There’s an interesting link over at Chicago Boyz to what typically passes for a discussion of eugenics in our day. Of course, the issue has become toxic, thanks mainly to the antics of the Third Reich, and freedom of speech no longer applies. Attempts to discuss it rationally are futile because of the social consensus that it is evil. Most of us understand this, so that discussion of eugenics today normally emanates from the realm of the pathologically pious, in the context of their usual attempts to demonstrate their superior virtue.
It was not always so. For example, their were some very interesting pro and con articles in Mencken’s American Mercury back in the mid-20’s. In one exchange, the pro was H. M. Parshley, little known today, but a progressive who edited the first English version of Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex,” and the con was none other than the equally progressive lawyer Clarence Darrow, of Scopes Monkey Trial fame. In other words, eugenics was not a defining feature of the progressive narrative at the time.
Given the continued cancerous growth of the role of state power in people’s lives in the last century, and the emergence of totalitarian states that do not derive their legitimacy from the consent of the governed, but nevertheless presume to interfere in every aspect of the daily lives of their citizens, it would seem in retrospect that eugenics really was a very bad idea. In fact, however, it has become a moot point. Individuals already have the power to “vote with their feet” when it comes to controlling the genetic information they pass along to their offspring. Their power to select for qualities such as intelligence, physical strength, size, emotional traits, etc., will only increase as our genetic knowledge continues to expand. One can argue that the state should deprive individuals of the right to make such choices. That, of course, would amount to a rebirth of eugenics.