Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Social Darwinism

“So, Social Darwinism, whazzat?”

If “Darwinism” can be thought of as “survival of the fittest” (not Darwin’s idea at all; he preferred survival of the best adapted or the most adaptable), or prominence of the strongest, the most competitive, the wealthiest or the best connected, and then you apply it to humans, rather than the “inferior animal species,” that would be Social Darwinism.  The Law of the Jungle, applied to humans.  A corollary to survival of the strongest or fittest is the non-survival of the weakest or least fit.  Only the “best” would survive and reproduce, and this would naturally result in a superior human species, superior to what it would be without this kind of a Natural Selection.  Social Darwinism has no need for any “social safety net” to rescue the least fit, as it does not approve of allowing the least fit to survive.  Social Darwinism is cruel but efficient; think the ancient Spartans and the not so ancient Nazis.  A good case could be made that a more compassionate society would be a stronger, more fit society in many ways, but I am not approving or condemning Social Darwinism, just defining it.

A Social Darwinist society would be a cruel society, even if some might call it a just society (with little room for mercy).  An irony is that Darwin himself would not have been an advocate of Social Darwinism.  He saw Evolution’s Natural Selection as a description of how Nature works, not as the way humans should act.

Some Anarchists, some Libertarians, and even some Republicans admit to being Social Darwinists.  But it is politically difficult to argue as it does tend to resurrect images of Nazi Germany’s Aryan master race.  Putting all that aside, it is worth considering, just as much as a cradle to grave welfare state where the strong are compelled by the majority class of weaklings to keep the weak alive.

Just as a full-blown welfare state is less than 100% desirable or even sustainable, so too a Social Darwinist state.  Why do so many Americans seem to embrace one or the other extreme idea (the simple answer is: it is simpler), whereas the best is probably a random selection from both camps to keep things interesting.  Which is what we have now – isn’t it? – with Democrats forever battling Republicans, and each side capturing some but not all the hills.

But, no, that is NOT what we have; we have a society ruled by those who can best pay off the strongest to come work for them and do their bidding, while they get away with ripping off the wealth of the world from the rest of us.  They are neither the strongest nor the most fit; what they are is the most determined to grab more than their share of the toys.  Most of them would not last a week in the wilderness.  That is the prime defect of Social Darwinism: those who survived would not be the best.

No, the prime defect of a Social Darwinist state is that the "best" would be those best able to accumulate monetary wealth: the hedge fund managers, CEO's of multi-national firms best able to avoid paying American taxes, top Hollywood stars and the most gifted professional athletes.  Is that your idea of the "best" that we have?  It is surely not my idea of the "best."