Having just gotten back online let me associate myself with everyone’s additions to the subject of guilt, shame and eugenics (not a terrible name for band). On Yuval’s point about liberals and eugenics, past and present, I agree with him entirely (I had a whole chapter on this point in the book). But I think his post might miss, or at least understate, an important point. If today’s self-proclaimed progressives understood that the progressives of yesteryear were the authors and implementers of eugenics (and not conservatives) they would feel less unburdened to embrace a “new eugenics” as if it had no relation to the old eugenics. I agree there are differences, but many of the impulses are the same (as Yuval explicates very well in that New Atlantis essay).
Yuval writes that understanding the past should serve as “a means to understanding what might lay behind a growing contemporary problem, more than a means of holding today’s left accountable for sins of the past.” Fair enough. But I’m not sure you get one without the other. Liberals today think the “bad” eugenics was something done by conservatives leaving “good” eugenics untried and therefore available to them.It may be a cliche to say that those who forget their past are condemned to repeat it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not sometimes true.