Eugenics Quote of the Day: Eugenics is Not likely to Infringe on Individual Freedom

Paul Popenoe in his widely used 1920 textbook, Applied Eugenics.  pg 364-365.  “Not likely” indeed!

It is charged that eugenics infringes on the freedom of the individual.  This charge (really that of the individualists more than of socialists, strictly speaking) is based mainly on a misconception of what eugenics attempts to do.  Coercive measures have little place in modern eugenics, despite the gibes of the comic press.  We propose little or not interference with the freedom of the normal individual to follow his own inclinations in regard to marriage or parenthood; we regard indirect measures and the education of public opinion as the main practicable methods of procedure.  Such coercive measures as we indorse are limited to grossly defective individuals, to whom the doctrine of personal liberty can not be applied without stultifying it.

It is indeed unfortunate that there are a few sincere advocates of eugenics who adhered to the idea of a wholesale surgical campaign.  A few reformers have told the public for several years of the desirability of sterilizing the supposed 10,000,000 defectives at the bottom of the American population.  Lately one campaigner has raised this figure to 15,000,000.  Such fantastic proposals are properly resented by socialists and nearly every one else, but they are invariably associated in the public mind with the conception of eugenics, in spite of the fact that 99 out of 100 eugenists would repudiate them.  The authors can speak only for themselves, in declaring that eugenics will not be promoted by coercive means except in a limited class of pathological cases; but they are confident that other geneticists, with a very few exceptions, hold the same attitude.  There is no danger that this surgical campaign will ever attain formidable proportions, and the socialist, we believe, may rest assured that the progress of eugenics is not likely to infringe unwarrantably on the principle of individual freedom, either by sterilization or by coercive mating.

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  1. […] really don’t think that this sort of thing can happen, just like people really didn’t think that anything evil could come from eugenics.   They live as though the purges of Pol Pot and the ovens of Auschwitz and the beheadings of […]

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