Monthly Archives: April 2012

Social Darwinism Revisited

Social Darwinism is the ideology that applies Darwin’s theory of biological evolution (survival of the fittest) to other academic disciplines including sociology, anthropology, economics, politics, etc. 

“Social Darwinism and the left (progressives, socialists, collectivists, etc.) go together like Mary and Mary’s little lamb.”  Anon

“Delve a bit deeper—and move a bit further to the left—and you’ll hear a lot about ‘eugenics,’ ‘social Darwinism,’ ‘state capitalism,’ or the sinister rule of big business.” Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism:  The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, p. 5

“Indeed, British socialism, the intellectual lodestar of American Progressivism, was saturated with eugenics.  The Fabians Sidney and Beatrice Webb, George Bernard Shaw, Harold Laski, and H.G. Wells were devoted to the cause.  John Maynard Keynes, Karl Pearson, Havelock Ellis, Julian and Aldous Huxley, Eden Paul, and such progressive publications as the New Statesman (founded by Webb) and the Manchester Guardian were also supporters of eugenics to one extent or another.”  Ibid., p. 249

“The eugenic crusade, writes the historian Edwin Black, was ‘created in the publications and academic research rooms of the Carnegie Institution, verified by the research grants of the Rockefeller Foundation, validated by leading scholars from the best Ivy League universities, and financed by the special efforts of the Harriman railroad fortune.’ German race science stood on American shoulders.”  Ibid., p. 248

“John Maynard Keynes, the founding father of liberal economics, served on the British Eugenics Society’s board of directors in 1945—at a time when the popularity of eugenics was rapidly imploding thanks to the revelation of Nazi concentration camp experiments.”  Ibid., p. 250

“’Social Darwinism, a popular topic in the 19th and early 20th centuries,’ reported the Associated Press on April 5, ‘is making its way into modern American politics.’  The news peg for the story was President Obama’s claim that the House Republican budget is nothing but ‘thinly veiled Social Darwinism.’  It is, he added, a ‘Trojan Horse,’ hiding within it ‘a radical vision’ that is ‘antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity.’

“Liberals have been irresponsibly flinging the term Social Darwinism rightward for decades.

“Robert Reich has said that Social Darwinism ‘offered a perfect oral justification for America’s Gilded Age, when robber barons controlled much of American industry, the gap between the rich and poor turned into a chasm, urban slums festered, and politicians were bought off by the wealthy….The modern Conservative Movement has embraced Social Darwinism with no less fervor than it has condemned Darwinism.’

“The only problem:  None of this is true either.  Yes, Andrew Carnegie was a follower of Herbert Spencer and lots of people referenced ‘natural law’ (though rarely as a reference to Darwinian evolution).  But for the most part the captains of industry couldn’t care less about his stuff.  As Robert Bannister and Irwin Wyle (and more recently Princeton intellectual historian Thomas Leonard) have painstakingly documented, the captains of industry in the 19th century were not particularly influenced by, or even aware of, Darwin and Spencer.  This shouldn’t surprise anybody. ‘Gilded Age businessmen were not sufficiently bookish, or sufficiently well educated, to keep up the changing world of ideas, writes Wyle. ‘As late as 1900, 84 percent of the businessmen listed in Who’s Who in America had not been educated beyond high school.’ Continue reading


Chuck Colson: Past to Present

“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”  Will Rogers

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill

“On July 9, 1974, Charles W. ‘Chuck’ Colson spent his first night in a federal prison.  He had worked hard to get there.

“Raised in Massachusetts, Colson attended Brown University and George Washington University Law School.  In the 1950s, he got married, was a captain n the U.S. Marines, and worked for his home state’s senior U.S. senator, Leverett Saltonstall.  In the 1960s, he got divorced, remarried, built a lucrative inside-the-Beltway law firm, and became a player in national GOP politics.

“In 1969, President Richard M. Nixon made Colson, then just 37 years old, his top White House legal counsel.  Colson later confessed that he was ‘ruthless in getting things done’ for Nixon, which eventually led to his conviction for obstruction of justice after the Watergate break-in.  Among other infamous acts, he leaked information from confidential FBI files on antiwar activist Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, and he fulminated about firebombing the liberal Brookings Institution.

“Nixon’s once-powerful ‘hatchet man’ was the first Watergate figure to become an incarcerated felon.  But just before Colson landed behind bars, he got old-time religion.  While in prison, he promised fellow inmates that he would never forget them.  He made good on that promise by dedicating his life to helping prisoners and their families, improving prison conditions and working to reform penal codes.  In 1975, he wrote his bestselling book, Born Again.  In 1976, he founded Prison Fellowship, an international evangelical Christian ministry based in Virginia.

