Sunday, May 22, 2005

Stem-cell controversies

I am disappointed with South Korea’s recent moves on human cloning (“Bush vows first veto for stem-cell bill,” Saturday, Page 1).

Genetic science has great potential for either serving or degrading humanity. Its proper use requires moral reflection and the establishment of moral limits.

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that embryonic-stem-cell research has more potential to lead us to viable treatments for various diseases than research involving nonembryonic stem cells.

Embryonic stem cells carry the possibility of immune rejection in humans. Animal trials suggest that they are too genetically unstable and too likely to form lethal tumors to be used for treatment.

Tests using human adult stem cells, however, have produced significant and encouraging results in the areas of Parkinson’s disease, spinal-cord injury, cardiovascular disease, sickle-cell anemia and dozens of other conditions without posing any moral problem.

On a biological level, the prenatal being is not like any other tissue: It is human with its own DNA. As a human, it has the same fundamental and moral right to life as any other human being.

All governments have a moral obligation to protect human life in all phases of its existence, from conception to natural death. Hence, the cry should be not for research into embryonic stem cells but rather for an aggressive expansion of adult-stem-cell research.


Hamilton, Ontario


With President Bush’s declaration that he will veto any measure that relaxes his extremely restrictive stem-cell-research policy, he has effectively told all of those who suffer or will suffer from diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and paralysis from spinal-cord injury that their government has now outsourced hope for their cures to South Korea.


Edison, N.J.


President Bush pledges to veto a bill that would soften the restrictions on stem-cell research. He is against promoting science that “destroys life in order to save life.”

This means that President Bush believes that after eight days in a petri dish, a group of cells is equivalent to you, your mother and father, your sister and brother, your grandparents and your child. This means that he would rather have excess in vitro embryos discarded as medical waste than have them used for research purposes.


San Francisco

Socialism and anti-socialism in Germany

Richard Rahn states that the term “social market economy” was coined in Germany by the left-wing Social Democratic Party (“Demagoguery dangers in Deutschland,” Commentary, Friday). This is as true as attributing “Star Wars” to Jimmy Carter or “ownership society” to Howard Dean.

Instead, the term, and more importantly the concept of a “social market economy,” was advanced by Ludwig Erhard, the popular German “father of the deutschemark,” which was introduced in 1948, and the father of the “German economic miracle” of 1949-66.

Mr. Erhard was one of the most popular German politicians ever, serving Germany as minister for the economy (1949-1963) while Konrad Adenauer was chancellor during the same time. Mr. Erhard become a politician in 1949 when he ran for the Christian Democratic Union, the party of Mr. Adenauer and the center-right alternative to the Social Democratic Party, which was more socialist than social democratic until 1959. Mr. Erhard joined the CDU much later and succeeded Mr. Adenauer as chancellor (1963-66).

In a narrower sense, the term “social market economy” was coined and formulated by Alfred Mueller-Armack after 1945 as a concept that proposed a market economy that was competition-based, anti-trust (learning from the Weimar Republic, 1919-1933), and anti-socialist (rejecting the calls for state-owned control and government intrusion in business management). It had clearly defined social responsibilities ensured and enforced by the government in the name of society, so that everybody could accept the consequences of change in a dynamic economy. This was vital for the success of the social market economy as well and also for the rapid recovery of the German economy after World War II.

In 1948, Mr. Erhard, a Protestant before the Evangelischen Kirchentag (Protestant lay organization gathering) in Recklinghausen in the steel and coal area of the Ruhrgebiet, spoke of the market economy as the best tool to advance prosperity by providing economic freedom as part of the overall political freedom to be expected for all Germans in the postwar years ahead.

Mr. Adenauer, a Catholic from the Rhineland city of Cologne, was keenly aware of a large wing within his CDU party that was sympathetic to a left-wing interpretation of Catholic social teaching, one that emphasized solidarity and justice in terms of equality and redistribution of wealth. Mr. Adenauer, who was present at the gathering in Recklinghausen, instantly recognized that by appointing Mr. Erhard he could both rein in this wing (which he did) and also appeal to German Protestants who were sympathetic to freedom and free markets. This demonstrated that the Christian Democratic Union lived up to its name “Union” (which meant open for Catholics and Protestants). It worked as well.

The German Christian Democrats — along with many other Continental European Christian Democrats — have had strong Catholic left-leaning wings in the past 50 years. This has always distinguished German, Italian, Dutch, Austrian and earlier French Christian Democrats from Anglo-Saxon “conservatives,” where such a wing does not exist. While the economic policy was usually defined by market-economy proponents, social policy had been given to the left-wing faction within the Christian Democrats. This is a quite interesting inner dimension that explains certain differences between the United States and continental Europe to this day.

Franz Muentefering and his fellow “comrades” in the Social Democratic Party (they still greet each other this way) not only did not coin the phrase, nor did they ever truly embody the principle of a market economy as the appropriate reflection of political freedom in an open and innovative society. Nor have their voters.

This explains in a nutshell why Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s “Agenda 2010” is so unpopular with his SPD voters and the programmatic poverty the SPD still has shown. The CDU is currently updating the “social market economy” concept to prepare itself for the next federal election in Germany in 2006.




California’s first black justice

Sen. Elizabeth Dole rightly cites several distinctions achieved by California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, whom President Bush has nominated to the D.C. circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, such as winning re-election by a large margin and writing more majority opinions than her colleagues in 2002 (“Nominees deserve better,” Op-Ed, Friday).

But one distinction she attributes to Justice Brown — “becoming the first African-American to sit on California’s highest court” — is not true.

The first black justice on California’s Supreme Court was Wiley Manuel, who served from 1977 until his death in 1981. His achievement was little publicized because of the inconvenient fact that he, like Justice Brown, turned out to be relatively conservative.

Although he was appointed by a Democratic governor, he disappointed liberal lawyers by frequently ruling in favor of businesses and against criminal defendants. He refused to join many of the left-wing decisions authored by Chief Justice Rose Bird, who was removed in 1986 by outraged voters.

As a result, he, like Justice Brown, was depicted by some liberal activists as not being authentically black, even though he was a trailblazer who worked to open doors to minority lawyers.



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