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Progressivism’s Destructive and Evil Motivations

This incisive article, Minimum Wages Had a Eugenic Intent, discusses the true intent of minimum wage laws from the most noted and prominent economists of the Progressive Era. (Open and view this slide-show on Excluding Inferior Workers: Eugenic Influences on Economic Reform in The Progressive Era, in a new window) Like their modern day descendants in the academy, media and institutional welfare state bureaucracy they were obsessed with racial, gender, and other categories of identity politics (but not in the way that today’s totalitarian progressives would understand.) Progressivism has always been destructive and evil.

In How To Understand the Resurgence of Eugenics, Sidney Perkowitz notes:

In 1883, the English statistician and social scientist Francis Galton coined the word “eugenics” (“well-born,” from Greek). The term referred to his idea of selectively breeding people to enhance “desirable” and eliminate “undesirable” properties. Seen as following Darwin’s theory of evolution, in the 1920s and ’30s eugenics gained important backing in England and the United States. Scientists and physicians spoke and wrote in its support. It influenced U.S. immigration policy, and states like Virginia used it to justify the forcible sterilization of the intellectually disabled.

Crucial institutional funding and support for the eugenics movement in the United States and Germany came from the Rockefeller Foundation, allied with other elite foundations. The two essential background books on this important topic are War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, by Edwin Black; and Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era, by Thomas C. Leonard.

Scholars as divergent as Murray N. Rothbard and G. William Domhoff have documented the impact of thousands of key academics such as Richard Ely, Herbert Baxter Adams, and John W. Burgess who received their graduate training in Germany during the late 19th century, dominated by the rise of Bismarck’s welfare-warfare state. They returned home imbued with these ideas, which their apt pupils such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson transformed into hard reality. This worship of the newly-discovered wonders of statism, combined with the influx of Darwinian evolutionary naturalism, “social imperialism” and Fabian socialism imported from Great Britain, the increasing secularization of postmillennial evangelical pietism, provided the satanic breeding ground for the incubus that emerged as Progressivism — complete with its elite notions of centralized political/economic planning, aggressive nationalism, and eugenics and the idea of “race suicide.”


Each week, Future of Freedom Foundation president Jacob Hornberger and Misean economist Richard M. Ebeling discuss the hot topics of the day. Previously Jacob and Richard discussed the disaster of progressivism. I cannot stress enough the importance of this dialog. This 30 minute conversation encapsulates the most brilliant and enlightening synthesis of ideas and history concerning the origins and roots of this pernicious intellectual movement, both at home and abroad. Ebeling concisely traces these concepts from their 19th century Marxian notions of the dynamic class struggle of history, that history, according to Karl Marx, inevitably moved in a “progressive” direction from primitive pre-industrial societies, to a feudal order, to industrial capitalism, will move onward towards socialism (and the dictatorship of the proletariat), finally to the ultimate stage of history, communism. Any movement away from this cyclical direction was “reactionary” or regressive. In perhaps the highlight of his remarks, he builds upon the pioneering insights of Murray Rothbard and others in focusing upon the crucial development of the welfare-warfare state in Germany under chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and Bismarck’s co-opting of the collectivist program of the Marxian Social Democrats into a Bismarxian hybrid to enhance state power and control. Again,as Rothbard elucidated, generations of key American graduate students attended German universities during this period, returning to the U.S. transformed by these statist ideas they had absorbed. These persons, such as Richard T. Ely, became the first generation of progressive intellectuals and cogs within the state apparatus that moved America away from a classical liberal (libertarian) direction towards this collectivist hybrid known as progressivism. Hornberger cogently points out the key role of the judiciary in the erosion of the constitutional safeguards against interventionism, and the pivotal model of Woodrow Wilson in establishing the matrix for all that followed.

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10:59 am on February 20, 2021