Monthly Archives: May 2005

On Flakes And Fetuses

Bush, Constitution, Ethics, Federalism, Founding Fathers, Morality, The Courts

It’s on the White House’s website for the world to witness: “The President Discusses Embryo Adoption at a gathering (or coven, rather) that honored representatives of the “Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Agency.
But let the POTUS explain: “I have just met with 21 remarkable families … The families here today have either adopted or given up for adoption frozen embryos that remained after fertility treatments. Rather than discard these embryos created during in vitro fertilization, or turn them over for research that destroys them, these families have chosen a life-affirming alternative. Twenty-one children here today found a chance for life with loving parents.”
The Adopt an Embryo spectacle was the White House’s display of displeasure at a vote in the House to ease restrictions on federal financing for embryonic stem cell research. These undifferentiated embryonic cells can grow into any kind of cell —heart, brain, etc., —hence their therapeutic potential. The proposed bill would allow under federal auspices the use of stem cells derived from “unadopted” embryos. Explained the president: “Research on stem cells derived from human embryos may offer great promise, but the way those cells are derived today destroys the embryo.”
Would that the ferment over fetuses —and “the culture of life’ —extended to the many, fully formed, innocent human beings dying daily in Iraq. (I can’t imagine why the land of chaos and carnage comes to mind as a synonym for the administration’s contempt for life.)
The bill is historic, if only because it’ll occasion the president’s first ever veto. Finally a spending bill he can’t get behind. But don’t rejoice; it’s premature. The president is pushing a similar, $79-million bill, one that’ll be spent on harvesting the less versatile umbilical cord stem cells.
As is the case with a Congress and Executive that operate outside the Constitution (the judiciary is a partner in this knavish confederacy), the debate is framed deceptively. Over to the hysterical Carolyn B. Maloney, a New-York Democrat: “How many more lives must be ended or ravaged? How much more unimaginable suffering must be endured until government gives researchers the wherewithal to simply do their jobs?”
Silly me, I guess government-giving-researchers-the-wherewithal-to-do-their-jobs was what the Founders had in mind when they bequeathed a central government of delegated and enumerated powers. Intellectual property laws are the only constitutional means at Congress’s disposal with which to “promote the Progress of Science. (About their merit Thomas Jefferson, himself an inventor, was unconvinced). Research and development (R&D) spending is nowhere among Congress’s constitutional legislative powers.
(A word about the Constitution is in order here, considering the tendentious criticism it receives from libertarians: to the extent the Constitution is compatible with the natural law, it’s good; to the extent it isn’t, it’s not good. Murray Rothbard’s preference for the Articles of Confederation, usurped in favor of the Constitution at the Philadelphia convention, is well taken. Still, the case for liberty is better made with reference to the American Revolutionaries, the followers of John Locke, than with reference to tribal Africans (who’ve always existed in a murderous state of nature), or Medieval, Viking-Age, Icelandic people. Why adopt a stark, un-American —and in that sense, ahistoric —philosophical framework? I thought that was the neoconservatives’ bailiwick.)
In any case, there is no warrant in the Constitution for most of what the Federal Frankenstein does. Social Security, (“Today’s senior citizens blithely cannibalize their grandchildren because they have a right to get as much “free stuff as the political system will permit them to extract, said Justice Janice Rogers Brown), civil rights, predicated as they are on grotesque violations of property rights, Medicare, Medicaid, elaborate public works sprung from the general welfare and Interstate Commerce Clauses —you name it, it’s likely unconstitutional.
Implied, moreover, in Maloney’s petit mal is that if the House didn’t mulct taxpayers of R&D money, there’d be no R&D. Not according to the United States Department of Health & Human Services:
“Based on 2002 data, one study reports that private sector research and development in stem cells was being conducted by approximately 1000 scientists in over 30 firms. Aggregate spending was estimated at $208 million. Geron Corporation alone reported that it spent more than $70 million on stem cell research by September 2003. In the Stem Cell Business News Guide to Stem Cell Companies (Feb 2003), 61 U.S. and international companies are listed as pursuing some form of research or therapeutic product development involving stem cells.
What do you know? The private sector has already been beavering away, for some time now, exploring the promise —or lack thereof —of stem cells.

The Quran Defiled?


