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Stem Cell Vote in New Jersey:

[In conjunction with the release this month of my new book, Stem Cell Century: Law and Policy for a Breakthrough Technology" (more info here), I'll be blogging about policy issues related to stem cell research and regenerative medicine occasionally over the next several weeks.]

Election season in the 21st Century seems to inevitably bring a battle over stem cell research, and 2007 is no different. Tomorrow, New Jersey residents will vote on a proposal to issue $450 million dollars in bonds over the next 10 years to fund stem cell research, a plan quite similar in design to California's Proposition 71, the enactment of which in 2004 provided $3 billion in state funding over a decade. (Although frivolous legal challenges delayed the implementation of Prop. 71, appeals were exhausted in May and California's stem cell agency is now providing funding in earnest.) Along with $270 million that New Jersey has already authorized to build five stem cell research facilities, tomorrow's initiative, if passed, would make that state's financial commitment to stem cell science second only to California's in size, putting the Garden State's effort comfortably ahead of New York's and increasing the distance between it and far smaller financial commitments made by handful of other states including Connecticut, Maryland, and Illinois.

The race among states to publicly fund stem cell research is a response, of course, to President Bush's prohibition on the use of federal funds to support research on any human embryonic stem cell lines derived from embryos after August 9, 2001. But even assuming that it is not immoral to destroy 5-day old embryos in the cause of medical research, that embryonic stem cells have particularly valuable therapeutic potential, and that the Bush funding policy is internally illogical (future posts will explain why all three of these claims are correct), it isn't altogether clear whether it makes sense for the citizens of New Jersey to step into the funding void. At the end of the day, if I lived in New Jersey I would vote in favor of tomorrow's bond initiative, but let me explain why even strong supporters of biomedical research generally and stem cell research specifically might rightly hesitate.

If it were possible for private firms to capture all the gains from basic biomedical research, through patents, for example, public funding would not be required in the first place, because private capital would fund all research projects with a positive expected value. It is the belief that basic research has significant positive spillover effects that are difficult to capture that justifies public funding. If public funding is justified by this reasoning, it follows that individual states face a collective action problem. The scientific benefits created by the expenditure of New Jersey tax dollars will benefit all Americans -- indeed, people all over the world. Why should New Jersey foot the bill and let everyone else free ride? For an economy as large as that of the United States, the potential benefits that basic science can create for its citizens alone can justify support of a public good, even if others can free ride. But this seems much less likely to be true for a single, medium-sized state.

By supporting stem cell research, New Jersey can signal its voters' unhappiness with the Bush funding restrictions, but this seems an unconvincing reason to vote yes, because polls can also -- and do -- show that Garden State residents support embryonic stem cell research. A better reason to vote for the initiative is that, in the federal funding vacuum, state funding can entice not only top academic researchers to a state, but also the biotech companies that tend to cluster around top research universities. This means, potentially, thousands of relatively high-paying jobs in a "clean" industry. And by attracting stem cell researchers, New Jersey could potentially serve as a coordination point for related biotechnology and health-care related industries. How much of a return will the investment provide for New Jersey? To say the answer is uncertain would be an understatement. The projections that have been published ($2 billion is bandied about by supporters of the bill) are hardly better than wild guesses. Direct tax revenues and potential revenue-sharing from the developers of blockbuster inventions will return only a small portion of the expenditure to state coffers. The payoff depends primarily on how much private investment the public investment generates.

The potential benefit to the state's biotechnology industry seems substantial enough to justify a relatively modest annual investment of $45 million, and, as a non-resident, I certainly hope the good people of New Jersey agree and vote "yes." But two concerns would still nag at me were I a New Jerseyan. First, given New Jersey's position in the state stem cell race, the marginal value of this particular investment is even less clear than the value of its total investment. With a $270 million investment in infrastructure already made, New Jersey is already a player in stem cell research, and, at the same time, $450 million more will not be enough for it to compete for biotechnology with California on the basis of public expenditures alone. Second, if Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, or any of the Democratic candidates win next year's presidential election, federal funding restrictions will be loosened substantially, causing state support to be less important. It is unclear whether New Jersey's investment will be big enough, or early enough, to capture the benefits envisioned.

Javert:
"At the end of the day, if I lived in New Jersey I would vote in favor of tomorrow's bond initiative, . . ."

So your ends justifies the theft of my means?
11.5.2007 8:52pm
merevaudevillian:
Wonderful.

But even assuming that it is not immoral to destroy 5-day old embryos in the cause of medical research, that embryonic stem cells have particularly valuable therapeutic potential, and that the Bush funding policy is internally illogical (future posts will explain why all three of these claims are correct) . . . .


I don't think you're going to be able to "explain" anything regarding these issues, particularly on the first point, that'll even come close to assisting any disagreeing observer agree with your claims. But I'll certainly read the valiant effort ahead.
11.5.2007 9:00pm
Mark H.:
I am in NJ. I will be voting against it. The state is in rough shape right now, has been for years, this initiative should not even be on the ballot, let alone be a priority.
11.5.2007 9:00pm
Rich B. (mail):
I'm a New Jerseyite, and will be voting yes, even if I hadn't received a weird phone call from a supporters' group last night asking me to do so. ("Some might ask how New Jersey can afford to support this research. The real question is how we can afford not to!")

We are a relatively high-tax state, and as such find it difficult to lure businesses that could otherwise go to Pennsylvania or New York. It makes a lot of sense to give businesses like reasons to come here -- especially now before President Clinton or Guiliani revokes the ban.
11.5.2007 9:06pm
Sean M:
Given the amount of budget troubles NJ is in, I can't see this as worth while. Also, the amount is rather arbitrary. Why this amount as to some other?

