Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Moving toward Europe--but Do Americans Want to Go?

Moving toward Europe--but Do Americans Want to Go? By Michael Barone
The European model sacrifices growth in the hope of reducing economic inequality.
AEI, Tuesday, April 28, 2009

As the Obama presidency reaches the hundred-day mark, it is becoming apparent that he would like America to take on a more European cast. Increased government spending, greater government control of health care, and the implementation of a cap-and-trade system are all goals that President Obama has tried to further in his first hundred days. Yet pursuing such policies would end up hindering growth in the name of economic equality--and Americans are ambivalent about moving their country in this direction.

Ninety-nine days in, with 1,362 days to go, and we can see with some clarity the trajectory on which Barack Obama wants to take the United States. To put it in geographical terms, he wants to move us some considerable distance toward Europe.

This is apparent in the budget he has presented for the next fiscal year and its projections for the years to come. Government spending is scheduled to rise as a percentage of the economy. This will be accomplished by raising taxes and, even more, by borrowing that will double the national debt in five years and nearly triple it in 10 years. This trajectory can be altered in the future, but much of it is set in stone by the $3 trillion-plus deficit that will, give or take a few hundred billion, be produced by the budget voted this year.

Other Obama goals are less certain of achievement. He wants government to take over much of the one-seventh of the economy that is devoted to health care, but how much and by what means are still unclear. One result, common in Europe, is likely: rationing of care. Obama also wants to reshape the energy sector by imposing a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions. This will raise energy costs, particularly on the 60 percent of Americans whose electricity is produced by coal, and will provide opportunities for corporations to make profits by gaming the system. But it's not clear that it will encourage development of the one plentiful non-carbon-emitting energy source that France, for one, relies on--nuclear power.

The European model sacrifices growth in the hope of reducing economic inequality. American experience suggests that this can work, but not perhaps at an acceptable cost.

There are two decades in which economic inequality was sharply reduced. One was the 1930s. High earners made less and low earners fell down toward zero, so incomes were more equal. But the cost in lost economic growth and human misery were very high.

The other decade was the 1940s when, in the phrase of the day, there was a war on. Government controlled wages and prices, required workers to join unions, ordered industries to produce arms and mobilized 16 million Americans into the military.

But those policies seem unlikely today.

Obama has only limited plans to take over the private sector economy (he hopes cap-and-trade will produce otherwise uneconomic "green" jobs), and he has abandoned, at least for the moment, the unions' card check bill that would enroll millions of workers in unions by effectively abolishing the secret ballot in unionization elections and then having federal arbitrators impose wage levels and work rules. And he certainly has no plans to expand the military to its proportion of the population in World War II--35 million men and women.

Still, Obama may take us some distance toward the Europe whose "dynamic union" he hailed in Strasbourg, with some marginal gains in economic equality and, if Europe's experience is a guide, considerably less economic creativity and growth.

Abroad, Obama has eschewed American "arrogance" and embraced the European model of diplomatic engagement and avoidance of confrontation. He argues that if we show "persistence" in apologizing for America's past and willingness to negotiate with Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and shake hands with Hugo Chavez, they will come to recognize our good will and make concessions they would otherwise refuse.

Perhaps. But one recalls that this was the European response to the genocide in its own back yard by Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic and that he was brought to justice only by the force of American arms. That lesson has not been lost on Obama who, for all his rhetoric, has ordered troop increases in Afghanistan despite the refusal of Europeans to do more.

Obama and his party were brought to power by George W. Bush's perceived incompetence on Katrina and Iraq, not because of some pent-up and suddenly overwhelming demand for the Europeanization of America.

Polls show voters ambivalent about Obama's expansion of government, skeptical of global warming theories, and appreciative despite the financial crisis and recession of the efficacy of market capitalism to produce economic growth. They are also confident, as Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy were, that America is a special and unique country. Obama audaciously believes he can lead the country in a direction it's not sure it wants to go.

Michael Barone is a resident fellow at AEI.

The war on mining: Fighting back

The war on mining: Fighting back. By Silvia Santacruz
The Financial Post, April 22, 2009

Gold has become a safe haven as jittery investors move away from weakened stock markets, and currencies are threatened by inflation. But the allure of gold goes well beyond its future value or price per ounce.

The demand for the precious metal has propelled economic growth in the developing world as investment in exploration has led to significant job creation and improvements in health. Despite this, the industry is under attack by environmental NGOs, which accuse it of bringing poverty and pollution to the regions.

The war on mining is global. In 2007, Newmont CEO Richard Ness was cleared in a 21-month Indonesian criminal trial for the firm’s alleged pollution of Buyat Bay. National Geographic criticized the same operation on the grounds that mine’s benefits—$391-million in local royalties and taxes, 8,000 jobs and $3-million in welfare projects—accrue to only five of the nearest communities.

In Ecuador, NGOs sow alarm among poor communities with claims that if large-scale mining were to start near them, their rivers would be contaminated, their animals and crops would die and their children would fall ill. To prove their point, environmentalists play videos of the damage that mercury, cyanide and arsenic can cause, blithely ignoring the fact that new techniques no longer use those chemicals and cause little environmental impact.

Poverty, not the natural resources industry, is the biggest enemy of people. So what would the anti-mining activists’ success mean for the communities where they are concentrating their efforts?

In Africa and Indonesia, the world’s four largest gold producers—Barrick, Gold Fields, Newmont and Anglo-Gold Ashanti—are engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, which kill thousands in the developing world every year. The industry works in partnership with nonprofits like International SOS, IFC Against AIDS, African Medical Research (AMREF) and Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, among others.

“Gold mining companies are particularly affected by the triple disease threat of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria,” explains Maureen Upton, a World Gold Council official, in a 2008 study. “It is difficult to think of what other industry faces a situation where in certain locations 30% of its employees are infected with a fatal disease such as HIV, or where a similar percentage is likely to be infected with malaria.”

In Ghana, AngloGold Ashanti hired a worldwide authority on insecticide resistance, Professor Richard Hunt, who found that the dominant mosquito species were completely or partially resistant to three standard insecticides but susceptible to another one not being provided by the World Health Organization. The company responded by initiating a program that reduced malaria infections by 73% in scarcely two years.

Also in Ghana, Gold Fields launched the Bowoho Ban (“Protect Yourself “) weekly radio program to educate people about HIV/AIDS. In South Africa, where AngloGold Ashanti’s workforce has an HIVinfection rate of 30%—which, while high, is still lower than South Africa’s national average of 44%—the firm hired AIDS Peer Educators who persuade mine workers and community members to undergo HIV testing and counselling. The response among mine workers during 2007-2008 was 100%, up from 40% during 2006-2007.

Newmont is fighting malaria in Indonesia by distributing bed nets, clearing larvae and talking to residents about malaria prevention. The incidence of malaria among children in the area of Newmont’s project declined from 47% in 1999 to 13% in 2000 (the project’s first year) to 1.5% in 2007.

If mining companies were to pull out in the wake of government or activist pressure, many poor rural communities in developing countries would be left with no job opportunities, hope for development or health programs. Mining companies invest in these programs to keep a healthy and productive workforce, which, in turn, benefits underdeveloped towns.

To take that away would be a crime.

Silvia Santacruz is the Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, writer-editor at Ecuador Mining News and a contributor to Openmarket.org.

Robert H. Frank, A 200% Tax Even Socialists Will Hate

Robert H. Frank, A 200% Tax Even Socialists Will Hate, by Alan Reynolds
Cato at Liberty, April 27, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

In the latest issue of Forbes, Cornell University economist Robert H. Frank is pushing “A Tax Even Libertarians Can Love.” I hope he wasn’t counting on this libertarian’s support.

What he advocates is “replacing the income tax with a progressive tax on spending. …A family’s income minus its savings is its consumption, and that amount minus a large standard deduction — say, $30,000 a year for a family of four — would be its taxable consumption. …Rates would start low, perhaps 20%, then rise gradually with total consumption. …With savings tax-exempt, top marginal tax rates on consumption would have to be significantly higher than current top rates on income.”

His concept of “significantly higher” includes tax rates of 100-200% on marginal income that isn’t saved. This is about minimizing affluence, not maximizing revenues. There is ample evidence from Emmanuel Saez and others that the amount of reported income drops sharply as marginal tax rates rise above 25-30% (and even less on capital gains).

In his 2007 book, Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class, Frank suggests marginal tax rates of 50% above $220,000 and rising to 200%. Since seniors (like me) commonly finance retirement from past savings, Frank’s tax scheme amounts to rapid confiscation of past savings.

