June 24, 2011

TREVOR BURRUS: One Generation of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. is Enough. Holmes, Jr. is overrated. Holmes, Sr. is underrated.

But here’s the key: “In all, more than 60,000 people—including 7,600 in North Carolina—were forcibly sterilized in the United States in the name of ‘progress.’ Progressives of the time lauded the decision in Buck. Individual rights, they firmly believed, should not be allowed to stand in the way of collective progress.” Related item here.

And here’s what Holmes Sr. said after quitting law school for medical school: “I know not what the temple of law may be to those who have entered it, but to me it seems very cold and cheerless about the threshold.” He did, however, receive an honorary degree from Yale Law School, which recognized quality.

UPDATE: Reader David McCune writes:

Don’t you get the sense that one reason Buck v. Bell is not nearly as infamous as it ought to be is that, if they are honest, progressives aren’t _that_ ashamed of eugenics and government control of reproduction, as long as we are talking about reproduction by the “wrong sort” of people? Is it really so difficult to imagine a case restricting the reproductive rights of the fourth child of a fourth child, with Justice Albert Arnold Gore, Jr, writing “Three generations of excessive fertility is enough?”

Before he returns to his greenhouse-unfriendly mansion on the beach. By private jet.