While ballot initiatives are "democratic," this seems better suited to the legislature.
11.5.2007 9:22pm
Houston Lawyer:
Surely this initiative is so vital that residents of NJ should raise their taxes to pay for it. I suggest raising the sales taxes on food. Remember, if the Democrats had been elected in 2004, all diseases would have been cured by now, the blind could see and the deaf could hear.
11.5.2007 9:28pm
Mark H.:

I suggest raising the sales taxes on food.


With all the government pushing of ethanol, that's effectively been done already, nationwide. Every foodstuff that depends on corn, all foodstuffs in other words, have been skyrocketing -- beer and beef first on the list. Perhaps that's the plan, cause pain for those of us that don't eat Tofu and drink Evian?

Jersey sweet corn has been the pride of the nation for, well forever, but soon they'll be planting some variant that will produce more fuel for cars instead of bodies and you'll pay a couple of bucks an ear for an edible version.

But yea, what the hell, let's spend $450m in the meantime for embryonic stem cell research. As it stands now, property taxes are sapping the ability of people to remain in NJ (they're leaving in droves) so doubling their food cost on top of the rest makes great sense while funding illogical progressive dreams of taking over everything in the name of the state. Sad times indeed.
11.5.2007 10:04pm
TruePath (aka logicnazi) (mail) (www):
You know humanitarian interest is also a reason to vote for projects. We believe the US government should invest a certain amount of money purely to help make the world a better place even if we don't get any return on that investment.

The economic benefits that new jeresy fails to capture aren't disappearing they are just benefiting others. Just like a neighborhood where everyone chips in to help out keeping the local park clean it can be morally justified to do things that would be losing propositions in a purely self-interested game theoretic solution (assuming your 'opponents' don't act with malicious selfishness)
11.5.2007 11:17pm
therut:
Who is this "WE".
11.5.2007 11:32pm
John Thacker (mail):
$450 million more [over ten years] will not be enough for it to compete for biotechnology with California on the basis of public expenditures alone.

Heck, $45 million per year is itself only roughly what the NIH has been funding for human embryonic stem cell research each year for the last 4 years ($37-40 million per year), much less the $600 million per year spent on stem cell research of all kinds (human non-embryonic, non-human embryonic, non-human non-embryonic). Of course, spending it all in one state certainly helps that state attract research.

I'm far from convinced that all the extra state spending in specifically embryonic stem cell research is definitely the best use even of basic science funding. There are lots of good basic science research projects out there, and the backlash from the funding decision may well have resulted in state funding rivaling how much the NIH would have spent without the restriction. One might rather have a state agency funding any science, including embryonic stem cell research, that then picks the best applicants. Is politically determined funding necessarily the best answer to politically determined funding?

(As a side note, it's also one of those cases where President Clinton "ran out the clock" and governed conservatively but pleased his base after leaving office. No federal funding for embryonic stem cell research until after this panel gives its report, scheduled for right after President Clinton leaves office? Reminds me of several environmental regulations that took place similarly.)
11.5.2007 11:43pm
Brian K (mail):
Who is this "WE".

if the initiative is approved by the voters, then the "WE" is new jersey.
11.5.2007 11:49pm
Mark H.:

...if the initiative is approved by the voters, then the "WE" is new jersey.


Actually, there's no if about it Brian K, it's going to pass with flying colors. And I, as a responsible citizen of the state, will accept that result (i.e. I won't be donning pink undergarments and lamenting the unfairness of it all).

I also don't see myself as a citizen of NJ for too much longer; 2012 at the latest.
11.6.2007 12:08am
Brett Bellmore:

If it were possible for private firms to capture all the gains from basic biomedical research, through patents, for example,


If a private firm, (Or the state of New Jersey...) were to capture ALL of the gains from this research, wouldn't that, logically, leave everyone else indifferent to whether or not it was conducted? I suspect all that's really necessary to make funding the research economically sound is capturing enough of those gains to pay for the research, plus a bit.

We don't have a patent system so that patent holders can capture ALL the gains from the the patent, but because it's presumes some of those gains will end up going to society.
11.6.2007 6:14am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Part of why this debate gets so rancorous is that the line between stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research is so often blurred for (IMHO) political purposes. As noted above, the Bush Administration hasn't banned all such research, or even all embryonic stem cell research, just that of new lines of the later.

In any case, and not being in the field or following it closely, my impression is that while other forms of stem cell research are showing some remarkable successes, embryonic stem cells have not lived up to their promise. I would be interested in recent research that shows the type of success promised by embryonic stem cells, as opposed to other types.

If there isn't a lot of it, I would think it more prudent to put the money in the lines of stem cell research showing the most success right now, and not necessarily into embryonic for what appears to me to be political purposes.
11.6.2007 9:16am
Mr. Bingley (www):
I live in NJ, and I am voting no. Our budget is in horrible state and I do not want another half billions dollars of debt that I will have to pay off.
11.6.2007 10:59am
Mike Gallo (mail):
Bruce has it right: so far I haven't seen one medical advancement from embryonic stem cell research, yet several from non-human and adult material. I'm a biochemist by training, and genetic manipulation makes me very uneasy. The last time humans tried to create "more perfect" humans, it was the Uber Soldat project, wasn't it?

IMHO, this is to be funded by private companies, not used for political capital. "Look at me, I care about babies and genetic diseases" from pro-abortion liberals doesn't cut it in my book.

Bottom line: The ethical question of this situation isn't "how should we," but "should we."