For young people, Frank’s tax can’t possibly encourage savings because it discourages earning any income in the first place. Consumption is, after all, the motive for both earning and saving. The prospect of facing future consumption taxes of 50-200% would surely discourage saving much, because the rewards from invested savings (namely, future consumption) would be subjected to such prohibitive tax brackets. Under this steeply progressive tax on unsaved income, any income exempt from taxes today would be subject to brutal taxes whenever folks wanted to buy anything of value, like a car or house, or to retire on their accumulated savings.

In another April 25 piece in The New York Times, Mr. Frank shifts from promoting confiscatory taxes on consumption to defending small tweaks to the current tax regime. “The current [tax] system is much fairer than many people believe, and the president’s proposal will make it both fairer and more efficient.” That comment was aimed at the tea parties. Yet tax party protesters clearly understood, as Frank does not, that the president’s first wave of proposed tax increases come nowhere near paying for his grandiose spending plans. My estimate of last October, that Obama’s plans would add $4.3 trillion to the deficits over ten years is now looking much too generous, if not wildly optimistic.

In the New York Times piece, Frank argues that income differences are mainly a matter of luck. As he often does, Frank pretends to possess evidence about this topic that other economists have missed. He says, “economists have only begun to realize [that] pay differences often vastly overstate differences in performance.”

In his book, whenever Frank alludes to what “the evidence suggests,” his sources are usually suspect, obsolete or invisible. He claims “regulations, like cartoons are data.” He cites an unpublished master’s thesis, unidentified surveys and “casual impressions.”

Frank claims “happiness can be measured reliably” by brain waves. Explaining this better in the Economic Journal in 1997, he noted that people who say they are happy show “greater electrical activity in the left prefrontal region of the brain” which “is rich in receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine, higher concentrations of which been shown independently to be correlated with positive affect.” If we accept the amount of dopamine in the brain as the gauge of happiness, however, then the happiest people are those who routinely abuse crack and meth.

In the second chapter of Falling Behind, his first graph lists a Census Bureau URL as the source for household income data from 1949 to 1979. Click on that link and you will find the data only go back to 1967. In reality, all of Frank’s income and wealth graphs actually came from Chris Hartman at inequality.org. Hartman is not an economist or statistician, but a “researcher, writer, editor, and graphic designer with experience in politics, higher education, and publishing.” Hartman’s non-facts used in Robert Frank’s first graph actually came from a 1994 book from the Economic Policy Institute, reflecting the “authors’ analysis. . . of unpublished census data.” Frank’s comparison of CEO pay with “average wages” came from Hartman’s flawed calculations for United for a Fair Economy, which were critiqued on page 131 of my textbook Income and Wealth. And Frank’s demonstrably false claim that “asset ownership has become even more heavily concentrated during recent years” is likewise from inequality.org.

In short, Professor Frank often bases his remarkably strong opinions on fragile facts.

US Provides $5M in Emergency Support as Swine Flu Spreads

USAID Provides $5M in Emergency Support as Swine Flu Spreads
USAID, April 28, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. - As concerns over the spread of swine flu grow, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced today that it is providing an additional $5 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in emergency support for efforts to detect and contain the disease in Mexico.

"Since 2005, USAID has committed $543 million to support pandemic prevention and preparedness across the globe," said Alonzo Fulgham, Acting USAID Administrator. "This additional $5 million is specifically aimed at helping to control the transmission of swine flu in Mexico, through advanced disease surveillance and control measures."

USAID is also working closely with U.N. and civil society partners to adapt and disseminate important public health messages for communities and healthcare facilities about swine flu and how to limit risks for disease transmission.

"Containing the spread of certain animal diseases, like swine flu and avian influenza, is critical to limiting the threat of a pandemic," Fulgham continued. "As demonstrated in recent days," he added, "such diseases can spread quickly, so informing the public about how to reduce risks is critical."

Swine flu is of particular concern because it is both a novel virus and spreads efficiently among humans, meeting two of three criteria for a pandemic.

On April 25, WHO declared the ongoing spread of swine flu a public health emergency of international concern. On April 27, WHO raised the level of influenza pandemic alert to Phase 4, indicating an increased likelihood of a pandemic. The increased alert level does not necessarily mean that a pandemic is inevitable. WHO sent a team of responders, including two experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to work with authorities in Mexico. The team will further investigate and characterize the virulence and transmission dynamics of the disease.

USAID is responding to the international outbreak in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To help track transmission of H1N1 in the swine population, USAID is also supporting FAO efforts to conduct animal surveillance in Mexico and other parts of Central America. USAID has also offered to provide 900,000 sets of personal protective equipment from its avian and pandemic influenza stockpile to support ongoing response efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services, WHO, and PAHO. The use of this protective equipment helps to protect first responders from contracting or spreading disease from suspected outbreak sites.

USAID has committed $543 million to support pandemic its Avian and Pandemic Influenza prevention and preparedness activities across the globe since 2005. In addition, the USAID is positioned to provide humanitarian aid to help countries requiring additional support in the event of a pandemic.

For further information on USAID's avian and pandemic influenza program, visit http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/global_health/home/News/news_items/avian_influenza.html.
For information on USAID's disaster assistance program, please see http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/humanitarian_assistance/disaster_assistance/.

Long-Term Storm Predictors Post a Sorry Track Record but Vow to Improve

For Early Hurricane Forecasts, Consult a Telepath. By Carl Bialik
Long-Term Storm Predictors Post a Sorry Track Record but Vow to Improve; One Certainty Is Their Guesses Get a Lot of Press
WSJ, apr 29, 2009

If analysts did no better than predicting stock prices would equal the average of the last five years, one would hope they'd find a different career -- or at least take their work private while they refined their techniques.

That's the sorry track record of climatologists who each year predict the number of hurricanes that will threaten the Caribbean and Southeastern U.S. before the storm season begins on June 1. Yet their seasonal forecasts continue to garner headlines in the spring as reliably as groundhogs and their shadows.

In early 2005, predictions ranged from 11 to 14 tropical storms -- compared with an average of 14 in the prior five years -- with seven or eight hurricanes, compared with a five-year average of seven. The storm season instead brought Katrina, Rita and 13 other hurricanes among the 27 named storms.Numbers Guy Blog

The forecasts' flaws were evident before that big miss and have continued since then. The next two years they overshot; last year, at last, they were right in predicting a typical year. This year, most forecasters are calling for below-average activity.

"It's as if they're presenting their data in the middle of a study, before they reach their conclusions," says Robert S. Young, director of the program for the study of developed shorelines at Western Carolina University. "They should keep doing what they're doing, and they shouldn't tell anyone about it until they've figured it out."

Yet even as academics, government agencies and private industry crowd into the forecasting arena, they're bumping up against obstacles that may render accurate forecasting so far ahead of time impossible. Some forecasts are based on past years with similar patterns, but the climatology record doesn't go back far enough to lend much confidence. And it's hard to even detect these weather patterns far in advance -- even giant patterns that determine the intensity of a season. El Niño, or warming of Pacific Ocean waters, tends to suppress hurricanes; La Niña, unusually cold Pacific waters, tends to increase storm activity. Yet neither of these seasonal effects can be predicted with much reliability before the late spring.

"Until you really get into the spring and the weather patterns start to set up, it's really hard to get any kind of decent forecast as to what's going to go on in the summer and fall," says Chuck Watson, who works on forecasts of damage from hurricanes. Anytime before spring, "You might as well throw a dart."

Or hire a gibbon and a trance medium to compete with the dart thrower. That was the stunt dreamed up by reporter Bo Petersen of the Post & Courier of Charleston, S.C., in 2007, after several years of more straightforward reporting of professionals' ultimately errant forecasts. The trance medium beat out Mr. Petersen, the gibbon, the dart thrower -- and the pros. This comedic contest was borne out of a serious problem, according to Mr. Petersen: "The sense we got from emergency-management people here is that the forecasts had been so wrong that they were hearing from the public, 'Why should we pay any attention to this stuff?' "

Some forecasters update their predictions once the season has begun. And those forecasts do well. But none of the major forecasts that come out before June has improved significantly on a simple prediction scheme that calls for the same number of named storms and hurricanes as the average of the five prior years. And some do much worse.

Forecasters often are open about their failings. Philip Klotzbach, who works on the Colorado State University forecast, and others post analyses of their accuracy, which is more than, say, political pundits do. And they say it's good scientific practice to publish their work in progress.

But why publish press releases and even, in some cases, hold press conferences? "Part of the reason we even do our press conference and release our data is, well, everyone else is," Mr. Watson says. He adds that research funders generally encourage the publicizing of the fruits of their grant money: "From a funding and research standpoint, you've almost got to release it," Mr. Watson says. "It's part of that game."

