You’d think that the fact that billions more people today live far-longer, much-healthier, and vastly richer lives than were lived by all but a small handful of nobles and clerics when the earth’s population was much smaller would cause Ms. Olliges to pause before asserting that “reducing our population is in the best interest of our species.”
Economics professor Donald Boudreaux has just touched on something here that I don’t think gets nearly enough attention: the very close relationship between eugenics and the Progressives. Early in the 20th century progressives liked the idea that weeding out undesirables in the human population would improve the living standards of those remaining and make the earth a nicer place to live.
This sort of thinking led inevitably to the Nazi program of extermination of Jews as undesirables, and the Progressives now decry any such relationship.
First, Mr. Boudreaux:
So I’ve a question for her: why single-out birth control as the solution to the alleged problem of overpopulation? Why not also call for policies that reduce human life-expectancy? Unless the vast majority of newborns today is unwanted or is, at best, regarded with indifference by their parents—an extraordinarily unlikely situation—what ethical proposition permits her to endorse policies that reduce the number of infant humans without also endorsing policies that reduce the number of middle-aged and elderly humans?
A 50-year-old woman or 70-year-old man eats and drinks, and emits carbon, at least as much as does a child. So if Ms. Olliges truly believes that today’s large population poses an awful danger, let her advocate—in addition to birth control—such policies as, for example, prohibiting anyone older than 50 from receiving medical care. By her moral lights, humanity and mother earth will be well-served as a result.
I don’t think anyone at Psychology Today, to whom Boudreaux is addressing his letter, is going to get writer’s cramp in responding. But the link between Progressives and eugenics—ethnic cleansing—is unmistakable. Here is a quote from the Journal of Economic Perspectives, written in 2005, that makes the link abundantly—and chillingly—clear:
Less well known is that a crude eugenic sorting of groups into deserving and undeserving classes crucially informed the labor and immigration reform that is the hallmark of the Progressive Era. Reform-minded economists of the Progressive Era defended exclusionary labor and immigration legislation on grounds that the labor force should be rid of unfit workers, whom they labeled “parasites,” “the unemployable,” “low-wage races” and the “industrial residuum.”
Removing the unfit, went the argument, would uplift superior, deserving workers.
And so, thanks, Dr. Boudreaux, for bringing (indirectly) this link to our attention.