Wired Magazine calls for Birth Panels


Europe really is determined to party like it’s 1939, aren’t they? In France, shops of Jewish merchants are having the windows smashed. Meanwhile, Wired.com’s UK site is exploring another topic that was much in vogue in post-Weimar Germany right around the same time as kristallnacht. “It’s time to consider restricting human breeding”:

Given the number of children that starve each day, dwindling planetary resources and the coming transhumanist era, it might be time to consider restricting human breeding, argues futurist Zoltan Istvan in this guest post.

A few years ago, I was at a doctor party, the kind where tired residents drop by in their scrubs, everyone drinks red wine, and discussion centres around medical industry gripes. I wandered over to a group of obstetricians and listened in. One tall blonde woman said something that caught my attention: with 10,000 kids dying everyday around the world from starvation, you’d think we’d put birth control in the water.

The controversial idea to restrict or control human breeding is not new. In 1980, Hugh LaFollette, Ethics professor at the University of South Florida, wrote a seminal essay on the topic titled Licensing Parents. Since then, philosophers and even some politicians have considered the idea, especially in light of China, the most populated country in the world, implementing a one-child policy that is in effect today.

For most people in the 21st Century, however, the idea of restricting the right to have offspring for any reason whatsoever seems blatantly authoritarian.


Fancy that. Of course, the idea is much older than 1980; Zero Population Growth — often shortened to “ZPG” — was quite the buzz phrase for far left enviro-cranks in the early 1970s on both sides of the Atlantic; there was even a truly bad British movie by that name released in 1972, starring otherwise A-list British stars Oliver Reed, Geraldine Chaplin and Diane Cilento, then married to Sean Connery:

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And it goes back even further than that. Just ask Margaret Sanger, pioneering eugenicist, Klan and Nazi aficionado, seen here being interviewed by Pathe News of England, shortly after World War II. By then, Sanger was using the last name of Slee, after her second husband:

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As I noted back in April, talk about disastrous timing: The above clip dates from 1947. Just two years prior, a minor event, the aforementioned World War II, had been concluded, which Wikipedia notes killed 60 million people – while Wikipedia often plays fast and loose with facts, I think we can run with that estimate for the purposes of this blog post. And Margaret Sanger is calling for “no more babies” for a decade.

Madness. Or “Progressivism.” But I repeat myself.

But the idea dates back even further than that — the country that started World War II was more than a little keen on “the idea of restricting the right to have offspring” for an entire subset of its population.


But the idea goes back even further than that — to H.G. Wells at the turn of the 20th century. In the 1920s, Wells would later have an affair with Sanger and write the forward to one of her books; Fred Siegel of City Journal magazine dubbed Wells “The Godfather of American Liberalism” in 2009:

In A Modern Utopia, written in 1905, Wells updated John Stuart Mill’s culturally individualist liberalism in light of the horizons opened by Darwin and Francis Galton, the founder of eugenics. Biologically, argues the book’s narrator, the “species is the accumulation of the experiments of all its successful individuals since the beginning.” That means, he says, that the “people of exceptional quality must be ascendant.” Further, “the better sort of people, so far as they can be distinguished, must have the fullest freedom of public service.”

What provides the possibility for such freedom is eugenics. Wells has no use for the iron laws of Marxism, but he replaces them with the iron laws of Malthus and Darwin. “From the view of human comfort and happiness, the increase of population that occurs at each advance in human security is the greatest evil of life,” he writes. “The extravagant swarm of new births” that created the masses was “the essential disaster of the 19th century.” Man’s propensity to reproduce will always outstrip his productive capacity, even in an age of machinery. Worse, the “base and servile types,” who are little more than the “leaping, glittering confusion of shoaling mackerel on a sunlit afternoon,” are the most fecund.

In Anticipations, Wells had already argued horrifyingly that the “nation that most resolutely picks over, educates, sterilizes, or poisons its People of the Abyss” would be ascendant. For the base and servile types, death would mean merely “the end of the bitterness of failure.” It was “their portion to die out and disappear.” The New Republicans would have “little pity and less benevolence” for the untermenschen, “born of unrestrained lusts . . . and multiplying through sheer incontinence and stupidity.”


As Jonah Goldberg noted in Liberal Fascism, “By 1941 no less a figure than George Orwell couldn’t help but conclude, ‘Much of what Wells has imagined and worked for is physically there in Nazi Germany.'”

And to bring this post full-circle, in 2006, Young Ezra Klein wrote at the far left American Prospect:

Not everything the Nazis touched was bad. Hitler was a vegetarian. Volkswagen is a perfectly good car company. Universal health care is a perfectly good idea. Indeed, the Nazis actually did a pretty good job increasing economic growth and improving standards of living (they were, many think, the first Keynesians, adopting the strategy even before Keynes had come up with it), pushing Germany out of a depression and back into expansion.* Unfortunately, they also set out to conquer Europe and exterminate the Jews. People shouldn’t do that.

Wired magazine, as envisioned by its founder Louis Rossetto in the early 1990s, was an explicitly libertarian publication that has now gone into the territory of liberal fascism under Conde Nast, which bought the publication from Rossetto near the end of the nineties. (In contrast, the Washington Post under new owner Jeff Bezos is showing a few signs of awakening from its half-century old leftwing stupor. Bezos’ dumping Klein and his juicebox mafia was a key moment in their reemergence as a potential source of journalism.)

And note this isn’t the only time that a Conde Nast publication inadvertently had a Springtime for Hitler moment in recent years.


* Paul Krugman would extend this fallacy to its natural conclusion.

Related: “Your baby is now a ‘carbon legacy’ — a villain that causes global warming.”

Plus, “The Woman Who Thinks Reducing the Male Population by 90 Percent Will Solve Everything.”

As Mark Steyn once wrote, “The ecochondriacs mean it: This’d be a pretty nice planet if we didn’t live here.” But the ecochondriacs far from the only wannabe eugenicists on the left.


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