Even if the forecasts were dead-on, they wouldn't do emergency managers much good. The number of named tropical storms and hurricanes can have little to do with the damage they create: Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, a year of below-average storm counts. "The total number of storms is a red herring," says Joe Bastardi, chief long-range and hurricane forecaster for AccuWeather.com. "It's a joke." Many forecasts include more useful measures such as the number of storms that hit land or the accumulated cyclone energy, which quantifies total storm intensity. But news reports often focus on the more-accessible predictions of storm counts.

The industries most affected by hurricanes focus more closely on the short-term forecasting of individual storms, an endeavor with much higher accuracy.

"The insurance industry is always interested to hear the long-range hurricane predictions, but they don't directly influence what companies do," says Loretta L. Worters, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute. More important is whether the storms hit U.S. soil, she says.

Forecasters say their task is complicated by the subjectivity involved in determining which storms are named, a reflection of intensity and greater likelihood they'll make landfall. The National Hurricane Center, an arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, decides when to append a name. "I don't understand why some storms are getting named and others are not getting named," Dr. Bastardi says.

Perhaps one to two additional storms are being named each year than would have been a few decades ago, thanks to improvements in technology and climate science, according to Christopher Landsea of the hurricane center. To some climatologists, the naming standards have gotten too lax. NOAA named 13 storms in 2007, prompting a press release from the Weather Research Center in Houston saying its forecast of seven named storms was dead-on -- after subtracting the six storms it deemed unworthy of naming, because they only briefly featured the levels of wind and pressure characteristic of tropical storms.

Several forecasters question NOAA's dual role as forecaster, through its Climate Prediction Center, and as forecast arbiter, via the National Hurricane Center. The concern is that those scientists deciding whether to name storms late in the season might feel pressure to base their decision in part on how it would reflect on their colleagues' predicted counts. "In some sense, they hold the cards," James Elsner, a professor of geography at Florida State University, says of NOAA scientists.

Gerry Bell, NOAA's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster, says, "There is absolutely no conflict," pointing to the separation between the two arms of the government agency that forecast storms and name storms.

Climatologists are making a new forecast -- this time about their ability to get predictions right. "It's inevitable, with increasing computing power and an increase in the understanding of the dynamics of El Niño, that skill will climb in the long term," says Adam Lea, who works on forecasts from University College London's Hazard Research Centre. "We will get better."

[Full article w/graphs here.]

Transhumanism and the Limits of Democracy

Transhumanism and the Limits of Democracy. By Ronald Bailey
A paper presented at the Workshop on Transhumanism and Democracy
Reason, April 28, 2009

Below is a paper I presented at the Arizona State University's Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict Workshop on Transhumanism and the Future of Democracy last week. The workshop was directed by ASU history professor Hava Tirosh-Samuelson. My fellow participants were Case Western Reserve University law professor Maxwell Mehlman, Georgetown University law professor Steven Goldberg, University of Southern California law professor Michael Shapiro, University of Chicago political philosopher Jean Bethke Elshtain, Emory University bioethicist Paul Root Wolpe, with a closing response by University of California, Berkeley Nobelist Charles Townes.

The workshop addressed such questions as how does the enhancement of human beings through biotechnology, information technology, and applied cognitive sciences affect our understandings of autonomy, personhood, responsibility and free will? And how much and what type of societal control should be exercised over the use of enhancement technologies?

What is transhumanism? A pretty good definition is offered by bioethicist and transhumanist James Hughes who states that transhumanism is "the idea that humans can use reason to transcend the limitation of the human condition."[i] Specifically, transhumanists welcome the development of intimate technologies that will enable people to boost their life spans, enhance their intellectual capacities, augment their athletic abilities, and choose their preferred emotional states. What's particularly noteworthy is that Hughes argues that democratic decision-making is central to the task of guiding humanity into the transhuman future.

I will argue that where Hughes and others go wrong is in fetishizing democratic decision-making over the protection of minority rights. Second, I will argue that transhumanism should be accepted as a reasonable comprehensive doctrine and, as such, that it should be tolerated in liberal societies by those who disagree with its goals. Third, I will illustrate the problems of democratic authoritarianism by detailing some of the history of legal interference with reproductive rights. And then, I will briefly outline and analyze various arguments used by opponents of human enhancement which they hope will sway a majority into essentially outlawing the transhumanist enterprise.

Hughes and other would-be democratizers fail to recognize that the Enlightenment project that spawned modern liberal democracies sought to keep certain questions about the transcendent out of the public sphere. To keep the social peace and allow various visions of the human to flourish along side of one another, questions about the ultimate meaning and destiny of humanity were deemed to be private concerns.

Similarly, hostility to biotechnological progress must not to be used as an excuse to breach the Enlightenment understanding of what belongs in the private sphere and what belongs in the public. Technologies dealing with birth, death, and the meaning of life need protection from meddling—even democratic meddling—by those who want to control them as a way to force their visions of right and wrong on the rest of us. One's fellow citizens shouldn't get to vote on with whom you have sex, what recreational drugs you ingest, what you read and watch on TV and so forth. Hughes understands that democratic authoritarianism is possible, but discounts the possibility that the majority may well vote to ban the technologies that he believes promise a better world.

In fact, Hughes extols social democracy as the best guarantor of our future biotechnological liberty, while ignoring the fact that it is precisely those social democracies that he praises—Germany, France, Sweden, and Britain—which now, not in the future, outlaw germinal choice, genetic modification, reproductive and therapeutic cloning, and stem cell research. For example, Germany, Austria and Norway ban the creation of human embryonic stem cell lines. Britain outlaws various types of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to enable parents to choose among embryos. (Despite worrisome political agitation against this type of biotech research, in the United States, private research in these areas remains legal. More recently, President Barack Obama directed the National Institutes of Health to begin formulating guidelines under which embryonic stem cell research might receive federal funding.)

This ideal of political equality arose from the Enlightenment's insistence that since no one has access to absolute truth, no one has a moral right to impose his or her values and beliefs on others. Or to put it another way, I may or may not have access to some absolute transcendent truth, but I'm pretty damned sure that you don't.

Under constitutional liberalism, there are questions that should not and cannot be decided by a majority vote. As James Madison eloquently explained in Federalist 51, "It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure."[ii] Alexis De Toqueville made the same point when he asked, "If it be admitted that a man possessing absolute power may misuse that power by wronging his adversaries, why should not a majority be liable to the same reproach?"[iii]

John Rawls updated and extended the arguments supporting these Enlightenment ideals in his Political Liberalism, where he made the case for a limited conception of politics that could reconcile and tolerate diverse "reasonable comprehensive doctrines." According to Rawls, a reasonable comprehensive doctrine has three features: it deals with the major religious, philosophical, and moral aspects of human life in a coherent and consistent fashion; it recognizes certain values as significant, and by giving some primacy of some values over others expresses an intelligible view of the world; and it is not unchanging, but generally evolves slowly over time in light of what its adherents see as good and sufficient reasons.

The result is "that many of our most important judgments are made under conditions where it is not to be expected that conscientious persons with full powers of reason, even after free discussion, will all arrive at the same conclusion. Some conflicting reasonable judgments (especially important are those belonging under people's comprehensive doctrines) may be true, others false; conceivably all may be false. These burdens of judgment of are the first significance for the democratic idea of toleration."[iv] Because there is no objective way to determine the truth or falsity of diverse beliefs, moral strangers can only get along by tolerating what each would regard as the other's errors.

Consequently, Rawls argues, "reasonable persons will think it unreasonable to use political power, should they possess it, to repress comprehensive views that are not unreasonable though different from their own." If, however, we insist that all members of a polity should adopt our beliefs because they are "true," then, "when we make such claims others, who are themselves reasonable, must count us unreasonable."[v] In such a case, members of the polity have the right to resist the imposition of views that they do not hold. Rawls concludes, "Once we accept the fact that reasonable pluralism is a permanent condition of public culture under free institutions, the idea of the reasonable is more suitable as part of the basis of public justification for a constitutional regime than the idea of moral truth."[vi]

Arguably, the kind of constitutional regime that is compatible with reasonable pluralism is one in which the powers that government can exercise over the choices of its citizens is limited. While certainly not endorsing it, the German political philosopher Jurgen Habermas describes the point of view of liberalism pretty well when he explains that the dispute between liberalism and radical democracy has "to do with how one can reconcile equality with liberty, unity with diversity, or the right of the majority with the right of the minority. Liberals begin with the legal institutionalization of equal liberties, conceiving these as rights held by individual subjects. In their view, human rights enjoy normative priority over democracy, and the constitutional separation of powers has priority over the will of the democratic legislature."[vii]

So the question is: Is transhumanism a reasonable comprehensive doctrine? Clearly, it fits Rawls' tripartite definition. Transhumanism deals with the major religious, philosophical, and moral aspects of human life in a coherent and consistent fashion. The transhumanist desire to deploy advanced technologies to increase healthy human life spans and to enhance human physical and intellectual capacities in order to foster excellence and human flourishing coherently addresses major religious and philosophical aspects of human life. Transhumanism recognizes certain values as significant, and by giving some primacy of some values over others expresses an intelligible view of the world.