“Well into the 1980s, Colson’s just-before-jailhouse conversion was widely panned as a pre-emptive performance for the parole board.  Many commentators mocked him and his fledgling ministry.  In the 1990s, his ecumenical work with groups like Evangelicals and Catholics Together deeply upset many orthodox Protestants.  And, in the 2000s, his activist opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage deeply upset many progressive Protestants, among others.

“As an urban Democrat, a Jesuit-inspired Catholic and an academic, I disagreed with Colson about many things. Differences on policy and culture issues aside, he insisted that hard science supported ‘intelligent design’ even when leading evangelical Christian scientists, like Francis Collins, former head of the international human genome project, counseled otherwise.  He embraced studies touting faith-based programs but sometimes squinted past their shortcomings.

“Still, for nearly four full post-Watergate decades, Colson, who died this past Saturday at age 80, steadfastly practiced what he preached about prisons, prisoners and penal reform.  Where criminal justice was concerned, he was God’s good man, not Nixon’s bad man.  He gave his ministry most of his adult life and almost all of his money, including royalties on about two dozen books, speakers’ fees, and the $1 million Templeton Prize for spiritual endeavors that he won in 1993.  While maintaining his Break Point radio show, he worked endless hours raising the tens of millions of dollars a year that supported the ministry’s operations.

“In the 2000s along, Colson’s Prison Fellowship mobilized more than 10,000 volunteers to work in 1,329 prisons from coast to coast and also muster nearly 15,000 volunteers each year to purchase Christmas gifts for more than 350,000 children of prisoners.  Recognizing that about 700,000 prisoners are released each year, the Colson ministry created eight InnerChange Freedom Initiative prisoner re-entry programs across five states, and found jobs for about 60% of all IFI parolees.

“But Colson’s most consequential criminal-justice legacy is still in the making.  He nearly single-handedly put America on a bipartisan path to zero prison growth. With another born-again ex-prisoner, former California state legislator Pat Nolan, he led the charge against states’ mandatory-minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders and for the federal government’s Second Chance Act, which gives grants to nonprofit organizations that help ex-prisoners find jobs, get drug treatment, and reconnect with loved ones.

“Promoting the concept of ‘restorative justice,’ Colson godfathered into being several conservative coalitions that are now making real headway in reducing prison populations and changing penal codes in many states.  For example, as documented by the Texas-based Right on Crime organization, in recent years the Lone Star State has cut crime rates while reducing its adult prison population by thousands, and the number of juveniles behind bars by more than 50%, by repealing draconian sentencing laws and increasing support for community-based corrections.

“As I recount in my book Godly Republic, in the late 1990s Colson was among those who softened and spiritualized my views on crime.  Visiting prisons with him, watching him relate pastorally to prisoners, was an inspiring experience that never got old.  Through his ministry, his second chance became a second chance for hundreds of thousands of others.  When it came to treating incarcerated citizens, recent parolees, and all persons touched by crime, both perpetrators and victims, with Christ-like care and compassion, he was ‘ruthless.’” John J. Dilulio Jr., The Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2012, p. A15

Alexis de Tocqueville

“In the United States the sovereign authority is religious….There is no country in the whole world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.”  Alexis deTocqueville

“I studied the Koran a great deal.  I came away from that study with the conviction there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Mohammed.”  Alexis de Tocqueville

American Minute with Bill Federer

Apr. 16 – Alexis de Tocqueville,

French political writer visiting America

On APRIL 16, 1859, French historian Alexis de Tocqueville died.After nine months of traveling the United States, he wrote Democracy in America in 1835, which has been described as

“the most comprehensive…analysis of character and society in America ever written.”


Alexis de Tocqueville wrote:

“Upon my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention…

In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country…”

De Tocqueville continued:

“The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other…

They brought with them into the New World a form of Christianity which I cannot better describe than by styling it a democratic and republican religion.”

In Book Two of Democracy in America, de Tocqueville wrote:

“Christianity has therefore retained a strong hold on the public mind in America…

In the United States…Christianity itself is a fact so irresistibly established, that no one undertakes either to attack or to defend it.”

Alexis de Tocqueville visited Algeria and wrote to Arthur de Gobineau, October 22, 1843 (Tocqueville Reader, p. 229):

“I studied the Koran a great deal. I came away from that study with the conviction there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Mohammed.

So far as I can see, it is the principle cause of the decadence so visible today in the Muslim world and, though less absurd than the polytheism of old, its social and political tendencies are in my opinion to be feared, and I therefore regard it as a form of decadence rather than a form of progress in relation to paganism itself.”


In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote:

“In the United States the sovereign authority is religious…

There is no country in the whole world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility and of its conformity to human nature than that its influence is powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth.”