Someone want to correct my punctuation there? I wasn't quite sure how to pose queries in quotations and still end the sentence as a statement.
11.6.2007 11:05am
Just Some Guy (mail):
Excellent discussion...but a complete analysis of this issue must address the question of how many voters, and politicians too, even understand that both the federal and the state issues in question involve not legality, but funding. I think that if you polled the electorate almost anywhere, the people would overwhelmingly say that they thought Bush's actions made embryonic stem cell research illegal, and similarly, I think they'd overwhelmingly say (even probably after exiting the voting booth) that the state initiatives are about legality, not funding.

You can't have a proper discussion of the issue without understanding the issues. The people on this site do, but the electorate does not.
11.6.2007 11:07am
DangerMouse:
...it is not immoral to destroy 5-day old embryos in the cause of medical research, that embryonic stem cells have particularly valuable therapeutic potential, and that the Bush funding policy is internally illogical (future posts will explain why all three of these claims are correct)...

Oh please. So not only do you dismiss the moral concerns of people who don't want to murder babies, but you also argue that they should be forced to pay for it?

That New Jersey would even consider doing this is evidence of how much in the crapper that state is. Glad I got out of it years ago. I'm surprised that even people who believe in stem cell research that murders babies would support THIS PARTICULAR effort. It is, after all, New Jersey. The money will probably just be embezzled or channeled to some slush fund or something. Don't you people know what you're REALLY talking about? This has nothing to do with medicene or science, and everything to do with pork and behind the scenes efforts to give money to a politician's friends.

And most New Jerseyians are dumb enough to vote for it, even knowing all that. They deserve the corruption they get.
11.6.2007 11:11am
AK (mail):
But even assuming that it is not immoral to destroy 5-day old embryos in the cause of medical research... (future posts will explain why all three of these claims are correct)

Oh great, you're going to resolve the ESCR debate and the abortion debate in one blog post. This is probably because you have a special argument that no one has heard before, and is absolutely convincing to even those who believe it is morally wrong to destroy a human - whether in the adult stage of life or the embryo state. I await your brilliance!
11.6.2007 11:28am
AK (mail):
First, given New Jersey's position in the state stem cell race, the marginal value of this particular investment is even less clear than the value of its total investment. With a $270 million investment in infrastructure already made, New Jersey is already a player in stem cell research, and, at the same time, $450 million more will not be enough for it to compete for biotechnology with California on the basis of public expenditures alone.

Get out your red pens. This is the part of the debate where Korobkin demonstrates that he doesn't understand the concept of sunk costs.
11.6.2007 11:32am
Rich Rostrom (mail):
How does increasing the general tax burden for the benefit of a favored industry make the business climate more attractive? What this "initiative" shows is that the way to wealth in New Jersey is rent-seeking.

The backing for this initiative is probably the same as in California: companies that will get the money, and social hyperliberals who want to dehumanize embryos as part of the pro-abortion campaign. (The latter don't know what's really going on: they've been sold the fraud that "stem-cell research" is a source of medical miracles thwarted by knuckle-dragging fundamentalists.)
11.6.2007 11:32am
DangerMouse:
Oh great, you're going to resolve the ESCR debate and the abortion debate in one blog post. This is probably because you have a special argument that no one has heard before, and is absolutely convincing to even those who believe it is morally wrong to destroy a human - whether in the adult stage of life or the embryo state. I await your brilliance!

Maybe his entire blog post is secretly a parody? Otherwise, the arrogance beggers belief.
11.6.2007 11:46am
crypticguise:
"At the end of the day, if I lived in New Jersey I would vote in favor of tomorrow's bond initiative, . . ."

My wife and I live in NJ. Our irresponsible Democrat politicians have raised the State Budget over 50% in 6 years and NJ can't pay it's present bills with the exhorbitant taxes that are causing an outflow of taxpayers leaving NJ at a rate of over 80,000 in last year.

Just who in the hell are you to dip your hand into my pocket to fun Stem Cell Research or any research?

And by the way, I suggest that you read the Federal Constitution and the NJ State Constitution. No where is this theft authorized.
11.6.2007 11:48am
Knucklehead (mail) (www):
I voted NO. Not for any "moral" reason. I did so because I don't believe this is the proper province of state (or federal) government. If private industry wants to invest, good for them. Mark H and Rich Rostrom, above, made the points that matter to me.

(BTW, I voted YES for the Green Acres bond issue - I always do. IMHO is IS a proper use of state government to save some open space for the citizens of the most densely populated state in the nation.)
11.6.2007 11:56am
TruePath (aka logicnazi) (mail) (www):
Using embryos for stem cell research is of vital importance for basic research. I think it is quite likely that embryonic stem cells will never be widely used in therapy (we will learn to coerce other cell types to do the same without having to muck around with embryos) but this doesn't mean that the research on embryonic stem cells is useless. Just the opposite. Embryonic stem cells are the easiest to work with and the most powerful so if you restrict research funding on embryonic stem cells it would slow the progress of the field as a whole.

Also what people above seem to be missing is that even pro-lifers shouldn't object to embryonic stem cell research. There is no shortage of fertilized embryos currently frozen in fertility clinics that are just getting thrown out. Everyone should agree that it is better off to use these for biological research than to simply throw them out in the trash.
11.6.2007 12:00pm
submandave (mail) (www):
"You can't have a proper discussion of the issue without understanding the issues. The people on this site do, but the electorate does not."

