Progressives, Eugenics, and Airbrushing
By Arnold Kling
In a history of Swarthmore’s economics department, Joshua Hausman wrote,
Nearing is also the only Swarthmore professor to have taught eugenics in an economics class. He omits his past interest in eugenics from his 1972 autobiography…
In a 1912 book, The Super Race: An American Problem, Nearing develops his ideas on race and eugenics. He describes one element of his desired policy (p. 40):
The first step in Eugenics progress – the elimination of defects by preventing the procreation of defectives – is easily stated, and may be almost as easily obtained. The price of six battleships ($50,000,000) would probably provide homes for all of the seriously defective men, women and children now at large in the United States. Yet with tens of thousands of defectives, freely propagating their kind, we continue to build battle-ships, fondly believing that rifled cannon and steel armor plate will prove sufficient for national defense.
For Nearing in 1912, preventing some members of society from reproducing was closely linked to a progressive program that included the redistribution of income, the elimination of war, and the “emancipation” of women (Nearing, 1912). Nearing’s thought on eugenics was not unusual during the Progressive Era.
…unlike many Swarthmore economics courses in the early 20th century, Nearing’s course on eugenics was more popular with women than it was with men.
I meandered to this essay by starting at Newmark’s Door.
The quoted passage fits with the thesis of Jonah Goldberg’s bestseller.