Nick Bostrom outlines some transhumanist values including the core value of "promot[ing] the quest to develop further so that we can explore hitherto inaccessible realms of value."[viii] Beyond the limits that our current biology and level of technology impose on our physical, emotional, and intellectual capacities lay experiences and knowledge that can only be fully appreciated and understood by enhanced transhumans. Other values implicated in achieving the vision of an open-ended transhuman future, according to Bostrom, include encouraging sufficient global security, a strong advocacy for technological progress, and the opportunity that everyone have access to enhancement technologies.

Crucially, Bostrom adds that "transhumanists typically place emphasis on individual freedom and individual choice in the area of enhancement technologies. Humans differ widely in their conceptions of what their own perfection or improvement would consist in. Some want to develop in one direction, others in different directions, and some prefer to stay the way they are. It would ... be morally unacceptable for anybody to impose a single standard to which we would all have to conform. People should have the right to choose which enhancement technologies, if any, they want to use." This view is clearly consonant with Rawls' argument that in a liberal polity, reasonable persons will not use political power to repress comprehensive doctrines that are different from their own. A core transhumanist value is tolerance, and transhumanists clearly recognize that their fellow citizens adhere to other reasonable comprehensive doctrines.

And transhumanism certainly meets Rawls' third criterion for being a reasonable comprehensive doctrine since robust debate among its adherents shows that it is clearly not unchanging and is still evolving in light of what its adherents see as good and sufficient reasons

So if one accepts Rawls' arguments for how liberal societies must operate morally, transhumanism should be accommodated within the constitutional consensus of liberal democratic societies as a reasonable comprehensive doctrine.

But liberal concerns about majoritarian tyranny are far from being merely theoretical. Let's briefly consider some examples of how parts of what many of us would agree are "reasonable comprehensive doctrines" have been and are being repressed by democratic majorities.

For example, do we really want democratic majorities making and imposing ethical decisions about who people can marry; who can have children, and with whom they may enjoy sexual intimacy without the aim of bearing children? Consider the history of federal and state regulation in these areas. In 1800, abortion was legal in every state until the point of quickening in the womb. In the 1850's, the newly formed American Medical Association launched a campaign against abortion, in part, because abortion practitioners were competitors and, in part, because some feared that the Protestant majority was being outbred by Catholic immigrants. By 1910, abortion had been democratically criminalized in all but one state.

In 1873, Congress passed the Comstock Laws that outlawed "every obscene, lewd, or lascivious, and every filthy book, pamphlet, picture, paper, letter, writing, print, or other publication of an indecent character, and every article or thing designed, adapted, or intended for preventing conception or producing abortion."[ix] The Comstock Laws authorized the U.S. Post Office to confiscate any publications providing advice on contraception and condoms shipped through the mail.

The first eugenics law was passed in Indiana in 1907 and eventually laws allowing the forced sterilization of "unfit" people were adopted by 30 states. Infamously, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld forced sterilization in the case of Buck v. Bell in 1927. By the 1960s, some 66,000 Americans had been forcibly neutered. In 1924, Virginia passed the Racial Integrity Act that prohibited whites from marrying anyone with "a single drop of Negro blood." By the 1920s, democratically elected legislatures had made marriage between whites and blacks illegal in thirty-eight states.In the last half of the 20th century, the U.S. Supreme Court finally stepped in to overrule democratically legislated state interference in the reproductive decisions of Americans. In 1965, the Court found unconstitutional the Connecticut law prohibiting use of birth control by married couples in Griswold v. Connecticut. In 1967, the Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia that, "Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the state," striking down the laws in the 16 states that still banned interracial marriage. In 1972, the Court voided in the case of Eisenstadt v. Baird a Massachusetts law prohibiting the sale of contraceptives to unmarried people. And of course, the Supreme Court found prohibitions on abortion unconstitutional in 1973 in Roe v. Wade.

Interestingly, the U.S. Supreme Court has never comprehensively struck down forcible sterilization laws, although in 1942 it did overrule Oklahoma's Habitual Criminal Sterilization Act in the case of Skinner v. Oklahoma on the grounds that it violated the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause because it did not apply to white collar crimes like embezzlement. The point is probably moot for now since the last forcible sterilization in the United States reportedly took place in Oregon in 1981.[x] The point is that when all of these legal restrictions on human sexual and reproductive decisions were enacted, they presumably reflected and comported with the views of the majority of citizens. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that these laws were overturned on constitutional grounds of protecting minority rights.

We are still engaged in fighting majoritarian tyranny in the struggle to establish gay civil rights. In 1981, Congress overturned a District of Columbia ordinance that would have decriminalized sodomy. In 1986, the same year a Gallup poll found that more than half of Americans considered homosexuality a sin, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Georgia's anti-sodomy law in Bowers v. Hardwick. The Baptist minister Jerry Falwell crowed that the Supreme Court "has issued a clear statement that perverted moral behavior is not accepted practice in this country." It was not until 2003 that the Supreme Court finally overturned Texas' same-sex anti-sodomy law in the case of Lawrence v. Texas.

As of January 1, 2009, thirty states had democratically adopted constitutional amendments explicitly barring the recognition of same-sex marriage, confining civil marriage to a legal union between a man and a woman. More than 40 states explicitly restrict marriage to two persons of the opposite sex. In addition, Florida categorically prohibits gay parents from adopting, and Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah, and North Dakota do so as a matter of practice. In 2006, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, and Missouri were considering constitutional amendments or laws banning gay adoption. Arkansas, Nebraska, and Utah don't allow gay people to serve as foster parents.[xi]

The urge for democratically imposed restrictions on the use of reproductive technologies has not abated. Recall that the federal government imposed a moratorium in the 1970s on funding any research on in vitro fertilization techniques.[xii] In January, 1980, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), alarmed by the opening of the first IVF clinic in the United States, sent a letter to Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who was then chairman of a health and scientific research subcommittee, urging him to convene hearings on the grounds that "prudence and our commitment to public participation in decision-making suggest that the test tube baby laboratory not become fully operational until we have had the opportunity to consider the matter in open congressional hearings."[xiii] Nine states, including New York, currently prohibit gestational surrogacy.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton rejected the recommendations from the NIH's Human Embryo Research Panel and prohibited federal funding of the creation of human embryos solely for research purposes.[xiv] This ban did not apply to research on spare embryos or privately funded research. In addition, in the wake of the announcement that Scottish researchers had cloned a sheep in 1997, President Clinton announced an immediate moratorium on any human cloning research. In 1998, Clinton urged Congress to ban human cloning experiments for at least five years.[xv] Today 13 states ban reproductive human cloning, and six outlaw therapeutic cloning.[xvi] The House of Representatives twice passed a bill that would have criminalized somatic cell nuclear transfer research and which would have criminalized any American who went abroad to take advantage of therapies developed using that technique—the penalty would have been 10 years in prison and $1 million in fines.

As noted above, democratically imposed restrictions on using advanced biotechnological techniques are not confined to the United States. For example, Britain established the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in 1991 to regulate the use of embryos and gametes in infertility treatment and research. The HFEA has told couples that they could not select the sex of embryos to be implanted. Even now, parents wanting to use PGD to insure that their children will not be burdened with an inherited genetic disease must apply for permission from the HFEA. And the HFEA has banned paying women for providing eggs to be used in research. Crucially, the HFEA can regulate not just on the grounds of ensuring quality, safety, and efficacy, but also on ethical grounds.

Consider the case of the Whitaker family from Sheffield, England, to see just how perilous it is to allow a government agency to interfere in a family's reproductive decisions. In 2002, Michelle and Jayson Whitaker asked the HFEA for permission to use in vitro fertilization and PGD to produce a tissue-matched sibling for their son Charlie, who suffers from a rare anemia. That disease caused him to need a blood transfusion every three weeks. The HFEA refused, calling the procedure "unlawful and unethical," ruling that tissue matching is not a sufficient reason to attempt embryo selection.[xvii] Desperate, the Whitakers came to the United States, where PGD is still legal. In June 2003, Michelle Whitaker gave birth to James, whose umbilical cord stem cells are immunologically compatible with Charlie's. The stem cells were transplanted and, six years later, both boys are reported to be healthy. Please keep in mind that taking stem cells from James' umbilicus in no way endangered or harmed him.

