Friday, April 6, 2012

Can't Stop Talking: Social Darwinism

It appears that the left has found a new word, or phrase if you will, even though they seem to have no clue about what they speak. That is Social Darwinism. Blame Herbert Spencer, perhaps, but not Darwin, he never really accepted it.

Now I suspect also that the commentators have no clue what Darwinism is no less Social Darwinism. Darwin is rather difficult to read, I have plodded through it, mid 19th century English prose, a bit self possessed and yet a struggle. You see Darwinism is simply a survival of the fittest, species that is, not just individuals. Gene expressions yield advantages. I have noted that in my hybridizing. I perform my intelligent design on plants, keep the attractive ones, and then throw the remainders on a hill in our New Hampshire home. They just get tossed. And guess what, some of them just take over, they thrive, reproduce, and do better than any of my pampered flowers, just look above. Social Darwinism for plants? No just Darwinism, human intervention not withstanding.

Thus I have been amused about the war between the left and the not so left, Chiat and Mankiw. I would assume from reading that neither has been near a copy of Darwin. But that is just a guess.

Now for Chiat. He states:

I happen to think "social Darwinist" captures the prevailing Republican philosophy pretty well. The point of the label, created by historian Richard Hoftsadter, is that a species of laissez-faire economics treated the market the way Darwinians treat natural selection — as the sole natural and correct mechanism for distributing rewards. You do not have to venture into the Republican fever swamps to find evidence of this belief. Greg Mankiw, an economist, adviser to Mitt Romney, and relative moderate within the party, has written: "People should get what they deserve. A person who contributes more to society deserves a higher income that reflects those greater contributions. Society permits him that higher income not just to incentivize him, as it does according to utilitarian theory, but because that income is rightfully his."

First, Hoftasdter, he was a reformed proto-communist, vile anti-Catholic, and typical extreme left wing Columbia academic, who thrived on attacking any form of American individualism. He was the source of a great deal of anti-American thought and a typical WW II draft dodger. Now let me tell you how I really feel ... But alas not enough room.  Thus Chiat using Hofstadter as a baseline defines the argument, namely baseless. Hofstadter's book on Social Darwinism defined his position against the right and middle of the political spectrum. I have written extensively on him and find his overall views repugnant and unlikely to be accepted in polite society. Yet he was a reflection of Columbia then and now, a key fact to understand, because Columbia has always been ever so more anti-Catholic than Harvard.

Now Mankiw replies somewhat weakly in my view:

I think the answer is pretty clearly NO.  But nonetheless, Jonathan Chait calls me a Social Darwinist, citing as evidence the paper from which the second passage above is taken.  True, he quotes a different passage from that paper, but one would think a prominent journalist like Mr. Chait would read the entire paper and characterize the arguments fully before throwing around a pejorative like "Social Darwinist."

Mankiw is a far cry from being a Social Darwinist. He after all is a proponent and leader of the Pigou Club, the group which proposes taxing everyone and giving the money to the Government, a form of cap and trade, except the cap is a tax based cap with no quid pro quo. Pigou is hardly Darwinian and Mankiw in my opinion is so far distant from Social Darwinism that it is impossible how any one could make a connection. And Romney is also not even close. Just read Dickens, for in there we see Social Darwinism, the Irish Famine of 1846-48, that was Social Darwinism, and in fact the English treatment of any of their colonies, and Teddy Roosevelt's treatment of the Philippines is the same, and he was a Progressive.

The interesting fact is how has this concept spread. I thought we had buried Hofstadter, why is Croly when we need him.

On the other hand I am out today working on my fine hybrids in New Hampshire and as I look to the hill of Social Darwinistic Hemerocallis, I can see those plants which have survived and may very well take over in a millennium.