Tuesday, July 17, 2012

On Social Darwinism and What Obama Amazingly Missed

By David Gordon

In a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 3, 2012, President Obama called a budget proposal of his Republican opponents in Congress "thinly veiled social Darwinism."

What did the president mean by this comment? The budget proposal in question, he claimed, would require drastic cuts in government programs designed to aid the poor. "And by gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that's built to last — education and training, research and development, our infrastructure — it is a prescription for decline." Further, his opponents reject proposals to increase taxes on the rich.

How can anyone favor refusing government aid to the poor and oppose requiring the rich to pay more in taxes? Obama answered that those who think in this way must believe that the welfare of the rich is of primary significance. The poor, and everyone else, must take whatever "trickles down" to them from the rich.

It is this view that Obama had in mind when he spoke of social Darwinism, but the doctrine is usually characterized in a different way. Darwin, it is alleged, has taught us that evolution is a struggle in which the strong overcome the weak. To aid the poor would, on this view, act counter to progress. It would be an attempt to promote the survival of the unfit, rather than the fit. Instead, we should stand out of the way and allow the poor and improvident to suffer the natural consequences of their feckless ways.

Responses to Obama's speech from defenders of the free market have not been slow in coming.

Read the rest here.

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