More Thoughts On “Progressives” And Eugenics

Jonah Goldberg has some follow-up thoughts from his earlier post:

Which brings us to the first emailer, who sees eugenics as “social Darwinism” on speed. I think this a very common way of thinking about social Darwinism and eugenics, and I think it is entirely wrong. The salient point about social Darwinism, as laid out by Herbert Spencer, its chief author and the man who coined the phrase “survival of the fittest,” is that it was an argument for radical libertarianism. Spencer was a passionate foe of statism. He was precisely the “‘Laisser Faire’ individualist” Webb had in mind. This is why it is so infuriating when liberal historians and intellectuals blame Spencer for eugenics, Hitler, etc. Spencer would have been horrified at all that. Why it should continually be news to some liberals is beyond me: but the Nazis were not laissez faire.

The missing piece of the puzzle is what the historian Eric Goldman and others have called “reform Darwinism.” This was the view that Darwinism legitimized state interference on eugenic grounds. Holmes’s expressed desire to use the law to “build a race” was quintessential reform Darwinism. Buck v. Bell was reform Darwinism. Holmes’s ridicule of Spencer in Lochner was perfectly consistent with Holmes’s statism and his reform Darwinism. The problem we have today is that any concept of reform Darwinism has dropped out of the discussion. All people remember is the term “social Darwinism,” which is supposed to describe both Hitlerism (hyper statist) and radical laissez faire (the opposite of hyper statism). Social Darwinism may be bad on any number of fronts (bad politics, bad science, bad philosophy, bad morals, etc.) but it isn’t statist.

Leftists who attempt to distance themselves from Hitler like to emphasize the (trivial) differences between Hitlerism and Stalinism, while ignoring the much more important commonality — both were murderous totalitarianisms, and (as Jonah notes) hyperstatisms. The difference was pretty much transparent to the user. And the notion that Nazism was “right wing” doesn’t sit very well with the notion that libertarianism is. Something has to give in this mindless left/right taxonomy.

The Goal Remains The Same

Laurie Leshin attempted to tamp down the mindless hysteria over the new space policy yesterday:

The new plan represents “a change in approach and philosophy, but not a change in goal,” said Laurie Leshin, NASA deputy administrator for exploration, in a speech yesterday at a Marshall Institute event on space exploration policy in Washington. “The goal remains the same: to see human explorers out in the solar system.” The new focus on “sustainable and affordable” human space exploration isn’t that new, she said, noting that it was emphasized back in 2004 by the Aldridge Commission that evaluated the Vision for Space Exploration (a committee she served on when she was a professor at Arizona State University.) “We’ve come back to needing to have new and enabling approaches in order to make this a sustainable program for the future.”

To emphasize the need for technology development—one of the cornerstones of the new plan—to enable sustainable human space exploration, she put up a chart showing the mass needed to carry out the latest version of NASA’s Design Reference Mission for human Mars exploration. “If today, with today’s technology, decided we wanted to go to Mars, our mission would have a mass about 12 times of the space station,” she said. “It’s just impossible.” Various technologies, from reducing cryogenic boiloff to in situ resource utilization, can get it down to a more manageable level, she said. “It’s not that these technologies are nice to have, they’re absolutely required if we’re going to have a sustainable path out into the solar system.”

I wish that people would understand what a hopeless dead end Constellation was. Regardless of the new policy direction, its rotting carcass had to be cleared from the road. I assume that we’ll be seeing a lot more details and specifics in the coming weeks and months (probably at the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs in a couple weeks).

[Update a few minutes later]

One of the things that encourages me about the implementation of the new policy is that Dr. Leshin, the new head of the Exploration Directorate, was on the Aldridge Commission, and understands better than most the need for affordability and sustainability recommended by that body. I suspect she’ll do a lot better job than Mike Griffin’s NASA of implementing all, or at least most of the Aldridge recommendations.

There’s Got To Be A Catch

…and there is:

…as a result of the Obama decision, the Interior Department will spend several years conducting geologic and environmental studies along the rest of the southern and central Atlantic Seaboard. If a tract is deemed suitable for development, it is listed for sale in a competitive bidding system. The next lease sales — if any are authorized by the Interior Department — would not be held before 2012.

Emphasis mine. And the entire west coast remains off limits. Which is too bad, because the Santa Barbara platforms could be producing oil within a year. For the refineries that the California government refuses to allow to be built. At least until we change it out this fall.

This looks more like lip service to pretend to compromise, than a serious energy production proposal.

Too Trusting

Spammers are starting to move into the social network sites:

Most social networks have internal messaging systems for communication between members. Petre’s group examined that of Facebook, which boasts 5 percent of the world’s population as its users. While Facebook has an antispam engine, the group found that it was better at filtering out phishing e-mails than preventing spam messages from getting through.

The group started by creating fake profiles to trick users into friending them. They created three profiles, one containing almost no information about the user, one with some information, and one with detailed information. They used those profiles to join popular groups and began sending out friend requests.