Again, in this case, the HFEA's refusal was not based on safety or efficacy, but on the moral opinions of the Authority's governing panel. Such a regulatory authority necessarily turns differences over morality into win/lose propositions, with minority views—and rights—overridden by the majority.

Fortunately, Americans are allowed to use PGD to select "savior siblings" like James Whitaker and also to enable their progeny to avoid the risks of genetic diseases. For example, consider the 2002 case of a married 30-year-old geneticist who will almost certainly lose her mind to early-onset Alzheimer's disease by age 40 and who chose to have her embryos tested in vitro for the disease gene.[xviii] She then implanted only embryos without the gene into her womb. The result was the birth of a healthy baby girl—one who will not suffer Alzheimer's in her 40s. The mother in this case certainly knows what would face any child of hers born with the disease gene. Her father, a sister, and a brother have all already succumbed to early Alzheimer's.

Bioethicist Jeffrey Kahn objected to using PGD in this case arguing, "It's a social decision. This really speaks to the need for a larger policy discussion, and regulation or some kind of oversight of assisted reproduction."[xix] Kahn is right that parents will someday use PGD to screen embryos for desirable traits such as tougher immune systems, stronger bodies, and smarter brains. It is hard to see what is ethically wrong with parents taking advantage of such testing, since it is aimed at conferring general benefits that any child would want to have (see below for more on the issue of consent).

Kahn is wrong when he claims that the decision to use PGD by prospective parents is a "social decision" requiring more regulation. First of all, in the capacious sense implied by Kahn, any parent's decision to have a child, even by conventional means, has "social consequences" for us all. So would Kahn have neighbors, regulators, and bioethicists weigh in on everybody's reproductive decisions? Kahn would doubtless counter that, unlike conventional reproduction, assisted reproduction involves the use of scarce medical resources that could be used for other purposes (which they prefer).

Again, Kahn's notion of "social" could apply to anything—what if Kahn disapproved of someone buying non-union clothing or vacationing in the Caribbean rather than devoting his resources to building public parks or highways? In this case, the parents using assisted reproduction and PGD are spending their own money for the benefit of their own children to work with doctors who are freely devoting their skills.

Another often-heard objection is that genetic engineering will be imposed on "children-to-be" without their consent. First, I need to remind everyone reading this article that not one of you gave your consent to be born, much less to be born with the specific complement of genes that you bear. Thus, the children born by means of assisted reproductive therapies and those produced more conventionally stand in exactly the same ethical relationship to their parents. Habermas disagrees, claiming, "Eugenic interventions aiming at enhancement reduce ethical freedom insofar as they tie down the person concerned to rejected, but irreversible intentions of third parties, barring him from the spontaneous self-perception of being the undivided author of his own life."[xx] However, Allen Buchanan correctly points out that Habermas does not actually make clear why a person who develops from a genetically enhanced embryo should feel that they are not the "author" of her life or be regarded as being somehow less free by others. Habermas "is assuming that how one's genome was selected is relevant to one's moral status as a person. This error is no less fundamental than thinking that a person's pedigree—for example, whether she is of noble blood or ‘base-born'—determines her moral status," explains Buchanan.[xxi]

Another frequently heard assertion from opponents of enhancement technologies is that a genetically engineered child somehow feel less loved and appreciated than one who was born in the conventional way. Similar fears were expressed by many bioethicists when in vitro fertilization began to be used in the 1970s and 1980s. The good news is that recent research finds that IVF children and their parents are as well-adjusted as those born in the conventional way.[xxii] And this should be the case for enhanced children as well. As Frances Kamm argues, "Not accepting whatever characteristics nature will bring but altering them ex-ante does not show lack of love... This is because no conscious being yet exists who has to work hard to achieve new traits or suffer fears of rejection at the idea they should be changed. Importantly, it is rational and acceptable to seek good characteristics in a new person, even though we know when the child comes to be and we love him or her, many of these characteristics may come and go and we will continue to love the particular person."[xxiii]

The absurdity of a requirement for prenatal consent becomes transparent when you ask proponents of such a requirement if they would forbid fetal surgery to correct spina bifida or fetal heart defects? After all, those fetuses can't give their consent to those procedures, yet it is certainly the moral thing to do. For that matter, taking this strong position on consent to its logically extreme conclusion would mean that children couldn't be treated with drugs, or receive vaccinations. So using future biotechnical means to correct genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia at the embryonic stage will similarly be morally laudatory activity. Surely one can assume that the beneficiary—the not-yet-born, possibly even the not-yet-conceived child—would happily have chosen to have those diseases corrected.

But what about enhancements, not just therapeutic biotechnical interventions? Let's say a parent could choose genes that would guarantee her child a 20 point IQ boost. It is reasonable to presume that the child would be happy to consent to this enhancement of her capacities. How about plugging in genes that would boost her immune system and guarantee that she would never get colon cancer, Alzheimer's, AIDS, or the common cold? Again, it seems reasonable to assume consent. These enhancements are general capacities that any human being would reasonably want to have. In fact, lots of children already do have these capacities naturally, so it's hard to see that there is any moral justification for outlawing access to them for others.

Fritz Allhoff has grappled nicely with the issue of consent. Allhoff offers a principle derived from the second formulation of Kant's categorical imperative[xxiv] that we treat individuals as ends and never merely as means or, more simply, to treat them in ways to which they would rationally consent.[xxv] Allhoff turns next to philosopher John Rawls' notion of primary goods. In A Theory of Justice Rawls defines primary goods as those goods that every rational person should value, regardless of his conception of the good. These goods include rights, liberties, opportunities, health, intelligence, and imagination.[xxvi] As Allhoff argues, "These are the things that, ex hypothesi, everyone should want; it would be irrational to turn them down when offered. Nobody could be better off with less health or with fewer talents, for example, regardless of her life goals.... Since primary goods are those that, by definition, any rational agent would want regardless of his conception of the good, all rational agents would consent to augmentation of their primary goods."

Allhoff then contends that such enhancements would be permissible if every future generation would consent to them. But the requirement that all future generations must consent adds nothing to the moral force of Allhoff's arguments since already all rational agents would consent to such enhancements. So again, safe genetic interventions that improve a prospective child's health, cognition, and so forth would be morally permissible because we can presume consent from the individuals who benefit from the enhancements.

Many opponents of human genetic engineering are either conscious or unconscious genetic determinists. They fear that biotechnological knowledge and practice will somehow undermine human freedom. In a sense, these genetic determinists believe that somehow human freedom resides in the gaps of our knowledge of our genetic makeup. If parents are allowed to choose their children's genes, then they will have damaged their children's autonomy and freedom. According to environmentalist Bill McKibben, "The person left without any choice at all [emphasis his] is the one you've engineered. You've decided, for once and for all, certain things about him: he'll have genes expressing proteins that send extra dopamine to alter his mood; he'll have genes expressing proteins to boost his memory; to shape his stature."[xxvii] People like McKibben apparently believe that our freedom and autonomy somehow depend on the unknown and random combinations of genes that a person inherits. But even if they were right—and they are not—genetic ignorance of this type will not last.

Advances in human whole genome testing will likely become available by 2014 so that every person's entire complement of genes can be scanned and known at his or her physician's office for as little as $1,000.[xxviii] Once whole genome testing is perfected we will all learn what even our randomly conferred genes may predispose us to do and from what future ills we are likely suffer. Already, my relatively inexpensive genotype scan from 23andMe tells me that I have alleles that give me a somewhat greater risk of developing celiac disease, a lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis, as well as having a higher sensitivity to warfarin, among other traits. With accumulation of genetic understanding, human freedom will then properly be seen as acting to overcome these predispositions, much like a former alcoholic can overcome his thirst for booze. Fortunately, biotech will help here as well as with the development of neuropharmaceuticals to enhance our cognitive abilities and change our moods.

Opponents of using biotechnical means to enhance humans often cite C.S. Lewis' worry: "If any one age really attains, by eugenics and scientific education, the power to make its descendants what it pleases, all men who live after it are the patients of that power. They are weaker, not stronger: for though we may have put wonderful machines in their hands we have pre-ordained how they are to use them."[xxix] In other words, Lewis asserts that the one decisive generation that first masters genetic technologies will control the fate of all future generations.

But when has it not been true that past generations control the genetic fate of future generations? Our ancestors—through their mating and breeding choices—determined for us the complement of genes that we all bear today. They just didn't know which specific genes they were picking. Fortunately, our descendants will have at their disposal ever more powerful technologies and the benefit of our own experiences to guide them in their future reproductive and enhancement decisions. In no sense are they prisoners of our decisions now. Of course, there is one case in which future generations would be prisoners of our decisions now, and that's if we fearfully elect to deny them access to the benefits of biotechnology and safe genetic engineering. The future will not be populated by robots who may look human but who are unable to choose for themselves their own destinies—genetic or otherwise.

