The Magazine

Fantasies of Social Darwinism

Three generations of this imbecilic progressive talking point are enough.

Apr 23, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 30 • By JONAH GOLDBERG
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One reason the term “Social Darwinism” caught on with progressives was that it served to divert attention from the sins of “reform Darwinism”—i.e., the progressive passion for eugenics. The progressives advocated aggressive statist intervention to improve the genetic stock of the country, while the alleged Social Darwinists championed laissez-faire and private charity and—gasp—reproductive freedom. Moreover, the term Social Darwinism, which in Europe was used to justify nationalist and racist theories of the Hitlerian variety, was the perfect label for playing guilt-by-association in America. Ever since Hofstadter’s book, liberals have used the term to accuse conservatives of desperately wanting to return to a past that never was.

On April 4, Mitt Romney had his turn in front of the newspapermen. “The president came here yesterday and railed against arguments no one is making—and criticized policies no one is proposing. It’s one of his favorite strategies—setting up straw men to distract from his record.”

One suspects that even Romney had no idea how right he was.

Jonah Goldberg’s latest book, The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, goes on sale May 1.

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