I happened to be listening to Rush Limbaugh today and heard him discoursing on the eugenics-laced elements behind putative ‘Obamacare architect’ Jonathan Gruber’s recent remarks, viewable here.
Limbaugh did a better than adequate job analyzing these remarks, but there were a few points that I thought could be better made. My credentials–I am on the verge of completing my PhD, my dissertation being on the subject of evolution and eugenics. I founded a policy organization dedicated to detailing how the ‘culture of death’ (ie, eugenics-style thinking) has entrenched itself in unexpected ways in our government. My organization is the publisher of a new translation of the work that was a catalyst to the holocaust, Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life. I have produced a work of my own summarizing and linking the eugenics movements of the early 20th century with contemporary government–and health care–policies. So, busy as I am, I believe I can add to this.
Gruber’s offending comment was:
Exactly. It’s 12 million people, about a third of which will end up paying more under this law. And that as you said in the introductions sort of the idea. We currently have a highly discriminatory system where if you’re sick, if you’ve been sick or [if] you’re going to get sick, you cannot get health insurance.
The only way to end that discriminatory system is to bring everyone into the system and pay one fair price. That means that the genetic winners, the lottery winners who’ve been paying an artificially low price because of this discrimination now will have to pay more in return. And that, by my estimate, is about four million people. In return, we’ll have a fixed system where over 30 million people will now for the first time be able to access fairly price and guaranteed health insurance.
Limbaugh and others are correct in detecting the eugenics thinking behind this comment but do not go far enough in their explanation. The problem is that a moment’s thought, especially amongst those with only a passing knowledge of the phrase ‘eugenics’, would recall that early 20th century eugenics had essentially embraced Darwin’s formula, “Survival of the fittest.” (Darwin borrowed the phrase from Herbert Spencer.) Given that evolution, as expressed in this maxim, was a raw scientific fact, early eugenicists saw the genetically inferior as a burden on society that needed to be eliminated.
But according to Gruber’s thinking, the genetically superior (“the genetic winners”) have to be made to pay for their “luck” by paying higher premiums so that the genetically inferior can have access to health care. Such thinking would have garnered cat calls by Margaret Sanger and other early eugenicists. The idea of facilitating the health and well-being of the ‘unfit’ at the expense of the fit would have made their blood curdle. Certainly, the government shouldn’t be involved in such measures; if anything, the government should be involved in doing the opposite.
So, on the face of it, Gruber can’t possibly be drawing from a eugenics ideology. However, eugenics is a deep well to draw from. One of the problems I’ve had in making these connections for people (besides the fact that they find it so outrageous as to be unbelievable–despite being absolutely true and relatively easy to document, thanks to the Internet) is that early eugenicists often proposed and entertained a wide variety of policies, often mutually contradictory ones. Moreover, there was a distinction at the time between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ eugenics, and some debate over which approach to take. ‘Positive eugenics’ entailed encouraging the fit to produce more and ‘negative eugenics’ entailed trying to curtail the reproduction of the unfit.
Neither of these would apply to Gruber, so we must go further.
Yet all their proposals, even the contradictory ones, had several things in common. First of all, they firmly believed in evolutionary theory. Second of all, they embraced the notion that it was proper and appropriate for the ‘species’ to take evolution into its own hands… and government was an obvious and ideal mechanism for doing such a thing. Always, always, it was a question of having enough data to determine just what the right policy really was. There was no question in their minds that they had the right, and even the duty, to try to implement those policies.
And that is one of the missing elements required to understanding the eugenics-style nature of Gruber’s remarks. Very evidently, Gruber believes two things: 1., it is appropriate to view social issues through the lens of biological realities and 2., it is appropriate to act on those realities… through the government.
For all their multitude of contradictions, and Gruber’s own contradiction of past eugenicists, they all had these two beliefs in common. They are fundamental pre-requisites for all the terrors that eugenics would soon inflict upon human history. You could not have had compulsory sterilizations without these beliefs. You could not have had anti-miscegenation laws. You could not have had the Nazi T-4 project without them. You could not have had the Office of Population Affairs without them. You could not have had the Holocaust itself without them.
And, as ‘Obamacare Architect’ Gruber alludes to, you could not have had Obamacare without those beliefs, either.
Both, incidentally, are core features of contemporary liberalism and Progressives in particular.
A third commonality is almost certainly at work, but I haven’t verified this through research into Mr. Gruber. Namely, the ‘universal acid’ (as Dan Dennett puts it) of Darwnism eats through everything, and this includes ethics and morality itself. This idea that it is ethical to inflict suffering on one population (in this case, the genetic lottery winners) in order to help another population (in this case, the genetic lottery losers) must come from somewhere. But based on any ideology that has evolution at its bottom, ethics consists of essentially whatever any particular evolutionist happens to think is ‘good’ for the species. *Ahem* I mean, is in accord with the ‘common good.’
By virtue of being in charge (might makes right), people like Gruber believe that it is proper and appropriate for them to transmit and act on their particular ethical views through the government.
I’d have to do some research to know how close to the surface Gruber entertains such thinking. Some are more self-aware than others.
My sense from this comment is that Gruber probably hasn’t really thought much about it. Unfortunately, Dennett is quite right in referring to Darwinism as a ‘universal acid,’ and unfortunately, that includes rationality itself. Reacting to the abuses of liberals and Progressives in the early 20th century, which horrified them, they drew all the wrong lessons. They didn’t re-examine their core beliefs. They still manly accepted the raw scientific truth that Darwinism was absolutely true and still believed it was appropriate to use the government to act on that truth. They obfuscated the real foundation of the horrors of the 20th century, and came away thinking that ‘discrimination’ was the real enemy.
Thus, 60-70 years later, a person reflecting what is essentially a eugenics viewpoint is able to promote, implement, and defend policies that early eugenicists would have found revolting and totally inconsistent with the implications of Darwinism.
Nonetheless, Gruber’s comment reveals that some of the core axioms of the eugenicists still serve as guiding principles in Obamacare itself. It’s just that at this particular moment (in Gruber’s mind) the pendulum has swung away from improving the race by cleansing it from the ‘unfit’ to improving the race by enforcing ‘fairness.’ In any case, viewing issues in biological, genetic, terms and embracing the notion that the government is an appropriate tool for addressing those issues, and the conclusion that humans ought to use that tool in that way, are all planks in the eugenics ideological platform.
And, as happened in the past, we will see in the future that, for all their good intentions, it will be the weak and defenseless that is harmed by eugenics programs such as Obamacare.
But that is another post.