Other opponents of human genetic enhancement argue that it is not possible to ethically get from the human present to the transhuman future. Again, consent and the risks inherent in deploying novel biogenetic treatments are cited as reasons.[xxx] The assertion is that genetic enhancement necessarily implies experimentation without consent and this violates bedrock bioethical principles requiring the protection of human subjects. Consequently, there is an unbridgeable gap over which would-be enhancers cannot ethically cross.

This view incorporates a rather static view of what it will be possible for future genetic enhancers to know and test beforehand. Any genetic enhancement technique will first be extensively tested and perfected in animal models. Second, a vastly expanded bioinformatics enterprise will become crucial to understanding the ramifications of proposed genetic interventions.[xxxi] As scientific understanding improves, the risk versus benefit calculations of various prospective genetic enhancements of embryos will shift. The arc of scientific discovery and technological progress strongly suggests that it will happen in the next few decades. One possible threshold for morally acceptable genetic enhancement treatments is the current level of risk involved with current in vitro fertilization techniques.[xxxii]

Defenders of democratically restricting human enhancements often argue that human equality will fall victim to differential access to enhancement technologies, resulting is conflicts between the enhanced and the unenhanced. As bioethicists George Annas, Lori Andrews, and Rosario Isasi laid out in a rather apocalyptic scenario:

"The new species, or 'posthuman,' will likely view the old 'normal' humans as inferior, even savages, and fit for slavery or slaughter. The normals, on the other hand, may see the posthumans as a threat and if they can, may engage in a preemptive strike by killing the posthumans before they themselves are killed or enslaved by them. It is ultimately this predictable potential for genocide that makes species-altering experiments potential weapons of mass destruction, and makes the unaccountable genetic engineer a potential bioterrorist."[xxxiii]

Let's take their over-the-top scenario down a notch or two. The enhancements that are likely to be available in the relatively near term to people now living will be pharmacological—pills and shots to increase strength, lighten moods, and improve memory. Consequently, such interventions could be distributed to nearly everybody who wanted them. Later in this century, when safe genetic engineering becomes possible, it will likely be deployed gradually and will enable parents to give their children beneficial genes for improved health and intelligence that other children already get naturally. Thus, the argument can be made that safe genetic engineering in the long run is more likely to ameliorate than to exacerbate human inequality.

In any case, political and moral equality has never rested on the facts of human biology. In prior centuries, when humans were all "naturals," tyranny, aristrocracy, slavery, and purdah were common social and political arrangements. Our biology did not change in the past two centuries, our political ideals did. In fact, political liberalism is already the answer to questions about human and posthuman rights. In liberal societies the law is meant to apply equally to all, no matter how rich or poor, powerful or powerless, brilliant or stupid, enhanced or unenhanced.

One crowning achievement of the Enlightenment is the principle of tolerance, of putting up with people who look differently, talk differently, worship differently, and live differently than we do, or in Rawlsian terms, tolerating those who pursue differing reasonable comprehensive doctrines. In the future, our descendants may not all be natural homo sapiens, but they will still be moral beings who can be held accountable for their actions. There is no a priori reason to think that the same liberal political and moral principles that apply to diverse human beings today wouldn't apply to relations among future humans and transhumans.[xxxiv]

But what if enhanced posthumans did take the Nietzschean superman option? What if they really did see unenhanced people "as inferior, even savages, and fit for slavery or slaughter"?
It is an unfortunate historical fact that plenty of unenhanced humans have been quite capable of believing that millions of their fellow unenhanced humans were inferiors who needed to be eradicated.[xxxv] However, as liberal political institutions, with their limits on the power of the state, have spread and strengthened, they have increasingly restrained technologically superior groups from automatically wiping out less advanced peoples (which was usual throughout most of history). There is no a priori reason to believe that this dynamic will not continue in the future as biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, and computational technologies progressively increase people's capabilities and widen their choices.

Opponents of human enhancement focus on the alleged social harms that might result, while overlooking the huge social costs that foregoing the benefits of enhancement technologies would entail. Allen Buchanan posits "that some enhancements will increase human productivity very broadly conceived and thereby create the potential for large-scale increases in human well-being, and that the enhancements that are most likely to attract sufficient resources to become widespread will be those that promise increased productivity and will often exhibit what economists call network effects; the benefit to the individual of being enhanced will depend upon, or at least be greatly augmented by others having the enhancement as well."[xxxvi]

Buchanan points out that much of the ethical debate (cited above) about enhancements focuses on them as positional goods that primarily help an individual to outcompete his rivals. This characterization of enhancements leads quickly and ineluctably to pervasive zero sum thinking in which for every winner there is assumed to be a loser. Instead enhancements could produce substantial positive externalities. "Large numbers of individuals with increased cognitive capabilities will be able to accomplish what a single individual could not, just as one can do much more with a personal computer in a world of many computer users," writes Buchanan.[xxxvii]

Buchanan argues that modern people have already adopted a wide array of enhancements that display these beneficial network effects, including literacy, numeracy, and social institutions that "extend our abilities beyond what is natural for human beings."[xxxviii] Some future biomedical enhancements that would significantly increase both individual and social productivity include those that raise the cognitive capabilities of human beings (memory, attention, and processing speed), increase healthy life spans, and boost our immune systems. Indeed, economist William Nordhaus reports that the huge increase in average life expectancy since 1900 from 47 years to 77 years today has been responsible for about half the increase in our standard of living in the United States.[xxxix]

More disturbingly, Buchanan notes that if biotech enhancements do, in fact, dramatically increase social productivity, then the state and its citizens might be far less interested in imposing limits on enhancements and instead shift to promoting them for everyone. The analogy is that biotech enhancements might be treated like other productivity-boosting enhancements like education and immunization. "If a particular enhancement had very strong productivity-enhancing effects, the failure of the state to ensure that no one lacks access to it might be as culpable as its failure to ensure that all citizens are literate or have access to immunization," suggests Buchanan.[xl] The temptation for democratically imposing enhancements would be hard to resist and would result in imposing a particular vision of human flourishing on those who do not want them.

People should not be forced to use medicines and technologies that they find morally objectionable. Take the case of the Amish. Amish individuals live in an open society—ours—and can opt out of our society or theirs whenever they want. As followers of a reasonable comprehensive doctrine, they have a system for voluntarily deciding among themselves what new technologies they will embrace. The situation of the Amish demonstrates that technological choices don't have to involve everyone in a given society. (Although Amish practicality has caused them to embrace modern medicine when comes to treating genetic maladies that plague their community.[xli])

Eventually, one can imagine that in the future different treatment and enhancement regimens will be available to accommodate the different values and beliefs held by citizens. Christian Scientists would perhaps reject most of modern biotechnology outright; Jehovah's Witnesses might remain leery of treatments that they interpret to being akin to using blood products or blood transfusions; Roman Catholics might refuse to use regenerative treatments derived from human embryonic stem cells; and still others will wish to take the fullest advantage of all biomedical enhancements and treatments. In this way, a pluralistic society respects the reasonable comprehensive doctrines of their fellow citizens and enables social peace among moral strangers.

Julian Savulescu is right when he reminds us, "The Nazis sought to interfere directly in people's reproductive decisions (by forcing them to be sterilized) to promote social ideals, particularly around racial superiority. Not offering selection for nondisease genes would indirectly interfere (by denying choice) to promote social ideals such as equality or 'population welfare.' There is no relevant difference between direct and indirect eugenics. The lesson we learned from eugenics is that society should be loath to interfere (directly and indirectly) in reproductive decisionmaking."[xlii]

To the extent that new biotechnologies need regulation, agencies should be limited to deciding, as they have traditionally done, only questions about safety and efficacy. Regulatory agencies also have an important role in protecting research subjects and patients from force and fraud by imposing informed consent requirements on researchers. But when people of good will deeply disagree on moral issues that don't involve the prevention of force or fraud, it is a fraught exercise to submit their disagreement to a panel of political appointees or a democratic vote. That way leads to intolerance, repression, and social conflict.

The genius of a liberal society is that its citizens have wide scope to pursue their own visions of the good, including transhumanism, without excessive hindrance by their fellow citizens.

Ronald Bailey is Reason magazine's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

Note of gratitude: I would like to thank Professor Hava Tirosh-Samuelson and the Center for inviting me to participate in the workshop. In addition, I want to thank the workshop co-sponsors for their support including the Templeton Foundation, the Metanexus Institute, and the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict.


