It’s interesting how some of those who most vociferously object to government interference in our economic affairs are most desirous of government interference in our personal ones.The examples he uses are abortion and same-sex marriage. His fundamental question is why is either one of these issues a matter for the government to be involved with?
I’m referring of course to social conservatives, who want to legislate our morals and values according to their views.
Take marriage. I suspect the reason the American states first got involved in issuing licenses for marriage was to prevent "race mingling" (among other things) as set out here:
By the 1920s, 38 states prohibited whites from marrying blacks, “mulattos,” Japanese, Chinese, Indians, “Mongolians,” “Malays” or Filipinos. Twelve states would not issue a marriage license if one partner was a drunk, an addict or a “mental defect.” Eighteen states set barriers to remarriage after divorce.It was also during the early 20th Century that serious efforts were made to eliminate "defectives" in our society from reproducing in the name of "eugenics." An interesting history of efforts to "perfect" society by sterilizing those deemed "unfit" can be found here:
In the mid-20th century, governments began to get out of the business of deciding which couples were “fit” to marry. Courts invalidated laws against interracial marriage, struck down other barriers and even extended marriage rights to prisoners.
In 1914, eugenicist Harry Laughlin published a Model Eugenical Sterilization Law that proposed to authorize sterilization of the “socially inadequate” – people “maintained wholly or in part by public expense.” The law included sterilization of the “feebleminded, insane, criminalistic, epileptic, inebriate, diseased, blind, deaf, deformed, and dependent” – including “orphans, ne’er-do-wells, tramps, the homeless and paupers.” Laughlin’s publication was the basis for Virginia’s Eugenical Sterilization Act, passed in 1924, which was first tested in the well-known Buck v. Bell case.As seen by the nearby map, which came from here,the idea was popular. Why? Well, it was a "progressive" attempt to protect and improve the species, as set out here (pdf):
The term eugenics was originally coined by Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton (1822–1911) in 1883 to mean ‘truly’ or ‘purely’ born (Galton, 1883). It was redefined by Galton’s American disciple Charles B. DavenportGet the idea? The law was structured to forbid certain marriages that, in the scientific view of the day, would weaken the species. Further, the state acquired the power to sterilize the "unfit" so that they could not reproduce.
(1866–1944) as ‘the science of the improvement of the human race by better breeding’ (Davenport, 1910). Eugenic theory was based on a belief in the genetic inheritance of a large number of social traits. At that time ‘genetic’ meant largely Mendelian heredity
where very complex traits were thought to be governed by one or two genes.
Between 1910 and 1935 Laughlin wrote up what became knownas the ‘model sterilization law’ that was used, in modified form, by a number of states (Reilly,1991). Through contacts with influential members of local chapters of the American Eugenics Society (AES), Laughlin and other eugenicists lobbied in a number of state legislatures on behalf of compulsory sterilization laws for institutionalized individuals deemed to be ‘genetically inferior’. In virtually all cases, itwas claimed that sterilization of genetic defectives
now would save millions of dollars in the future (Figure 2). By 1935 over 30 states had passed such laws. Well over 21,000 such sterilizations had taken place by 1935 and well over 60,000 by the 1960s (Paul, 1974; see Note). A court challenge to the onstitutionality
of such laws, Buck vs Bell in Virginia, was staged by pro-sterilization forces in 1925. The law was upheld at the state level and by the US Supreme court on appeal in 1927. It was in writing his majority opinion on this case that Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes coined the oft-repeated phrase ‘Three generations of imbeciles are enough’ (Lombardo, 1985).
It is beyond the scope of this paper to describe in any detail the character of the progressive movement, but a few of its most central tenets will suggest how closely eugenic thinking managed to fit in with progressive philosophy. On the one hand, progressivism supported the ideology of scientific planning and management, that is, the new complex economics and other social developments could not be left simply to laissez-faire practices.
Now, some states are considering financial restitution to some of those who were sterilized. See here:
An effort to compensate survivors of North Carolina's defunct sterilization program with cash payments received a jolt of bipartisanship when Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis vowed to see it through this year.Due to budget issues, the payments have yet to be authorized.
Thousands of North Carolina residents in the 20th century received surgeries through a state-sponsored eugenics program that left them unable to reproduce. A state panel often authorized sterilizations for people it found mentally feeble, promiscuous or too poor to raise children.
Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue supports $50,000 payments to the living victims. Tillis was one of four sponsors - two Democrats and two Republicans - of a compensation bill for the same amount.
"Every once in a while I feel like you have the chance to make history. Th
is is one of those chances," Tillis said on the House floor this month during debate on the bill. "This is an opportunity to say, 'we're going to put this to rest.'"
While lawmakers agree the program represents an awful chapter in state history, the idea of going further and securing monetary compensation for the victims has been a hard sell this year, especially for Tillis' fellow Republicans.
North Carolina laws enforced from 1929 to 1974 led to more than 7,600 people undergoing sterilizations. Some chose to be sterilized as a form of birth control. Up to 2,000 people who were sterilized may be alive. The state has verified 118 victims who are still living.