And you can't have compelling political theater if the electorate does understand the issue. Broad brush alert, but there are many in the political machine who intentionally misinform and perpetuate demonstrably false claims to keep the emotion high and pique the interest of their target demographic just enough to get them to vote but not enough to have them research the issue themselves. </cynicsm>

I think those who off-handedly dismiss the moral questions wilfully ignore the potentials out there. For example, today the creation of embryos requires doner eggs from a woman, a painful invasive process to harvest some of the precious few eggs she posesses. I recently read, however, of a developing technique to harvest a small amount of ovarian tissue instead and then to stimulate production at will, yielding thousands of viable eggs. As this technique becomes more controllable we end up with a situation where embryos can be easilly be produced at will expressly for experimentation from grown eggs and donated sperm. This is distinctly different from the "use embryos that would be destroyed anyway" thought process common today.
11.6.2007 12:05pm
Parker Smith (mail) (www):
For some informed background, including the point that adult stem cells have provided upwards of 70 cures and treatments, vs. zero for embryonic stem cells:
Stem Cell Code of Silence
11.6.2007 12:06pm
Persiflage (mail):
I'm a New Jersey resident, and have voted against this ballot proposal. Three reasons guided my decision: first, the bill PAYERS of New Jersey cannot afford to allow our state to expend additional taxpayer money or take on any more debt; second, there is no guarantee that even one penny of "benefit" will accrue to the people who are being asked to pay the bills for this plan; third (and legally the most important), there is no authority anywhere in the state constitution which allows the expenditure of tax receipts for the construction, staffing, operation and chronic subsidization of medical research facilities. These are simply NOT state functions.

This ballot proposal and the advertising hype accompanying it is an example of transparent rent-seeking by the Medical-Industrial Complex. Chances are high it will prove to be another politician's boondoggle (Google "UMDNJ and corruption"). Sadly, it will probably pass, because many people are happy to vote for "feel-good" measures as long as they think they won't be paying the cost. My wife and I will be joining the people leaving New Jersey before the ship of state (presently aground) disintigrates.
11.6.2007 12:06pm
AK (mail):
Also what people above seem to be missing is that even pro-lifers shouldn't object to embryonic stem cell research. There is no shortage of fertilized embryos currently frozen in fertility clinics that are just getting thrown out.

(1) Do we know for a fact that only embryos from IVF clinics will be used for research, or is this just a guess?

(2) Pro-lifers are not required to concede that the fate of all frozen embryos is destruction.

(3) One of the objections to ESCR is that it uses humans as a means to an end, and treating humans as a means to an end is always wrong. "Dead is dead" is not a counter to this position.
11.6.2007 12:09pm
texpat (www):
I have lived in New Jersey (Bergen County) for five years. Chris Christie, the U.S.Asst.AG for New Jersey, told an interviewer earlier this year that when he gathers with his colleagues from across the nation, the only ones who can begin to match his stories of corruption are the AAG's from New Orleans and Chicago.

My previous experience in Louisiana and Mexico is all that prepared me for the corruption I have witnessed here. New Jersey residents suffer an absurd tax burden. The state teeters on the precipice of bankruptcy and has just witnessed a huge financial scandal involving pols and officials of the medical and dental school in Newark. And now the state wants to further extend itself for this project. This is absolute madness !
11.6.2007 12:17pm
AK (mail):
The "facilities construction" portion of this funding reeks of corruption, and I don't just mean the standard New Jersey union contract corruption.

There's nothing really special about an ESCR laboratory that distinguishes it from any other biochemistry lab. Benches, sinks, refrigerations, fume hoods, incubators. There's no reason to think that any pharmaceutical company couldn't build a lab with its own money. The costs are as recoverable as any other capital investment in research facilities. Pharmaceutical companies should be more than willing to build their own labs. If ESCR doesn't work out, they can be converted to any other type of lab.

The government never needs to subsidize firms to invest in real estate and buildings.
11.6.2007 12:18pm
Brett Bellmore:

adult stem cells have provided upwards of 70 cures and treatments, vs. zero for embryonic stem cells


The purpose of embyonic stem cell research is not to directly produce cures. It's chief utility is in coming to understand the mechanisms of cell differentiation, so that adult cells from the patient can be transformed into the particular type of stem cell needed for treatment.
11.6.2007 12:21pm
texpat (www):
Persiflage

Did you know the Hackensack University Medical Center has colluded with the city of South Hackensack to use Kelo rights of eminent domain to condemn several large industrial properties for an embryo research facility ? As I understand it, the City of SH agreed to this travesty only if HUMC agreed to install flood control pumping stations, etc. worth many, many millions of dollars. It just never ends here.
11.6.2007 12:25pm
Brian K (mail):
And most New Jerseyians are dumb enough to vote for it, even knowing all that.

I just love this sentence. when/if a voter initiative funding stem cell passes, its because the electorate is just too stupid to realize what is going on. but when the same voters ban gay marriage or civil unions or expanded rights for gays, the voters are expressing their perfectly valid, rational, non-bigoted opinion.

Although frivolous legal challenges delayed the implementation of Prop. 71, appeals were exhausted in May and California's stem cell agency is now providing funding in earnest
this point says a lot too. those evil liberals are trying to thwart the will of the majority when courts expand rights, but conservatives are perfectly justified using the judiciary to block "liberal" voter initiatives.

(yes, i know not all conservatives hold the above contradictory beliefs, but from what is on tv and opinions expressed on boards like these, it appears that most do.)
11.6.2007 12:27pm
craig (mail):
As long as we're going after the embryos who "will just be thrown out anyway", why can't we extract the organs from death row prisoners too? How about gold teeth fillings, for that matter?
11.6.2007 12:44pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

@ TruePath


Also what people above seem to be missing is that even pro-lifers shouldn't object to embryonic stem cell research.


Then you'd feel the same way if you were the embryo in question?

In that case please shoot yourself and donate your remains to science.