[i] James Hughes, Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond To The Redesigned Human Of The Future, Westview Press, 2004.
[ii] James Madison, Federalist 51, http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa51.htm
[iii] Alexis de Tocqueville, "Tyranny of the Majority," Chapter XV, Book 1, Democracy in America.
[iv] John Rawls, Political Liberalism, Columbia University Press, 1996, p. 58.
[v] Rawls, pp. 60-61.
[vi] Rawls, p. 129.
[vii] Jurgen Habermas, "Popular Sovereignty as Procedure," Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics, edited by James Bohman & William Regh, MIT Press, 1997, p. 44.
[viii] Nick Bostrom, "Transhumanist Values," World Transhumanist Association, 2005. http://www.transhumanism.org/index.php/WTA/more/transhumanist-values/
[ix] Mary Alden Hopkins, "Birth Control and Public Morals: An Interview with Anthony Comstock, Harper's Weekly, May 22, 1915, http://www.expo98.msu.edu/people/comstock.htm
[x] Julie Sullivan, "State will admit sterilization past", Portland Oregonian (November 15, 2002)
[xi] Dahlia Lithwick, Why Courts are Adopting Gay Parenting," Washington Post, March 12, 2006; Page B02, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/10/AR2006031002031.html
[xii] Victor Cohn, "HEW Urged to Support Test-Tube Fertilization," Washington Post, August 5, 1978, p. A8
[xiii] Cited in the Associated Press, "Kennedy Urged to Convene Congressional Hearings," January 15, 1980.
[xiv] John Schwartz & Ann Devroy, "Clinton to Ban U.S. Funds For Some Embryo Studies." Washington Post, December 3, 1994, p. A1
[xv] BBC News, "Clinton Calls for Human Cloning Ban," Jan. 10, 1998, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/46335.stm
[xvi] State Human Cloning Laws, National Conference of State Legislatures, updated January, 2008, http://www.ncsl.org/programs/health/Genetics/rt-shcl.htm
[xvii] Susan Kerr Bernal, "Ethical Offspring," Journal of Andrology, Vol. 25, No. 5, September/October 2004, p. 668.
[xviii] Yury Verlinsky et al., "Preimplantation Diagnosis for Early-Onset Alzheimer Disease Caused by V717L Mutation," Journal of the American Medical Association, February 27, 2002. http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/287/8/1018
[xix] Rick Weiss, "Alzheimer's Gene Screened From Newborn," Washington Post, Feb. 27, 2002. http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A7756-2002Feb26?language=printer
[xx] Jurgen Habermas, The Future of Human Nature, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 63.
[xxi] Allen Buchanan, "Enhancement and the Ethics of Development," Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1, March, 2008. (draft) p. 25. http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/petrie-flom/PDFs/Buchanan.pdf
[xxii] H. Colpin and G. Bossaert, "Adolescents conceived by IVF: parenting and psychosocial adjustment," Human Reproduction, August 27, 2008. http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/23/12/2724
[xxiii] Frances Kamm, What Is and Is Not Wrong with Enhancements," Human Enhancement, edited by Nick Bostrom & Julian Savulescu, Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 113.
[xxiv] Immanuel Kant, translated by Herbert James Paton, Moral Law: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Routledge, 1991. p. 66.
[xxv] Fritz Allhoff, "Germ-Line Genetic Enhancement and Rawlsian Primary Goods," Journal of Evolution and Technology, Vol. 18 Issue 1, May 2008, pgs 10-26, http://jetpress.org/v18/allhoff.htm
[xxvi] Rawls, John. 1999. A Theory of Justice. Rev. ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 54-55.
[xxvii] Enough, p. 191.
[xxviii] National Cancer Institute, "Nanopore Sequencing Could Slash DNA Analysis Costs," March, 2009, http://nano.cancer.gov/news_center/2009/march/nanotech_news_2009-03-25g.asp
[xxix] C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, HarperCollins, 2001, p. 17.
[xxx] Paul R Billings; Ruth Hubbard; Stuart A. Newman, "Human germline gene modification: a dissent," The Lancet, May 29th, 1999, p. 1873 http://www.geneticsandsociety.org/article.php?id=175
[xxxi] National Resource for Cell Analysis and Modeling, The Virtual Cell, http://www.nrcam.uchc.edu/news/shortcourse_09.html
[xxxii] Darine El-Chaar et al., "Risk of birth defects increased in pregnancies conceived by assisted human reproduction," Fertility and Sterility, October 29, 2008 http://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282%2808%2903574-7/abstract
[xxxiii] George Annas et al., "Protecting the Endangered Human: Toward an International Treaty Prohibiting Cloning and Inheritable Alterations," American Journal of Law and Medicine, Vol. 28, Number 2&3, 2002 p. 162
[xxxiv] James Wilson, "Transhumanism and Moral Equality," Bioethics, Vol. 21, No. 8, pp. 419-425.
[xxxv] R.J. Rummel, Death by Government, Transactions Publishers, 1994.
[xxxvi] Allen Buchanan, "Enhancement and the Ethics of Development," Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1, March, 2008. (draft) p. 2. http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/petrie-flom/PDFs/Buchanan.pdf
[xxxvii] Buchanan, p.11
[xxxviii] Buchanan, p. 7
[xxxix] Nordhaus, William, "The Health of Nations: The Contribution of Improved Health to Living Standards," in Kevin Murphy and Robert Topel, eds., The Economic Value of Medical Research, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2002.
[xl] Buchanan. P.14.
[xli] Francis Clines, "Research Clinic Opens in Ohio for Genetic Maladies that Haunt Amish Families," New York Times, June 20, 2002, http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/20/us/research-clinic-opens-in-ohio-for-genetic-maladies-that-haunt-amish-families.html?sec=health&&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&pagewanted=all
[xlii] Savulescu, Julian.,"In Defense of Selection for Nondisease Genes. The American Journal of Bioethics - Volume 1, Number 1, Winter 2001, pp. 16-19

Why GOP Lost NY Special Election for Congress

Why GOP Lost NY Special Election for Congress. By Roger Stone
Newsmax, Sunday, April 26, 2009 11:38 PM

On paper at least, retaking the Congressional seat in New York should have been a chip shot for the GOP. The last Republican, Congressman John Sweeney, only lost the seat when his opponent Kirsten Gillibrand obtained confidential New York State Police documents and used them to smear Sweeney. It was widely thought that New York Governor George Pataki had slipped Gillibrand the documents when Pataki and Sweeney fell out over intra-party matters with Sweeney objecting to Pataki’s shift to the left.

In fact, the geography of the district was specially drawn for Sweeney and the Republicans by powerful State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, an ally of Sweeney, in the last Congressional redistricting. The District includes the tony suburbs of Albany but only skirts the city before stretching all the way through central New York to the tip of the Mid-Hudson Valley.

With the 75,000-Republican voter registration edge, it would seem that the Republicans would easily reclaim this seat when it was vacated. But recent elections show that the district was carried by Obama, Schumer and Clinton. Polling showed both President Obama and his pork laden stimulus bill to be popular in the District.

When Governor Paterson appointed Congresswoman Gillibrand to the Senate vacancy caused by Hillary Clinton’s resignation to become Secretary of State, the governor called a snap special election. Republicans nominated a potentially strong candidate in Jim Tedisco, a solid conservative who served as Minority Leader of the State Assembly and thus was fairly known in the suburban Albany part of the district.

Tedisco’s nomination over former Assemblyman John Faso, who was the Republican candidate for Governor in 2006, and State Senator Betty Little was engineered by GOP State chief Joe Mondello, although Tedisco lived just outside the District.

Tedisco, a local college basketball star, has been a consistent critic of New York’s runaway spending and borrowing and had dogged political style as the only conservative in state leadership. It was Tedisco who led the opposition to Governor Eliot Spitzer’s naïve plan to give driver’s licenses – government issued picture IDs – to illegal immigrants.

The Democrats nominated Scott Murphy, a Democratic fundraiser for Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, who had made modest millions on Wall Street and spent time in Indiana working for that state’s democratic governor. Murphy is tall and telegenic. More importantly, the businessman had a long business track record but little record on tax or spending issues.

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele declared the race a “top priority” but in the end contributed only $300,000 to the effort. For the first time, Democrats outraised Republicans for a special congressional election with Murphy raising almost $1 million more than Tedisco. While pro-Tedisco groups spent $2.1 Million, pro-Murphy groups spent only $1.2- making spending by both sides roughly equal.

Murphy’s fundraising juggernaut was assisted by former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, Governor David Paterson, Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand and Speaker Nancy Pelosi and top operatives from the Democratic congressional campaign committee. These leading democrats picked up the phone to high dollar donors, collecting $1 million more than the Republicans.

