From the Editor: Atlas Shrugs as Our Culture Dies

LLDF was recently invited to U.C. Davis to participate on a panel on the issue of stem cell research which was convened for the members of their California Agricultural Leadership Program. The panel consisted of two opponents of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) and three proponents. Each panel member was given an opportunity to state their position on ESCR, which was followed by questions from members of the Ag Leadership Program. Membership in the Program includes agriculturalists, environmentalists and private and state personnel who have prominent connections with California Agriculture. I was privileged to represent LLDF as an ESCR opponent.

On the one hand, it was an encouraging day because I found the members of the Ag Leadership program to be a thoughtful and open-minded group of individuals. (1) On the other hand, as I listened to ESCR proponents trying to justify state-funded embryonic stem cell research, their reasoning eerily reflected that of the representatives of the collectivist government portrayed in the book Atlas Shrugged. Atlas Shrugged was authored by Ayn Rand, a proponent of objectivism. Ms. Rand’s writings have as their basic theme the defense of the right of life of each individual. (2)

The story of Atlas Shrugged is the struggle between the individual and the collectivist state, whose agenda requires the surrender of any self-interest by the individual, even when it required death. Atlas Shrugged rails against the “looters,” the government recipients of tax dollars who benefit from taxes and continually create ways to impose new taxes to justify their existence while the culture around them erodes due to a failed state-sanctioned social agenda which destroys the individual. The novel takes the “looting” to what I believe is its logical conclusion when the government is able to legislate the taking of all personal property, including intellectual property, to be used for the benefit of the “greater good,” regardless of the toll on the life of the individual.

The panel proponents of ESCR contended, in essence, that funding ESCR research using the tax dollars of individual taxpayers was justifiable because it will benefit the greater good. The greater good, they contend, is to help all those who suffer from disease in our State, even though admittedly there have been no cures. Listening to them, this quote from Atlas Shrugged came to mind: “A man that has no right to life has no right to values and will not keep them.” (3) In my mind, the fiction of Atlas Shrugged is now blurred with the reality of the status of the right to life in the United States.

Since 1973 the unborn have had no right to life in the United States. We’ve watched the sanctity of human life erode as abortion became legal, and progressed to abortion on demand throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy. Now the erosion manifests itself in the desire to create embryos to use for research and ultimately to destroy. The values our nation once stood for, protecting the right to life of the weakest and most vulnerable among us, have diminished and seemingly been set aside. The natural progression of death by abortion has become death on demand for the elderly, chronically ill and disabled, who are among the weakest and most vulnerable of our culture.

Again, Atlas Shrugged is almost prophetic: “A viler evil than to murder a man, is to sell him
suicide as an act of virtue.” (4) The concluding questions of the day were asked of the ESCR proponents on the panel by a member of the audience: 1) How much government money is enough?; and, 2) We’ve heard the opponents’ ethics today. What are your ethics?

There was no definitive answer to either question. With regard to ethics the answer was, “I just want to help the children.” Should our government fund abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and as we have seen in Oregon, physician-assisted suicide as one of the treatment options funded by the State? Objectivism by Ayn Rand answers: “The only purpose of a government is to protect a man’s rights, which means to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense….” (5) While the reader may or may not agree with Ms. Rand’s brand of philosophy, she certainly makes a point. Death on demand funded by our tax dollars does not serve the proper role of government.

1. I have received several thank-you notes from the members of the Ag Leadership Program. One especially encouraging note read in part, “You did an outstanding job… at reshaping my views as well as solidifying and clarifying my various thoughts on stem cell research.”
2. One of the issues in the Proposition 71 controversy, which ushered in taxpayer funding of ESCR in California, is who will benefit from the intellectual proper ty of the stem cell researchers, the researchers whose intellect created the property or the State?
3. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand. (First Plume Printing,1999, p. 1055).
4. Ibid., 455.
5. Ibid., 1062.

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