Otherwise you're being a hypocrite.
11.6.2007 12:51pm
ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

@ Brett Bellmore


The purpose of embyonic stem cell research is not to directly produce cures. It's chief utility is in coming to understand the mechanisms of cell differentiation, so that adult cells from the patient can be transformed into the particular type of stem cell needed for treatment.


You really don't think people around here would buy that malarkey do you?

The reason why embryonic stem cells aren't used in treatments is because they are uncontrollable.

As for it being used in "understand the mechanisms", please do tell.
11.6.2007 12:54pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
A better reason to vote for the initiative is that, in the federal funding vacuum, state funding can entice not only top academic researchers to a state, but also the biotech companies that tend to cluster around top research universities. This means, potentially, thousands of relatively high-paying jobs in a "clean" industry. And by attracting stem cell researchers, New Jersey could potentially serve as a coordination point for related biotechnology and health-care related industries.


I doubt it, even if there is some great breakthrough in ESCR and even if it occurs in New Jersey, it is unlikely that related biotech and health-care companies are going to start flocking to New Jersey with its low tax business climate, great quality of life, and well-deserved reputation for clean government. ;) It would probably be easier (and make more business sense) for the biotech companies that make this hypothetic breakthrough in ESCR (as well as the researchers at those universities) to relocate to another State that has more of these qualities particularly if it already has a vibrant biotechnology and health-care industry.

This is reminiscent of what some call the "economic war between the States" whereby State legislatures try to "attract" businesses with various subsidies and handouts (e.g. taxpayer-funded sports stadiums, tax benefits for plant relocation, etc.) in the hopes of bringing jobs to the folks back home. Just as likely as not, these subsidies cost more than the benefits and more damaging to the overall economy, is that businesses respond to the incentives of government subsidies rather than the marketplace which leads to an inefficient allocation of resources which hurts both consumers and taxpayers alike.

In addition to the arguments that were made earlier that taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing private industry; that New Jersey already taxes, borrows, and spends too much as it is; and that this reeks of corruption; I think the most likely scenario that even if this seed money bears any fruit, it won't end up blossoming in the Garden State but leave instead for greener pastures.
11.6.2007 12:57pm
CWuestefeld (mail) (www):
@Rich B
We are a relatively high-tax state, and as such find it difficult to lure businesses that could otherwise go to Pennsylvania or New York. It makes a lot of sense to give businesses like reasons to come here

Somebody, some time, is going to have to pay back the bonds that finance this. How will that be done, other than by taxation? Thus, NJ will be transformed into an even HIGHER-tax state. When all is done, we may have lured some biotech here, but at the expense of the much-broader business base.

As already noted, the amount of disinformation in the stem cell research campaign is staggering. I have no moral qualms about the research itself. But I do have them against the State sticking its nose where it's not authorized (again!), as well as the lies of those supporting such research (suggesting that GWB made research illegal, and virtually promising cures for all sorts of maladies).

I've already got my NO vote into the ballot box (#16 in my district at 7:30am)

And by the way, this ballot question sits right next to another one that appears designed to fool voters. We're asked to dedicate 1 percentage point of sales tax revenue to property tax relief, with the implication that this will somehow ease our tax burden. The thing is, it does nothing to lower aggregate taxes. And while in principle a sales tax is preferable, the fact that sales taxes are state-wide while property taxes are local turns this initiative into a means of funneling more money away from those actually consuming, and into urban communities where the state's democratic base votes.
11.6.2007 1:03pm
Piano_JAM (mail):
The purpose of embyonic stem cell research is not to directly produce cures.

Funny, I must have missed that statement in Michael J Fox's advertisement in Missouri last year.
11.6.2007 1:39pm
cathyf:
In that case please shoot yourself and donate your remains to science.
Actually, that would be terribly wasteful. Please take yourself to a level 1 transplant hospital. Fill out all of your organ donor forms. Use a 38 revolver in your mouth, aiming it up into the brain. By doing it in the hospital, you can ensure that they have all of the right equipment right there to keep your organs alive until they can be harvested for transplant. Two kidneys, a liver, a heart, a pancreas, two corneas -- you could save multiple lives at once.
11.6.2007 2:07pm
david 2:
Embryonic stem cell research has had no proven benefits up to this point. All medical breakthroghs and sucess have come through adult stem cell research, something Bush does not object too. Embryonic stem cells form tumors, through division expeirience genetic changes according to cancer (changes worsen as division increases), and have not successfully been used to create anything resembling useful for therapuetic purposes. I do not live in New Jersey, but I will say right now it is a waste of tax dollars and I hope my state does not travel on the same path. If you want to verify my arguments look at Wolfgang Lillge, Aravinda Chakravarti, and Kelly Hollowell. All can be found using google search with embryonic stem cells.
11.6.2007 2:08pm
john doe:
David 2 is right
11.6.2007 2:10pm
jane doe:
david is so courageous commenting against the article
11.6.2007 2:15pm
george 2:
David 2 is so smart, he should win the nobel prize. All of his sources checked out. I know that if a vote comes up in my state, I will vote NOOOOOOOOO!!!!
11.6.2007 2:17pm
john doe:
David 2 Is awesome, he should run the world.
11.6.2007 2:19pm
Parker Smith (mail) (www):
From Brett Bellmore:

The purpose of embyonic stem cell research is not to directly produce cures. It's chief utility is in coming to understand the mechanisms of cell differentiation, so that adult cells from the patient can be transformed into the particular type of stem cell needed for treatment.

Nonsense. Since only adult stem cells have produced usable therapies, it makes more sense to study the cell differentiation mechanisms of adult cells.