Within 24 hours, 85 users had accepted a request from the first profile, 108 from the second, and 111 from the third. Petre says that acceptances began to accelerate, since more than 50 percent of the time, users would accept the request if they shared a “mutual friend” with the fake profile. In some cases, he says, users would send a message asking for more information about how they knew this supposed new friend. The researchers didn’t respond to these requests, but in many cases, Petre says, users accepted the request anyway.

The researchers then posted a link without any explanation to the fake profiles’ walls, using a URL shortener to obscure where the link went. Almost 25 percent of the profiles’ “friends” visited the link, Petre says.

I am pretty picky about who I friend on Facebook. I will generally only accept people that I’ve met in meatspace, or at least had previous interactions with on line. Simply having mutual friends is not sufficient. I might friend someone who I don’t know if they provide a message explaining why they want to be my friend, but never if it’s simply a generic friend request. This just seems like basic common sense to me.

Liberty Over Big Government

Michael Barone writes about the Tea Parties and the great ongoing debate about the purpose of America:

The Progressives had their way for much of the 20th century. But it became apparent that centralized experts weren’t disinterested, but always sought to expand their power. And it became clear that central planners can never have the kind of information that is transmitted instantly, as Friedrich von Hayek observed, by price signals in free markets.

It turned out that centralized experts are not as wise and ordinary Americans are not as helpless as the Progressives thought. By passing the stimulus package and the health care bills the Democrats produced expansion of government. But voters seem to prefer expansion of liberty.

The Progressives’ scorn for the Founders has not been shared by the people. First-rate books about the Founders have been best-sellers. And efforts to dismiss the Founders as slaveholders, misogynists or homophobes have been outweighed by the resonance of their words and deeds.

The Declaration of Independence’s proclamation that “all men are created equal” with “unalienable rights” to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” has proved to be happily elastic. It still sings to us today, thanks to the struggles and sacrifices of many Americans who gave blacks and women the equality denied to them in 1776.

In contrast, the early Progressives’ talk of an “industrial age” and an outmoded Constitution sounds like the language of an age now long past. Their faith in centralized planning seems naive in a time when one unpredicted innovation after another has changed lives for the better.

The “progressives” are retrogressive. A set of “elites” (who are elite only in terms of their power, not their intellect or competence) running the lives of the rest of society is the oldest idea in human history. It was opposition to such a notion on which the Constitution was based.

And central planning works no better with space policy than with any other.

A Reusable Indian Rocket?

I don’t expect to see this thing fly into space any time soon. They don’t seem to be serious about it, as indicated by this:

“The RLV-TD will act as a flying test bed to evaluate various technologies like hypersonic flight, autonomous landing, powered cruise flight and hypersonic flight using air breathing propulsion. First in the series of demonstration trials is the hypersonic flight experiment (HEX),” it said.

“Powered cruise flight”? Of what value is that to getting into space (other than giving you azimuth and longitude flexibility)? Unless you can refuel it in flight, it will kill your performance.

I’ll repeat the three rules of aerospace vehicle design:

1) If you want to cruise, use an airbreather.

2) If you want to turn, use a wing.

3) If you want to accelerate, use a rocket.

In order to get to orbit, you have to accelerate.

[Update a few minutes later]

You’ll know that the Indians are serious about building reusable orbital vehicles when they start working on reusable suborbital vehicles.

Inflating The Education Bubble

The government student-loan takeover looks like it has a high potential for disaster:

…the bill’s student loan provisions will not save the $68 billion promised, and will move the country closer to a European-style socialism that has brought that continent stagnation. Going to a Soviet/U.S. Postal Service model of student-loan services goes against the sound maxim that competition is always better than monopoly. Moreover, the bill’s repayment terms will lead to increasing student-loan defaults, adding to the crushing fiscal burden on a government whose IOUs are now trusted less than those of some private corporations.

Third, the bill proceeds from a false premise. President Obama asserted Saturday that “by the end of this decade, we will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” Putting aside the nasty reality of a 45 percent six year college drop-out rate, the Labor Department forecasts that, over the next decade, there will be fewer new jobs requiring college degrees than there will be new college graduates.

But it continues to prop up Big Academia, which is supportive of all this continuing collectivism, so it has that going for it.

Statesman Of The Year

Found by Howard Fineman:

So, just to clarify, some Democratic senator admitted to Fineman that he thinks the bill is political suicide, raises premiums for his constituents and feeds public anger, but voted for it anyway out of personal and party loyalty?

Gee, why would he want to remain anonymous?

[Late afternoon update]

More thoughts from Allahpundit:

And so the big Democratic surge in enthusiasm, which nutroots pundits insisted made passing O-Care an absolute political necessity, ends up being less than the surge in enthusiasm among Republicans — as expected. In fact, the GOP actually picked up a point on the generic ballot after the bill passed. They lead 49/45 now overall and 53/35 among independents. And so, I wonder: Did the left ever really believe that the mother of all welfare-state incursions would produce a stronger reaction among Democrats than Republicans? Or was that cynical garbage they were pushing in hopes that some of the dimmer lights in the Democratic caucus would be scared by it? Let the debate rage.

It seems moot now. They die was cast, and they’ll suffer the consequences this fall. And for another decade afterward, because they’re going to also lose a lot of legislatures and governors in a reapportionment year. Good.

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