Oh well said Mr. Freedland

Except this was no accident. The Fabians, Sidney and Beatrice Webb and their ilk were not attracted to eugenics because they briefly forgot their leftwing principles. The harder truth is that they were drawn to eugenics for what were then good, leftwing reasons.

They believed in science and progress, and nothing was more cutting edge and modern than social Darwinism. Man now had the ability to intervene in his own evolution. Instead of natural selection and the law of the jungle, there would be planned selection. And what could be more socialist than planning, the Fabian faith that the gentlemen in Whitehall really did know best? If the state was going to plan the production of motor cars in the national interest, why should it not do the same for the production of babies? The aim was to do what was best for society, and society would clearly be better off if there were more of the strong to carry fewer of the weak.

What was missing was any value placed on individual freedom, even the most basic freedom of a human being to have a child. The middle class and privileged felt quite ready to remove that right from those they deemed unworthy of it.

Well said indeed.

And it\’s hardly unusual to have people arguing the primacy of society over individual freedom these days, is it?

22 comments on “Oh well said Mr. Freedland

  1. What was missing was any value placed on individual freedom, even the most basic freedom of a human being to have a child.

    Which is also a piece with the rest of their views. If the rest of us do not have the right to choose where we work and for how much, if we have no right to produce what we like, why should we have the right to produce children as we like?

    Once the State has an interest in the quality of the work force, by paying for welfare for instance, eugenics tends to logically follow. The case for it has not changed. It is just that we recoil from what the Nazis did. The solution is to make sure the State does not have an interest.

  2. No, the solution is to develop an ethical code that prevents things like eugenics before they get past the “hey, what if” stage. The polity you’re proposing is an anarchy, not even a minarchy.

  3. Matthew L – “No, the solution is to develop an ethical code that prevents things like eugenics before they get past the “hey, what if” stage. The polity you’re proposing is an anarchy, not even a minarchy.”

    We had one. The Churches did not like eugenics. The Catholic Church was particularly against it. Didn’t help much did it? Because a code of ethics isn’t worth the piece of paper it is written on if times change.

    I am not sure I am proposing anarchy. Anyway, the State will retain an interest. I would assume that they will quietly, at the edges, work towards more eugenic policies. Mothers with Down’s Syndrome babies are told to abort as it is. No one much minds.

  4. The ethical code promulgated by the Churches is certainly against eugenics, but it has massive problems in other areas. We’d be well rid of the idea that morality and ethics come from religion.

  5. This is very importan history, I’ve been banging on about it for years. GK Chesterton’s Eugenics And Other Evils here written at the time that the movement was at its height, leaves the reader in no doubt that Eugenics was intimately woven with the rest of Progressivism- birth control, “public health”, lifestyle (“nanny state”) interventions.

    Also, it is now forgotten (but shouldn’t be) that the furious contraception/abortion fight and Darwinism vs. Creationism in the USA was borne out of the struggle between Progressivist Eugenicists and (Religious) Populists. The “Religious Right” were most definitely on the side of the angels, back then.

    The ability of the Proggies to rewrite history and blame their own evils on others never ceases to astound me.

  6. Matthew L – “The ethical code promulgated by the Churches is certainly against eugenics, but it has massive problems in other areas. We’d be well rid of the idea that morality and ethics come from religion.”

    The Catholic Church’s opposition to eugenics was part of the single largest, thought out, comprehensive set of ethics we have ever had in the West world. It did take some 2000 years of lots of clever people thinking about it to work out.

    Naturally you do not like it. I assume because you want to do all sorts of things it does not allow rather than any inherent defect in the logical coherence of the system itself.

    There are only two things to say to that:

    1. That does not mean that people at the time agreed with you, does it? And yet it was fairly effective at stopping eugenics wherever people had the freedom to hear about it. Not Sweden of course.

    2. What on Earth makes you think that some lame, jerry-built system cobbled together by a group of work experience girls, designed to allow the young men running the work shop to do whatever they like, is going to last even one thousandth as long once people decide they want to do something? That is the problem with objecting to a system because it won’t allow you to have fun. Anyone can do that and yet some of the time we all need to be told not to have some sorts of fun.