Unless, of course, you are so set on destroying embryos that you don't care about little things like tissue rejection and cancer.
11.6.2007 2:31pm
TM Lutas (mail) (www):
Russell Korobkin - The Catholic Church collectively has been gathering all its bishops once a year since 1973, I believe, and grappling with the implications of the biological revolution. If you think you can beat them out along with the Jesuits and the rest of the religious orders in a single blog post, I'll be sincerely surprised. Can your ego fit in the same room with you?

TruePath - You completely misunderstand the religious pro life movement which largely comes from the idea that people are never to be means and can only be ends. To say that fertilized eggs, 5 day old embryos are just going to waste is offensive to this perspective and will fail to convince the religious pro lifers and even non-religious pro lifers who share the conviction that people may never morally be a means to an end but only ends themselves.

You should also read up on the snowflake movement, an effort to salvage and bring to birth all fertilized eggs that are unwanted by their parents. There may be a shortage of people willing to do this at the present time compared to supply but the situation is improving. Or do you think that less frozen embryos being flushed is a problem?

Finally, a little aside on embryonic stem cells being the most powerful. Power is not the point. You could replace the glue on post-its with superglue making them more powerful but to do so would completely destroy their usefulness. Even from a utilitarian perspective, embryonic stem cells turn out to be near useless as the basis of treatments because you can't control them. They too easily slide to cancer cells. Propagandizing for them gives ammunition to the snake oil salesmen who are currently ruining lives with "embryonic cell treatments" in shady places all over the world.
11.6.2007 2:39pm
Rich Berger (mail):
I, too, live in NJ and am looking for the day (coming soon) that I can leave this state. The sheer brazeness of the political establishment (i.e., the Dems), combined with the utter spinelessness and cluelessness of the Republicans have made this state a nightmare. It is as if they don't care enough to craft a convincing lie.

And BTW, preliminary estimates of the liabilities for post-retirement medical care for teachers and other public employees is in neighborhood of $58 Billion. And they have $450 million to p**s away on ESCR?
11.6.2007 2:51pm
Kurmudge (mail):
ESC research is the most mischaracterized in all of science. The limitation on using federal funds to generate new cell lines is absolutely meaningless at this point, and barring major breakthroughs in proteomics, likely to remain that way for some time. BTW, the Bush Administratiion is so "opposed" to ESC research that they subsidize 90% of the cost of obtaining the cell lines for academic researchers (from WiCell- the official price per line is $5000, the net cost to US academia is $500).

Why is the limitation meaningless? Because, no matter what fine therapy ideas you try to posit, any ESC x-plant will of necessity be an allograft. The issue that is blocking a lot of cures is tissue incompatibility, that is "rejection" (GVHD, etc.). We still can't handle that for routine and mainstream therapies like kidney transplants, let alone more exotic therapies like islet cell x-plants. I saw a Mayo Clinic report where they showed 200 skin cancers on the face of a man after heart transplant as a consequence of the immunosuppressives he had to take- in perpetuity- to keep the foreign organ alive.

That is an even bigger issue for lower level cells. In addition to the generated antibodies destroying foreign tissue, there is the problem of growth control, which is why you don't see that much in vitro tissue engineering using ESC, even though the flexibility is supposed to be the major benefit for using ESC. That's why there is excitement when hybrid type stem cell results (e.g., reforming skin cells into multipotent stem cells, etc.) look good- because you can create a cell line from a patient's own cells and eliminate the antibody/immunity rejection problem, plus the adult cells already possess a lot of the stabilization proteins that prevent teratomas.

When there is an ESC breakthrough that resolves those stumbling blocks, it will be because we have figured out the protein recipes that cause the problem. And then you will first see an explosion in xenotransplantation- pig islet cells curing kids' diabetes (my university is working this now, the hard way), baboon hearts beating inb people, etc. to eliminate the organ shortage problem.

I think I would bet that there will be 50 life-saving treatments from other sources now limited by rejection before you see one big one from ESCs. Both would beneift far more now from a (cliche alert) "Manhattan Project" dedicated to proteomics than from spending another nickel on embryonic stem cells.

And I personally have no big issue with using discarded embryos for research, I just think it is a total waste of lmited money.
11.6.2007 4:22pm
annademo (mail):
I am old enough (ouch) to remember that the same people were saying the same hype-laden things about gene therapy research and how that would find cures for all that ailed us. Well, nearly 30 years later, there is still no gene therapy cure for anything and people have died or developed cancers from experimental gene therapies. The same will be true for embryonic stem cell research. There are already reports in the medical literature of bizarre or serious adverse events associated with injections of embryonic stem cells into humans. Taxpayer funding should not be wasted on this research. Also, there are plenty of good results in research with adult stem cells, amniotic or cord blood stem cells, and other non-embryonic sources. I say hold the money until private research can show what works and what does not.
11.6.2007 7:54pm
TruePath (aka logicnazi) (mail) (www):

TruePath - You completely misunderstand the religious pro life movement which largely comes from the idea that people are never to be means and can only be ends. To say that fertilized eggs, 5 day old embryos are just going to waste is offensive to this perspective and will fail to convince the religious pro lifers and even non-religious pro lifers who share the conviction that people may never morally be a means to an end but only ends themselves.


I don't care if it is offensive to their beliefs or whether it will convince them. I am claiming it is true and that even someone with the closest consistant system of beliefs to theirs would agree.

The problem with this means/ends distinction is (as freshman in every Kant class ever have realized) is that it simply doesn't make sense. Or at least the only way it makes sense is one that is perfectly compatible with my point.