The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee weighed into the race with harsh negative ads blasting Murphy for being partners in a company which had outsourced some jobs to India. Despite heavy spending by the NRCC, there is little evidence that voters cared or held it against Murphy.

Tedisco stumbled when he attempted to finesse a question about whether he would have voted for or against President Obama’s stimulus bill. When the Minority Leader refused to take a position, Murphy effectively blasted him as a “waffler” while Republicans refused to rally to Tedisco’s side. A poll thirty days before the election showed that eight out of ten Democrats were supporting Murphy while only 6 out of 10 Republicans were supporting Tedisco. It also showed independents and moderate Republicans drifting to Murphy because they saw Tedisco as a “waffling politician.”

Murphy surged ahead in the race and probably would have won comfortably but for public outrage over the AIG bailout package which Murphy had said on his campaign website he would have voted for. Tedisco went on the attack. The National Republican Trust, an independent political action committee, began airing a TV commercial picking up Tedisco’s attack on Murphy over the AIG issue. Helping their cause was the fact that Murphy himself had paid fat bonuses to employees at of one of his failing companies at shareholders’ expense.

At that moment, the National Republican Congressional Committee began airing television commercials attacking Murphy for opposing the death penalty for terrorists, based on a radio interview Murphy had done on influential New York Post political reporter Fred Dicker’s radio show. While a vast majority of voters favor the death penalty for terrorists, the ad seemed like Bush – Cheney type deflection away from the economic issues which made terrorism irrelevant, but the mixed messages confused voters at a time that overnight polling showed Tedisco on the rebound and closing fast.

Murphy had the support of the New York State Working Families Party, which is essentially a front sponsored by big labor to provide money and manpower to liberal and leftist candidates they support. The State Chairman of the WFP sits on the board of ACORN, the notorious community voter organization that has been connected to voter fraud and other illegal Election Day high jinks in numerous states in 2008. The Working Families Party isn’t about working, has nothing to do with families and isn’t really a party. The Murphy campaign coordinated carefully with the WFP to conduct an aggressive door-to-door canvass to identify Murphy supporters.

Murphy, noting Gillibrand’s 100% National Rifle Association voting record, quietly mailed any voter with a gun permit or hunting license a last minute letter reaffirming his support for Second Amendment rights. Of course, the mail piece was mailed to arrive the day before the election, too late for Murphy’s more liberal supporters to learn about it and take offense. Tedisco made no effort in the District’s large and influential gun-owning community.

Union money poured into the District and the Tedisco campaign would have been outspent almost two to one on Albany television but for the efforts of the National Republican Trust which spent toe to toe with Murphy and pounded the Wall Street millionaire on the AIG bailout issue.

Election Day came and provided a photo finish. The lead seesawed between Tedisco and Murphy first for days, then for weeks. When Murphy picked up additional votes in the recounts of Greene and Columbia County, everyone waited with bated breath for the Republican stronghold of Saratoga County to report its final totals. Although Tedisco won Saratoga 58-42, the final tally put him 477 votes behind and the veteran pol threw in the towel and conceded.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for the loss of a seat with this kind of Republican voter registration advantage. With the Republican National Committee under Michael Steele and the National Republican Congressional Committee now essentially under the control of one Republican political consultant, their joint effort must be panned as a failure. Their harsh negative ads against Murphy for creating jobs in India and opposing the death penalty for terrorists had little impact on Murphy’s rise when the voters principal focus was on the economy and the need for jobs.

Who advised Tedisco not to slam the Obama stimulus bill remains a mystery. Whether that was the advice of national party operatives looking at polls showing Obama popular in the District or whether the veteran conservative lawmaker decided to hedge on his own isn’t known but the misstep on so fundamental an issue hurt him badly.

Likewise, credit must be given to Tedisco for grabbing the AIG issue and rebounding to an essential tie; if the election had been held ten days earlier he might have lost by as much as four points. Nor can Tedisco be blamed for a half-hearted effort. He campaigned hard and effectively.

Sadly, Tedisco’s loss is just part of a larger story about the large decline of the New York State Republican Party. Under Governor George Pataki, the Party lost crucial county executive races on Long Island and in the New York suburbs as Republican registration edges in upstate New York consistently shrank with the decline of the population.

Today, the New York GOP, which produced two time presidential nominee Governor Thomas E. Dewey, Republican presidential contender and Vice President Governor Nelson Rockefeller, and three term Republican Governor George Pataki, holds no statewide offices and, other than former Mayor Rudy Giuliani who’s run is unlikely, has no strong potential candidate for governor.

Jim Tedisco’s loss in the 20th District is just another step in the decline of the once-mighty New York Republican Party.

The US Should Cut Military Spending in Half

The US Should Cut Military Spending in Half, by Benjamin H. Friedman
The Christian Science Monitor, April 27, 2009

Hawks depicted the cuts that Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently proposed for the Pentagon's weapons programs as a savage assault on the military industrial complex. They insisted that Secretary Gates would leave us prostrate before future rivals.

Counterinsurgency enthusiasts, meanwhile cheered Mr. Gates's willingness to swap high-tech platforms for capabilities suited to the unconventional conflicts we are fighting.

The truth is that the Gates proposal is both too cautious and inadequate. After all, Gates isn't cutting non-war-related military spending; he's raising it slightly, to a whopping $534 billion.

If he has his druthers, the next military budget will look much like this one: It will still serve excessive objectives. We will still defend allies that can defend themselves, fight in other people's civil wars in a vain effort to "fix" their states, and burn tax dollars to serve the hubristic notion that US military hegemony is what keeps the world safe.

To really keep us safe, we should slash defense spending. Americans should prepare for fewer wars, not different ones. Far from providing our defense, our military posture endangers us. It drags us into others' conflicts, provokes animosity, and wastes resources. We need a defense budget worthy of the name. We need military restraint. And that would allow us to cut defense spending roughly in half.

Two points demonstrate how unambitious the Gates proposal is.

First, he would just replace most canceled programs. Gates suggested ending production of the Air Force's premier fighter, the F-22. But he wants to accelerate the Joint Strike Fighter program and to buy more F-18s. He would delay the Navy's procurement of cruisers and its next carrier, but only slightly. He would end the Navy's DDG-1000 destroyer program, but buy more of the Navy's older Arleigh Burke class destroyer, and keep buying the Navy's littoral combat ship.

He proposes breaking up the Army's modernization program, the Future Combat Systems, and canceling some of the vehicles – but they will be replaced with others. All told, spending on a national missile defense program would be cut by only about 15 percent.

Second, the military's size will barely budge under this plan. Yes, the Army would grow to only 45 brigade combat teams rather than 48, as was planned. But the people who were to fill out the 48 would be stuffed into 45 – the units will have higher readiness. The Navy is likely to shrink to 10 carrier battle groups instead of 11, but the decline will take decades. The Air Force will shrink only slightly. Gates wants to halt personnel reductions in the Air Force and Navy and continue to expand the Army and Marines by 90,000 servicemen.

To understand why that is conservative, consider how much we spend on defense relative to both our purported rivals and our past. Our defense budget is almost half the world's, even leaving out nuclear weapons, the wars, veterans, and homeland security. It is also more than we spent at any point during the cold war. When that struggle ended, we simply gave back the Reagan buildup and kept spending at average cold war levels. Then we began another buildup in 1998 that nearly doubled nonwar defense spending.

There are no enemies to justify such spending. Invasion and civil war are unthinkable here. North Korea, Syria, and Iran trouble their citizens and neighbors, but with small economies, shoddy militaries, and a desire to survive, they pose little threat to us. Their combined military spending is one-sixtieth of ours.

Russia and China are incapable of territorial expansion that should pose any worry, unless we put our troops on their borders. China's defense spending is less than one-fifth of ours. We spend more researching and developing new weapons than Russia spends on its military. And with an economy larger than ours, the European Union can protect itself. Our biggest security problem, terrorism, is chiefly an intelligence problem arising from a Muslim civil war. Our military has little to do with it.

We should embrace this geopolitical fortune, not look for trouble. If we decided to avoid Iraq-style occupations and fight only to defend ourselves or important allies, we could cut our ground forces in half.

If we admitted that we are not going to fight a war with China anytime soon, we could retire chunks of the Air Force and Navy that are justified by that mission. Even with a far smaller defense budget, ours will remain the world's most powerful military by a large margin. The recently enacted GI Bill, which gives veterans a subsidized or free college education, offers a vehicle for transitioning military personnel into the civilian economy.

Of course, powerful interests benefit from heavy defense spending, and cutting the military budget would be a tough sell. Both political parties believe that American primacy is the route to safety. But they're wrong.

A more restrained approach to defense is what would make us safer.