  7. The Catholic Church’s opposition to eugenics was part of the single largest, thought out, comprehensive set of ethics we have ever had in the West world. It did take some 2000 years of lots of clever people thinking about it to work out.

    Really? Development of western ethics started with the Catholic Church? And owes nothing to the Reformation or the Enlightenment. How parochial of you.

    Anyway, from the Borgias to the Inquisition, from Amalric at Béziers to Law in Boston, the damn church has clearly done such a good job of sticking to its ethics. What use is it to have a large and comprehensive ethical code if it is largely and comprehensive ignored?

  8. “The ability of the Proggies to rewrite history and blame their own evils on others never ceases to astound me.”

    Quite easy when you own the Establishment media, and you are quite happy to deny reality and history. A bit of projection helps too.

  9. Yes.

    How dare he flog his book (whereas it was the evil neo-liberal Worstalistas who took Ritchie to task for trying to flog his tripe.)

    How dare he claim that socialists were eugenicists because they weren’t as effective at it as Hitler was.

    How dare he claim that Beveridge et al were socialists because they were actually social democrats and no true socialist would ever be un-nice.

    Typical CiF thread, really.

  10. It is also indulging in a wee bit of shark jumping:

    Ah, that would be Gordon Brown, otherwise known as a neoliberal, or the not-so-secret tory, or indeed, a man who wouldn’t know a socialist if she wore a red flag as a hat.

    The great monocular statist? Doctorate in history on “The Labour Party and Political Change in Scotland 1918–29”? A neo-liberal tory? Can the British left get any more deluded? They’ll next be claiming Major stayed in power 97-2011 …

    (I’d agree they have a slightly better case re ACL Blair. They’d still be wrong, though …)

  11. Oh dear, they do seem to have got their knickers in a twist don’t they? Well done Jonathan Freedland.
    You have to remember that lefties can believe that both Adolf Hitler- in favour of a big all-powerful state which controlled every aspect of peoples personal and economic lives, and Margaret Thatcher- in favour of smaller government and personal and economic freedom, were both right-wing. Basically, anything bad is right-wing, anything good, left-wing.

  12. And don’t forget the corollary:

    Anything bad isn’t left-wing; anything good isn’t right-wing.

  13. During the twentieth century whenever there was a huge pile of dead bodies you would find a prominent left-winger balls deep. Then once the horror is exposed the ‘progressive’ support for it will get casually erased from history.

  14. Surreptitious Evil – “Really? Development of western ethics started with the Catholic Church? And owes nothing to the Reformation or the Enlightenment. How parochial of you.”

    Sometimes I am amazed that people can draw the conclusions they do from what I say. I have to admit I am often not as clear as I should be. Sometimes it is annoying. Not here though. Where oh where do you get the idea that I said Western ethics started with the Catholic Church? I mean, really? Why on Earth would you draw that conclusion? Or that the Church has any sort of monopoly on ethics? Of all the schools of Western ethical thought, as I said, the largest, the most developed, the best thought out, is that of the Catholic Church. What exactly is wrong with that statement?

    “Anyway, from the Borgias to the Inquisition, from Amalric at Béziers to Law in Boston, the damn church has clearly done such a good job of sticking to its ethics. What use is it to have a large and comprehensive ethical code if it is largely and comprehensive ignored?”

    My point precisely dear sir. Except of course I may have said it will inevitably be ignored.

  15. When I were a lad I was attracted to Social Darwinism.
    Then I thought… ooh, er… what if?
    Change ends. New balls please.

  16. Are you sure that what is going on in England right now is not eugenics.
    The express wish to have a ‘monochrome ‘society is often stated.
    I have heard the interracial marriages descriibed as evolution as well.

  17. Of all the schools of Western ethical thought, as I said, the largest, the most developed, the best thought out, is that of the Catholic Church. What exactly is wrong with that statement?

    Okay, it’s clear I’m having problems understanding what you are talking about. Perhaps it is because I am reading text and context rather than your mind.