I mean is it treating someone as only a means if I ask them to hold something for me? After all I am merely using them to elevate an object the way I might use a shelf. Is it treating people as means to pass a law requiring all welfare recipients offer a swab of DNA for genetics research they won't benefit from? The concept of means and end simply don't map coherently onto moral questions.

Sure you can go ahead and redefine means and end so that treating someone as an end means considering their interests concerns etc.. (i.e. not selfishly disregarding the effects of your actions on them). However, if this is what you mean by treating someone only as an end then using embryos that would otherwise be destroyed for experiments is using them as an end in themselves. After all they are made no worse off by being used in an experiment than by being thrown in the trash so using them for stem cell research is perfectly consistent with treating them as ends.

----

To the person above who asked if I was sure that this is where the embryos for research are coming from. No, I don't have the slightest clue. However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't agree we should take embryos that would otherwise be thrown out and use them for research. That wasn't a comment on this particular bill just on the general topic.
11.6.2007 7:59pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Like others above, I voted no. But the claim that we don't know how to use ESC so we should vote against it is a frivolous argument; that we don't know is the whole point of conducting research.

The compelling argument (assuming one doesn't view it as murder) is simply that there's no reason the government need be doing it -- and particularly not our bankrupt state government. It's just a subsidy for biotech companies that already have all the incentive they need to conduct the research. I see no reason to believe this will be a positive economic impact for the state.
11.6.2007 9:25pm
Mark H.:
Well color me floored:


Question 2 - Stem Cell Research -- 986 of 6,289 precincts reporting (16%)
No 112,281 58%
Yes 81,293 42%


If this trend holds, it'll be the first time in 17 years that Jerseyans rejected a public question spending bill. Maybe there's hope yet.
11.6.2007 9:35pm
CWuestefeld (mail) (www):
Quick update on the balloting:

With about 16% of the districts reporting, the current standing leans toward NO with 58% of the vote.
11.6.2007 9:37pm
CWuestefeld (mail) (www):
@Mark H: Sorry to have duplicated your post.

I was thinking the same thing. Even more shocking if you look at all of the ballot questions. Of the 3 related to spending, 2 are pretty well in the "NO" column, and the third is a tossup so far.

I owe the voters an apology for my cynicism.
11.6.2007 9:39pm
Mark H.:
Hey, no prob CW, stepping on similarly timed posts is a given.


Question 1 - Dedicated Use of Taxes -- 2,531 of 6,289 precincts reporting (40%)
No 251,079 54%
Yes 215,348 46%


The above is where people think they're saying you can't spend that extra 1% sales tax on whatever you want, they're not, but it's zero sum game on actual costs so no matter.



Question 2 - Stem Cell Research -- 2,562 of 6,289 precincts reporting (41%)
No 260,734 55%
Yes 213,492 45%


Tightening up a bit above, but should hold.



Question 3 - Preservation Bond Act -- 2,562 of 6,289 precincts reporting (41%)
Yes 246,901 53%
No 221,849 47%


Well, yea I've read thoughts on how good it is to save land in the most densely populated state, and initiatives like above always pass, but usually by wider margins. The fact is, if you drive 1/2 a mile west of either the Parkway or Turnpike you're practically in wilderness and should always bring a "go pack" and cell phone antenna booster with you for those ill advised treks :-)

Question 4 about banning idiots from voting is a throw away, they only put that one in so we citizens couldn't prevent the incumbents from voting for themselves.
11.6.2007 10:15pm
craig (mail):
TruePath writes: "I mean is it treating someone as only a means if I ask them to hold something for me? After all I am merely using them to elevate an object the way I might use a shelf."

Umm, no, so long as they are free to decline your request.

"Is it treating people as means to pass a law requiring all welfare recipients offer a swab of DNA for genetics research they won't benefit from?"

Yes.

"The concept of means and end simply don't map coherently onto moral questions. ... Sure you can go ahead and redefine means and end so that treating someone as an end means considering their interests concerns etc.. (i.e. not selfishly disregarding the effects of your actions on them)."

That is not redefining anything, that is accepting the existing distinction. To the extent that a thing is treated according to its utility for some purpose, it is a means. To the extent that a thing is treated as worthwhile in essence, as needing no justification for its existence, it is an end.

"However, if this is what you mean by treating someone only as an end then using embryos that would otherwise be destroyed for experiments is using them as an end in themselves. After all they are made no worse off by being used in an experiment than by being thrown in the trash so using them for stem cell research is perfectly consistent with treating them as ends."

See above. You don't understand the basic definitional difference between means and ends. The embryo is treated as a means when it is created in the petri dish, but not when it is thrown in the trash -- in that case it is just being treated carelessly. The embryo used for experiments is treated as a means twice. Throwing the embryo away is neglect; using it for experiments is malice.
11.6.2007 10:19pm
Mark H.:
Since this thread is quickly drawing to a close, I want to clarify my earlier post about:


Question 1 - Dedicated Use of Taxes -- 2,531 of 6,289 precincts reporting (40%)
No 251,079 54%
Yes 215,348 46%

The above is where people think they're saying you can't spend that extra 1% sales tax on whatever you want, they're not, but it's zero sum game on actual costs so no matter.


I was referring to the Yes voters thinking that a Yes vote was to dedicate the extra sales tax toward property tax relief exclusivly, they were, but I conflated the numbers (as they're so unusual in NJ) so my post may have been confusing (hopefully less confusing than this explanation!) because as it turned out the No's took it, so we're not as stupid as I thought we were here in Jersey.

