November 26, 2010

the illiberal conspiracy of eugenics

Oh dear the illiberal conspiracy is getting all hot under the collar with an attempt to claim that one of the left's horrible ideas wasn't actually a left wing idea. The left wing idea is eugenics and the fall guy they are using is Lord Flight. All he did was point out the obvious that fact that people respond to incentives. If you remove a subsidy for something you are going to get less of it. The actual effect of the removal of child benefits for the well off is unlikely to produce much of a change as it does not do much to change the incentives, the level of the subsidy to them was simply too low. However this is absolutely not the same as saying that undesireables should be sterilised, as the left would like to twist his words to mean. Sterlisation of the wrong sort of people is much more of a Left Wing idea, and not something of the right.

During the interwar period Eugenics was highly popular amoungst the intelligentsia, and that did include those from both left and right, but it was mainly a left-wing progressive thing. The leading lights of the eugenics movement included icons of the modern left such as John Maynard Keynes and William Beveridge. Proponents also included the Fabians H G Wells and George Bernard Shaw. Amoungst Wells' fellow Fabians Sidney and Beatrice Webb were also strong supporters of Eugenics, when they were not shilling for mass murderers like Stalin. It is not a co-incedence that when a bill to introduce Eugenics in the UK was put before the house it was done so by the Labour Party MP and Fabian, Archibald Church.

Not that left wing support for Eugenics was confined to the UK. In Germany Alfred Ploetz who coined the term racial hygiene, and laid the foundations of the Nazi ideology, was a socialist and had to flee Germany because of Otto von Bismarck's anti-socialist laws. Ploetz himself wasn't actually that anti-semtic in his early life (this changed later) citing Marx as proof as to the quality of the Jewish race, but Marx's own final solution to the Jewish question was "the emancipation of society from Judaism". Polly's social democratic paradice of Sweden had forced sterilisation until 1975. Some countries behind the Iron Curtain, such as Czechoslovakia, also had forced sterlisations, and others, such as Communist Romania, had it as state policy that women should be turned into baby factories. The largest ongoing programme of state enforced sterlisation is in China under the Communist government there, a programme with eugenic elements as it allows for different numbers of births depending on which ethnic group the parents belong to. The left's need to control is insatiable so it comes as no suprise that it extended as much into the bedroom as it did everywhere else.

The reasoning that there might be some kind of right wing connection to eugenics was basically that it is nasty and so inherently right wing, while making sure not to mention how much eugenics is a left wing thing. In so much as a reason was given it was to try and position Lord Flight into some kind of intelectual tradition stemming from Malthus. He couldn't use any more modern proponents of eugenic for the obvious reason that would have quickly ended up showing how deeply eugenics and the left are linked, but if you want to find the real heirs to Malthus then you need to look no futher than the Green movement, which is indesputably part of the modern left. Charles Goethe a leading member of the early enviromentalist movement in the USA and a member of the Eugenics Society. He was not alone as an enviromentalist there, there were plenty of others. The need to reduce the population is still very much a part of the green movement with its strong anti-human undercurrent creating such organisations as Optimum Population Trust. The OTP might be rather blunt in its anti-human message but sentiment that there are too many people can be found in the core green arguments that there are simply too many people wanting requiring too many resources for the planet to sustain.


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