    Let’s check. Matt introduces ethics in #3 as a response to your demand to exclude the state. You bring up the Catholic church and Matt objects to bringing religion in to a discussion about ethics.

    We then have your pean to the perfection of Catholic ethics. To which I then object. On the grounds that, however many pages they may have written, the body of Catholic ethics is derivative and outdated. And largely ignored by practicing Catholics throughout the centuries, whether pope, cardinal, priest or laity.

    My point precisely dear sir. Except of course I may have said it will inevitably be ignored.

    But you didn’t, did you?

    Nothing you said, up to that point, cast any doubt, uncertainty or even vaguely hinted that the church has failed abysmally to keep to even the basics of its ethical code. Choosing instead, as they have done throughout the centuries, to discard any pretence of standards when they got in the way of the dogged pursuits of power, avarice, gluttony and lust.

    The only things the Catholic church consistently proclaims is its embedded misogyny.

  18. Surreptitious Evil – “Okay, it’s clear I’m having problems understanding what you are talking about. Perhaps it is because I am reading text and context rather than your mind.”

    On the contrary. You are stubbornly reading into the text things that are not there. If you stop doing that and stick to what I actually said everyone will be happier.

    “Let’s check. Matt introduces ethics in #3 as a response to your demand to exclude the state. You bring up the Catholic church and Matt objects to bringing religion in to a discussion about ethics.”

    I am not sure he did that. He did not object to discussing religion in general, but pointed out, irrelevantly, that these days no one cares what the Churches have to say. Which is true. Not to mention, of course, Number 3 is my reply.

    “We then have your pean to the perfection of Catholic ethics.”

    Nowhere do I describe it as perfect. Again, as I said, you are inventing things I did not say. Stick to what I did say and we will both be happier.

    “To which I then object. On the grounds that, however many pages they may have written, the body of Catholic ethics is derivative and outdated.”

    I am not sure that was your criticism. What you said was:

    “Really? Development of western ethics started with the Catholic Church? And owes nothing to the Reformation or the Enlightenment. How parochial of you.”

    So again, you make a claim that is manifestly untrue. I did not say western ethics starts with the Catholic Church. You then make a second false claim. I did not say either western ethics or the Church’s own ethical work owes nothing to either the Reformation or the Enlightenment.

    Now I can see why you would want to pretend you said something smarter than you did, but it is just annoying. Stop it. So by all means, let’s agree the Catholic Church’s ethics are derivative (although of what? There was not a lot of real competition at the time of St Thomas Aquinas) and out of date. It has nothing to do with anything I said.

    “And largely ignored by practicing Catholics throughout the centuries, whether pope, cardinal, priest or laity.”

    I refer you to Post Number 3. Where I said:

    “Because a code of ethics isn’t worth the piece of paper it is written on if times change.”

    So well done, you have managed to agree with me. More specifically you have managed to agree with the actual specific text of what I said.

    “But you didn’t, did you?”

    But I did. Your reading problems are not my fault are they?

    “Nothing you said, up to that point, cast any doubt, uncertainty or even vaguely hinted that the church has failed abysmally to keep to even the basics of its ethical code.”

    Again this is not a problem with my text but your weird refusal to read what I wrote. How you can make this claim is utterly beyond me. It is flatly not true. It is also irrelevant. As I keep pointing out, people ignore codes of ethics when it suits them. So to think that claiming the Church also ignores their code of ethics when it suits them simply re-states what I said but writ smaller.

    “The only things the Catholic church consistently proclaims is its embedded misogyny.”

    An interesting claim. Irrelevant and, of course, not true. The Church has always been strong among women because of its dogged defence of women. It is, after all, an alliance between older women and what we might call a Third Gender. But as I said, it is irrelevant and this is not the time or place to debate it.

    So to re-cap. You have mis-stated, to put it no stronger, what I said. You have repeated that mistake again. You have actually agreed with me in so far as you have any point at all. And the rest is irrelevant. So apart from wasting my time, what do you think you are doing?

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