a different view.  The responsibility of industry is to make as much profit as possible for their shareholders, or partners in the case of privately held companies.  Research that does not have a direct impact of profits, even in the long term, is not something that industry sees as their responsibility.  I realize that this view is somewhat shortsighted, but it is the way thngs are right now.  The question is then who should provide funding for the basic science that will lead to technological advances 20 or 50 years from now?  A convincing argument can be made that the results of basic research improve the quality of life for all citizens, both by providing new technologies and by maintaining a stron economic base.  Most people agree that it is the responsibility of the government to do this.  I also maintain that it is NOT unconstitutional to do so.  Federal taxes are legislatively mandated, as are federal research funding agencies.  I think if we leave basic reaserch to private industry, it won't get done, and we will end up losing all of our researchers to countries (like those Asia and Europe) that have strong government funded basic research.  The reality is that the USA is already behind Asia and Europe regarding basic research, and we're getting further behind every year.

Dave


> Re: My point of view
>
> Can't believe no one's discussing this here, so I
> thought I'd start off the discussion.  (I'm a political
> junkie though so beware ;) )
>
>
> So Bush vetoed stem
> cell research funding...  the FIRST veto in his tenure
>
>
> I'm torn on the issue.  
>
> As a scientist I see this
> as one more way we're letting the religious crowd
> dictate what we work on (no offense to religious folks,
> my mom and father-in-law are both 'preachers').  But
> the 'moral' arguments for not supporting this research
> through government funding are just putting us one
> step behind the rest of the world.  We should be out
> there pushing research boundaries on all fronts.
> We should be ethical with our use of technology and
> resarch, but we shouldn't use morality to dictate
> what we research and what we don't.
>
> On the other
> hand, as a liberty minded individual, I disagree with
> the federal government spending any money on resarch
> at all.  That's our tax dollars!  I guarantee I can
> spend my money better than the federal government
> can, and I'm betting so can you!  I have a bit of
> a connundrum here in that as a grad student, I'm paid
> for by your tax dollars.  It's a violation of the
> constitution for the federal government to be sponsoring
> all this research in the first place.  Granted, only
> government entities can afford to do a lot of the
> fundamental research that goes on (it's just too expensive
> and not profitable for industry to do it).  But it's
> still our tax dollars doing the work and is part of
> a bloated federal government operating outside of
> its constitutional bounds.  
>
> So, good thing or bad?
>  I dunno.  If it's so important and so promising to
> do, industry should just go ahead and do it.  I do
> NOT agree with 'legislating morality'.  But will it
> get done otherwise?  Not sure.  
>
> What do you all
> think?


Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value -- Albert Einstein


Re: Re: My point of view - Jul 29 2006 11:25AM
Hardin Dunham Avatar
Hardin Dunham
Texas
8 Posts

----- Posted by Dave -----
The veto was really nothing more than an attemp to appease the religious right.
-----

Exactly.  I have read the bill and understand why he did what he did for his own reasons.  But I have other points of view on it...

----- Posted by Dave -----
Hardin maintains that the responsibility for funding research really lies with industry.
-----

No.  That's not what I'm saying at all.  What I'm saying is that I think industry can do it better than government.  I'm also saying that a lot of research out there (what doesn't fit under 'general welfare' or 'maintaining a military') isn't within the scope of the federal government to be carrying out.

----- Posted by Dave -----
Research that does not have a direct impact of profits, even in the long term, is not something that industry sees as their responsibility.  I realize that this view is somewhat shortsighted, but it is the way thngs are right now.
-----

Absolutely agreed.

----- Posted by Dave -----
A convincing argument can be made that the results of basic research improve the quality of life for all citizens, both by providing new technologies and by maintaining a stron(g) economic base.  Most people agree that it is the responsibility of the government to do this.  I also maintain that it is NOT unconstitutional to do so.
-----

This argument is what has gotten us to the situation we're in; having everything fall under the 'general welfare' clause.  However, a lot of research provided for by the federal government hasn't lead anywhere.  The view of whether funding research is constitutional or not all depends on your view of the words on the page and how you choose to interpret them.   I choose to not interpret but rather read them; ergo, a lot of research out there is being conducted 'unconstitutionally' in that it shouldn't have been paid for by our federal tax dollars.

Now I'll bring up the aside of how do we know the research is fruitless until we do it though?  That's a tough question.

But the real train of thought leads me to the question of why this can't be done by the states?  Why must we warp the words on the page of the constitution to allow for this to be done at the federal level when the easy answer is to say that the states have the right (or responsibility) to take charge of these things instead of the federal government?

----- Posted by Dave -----
Federal taxes are legislatively mandated, as are federal research funding agencies.
-----

Yes, but are they done so outside of the bounds of the constitution?  I say yes.  If you say no, please point me to the article and section of the constitution which gives the congress the right to create any 'federal research agency'.


----- Posted by Dave -----
I think if we leave basic reaserch to private industry, it won't get done, and we will end up losing all of our researchers to countries (like those Asia and Europe) that have strong government funded basic research.  The reality is that the USA is already behind Asia and Europe regarding basic research, and we're getting further behind every year.
-----

This is the sad reality of things.  I challenge the 'it won't get done' aspect though.  I think the American spirit will see that it does get done.  But more to the point, if we're to maintain any semblance of a 'free country', it not getting done is a risk we should take.  I'm willing to sacrifice basic research not getting done in order to keep my liberties (and my money!).


Democracy is 3 wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner.