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.