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5.3.06

Cultural Theory of Eugenics

I wonder sometimes whether Amanda Marcotte is a closet adherent of grid-group cultural theory, because it's often so easy to read some of her posts through the GGCT lens. Take this snippet from a recent post drawing distinctions between the Nazi, progressive, and feminist views of eugenics in the early 20th century:

So while the Nazis swiped a few ideas from liberal eugenics thinkers, the similiarities stopped there. Nazis didn’t frame Jews as some unfortunate underclass that needed to be gently controlled for their own good–they accused them of being an internal menace, plotting to take down the “Aryan” race. The right wing belief that “inferior” people exist for the use of “superior” people was the crutch used to justify the camps, since the able-bodied were used as slave labor and sadistic tortures were justified as medical experiments.

But it seems to me that American progressives were heading in the other direction–disgusting as Holmes’ decision to allow forced sterilization was, it’s noteable that he didn’t question the idea that “inferior” people should have their day in court, putting to the left of modern conservatives who argue that we workaday folks should have legal limits on our right to sue our wealthy betters. (Generally this is called “tort reform”.) Sanger’s argument that “inferior” women would make the decision not to reproduce all on their own was, in a certain light, a wildly radical notion, because she was actually arguing that supposedly inferior people should be trusted to make their own decisions, which is far to the left of liberals now who argue for abortion restrictions.


Here we have the Nazis taking the classically Egalitarian position that, while everyone within the group may be equal, outsiders are subhuman and deviously plotting to undermine the group. The progressives are Hierarchists -- believing that certain people are intrinsically inferior, but that they're still part of society and deserve procedural fairness ("their day in court"). Margaret Sanger, here representing the feminists who used eugenics as a rationale for promoting birth control, takes a clearly Individualist position -- individuals should control their own reproduction, and because of the invisible hand, this kind of decentralized decisionmaking will result in the most eugenically sound overall outcome.

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