An Excellent Appeal to Pity Over Stem Cell Research

I haven’t seen such a blatant appeal to pity in making a case for something in quite some time.

That’s why Bush’s stem cell position isn’t Solomonic — it’s craven. His upcoming veto is an act not of moral leadership but of hypocrisy. And the cost of this hypocrisy, assuming Congress can’t muster the votes for an override, will be borne by everyone who dreams of new cures for awful illnesses.

I’ll give him a 9.4 with deductions for not mentioning children and/or some cute-n-cuddly critter.

Rosenberg does try to get around the “don’t spend tax payer dollars” argument.

And please don’t test our credulity with the laughable “Go ahead and do the research, but let’s not spend taxpayers’ money on things they don’t believe in” argument: If that had any bearing, my tax dollars would not be funding a war that 2/3 of the country opposes now that the specious arguments used to launch it have collapsed.)

There is just one problem here. National defense spending is actually one of the few cases of a pure public good. We all benefit from that spending equally. It isn’t simply a matter of not liking the policy, but one of is there any reason the government should be involved in that kind of activity at all. At best all I can see is an argument that finding a cure for something like Parkinson’s disease carries significant positive externalities with it, and I’m not even convinced that is the case.

Update: Germany is now calling for an EU wide ban of funding for stem cell research.

Germany is pushing for an EU ban on European funding for embryonic stem cell research, it was reported today, one day after George Bush vetoed a bill in the US to expand such research.

Reuters reported that it had seen a letter by the German research minister, Annette Schavan, to EU partners pressing for a ban.

A narrow majority in the European parliament voted last month to allow continued public funding for stem cell research but Germany is seeking to draw up support for an amendment which would force a second reading.

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Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    There is just one problem here. National defense spending is actually one of the few cases of a pure public good

    And is, in fact, constitutionlally MANDATED, I hasten to add.

  2. Rick DeMent says:

    Depends on if the military is being used for reasons that actually benefit us rather then make things worse.

  3. Steve Verdon says:

    Sorry Rick that one wont fly. No matter what the military is used for there will be somebody who thinks it is making us worse off.

  4. You can make the case for the veto on moral, ethical, libertarian, small government and anti-deficit spending grounds.

    While you can certainly make a case against the war in Iraq, the case was made and rejected by the voters. Remember DeMint, 2/3 of the country is behind you so don’t let the democrats put forward anyone who doesn’t clearly and loudly say the US should get out of Iraq immediately.

  5. legion says:

    Iâ??ll give him a 9.4 with deductions for not mentioning children and/or some cute-n-cuddly critter.

    OK, so what kinda blatancy score does Bush get for signing the veto while surrounded by cute-n-cuddly children?

    And personally, I would classify stem-cell research under “basic science research”, which is something the gov’t does do better than industry, since it doesn’t have a direct link to making a profitable product…

  6. DaveD says:

    The government does “basic science research” better than industry because that has been the “basic” formula up till now? The fact is that the biotech industry can very, very easily do (if they want to) basic research. Perhaps in this particular area they will have to for the time being. By the way, I wonder what some folks in the US are making of Germany’s call for a EU ban on stem cell research funding cited in today’s news?

  7. Steve Verdon says:

    OK, so what kinda blatancy score does Bush get for signing the veto while surrounded by cute-n-cuddly children?

    Well that gets a full 10.

    And personally, I would classify stem-cell research under â??basic science researchâ??, which is something the govâ??t does do better than industry, since it doesnâ??t have a direct link to making a profitable productâ?¦

    Maybe, but with some real potential for Parkinson’s, Alzhiemers, spinal injuries, and so forth I think industry might be willing to take up that kind of research.

  8. madmatt says:

    How is iraq a public good and since we have spent $300000 per person in Iraq how am I seeing any benefit…the oil companies are, but they don’t pay taxes!

  9. jpe says:

    National defense spending is actually one of the few cases of a pure public good.

    As Scalia has noted re: due process, the outcome is largely determined by the scope or level of generality of the right at stake. Same thing here. Defense is a public good, but I certainly don’t think spending on Iraq is a public good. It’s a public evil, in fact. Similarly, one can say stem cell research isn’t necessarily a public good; if I define the issue as medical research, though, we’re clearly talking public goods.

  10. anjin-san says:

    So the (low estimate) hundreds of millions of dollars in defense contractor overbilling related to Iraq and the billions of dollars that have simply vanished over there are “pure public good”?

  11. Rick DeMent says:

    Sorry Rick that one wont fly. No matter what the military is used for there will be somebody who thinks it is making us worse off.

    Or you could just say, “No matter what government spending used for there will be somebody who thinks it is making us worse off.

    You said National defense spending is actually one of the few cases of a pure public good. We all benefit from that spending equally.

    I would argue that no it doesn’t benefit all of us equally. Some benefit from it more, some much less just like any other spending.

  12. Steve Verdon says:

    Rick,

    Sorry, I’m not buying it. We all get the same national defense “benefit” whether we want it or not.