The Insidious Nature of Racism, Desert Theory and Modern Eugenics

Matt Bruenig has an incredibly good piece on conservatism, Rep. Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand, and desert theory.

What Matt is saying in his post is a good example of what I’ve long argued concerning racism: that racism has been pushed to the margins to the point it has become insidious and camouflaged but it is still there holding strong and the consequences of that insidiousness is that even people who aren’t racists fall for the racially inspired political and economic policy preferences because the moralistic arguments seem appealing on the surface.

The truth is that desert theory is social Darwinism – or more strongly put, passive-aggressive economically induced Eugenics.

This philosophy pervades the entire Republican Party’s political, social and economic philosophy, which makes if ofeasy for me to label the party the modern fascist party and most people who fall for their arguments intellectually shallow and at best intellectually negligent.

Here is another form of social Darwinism conservatives espouse (although not all of them, far too many do):

Julian Sanchez:

Here is one way to make sense of Santorum’s remarks. Elite sexual norms have transformed over the past half century, as a result of a combination of factors: Contraceptive technology; improved educational sorting that increases the frequency of romantic partnerships between highly educated professionals, and an economy that rewards longer periods of education and correspondingly delayed marriage and reproduction. Under the new norm, there’s no expectation of marriage or childbearing before one’s late-20s or early-30s, but also no expectation that people will abstain from sexual activity or romantic cohabitation until that point. There is no stigma against premarital sex, engaged in strictly for the enjoyment and emotional satisfaction of the participants. For the cognitive elite—who are generally reasonably good at impulse control and long-term planning, have the social and economic resources to provide a buffer against youthful misjudgments, and have powerful incentives to avoid derailing their ambitious career plans—this works out just fine.

Here is where the “esoteric” or Straussian social conservative argument comes into play: For those outside the cognitive elite (they would argue) this does not work out fine. Lacking both the incentives and the resources of the elite, the erosion of the stigma against premarital sex among the “lower classes” yields increased premarital childbearing, locking both generations into poverty and dependency. This outcome can only be avoided (the Straussian social conservative might argue) if the “lower orders” do not adopt the sexual norms that work perfectly well for the cognitive elite.

But nobody likes to be told they’re simply not capable of enjoying the same freedoms as the elite: The only publicly acceptable norm for a democratic polity is the rule that sex outside the confines of traditional marriage is “just wrong” or somehow “immoral.” This norm may not make sense, but since most people do not think deeply about the underlying ethical rationale for local norms, it will be widely accepted so long as it appears to be widely accepted—which is to say, so long as the cultural elite at least continue to give it lip service, whatever their private behavior. Contraception (in tandem with those other changes) makes it possible for the elite to visibly reject that norm, enjoying successful and happy lives in which a long sexually active young-adulthood precedes eventual marriage and reproduction. The argument that non-elites are incapable of successfully living according to the new elite norms is publicly unacceptable in a democratic society, and so those norms become widely accepted, with damaging results.

So not only do conservatives want to take away the means for low income people to maintain a semblance of a reasonable lifestyle, but those same conservatives want to discourage breeding within that same demographic.

The argument could be made that this isn’t necessarily racism since there are plenty of poor white people who this would directly affect as much as it would affect minorities but that argument would have to ignore the origin of the spike in acceptance of desert theory – the spike which coincides with the Republican Party Southern Strategy, a wholly racially motivated cynical poitical move to take advantage of populist animosity for the welfare recipient blacks and the northern and western Democrats who welcomed them into the fold.


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