Democrats & Liberals Archives

Cord Blood and Alternative Energy

Recently I tripped over two articles in the NY Times science section that caught my attention, one related to the use of umbilical cord blood to save lives, the other discussed the prospects for an enduring alternative energy market. The compelling truth underlying both of these desirable developments is that some resources in our national government should be devoted to supporting them. Before the undying cry of “markets want to be free” rings out once more please read on before you comment.

I am not talking about the huge kinds of subsidies devoted to keeping the flow of oil traveling around the world. I am not talking about the massive doses of research money spent by our government developing and testing drugs so that they can be sold by major drug companies. I am talking about the development of standards and the support for regulations that will allow both of these disparate technical areas to develop and even flourish. The difference between the philosophy of government used to create the huge, generally shared prosperity of the 1950’s and 1960’s and the corporate elitist prosperity of the 1990’s and the new century is visible in the development paths of these new technologies.

In the early days of our giant drug companies, when antibiotics were still new technologies, and the interest in germs was focused on building new ways to kill them and not us, the government had a major but limited role. It developed methods for standardizing doses among other things that it contributed to the development of those new technological marvels. Our unprecedented long lives and healthy population based on those and other government supported technologies contributed greatly to the prosperity of the ‘50s and ‘60s. In those days government regulation was not viewed as an intruder in healthy markets. In fact it was accepted as vital for creating the standards and systems of measurement that assured consumers that the new systems of treatment were efficacious. The research dollars provided were also as welcome as they are today but their benefits were focused on what they did for our consumers. They had not yet become welfare payments for the benefit of corporations that developed the new technologies into commercial products.

Because of the fact that umbilical cords and the placenta that they are attached to contain large quantities of blood including stem cells useful for many purposes they are sometimes used to save lives. The blood supply from those often wasted resources, is useful, and could become far more useful at little cost to our nation. Because of the difficulty related to our new-found distrust of government regulation and support for new technologies progress is slow in this promising area of medical technology. Our major political parties are too busy racing to see who can spend the most money on advertising to pay attention to this wasted national resource.

In regard to alternative energy production and use, our government abandoned any real support for systems that could replace our insane dependence on imported fuels after the Carter Administration. We had already forgotten how painful the days of the early 1970’s were. We blamed Carter for the devastating inflation caused by oil price increases and the Vietnam War, neither of which he had any control over. Today the simple introduction of a, “lifetime cost per unit of energy produced analysis model”, defined by the government, could really eventually help alternatives flourish. It is clear that we are somewhere on the top of the bell shaped curve that tracks recoverable oil resources in the world. We are also on the top of the natural gas bell curve for gas produced domestically. Those two facts dictate our future vulnerability to market conditions that to say the least are not encouraging. They are particularly not encouraging to people who like the idea of creating the maximum amount of prosperity for every human on the planet as a means of promoting international peace.

Government is a human tool for creating cooperative action, so are corporations. The power of the corporate world is transcendent and government power is on the wane except in our personal lives. There the apostles of limited governmental control of corporate entities find the police powers of massive government over human individuals too seductive to be resisted. Thus we have an Attorney General who seeks far greater police powers over the individual. This continues while his counterpart in enforcing regulations that keep our air and water clean and safe never saw a pollution stream that couldn’t be used to season breakfast cereal.

We are the real failures in our governmental system. We, the people, are failing to preserve our incredible heritage of freedom, liberty and natural resources for the future. We are failing not because government is too big to fight, it is still our tool if we reach out and take control of it. Perhaps because our lives are either too hard, or too easy depending on what side of the great financial divide in this nation we live on today, we prefer to ignore it. We have any number of excuses, but it is our failure or success at keeping life here worth living that will cause our grandchildren to bless us or curse our names as their lives develop. Remember that when you are finally facing the future that we are creating today by our inattention and inaction. God bless you all and keep you safe in a world where neither terrorism nor government is our important enemy. Our own inertia will do us more harm in the end.

Posted by Henri Reynard at May 30, 2004 5:01 PM