Here's hoping we retain our temporary sanity in '08 as well.
11.7.2007 12:42am
Bored Lawyer:

Stem cell, property tax proposals rejected by voters
by The Star-Ledger

Wednesday November 07, 2007, 1:00 AM

New Jersey voters rejected a proposal for the state to borrow $450 million to provide grants for stem cell research. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, the "no" votes were 647,165, or about 53 percent, to 575,539 or about 47 percent in favor.

A proposal to dedicate a full penny of the seven-cents-per-dollar state sales tax to property tax relief also was defeated, by a similar margin - 635,202 opposed to 562,712 in favor.

Two other questions were approved by the voters on Tuesday:

- Question No.3, which authorizes the state to borrow $200 million to buy land for recreation and conservation, preserve farmland, acquire flood-prone land in the Delaware, Passaic
and Raritan river basins and fund historic preservation projects. It passed by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent.

- Question No. 4, changes the language in the state constitution describing people who do not have the right to vote. It would replace the phrase "idiot or insane person" with "person who has been adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction to lack the capacity to understand the act of voting." Voters approved that measure 60 percent to 40 percent.


A ray of hope!
11.7.2007 3:12am
TM Lutas (mail) (www):
TruePath - You started out with "Also what people above seem to be missing is that even pro-lifers shouldn't object to embryonic stem cell research." and morphed when challenged into "I don't care if it is offensive to their beliefs or whether it will convince them. I am claiming it is true and that even someone with the closest consistant system of beliefs to theirs would agree."

Who made you God? Your point seems to be reducible down to "it's true because I say so". That's just not serious.
11.7.2007 3:16am
Rich Berger (mail):
I was pleasantly surprised that the ESCR bond and the sales tax earmark were defeated. If only the Republicans in NJ would realize that the voters are ripe for a change and start exploiting this opening.

I was also pleased that Ellen Karcher was beaten (State Senate race). She was running ads claiming that she was being smeared by a "right wing" group with ties to President Bush. Maybe that stuff is losing its appeal.
11.7.2007 7:58am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I was heartened by the rejection of the NJ proposition on stem cell research. I am not someone who stays up late at night worrying about ESC research, harvesting embryos, etc., but do support not slapping people in the face for their religious views, as I see this subject usually playing out. But mostly, it shows that NJ residents may be coming to their senses about their state's finances.

I don't follow this closely, but was happy to find that I hadn't lost track with Parker Smith's link to Code of Silence, and in particular, to Kurmudge's summary of the problem with ESC therapies. Both pointed out that in comparison with other types of stem cells and treatments, ESC are extraordinarily cancer and rejection prone.

Some pointed out that ESC research is useful in figuring the how and why of cell differentiation. But that doesn't require new lines of human ESCs, and in most cases, human ESCs at all. Rather, I would suggest other mammals, so when things go awry, and the subject is lost through either cancer or rejection, a human life is not the one being lost.

Which brings me to my earlier point - it still appears that the push for government funding for human ESC research is political, and IMHO, aimed at President Bush, Roman Catholics, and others who oppose abortions on religious grounds, and not for any really good scientific or medical reasons.
11.7.2007 9:31am
AK (mail):
The problem with this means/ends distinction is (as freshman in every Kant class ever have realized) is that it simply doesn't make sense.

One of the problems with taking Philosophy 101 is that it leads you to think that all discussions of means and ends involve applications of strict Deontology. That's just not the case. The Catholic positition on the dignity of the human person and means/ends is not congruent with Kant.

I mean is it treating someone as only a means if I ask them to hold something for me? After all I am merely using them to elevate an object the way I might use a shelf.

Not as long as you violate their human dignity in the process, which is similar to what the other commenter saying about the person being free to decline. But that does get us of the topic a little bit, because we have to determine what it means to be "free" to make a decision.

Employers "use" their employees as inputs, just as they would use machines. That's okay as long as that use does not violate inalienable human rights. You can't underpay them, for example, because human effort has a minimum inherent worth.

After all they are made no worse off by being used in an experiment than by being thrown in the trash so using them for stem cell research is perfectly consistent with treating them as ends.

How about we vivisect death row inmates until they're dead? We could learn something in the process, and in the end they're as dead as they would be after lethal injection.
11.7.2007 9:53am
AK (mail):
Not as long as you violate their human dignity in the process

Not as long as you DON'T violate their human dignity in the process.

Apologies.
11.7.2007 9:54am
Dash (mail):
I think it was pretty obvious how this was going to turn out. As a NJ resident I enthusiastically voted NO and I'm generally for stem cell research, although I'd far prefer any research be of the private variety. I also dont have too big of a moral problem with using pre existing embryos although it does sound rather ghoulish.

Regardless, anyone in the state knows our issues with taxes. It's an absolute *insert swear words here* joke. I pay twelve THOUSAND dollars per year in property taxes. It makes me ill. Slash the budget and clear off some swaths of pork and then try again maybe. Maybe.

The people who voted YES live in places like The Peoples Republic of Upper Montclair and use hundred dollar bill as kindling.
11.7.2007 10:02am
Bored Lawyer:
Can someone explain why a particular type of bio-research needs to be singled out for special support? Is there some economic reason why embryonic stem cell research does not attract R&D dollars whereas other types of bio-research do?

(BTW, I have no special moral problem with ESCR -- although I respect those who do. I am not a scientist, so I cannot opine whether this type of research is more promising than other types of bio-research, whether on adult stem cells, DNA, or what have you.)
11.7.2007 10:29am
AK (mail):
Can someone explain why a particular type of bio-research needs to be singled out for special support?

Because it's a stalking horse for those in favor of legal abortion. Once the state is invested in the idea that embryos have no rights, it makes it harder for pro-lifers to convince the public that abortion should be outlawed.
11.7.2007 12:56pm