There was some weird stuff coming out of FEE, specifically by Jeffrey Tucker, recently on how the old progressives were fans of eugenics. Presumably, the idea was that since eugenics is “bad” (I guess like Hitler or something), the modern progressives should be ashamed of their intellectual forefathers and renounce their doctrines.
But wait a minute, is the minor premise really true? Eugenics broadly conceived is perfectly great. Who in their right mind can be against children who are healthier, stronger, smarter, more gifted, and with greater nurseries of virtue and natural receptivity to divine grace? For example, we spend a vast amount of money on (bad) education. Why not have children who, through their innate potential, will benefit more from education? This is one way to make education more efficient and our money better spent.
With more smarter, both intellectually and emotionally, people out there, economic progress would proceed at a faster pace. Perhaps there would be more libertarians, and even government policy could be changed for the better.
Moreover, if genetic engineering reaches its technological maturity and becomes commercially viable, then eugenics will become the order of the day. I’m sure there’ll be snares for us here, too, but probably nothing fundamentally unavoidable. Ultimately, don’t we want men to be strong, and women, beautiful?
But perhaps by eugenics Tucker means something more narrow and sinister: government attempts to control or manipulate human reproduction.
Well, by all means let’s consider the old eugenicists’ ends and see what became of them.
They wanted to stop black people from working and instituted minimum wage laws to that effect. Now under pure laissez-faire, that might indeed have made children less affordable to blacks and so reduced their number. But the leftist progressives in addition erected an outrageous welfare state that not only increased the numbers of blacks beyond what unhampered free market would have allowed, but had a completely dysgenic effect on them. I contend that if laissez-faire had never been abandoned, then the present generation of blacks would be far smarter and meeker than blacks actually now are or ever have been.
They wanted to prevent white women from working to protect the integrity of the family and so passed maximum working hour laws. As we can clearly see, instead the feminist left has driven women into workplace both by ideological preaching and via high taxes and inflation to the detriment of both the number and happiness of children. (Note that 100 years ago the problem had special urgency, though I agree there was no justification for government interventions. Alfred Marshall writes in his Principles: “the degradation of the working-classes varies almost uniformly with the amount of rough work done by women.”)
They wanted to facilitate the expansion of the white race. Instead, the leftist celebration of multiculturalism, “diversity,” unlimited immigration, and terrible marriage laws that heavily favor women and encourage easy divorce have caused white populations to decline. Their contempt for private property and “discrimination” did even more damage to their own cause.
They wanted to make the race vigorous and gallant. Instead, they squandered millions of society’s best in world wars.
They wanted to eliminate the “unfit.” The “unfit” have not in fact declined in proportion, nor can they ever, as is clear from the following note by Mises: “It is true that today many people who in the past would have been doomed to life-long disability are restored to full vigor. But on the other hand many whom innate defects, sickness, or accidents would have extinguished sooner in earlier days survive as permanently incapacitated people.” (HA, 837). In other words, the cripples are cured; but the dead become lifelong cripples. However, they ended up enabling abortion on demand, such that now perfectly “fit” babies are destroyed whenever the mother finds it inconvenient to carry them to term. They hated the Catholic Church; by teaching that birth control is morally unobjectionable, they have checked the propagation of the genes of holy and God-fearing folks.
It is obvious that the progressive eugenicists have failed utterly to achieve any of their goals; in fact, they seem to have brought about results opposite those they aimed at.
In short, they’re complete losers. Moreover, the modern progressives have apparently nothing in common with their predecessors regarding this issue. Their only connection is this: the old progressive eugenicists had certain generally not too objectionable ends. However, the means they chose in pursuit of those ends failed and in fact made things worse from their own point of view. The modern progressives went so far as to forget the eugenic ends themselves but now glorify the non-functioning means (minimum wage, etc.) as crazy and scandalous ends in themselves. So, the left is nuts, but we’ve known it already.