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Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Social Darwinism - A Conservative's Best Friend

While the American Conservative Movement is busy trying to remove Darwin's theories relating to evolution from the curriculum of our public school science programs, they seem to be grasping to one aspect of Darwin's ideology, Social Darwinism, to rationalize why we need to reduce taxes for the rich, privatize the Social Security program and keep any form of socialized healthcare out of this country. Darwin's 'survival of the fittest', actually a term coined by Herbert Spencer some thirty years after the publishing of Darwin's The Origin of Species, fuels many conservative's political arsenals when attempting to justify how our economic system needs to be changed.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth century economic growth in America was filled with greedy industrial, oil and coal barons who felt that their 'survival of the fittest' mentality was justified, and even fit within the religious rule of the day. This attitude allowed the rich to become richer thanks to the sweat of low paid workers who received little or no healthcare, few benefits to provide sustenance for their families when no work was available, and without much for retirement support, most workers worked until close to death. This mentality brings despair to the lower classes, which eventually brings about some sort of revolution, not unlike the changes we saw in the 1930s due to severe economic depression and in the 1990s after 12 years of conservative, pro-business economic development.

The economic changes that the American Conservative Movement are asking for aren't evil in their own rights, it's just the idea that some are more deserving of wealth and prosperity than others that seems illogical. If in America all have equal opportunity to prosper, then why is there still poverty? Are some people lazier than others? Or, are some just unlucky? It may be so, but many people don't have the advantages of wealthy parents, an advantage that makes it easier to prosper. Social Darwinism alludes to a moral inequality of sorts - which makes it easy for the wealthy to look down on the poor, assuming that it is a lack in morality that causes the laziness that keeps people poor rather that the feelings of despair that are usually at the root of the problem.

As for the requested changes, I'm in agreement for the most part, only because I see the changes as potentially strengthening our economy in the world market, but I feel that in order to make taxation fair, it's best to remember that the increased tax burden on the richest ten percent in America (usually business owners) allows compensation for the poorest ten percent who toil endlessly to help make the former rich. And when we look at who it is that needs financial assistance from the government, it's easy to see why shifting the burden of taxation in equal portions to all Americans, rich and poor, could easily cause an economic inefficiency - why take taxes from the poor, which serves to reduce their consumption in the market, thus forcing them to ask for tax-based assistance for basic needs like healthcare, food and housing. We've seen how subsidies work to raise the standard of living for the poor by giving them greater choice in the marketplace, and we've seen what that improvement in choice for the poor does to non-recipients as well. The Social Darwinist conservatives in the top ten percent don't see that shifting the tax burden places an unrealistic burden to the middle classes as well by decreasing their activity in the market, which eventually affects the value of market goods by decreasing demand and raising prices of consumer goods.

So what is the answer to the effects of Social Darwinism in America? Well, first we have to agree to either accept Darwin's theories in their entirety, or we need to agree that all in America have the right to work towards prosperity, even if it means an added benefit to the poor in order to allow them to more easily achieve prosperity. I say tax the richest about 25% as a compensation to the poor who work hard to help the rich get richer, leave the poor alone as far as taxes go, we're most likely going to give it back to them in subsidies like the Earned Income Credit anyway, and remember that the middle 80% are working hard to make the economy of this country strong, so fair taxation, about 10% is warranted. But mostly I think we need to let the science of Darwin stand on its own in our public schools and leave the opinionated ideology of Social Darwinism by the wayside.

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