Social Darwinism in the GOP?

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “if one of the current crop of Republican hopefuls becomes president, Social Darwinism is back.”

Okay, I think a history lesson is in order. The claim in this article is that Social Darwinism consists of the belief that “life was a competitive struggle in which only the fittest could survive – and through this struggle, societies became stronger over time.” But wait a second- that’s natural selection, not Social Darwinism. There’s a world of difference between the statistical inevitability that is natural selection and the social philosophy that is Social Darwinism.

Natural selection happens whether you like it or not, adapting populations to survive as efficiently as possible. If you create a society that lets individuals survive without doing any work, then very few individuals will do work and that society will collapse.

On the other hand, Social Darwinism is a philosophy which suggests that society should actively seek out and destroy the elements considered “weak” or “inefficient.” Who makes that judgement? Generally, the government. Social Darwinism is a philosophy of letting the government pick winners and losers, NOT the philosophy of letting societies naturally evolve towards adaptability.

For example, consider Nazi Germany. How do we envision Hitler’s version of Social Darwinism? Was Hitler a proponent of laissez-faire policies, giving people the liberty to make their own choices and live with the results? No, of course not! Hitler was a totalitarian who usurped the power for his own administration to decide who gets to succeed (or even survive) based on their own narrow judgements of who deserves it. Hitler was no free-market advocate, and free-market advocates are no Social Darwinists.

So if you want to find the Social Darwinists, look for the politicians who are trying to give government the power to arbitrarily pick winners and losers according to the judgements of appointed bureaucrats, rather than letting people make their own fortune in an unbiased market. Can you think of anyone who this description fits? I’ll give you a hint: it starts with “O” and ends with “bama.”


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