Public Funding for Stem Cell Research

Famous people are urging California taxpayers to vote for a ballot initiative that would give $3 billion for medical research on human embryos. This research may be a good thing, but why must everything be a government project!?

Why should people be forced to spend their tax dollars on something they believe is murder? Many Californians do.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are already being spent to fund private stem-cell research, but private research isn't good enough, say supporters of California's Proposition 71. So celebrities like Brad Pitt, Michael J. Fox, Edward James Olmos, Dustin Hoffman, Bill Gates, Nancy Reagan and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are urging voters to say "yes" to Proposition 71.

Without this additional government program, they say, the research will be paralyzed by the Bush administration.

That's not exactly true. President Bush has limited the embryonic stem-cell research that can be done with federal money, but researchers at Harvard, Vanderbilt and other private institutions already are spending millions on stem-cell research.

Maybe stem-cell research will be a great thing. But government is force. By making this a ballot initiative, it means that millions of people will be forced to pay for something they consider murder.

"I don't want to pay my taxes for something that I think is immoral," said a doctor who opposes the ballot initiative.

But Proposition 71 would force him to pay for what he considers immoral.

And California will have to go deeper into debt to get the money. California's already $53 billion in debt.

"This is like a family that's had its car repossessed, they're about to lose their home and the husband turns to the wife one morning and says, 'Honey, lets make a $30,000 contribution for stem-cell research.' It is wildly irresponsible," said Republican California state Sen. Tom McClintock.

Some of the Proposition 71 backers are among the richest people in America. Bill Gates and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar are so rich, they could pay the entire $3 billion themselves and still have $55 billion left.

So why don't Gates and Omidyar fund it themselves? After all, many of America's best innovations come from private research. Just this month a privately built rocket ship reached space twice, inspired by a $10 million prize offered by private investors. A private prize is also what inspired Charles Lindbergh to fly across the Atlantic.

Multimillionaire real estate developer Bob Klein is one of the leaders of the campaign for Proposition 71. He says, "California has the opportunity, uniquely, to change the future of human suffering."

I asked him why he and the other people supporting the ballot measure weren't spending their own money on the research.

"We need long-term funding that only the public can really provide," Klein said.

But THEY have the money. Gates wouldn't even notice it. It's $3 billion out of the $40 billion he has. Why does the government always have to do it?

"As a democracy," Klein said, "we vote for public schools and everyone contributes tax dollars to public schools. What we're doing is really no different. We're trying to bring society together."

Bringing society together sounds so nice, but it's force. Government is force. Voluntary contributions to charity bring people together for the public good.

"We're saying medicine is for the public. We have to provide this opportunity. If it's the will of the people," Klein said.

But the will of the people means the majority, backed by the rich and powerful, will force the minority to pay and pay and pay. Why don't the rich spend their own money? I'd contribute. Why must everything be a government project!?

Give Me A Break!