Monday, March 9, 2009

Stem of the Problem

On August 9, 2001, President Bush cut off federal funds to any new embryonic stem cell research.  Many people were furious that the government was stopping research and argued that this combination of a religious disdain for human embryonic stem cell research with politics had no place in America.  Science, it was argued, should be above these mundane concerns.  About a month after that I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (my pancreas kills its own insulin-producing cells), and I joined the ranks of those up in arms against this prohibition.

Six years later, I wrote a letter to the editor of USA Today arguing that the government has no place in medical research at all.  If we simply encouraged private research to get the job done or allowed universities greater flexibility in their research, a myriad of projects would be pursued sans political influence.  People still tell me when I espouse this opinion that I'm sacrificing my health for my politics, but I believe that my politics will make me healthier.  I don't trust the government to regulate my behavior, I don't trust it to dictate my education, and I don't trust it to cover my media, so why should I trust it to research a cure for my worst disease?

The reason this is all germane is that today President Obama repealed Bush's act and let the fund gates flow.  This is ostensibly to separate politics from science, but what it really does is couch government intervention as a pursuit of public health.  Once again, an executive has decided to allocate funds in a way independent of congressional approval, let alone individual choice.  Once again, our president has decided which research he thinks deserves money.  My response is simply to ask why.  Why is this more pressing or more correct than you letting me spend my own money, sir?  Give taxpayers back their money to pay for research, education, health care, the market, or a car.  Let us decide where our money goes, and that is the only way to isolate science from politics.  

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