Friday, February 25, 2011

The Eugenicist Foundations of Progressivism

Does the fact that the original intentions behind a set of policies mean that the results of those policies will end or have ended? Thomas C. Leonard has an interesting article titled Eugenics and Economics in the Progressive Era in which he lays out the origins of the minimum wage and the welfare state as part of a progressivist eugenics program. The idea was that the minimum wage would do exactly what it does -- increase unemployment among minorities -- and, as a result, have a eugenec effect. Welfare was intended to sort of sweep up all those who were displaced by the minimum wage. Even child labor laws were put in place in order to perofrm a eugenic service, preventing the "unworthy poor" form bettering themselves by having their children work to help support the family. As it turns out, the ideas of "worthy poor" vs. "unworthy poor" is a progressivist idea. It is ironic, then, that many pro-market people get accused of such nonsense, as classical liberals have historically, consistently argued precisely against such definitions.

The eugenics program was in the end discredited not by Nazism, but by the science of genetics itself. Complex mental traits are not heritable in a simple Mendelian pattern. As this became plain, the eugenics program fell apart. Complexity disproved eugenics. What we are left with are the social and economic programs whose purpose was eugenecist in nature. Naturally, other arguments have arisen to justify, after the fact, the continuation of those policies. One hopes that complexity science again proves to even the staunchest believer the fallacy of progressivist ideas. The sooner, the better.
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