The California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative is underway, with eight weeks to gain a million signatures. If sucessful, it goes on the November 2004 ballot:
More than 120 million Americans suffer from chronic and life-threatening diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, Multiple Sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease, ALS, osteoporosis and spinal-cord injuries. More than two million people die every year. Now or in the future, you or one of your family members or friends may be stricken with one of these devastating medical conditions. In fact, they affect a child or adult in 40% of all families. They also create hundreds of billions of dollars in health care costs annually. And, until recently, there was no real hope of cures.
Now, the promise of cures is within reach...
Recently, medical researchers have discovered that many diseases and injuries could be successfully treated or cured by new regenerative medicine therapies involving a special type of human cells, called stem cells. Stem cells are "unspecialized" cells that can generate healthy new cells and tissues. As a result, they have the potential to provide lifesaving cures for many different diseases and injuries.
The initiative authorizes state bonds that will provide an average of $250 million per year over a 10 year period to fund stem cell research by scientists at California's universities and other advanced medical research facilities throughout the state.
Why will I not be supporting this? Because I am libertarian, and economic science has adequately demonstrated that all government-controlled spending is more harmful to progress than the alternatives (free markets and individual choice). I am a pragmatist, and I realize that my position is shared by only a small minority of the population. However, by advocating the use of legislation to achieve the ends I approve of, I would become no better than those who are trying to use legislation to force a halt to medical research.
In a world (and past eras) of low taxation, many wealthy individuals use the monies otherwise lost to the government to fund the medical research that is not deemed commercially viable. In this world, today, very few individuals become wealthy enough to do this - but they still do it. Look at the efforts of John Sperling or Paul Allen. It doesn't require a 30% tax rate and a huge government to make research happen - in fact, the presence of government slows and hampers research far more than it helps. Governments throw up barriers, distort prices, make research inefficient in a hundred different ways, legislate against new technologies and occasionally, just once in a while, throw a little of the loot gained through taxation into medical research. You can't just pick and choose - if you support part of this process, you are helping to support it all.
These, however, are my principles. As I noted, they are not widely shared outside libertarian circles. You, the reader, are probably quite comfortable with today's level of taxation, the size and scope of government, and the ballot and bond-issuing process in California. If so, then you should certainly support the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative: in your value system, it is a very rational choice for the future of your health and longevity.
As for myself, I am still deciding how to present this somewhat contradictory message in a user friendly manner at the Longevity Meme. On the one hand, I do provide a service, and most of the people I provide that service to disagree with me on this issue. On the other hand, I have my integrity, which - as I have previous noted here - is very important to both myself and the nature of these websites. It's something of a quandry, but I can't take too long to decide on a solution given the deadline for ballot signatures.