March 5, 2024


Writing in the libertarian magazine Reason, Ronald Bailey asks whether Federal restrictions have helped, rather than hindered, embryonic stem cell research. Because the Bush Administration set limits on Federal funding, without actually banning the research, scientists have gone to the states and to philanthropists to plead for funds. He likens it to research into assisted reproduction which has had very little Federal regulation and oversight. Promising research halted only when the Federal government stepped in to regulate it.

Although scientists are convinced that government funding is essential to kickstart basic research, business spending on R&D is what really pushes a field ahead. “Economic growth [is] associated almost entirely with private sector research funding,” Bailey argues, citing an OECD 2001 report. “As private donors and states continue to shovel tens of millions at stem cell researchers,” he concludes, “it may just be that President Bush did embryonic stem cell research a huge favour when he imposed restrictions on federal funding of it.”