Tuesday, 31 July 2007

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RE: Progressivism and Social Darwinism [Scott Eric Goldberg] S-Vin, I guess I'd disagree with you that the progressives were social Darwinists. That's a term largely invented or popularized by the left (like neocon and Robber Baron) to describe the "bad guys." The progressives were indeed raging Darwinists, but they were, in the useful but largely forgotten phrase of Eric Goldman, "reform Darwinists." Social Darwinism was a term of scorn for laissez-faire liberals (like Herbert Spencer), which is the last thing progressives were. It's also why using the phrase "social Darwinism" to describe Nazism is so unhelpful. Unless, of course, one wants to say that the Nazis were laissez-faire. And trust me they weren't. I know all about Spencer because a while back I asked for some Spencer experts to tell me what I needed to know about him for a few pages of my very serious, thoughtful, argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care. So when I say that Herbert Spencer was a Darwinist, even a "social Darwinist" in the way the Progressives meant the term, i.e. he was a radical libertarian or a "liberal." In the 20th century, without heed to the arguments they made in the 19th century, the left used the phrase social Darwinism to describe Hitlerite eugenics, and to make Herbert Spencer an intellectual grandfather of Nazism. Even though before the war such eugenics were almost solely the balliwick of the left and Herbert Spencer was almost the diametrical opposite of a Nazi. Regardless, the label stuck on Nazism too. The result has been a term which means both Nazi-like governmental intrusions into society and libertarian-style governmental withdrawals from society. In other words, anything the left doesn't like can be call "social Darwinism" without penalty. That's why the association between dehumanizing Nazi practices and dehumanizing laissez-faire practices can't both be called "social Darwinism." I support one but not the other. We don't want to allow leftists to call us "Nazis" just because we don't value human life. COURTESY

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