The Left's Dirty 20th-Century Secret

Eugenics: once loved by British intellectual lefties
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2012 3:26 PM CST
Updated Feb 18, 2012 3:55 PM CST
The Left's Dirty 20th-Century Secret
George Bernard Shaw, who once supported eugenics.   (Wikipedia)

Liberals, it's time to confront the biggest skeleton in your political closet: eugenics. Or so argues Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian. Back in the 1930s and 40s, major figures like George Bernard Shaw and John Maynard Keynes supported eugenics, the notion that disabled and poor people should be prevented from reproducing. "What was missing was any value placed on individual freedom, even the most basic freedom of a human being to have a child," writes Freedland.

Bizarrely, British intellectuals were drawn to eugenics "for what were then good, leftwing reasons." Their belief in science and progress led them to social Darwinism and planned selection: "And what could be more socialist than planning"? The horrors of Auschwitz later dispelled popular interest in eugenics, but as Freedland writes, progressives still "face a particular challenge, to cast off a mentality that can too easily regard people as means rather than ends. For in this respect a movement is just like a person: it never entirely escapes its roots." (Read more eugenics stories.)

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