Then-Gov. Mike Easley formally apologized for the program in 2002. Compensation supporters say the tax-free money is a concrete way to show the state's regret. No other state with a similar program has agreed to make payments like North Carolina is considering.
So, would you trust the state to now decide whether your genetic make up is so screwed up that you should not be allowed to procreate? Or should the state decide that certain persons are too big a drain on society to be allowed to continue living if they so choose?
I suspect, "death panels" aside, most of us want the state to keep its nose out of this business.
I do not want to step deeply into the abortion issue. I do note that there are some in the history of abortion in this country who saw the issue as being part of the eugenics process - a means of ridding society of the unfit who will become a burden on the taxpayers. Birth control was seen a way of perfecting the human race:
Let us first of all consider merely from the viewpoint of business and "efficiency" the biological or racial problems which confront us. As Americans, we have of late made much of "efficiency" and business organization. Yet would any corporation for one moment conduct its affairs as we conduct the infinitely more important affairs of our civilization? Would any modern stockbreeder permit the deterioration of his livestock as we not only permit but positively encourage the destruction and deterioration of the most precious, the most essential elements in our world community—the mothers and children. With the mothers and children thus cheapened, the next generation of men and women is inevitably below par. The tendency of the human elements, under present conditions, is constantly downward.Well, we all know where carrying that plan of eliminating the "unfit" has led in the past.
Turn to Robert M. Yerkes's "Psychological Examining in the United States Army"(1) in which we are informed that the psychological examination of the drafted men indicated that nearly half—47.3 per cent.—of the population had the mentality of twelve-year-old children or less—in other words that they are morons. Professor Conklin, in his recently published volume "The Direction of Human Evolution"(2) is led, on the findings of Mr. Yerkes's report, to assert: "Assuming that these drafted men are a fair sample of the entire population of approximately 100,000,000, this means that 45,000,000 or nearly one-half the entire population, will never develop mental capacity beyond the stage represented by a normal twelve-year-old child, and that only 13,500,000 will ever show superior intelligence."
Making all due allowances for the errors and discrepancies of the psychological examination, we are nevertheless face to face with a serious and destructive practice. Our "overhead" expense in segregating the delinquent, the defective and the dependent, in prisons, asylums and permanent homes, our failure to segregate morons who are increasing and multiplying—I have sufficiently indicated, though in truth I have merely scratched the surface of this international menace—demonstrate our foolhardy and extravagant sentimentalism. No industrial corporation could maintain its existence upon such a foundation. Yet hardheaded "captains of industry," financiers who pride themselves upon their cool-headed and keen-sighted business ability are dropping millions into rosewater philanthropies and charities that are silly at best and vicious at worst. In our dealings with such elements there is a bland maladministration and misuse of huge sums that should in all righteousness be used for the development and education of the healthy elements of the community.
At the present time, civilized nations are penalizing talent and genius, the bearers of the torch of civilization, to coddle and perpetuate the choking human undergrowth, which, as all authorities tell us, is escaping control and threatens to overrun the whole garden of humanity. Yet men continue to drug themselves with the opiate of optimism, or sink back upon the cushions of Christian resignation, their intellectual powers anaesthetized by cheerful platitudes. Or else, even those, who are fully cognizant of the chaos and conflict, seek an escape in those pretentious but fundamentally fallacious social philosophies which place the blame for contemporary world misery upon anybody or anything except the indomitable but uncontrolled instincts of living organisms. These men fight with shadows and forget the realities of existence. Too many centuries have we sought to hide from the inevitable, which confronts us at every step throughout life.
Let us conceive for the moment at least, a world not burdened by the weight of dependent and delinquent classes, a total population of mature, intelligent, critical and expressive men and women. Instead of the inert, exploitable, mentally passive class which now forms the barren substratum of our civilization, try to imagine a population active, resistant, passing individual and social lives of the most contented and healthy sort. Would such men and women, liberated from our endless, unceasing struggle against mass prejudice and inertia, be deprived in any way of the stimulating zest of life? Would they sink into a slough of complacency and fatuity?
No! Life for them would be enriched, intensified and ennobled in a fashion it is difficult for us in our spiritual and physical squalor even to imagine. There would be a new renaissance of the arts and sciences. Awakened at last to the proximity of the treasures of life lying all about them, the children of that age would be inspired by a spirit of adventure and romance that would indeed produce a terrestrial paradise. [Margaret L. Sanger, The Pivot of Civilization, 1922, Chapter XII]
In some cultures, the "unfit" who don't follow mainstream thinking are branded as "infidels" and forced to convert or die.
‘A man has duties. He has no right to refuse those.’Amazing what happens when you allow other people to mind your business.
‘No?’ She raised tantalizing eyebrows, delicately curved. ‘Who defines those duties—himself or somebody else?’
‘His superiors most times.’
‘Superiors,’ she scoffed with devastating scorn. ‘No man is superior to another. No man has the slightest right to define another man’s duties. If anyone on Terra exercises such impudent power it is only because idiots permit him to do so. They fear freedom. They prefer to be told. They like to be ordered around. They love their chains and kiss their manacles. What men!’