Newsweek’s Quran-down-the-crapper allegations, published after a suspicious sourcing process, now a media staple, sparked deadly riots from Jakarta to Jalalabad —17 dead so far, presumably Muslims killed by their co-religionists. Just for good measure, 200 Qurans were likely burned when a library was set on fire. How did the neoconservatives respond? As “committed cultural and religious relativists who firmly believe a good democratic heart throbs in every thorax,” they groveled obsequiously —”Any desecration of the Koran would not be tolerated,” kvetched Condi. And they pretended there was nothing deviant about the Islamic response —and its devastation. Can you imagine contemporary Christians reacting so savagely to the perennial disrespect their teachings elicit? (The ACLU would need to relocate to an undisclosed bunker.) A prominent Rabbi is beaten to a pulp in Moscow (currently a regular occurrence around the world). Do his followers go on a rampage? From Buddhists to Bahá’ís —such barbarism is almost unheard of in this day and age among peoples of other faiths. This reaction is yet another reminder why we have no place in those parts of the world (although, to be fair to the administration, the riots were a response to putative wrongdoing in Guanta¡namo). The storm alleged to have begun in a toilet bowel is also a testament to the impotence of American empire. If one wants to transform the Muslim world —something I’ve opposed on ethical, pragmatic, and historical grounds —one must have a core. Multiculturalism and majoritarianism are no match for fundamentalist fanaticism.

Let Private Property Prevail

Feminism, Individual Rights, Individualism Vs. Collectivism, Private Property

A new right may soon be minted by the nation’s “representatives”: the right to have one’s birth-control prescription filled. As a pro-life protest of sorts, pharmacists across the country are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth-control and day-after pills. In response to their posturing —and the bleating by “reproductive rights groups” — The Great Centralizers in the House and Senate have proposed a bill that’ll allow a pharmacist to refuse to fill a prescription only if a co-worker is on hand to pick up the slack. It goes without saying that a federal law, if passed, would further corrode the cornerstone of civilization: private property. The keys to the store belong with the owner of the pharmacy. The decision is his as to what goods he distributes. If an employee —the pharmacist —refuses to sell goods the owner stocks, the latter has every right to sack the saboteur. One doesn’t possess a right to have a prescription filled, but, equally, one also has no inherent right to stay employed while refusing to peddle the boss’s wares.
The market —not the meddlers —has the best solution: pharmacies that cater to women who use the pill and apothecaries that don’t. The former will employ people who’ll supply these clients; to the latter will flock workers who have an aversion to certain dispensing duties. (My guess is that preachy pharmacists —be they employers or employees —will have a negligible niche market.)
Inhabitants of the land of the free forget that criminalizing behaviors entirely licit in natural law legalizes the use of force against these innocents. (One consequence of the last is that hundreds of thousands of Americans languish in jail for ingesting, injecting, inhaling, or exchanging “unapproved” substances.)
By the same token, Weyco, a medical-benefits provider in Michigan, is just exercising its property rights by refusing to employ anyone who smokes. Inherent to private property is the right to include or exclude; associate with or dissociate from. States that “have passed laws that bar companies from discriminating against workers for lifestyle decisions” are infringing a proprietor’s property rights.
Companies (Investors Property Management in Seattle is another example) who don’t hire smokers are responding to the costs of having to provide workers with another bogus right: healthcare coverage. Their reaction is an example of the perfectly predictable consequences of regulation. It also showcases the immortality of those who clamor for regulation —American workers are all for compelling companies to pay for their healthcare, but want to ban businesses from screening out high-risk candidates.

Immigration Occlusion


The exclusive emphasis of late on border security in the immigration debate has helped open-border advocates immensely. Everyone (and his dog) currently concurs that we have no problem with legal immigration, only with the illegal variety. It’s now mandatory to pair an objection to the invasion of the American Southwest with an embrace of all forms of legal immigration.
Yet nothing has changed since, “in 1965, with no real debate or voter participation, the U.S. Congress replaced the national-origin immigration criterion (which ensured newcomers reinforced the historical majority) with a multicultural, all-nations-are equal quota system, which effectively resulted in an emphasis on mass importation of people from the Third World. The new influx was no longer expected to acculturate to liberal democratic Judeo-Christian traditions. With family ‘reunification’ superseding all other considerations, immigration became an economic drain —as demonstrated, for example, by Harvard’s George Borjas.”
The sole emphasis on border security has, in all likelihood, entrenched the status quo — Americans will never assert their right to determine the nature of the country they live in and, by extension, the kind of immigrants they welcome. The security risk newcomers pose is the only legitimate conversation. (There’s no dispute, however, as to who foots the bill for immigration.)