March 23, 2019

“PROGRESSIVISM,” WHERE TIME STANDS STILL:

● Shot:

It’s not surprising that Buck v. Bell was decided in the Roaring Twenties, a decade even more culturally charged than the one we live in today. The Ku Klux Klan was riding a wave of anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic fervor, creationists were battling Darwinists over the teaching of evolution, and Prohibition was pitting rural Protestant values and prejudices against a looser, more diverse urban culture. In Washington, Congress was busily writing the most restrictive immigration law in our history, the National Origins Act, to protect the country from foreign contamination. In the words of The Saturday Evening Post: “If America doesn’t keep out the queer, alien, mongrelized people of Southern and Eastern Europe, her crop of citizens will eventually be dwarfed and mongrelized in turn.”

According to Thomas C. Leonard, who teaches at Princeton, the driving force behind this and other such laws came from progressives in the halls of academia — people who combined “extravagant faith in science and the state with an outsized confidence in their own expertise.” “Illiberal Reformers” is the perfect title* for this slim but vital account of the perils of intellectual arrogance in dealing with explosive social issues. Put simply, Leonard says, elite progressives gave respectable cover to the worst prejudices of the era — not to rabble-rouse, but because they believed them to be true. Science didn’t lie.

But barring undesirables was only half the battle; the herd also had to be culled from within. In 1907, Indiana became the first state to legalize forced sterilization, starting a landslide endorsed by progressive icons like Theodore Roosevelt and the birth control champion Margaret Sanger. And when eugenicists needed an ironclad case to bring before the Supreme Court, Virginia’s medical elite supplied it in the person of Carrie Buck.

‘Imbeciles’ and ‘Illiberal Reformers,’ the New York Times, March 14, 2016.

● Chaser: Having children is one of the most destructive things you can to do the environment, say researchers.

—Headline, the London Independent, July 12, 2017.

● Hangover (because hey, it’s the Independent): Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past.

—Headline, the London Independent, March 20, 2000.

(Via Power Line.)

* No, there is another.  

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