Rights of Taxpayers is Missing Element in Stem Cell Debate

by Ron Paul
June 25, 2007

The debate in Washington has again turned to federal funding of stem cell research, with President Bush moving to veto legislation passed recently by Congress. Those engaged in this debate tend to split into warring camps claiming exclusive moral authority to decide the issue once and for all.

On one side, those who support the President’s veto tend to argue against embryonic stem cell research, pointing to the individual rights of the embryo being discarded for use in research. On the other hand are those who argue the embryo will be discarded any way, and the research may provide valuable cures for people suffering from terrible illnesses.

In Washington, these two camps generally advocate very different policies. The first group wants a federal ban on all such research, while the latter group expects the research to be federally-subsidized. Neither side in this battle seems to consider the morality surrounding the rights of federal taxpayers.

Our founding fathers devised a system of governance that limited federal activity very narrowly. In doing so, they intended to keep issues such as embryonic stem cell research entirely out of Washington’s hands. They believed issues such as this should be tackled by free people acting freely in their churches and medical associations, and in the marketplace that would determine effective means of research. When government policies on this issue were to be developed, our founders would have left them primarily to state legislators to decide in accord with community standards.

Their approach was also the only one consistent with a concern for the rights and freedom of all individuals, and for limiting negative impacts upon taxpayers. When Washington subsidizes something, it does so at the direct expense of the taxpayer. Likewise, when Washington bans something, it generally requires a federal agency and a team of federal agents— often heavily-armed federal agents—to enforce the ban. These agencies become the means by which the citizenry is harassed by government intrusions. Yet it is the mere existence of these agencies, and the attendant costs associated with operating them, that leads directly to the abuse of the taxpayers’ pocketbooks.

If Congress attempts to override the President’s veto, I will support the President. As a physician, I am well aware that certain stem cells have significant medical potential and do not raise the moral dilemmas presented by embryonic stem cell research. My objection is focused on the issue of federal funding. Unfortunately, in the Washington environment of “either subsidize it, or else ban it,” it is unlikely there will be much focus given to the issue of federal funding. Instead, virulent charges will fly regarding who is willing to sacrifice the lives and health of others to make a political point.

Only when Washington comes to understand that our founders expressly intended for our federal government to be limited in scope, will policy questions such as this be rightly understood. But that understanding will not come until the people demand their elected officials act in accordance with these principles.

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General Welfare

I'd like to know how Dr. Paul views the "general welfare" clause in the Constitution since the term "welfare" can be a very subjective term.

It's the same sort of subjectivity that leads to debates about the meanings of the terms "cruel and unusual" or "commerce."

Depending on how you read that clause, medical and scientific research funding can indeed provide for the general welfare of the United States.

If this clause is so ambiguous that an objective determination into its meaning cannot be made, then Dr. Paul must at least admit that the Constitution is flawed in this area.

I understand there are the words of the founding fathers to which one can refer in this matter, but I'd like to know with which of them Dr. Paul sides.

edit: doing a quick google on the term, I came across this page:
http://www.answers.com/topic/general-welfare-clause

It refers to United States v. Butler (1936)

    There, Justice Owen Roberts, in his majority opinion, agreed with Hamilton's view and held that the general welfare language in the taxing-and-spending clause constituted a separate grant of power to Congress to spend in areas over which it was not granted direct regulatory control. Nevertheless, the Court stated that this power to tax and spend was limited to spending for matters affecting the national, as opposed to the local, welfare. He also wrote that the Supreme Court should be the final arbiter of what was in fact in the national welfare. In the Butler decision, however, the Court shed no light on what it considered to be in the national—as opposed to local—interest, because it struck down the statute at issue on Tenth Amendment grounds.

It then refers to Helvering v. Davis (1937)

    There, the Court sustained the old-age benefits provisions of the Social Security Act of 1935 and adopted an expansive view of the power of the federal government to tax and spend for the general welfare. In Helvering, the Court maintained that although Congress's power to tax and spend under the General Welfare clause was limited to general or national concerns, Congress itself could determine when spending constituted spending for the general welfare. To date, no legislation passed by Congress has ever been struck down because it did not serve the general welfare. Moreover, since congressional power to legislate under the Commerce clause has expanded the areas falling within Congress's enumerated powers, the General Welfare clause has decreased in importance.