No Scientific Evidence Favors Social Darwinism

 
There is no scientific evidence that proves that social
Darwinism does anything to lift up the people at the bottom. The only evidence
I know of that suggests that a government social safety net robs the citizens
of a given society of initiative and keeps these citizen on the bottom comes
from a theory described in a fiction book read by sophomores, (The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand) which is
being construed as proof and offered up as such by Paul Ryan and the Republican
party and by some wealthy Americans (who don’t even accept Darwin’s theories).
Although I like fiction and I do feel that it often explores philosophical themes
and points of view, fiction is not usually mistaken for science. I not sure
that there is even any evidence from the social sciences, which explore issues
with too many variables to be classified as pure science, to suggest that
offering supportive services to the poor keeps them from climbing the
socio-economic ladder.

We already know what the world was like when the poor had
no safety net beyond the kindness of strangers. The poor had little or nothing
to fall back on for centuries. Did it make them more innovative? Did it give
them incentive to become entrepreneurs?

In most accounts I have read poor people often turned to
crime to pay their way; petty theft, picking pockets, robbing homes or rich
people. Some starving people stole bread or food. People could be sent to
prison for stealing bread. There’s a whole classic novel about this social
trend too (Les Miserables by Victor Hugo). Is it possible that some people rose
above their abject beginnings and moved their families slowly up that
socio-economic ladder? Of course it happened, but not reliably.

Is it possible that people who know they can rely on their
government for money, income and/or food, etc. will hug the bottom of the
socio-economic ladder because they are basically lazy, or the assistance has
robbed them of their pride and their fighting spirit? I suppose it is, after
all, there are all kinds of people. I suspect, though, that even with
government assistance, life at the bottom is not all that appealing. Do we
think that most people will lose all ambition if they have enough free money to
survive, even though their survival level is way less comfortable than that of
others in the society? Do we think these are the same people who would rise to
the top if they weren’t given “free” money? Spending even more money and
putting it into a really effective educational system that meets the needs of
the poor would seem more effective than taking away money that is keeping
people from lives filled with hopelessness.

Isn’t it quite possible that rich folks are using this
theory taken from the pages of a fiction book because they feel burdened by
increasing numbers of poor folks at the bottom of our culture, even though it
this very culture which has skewed its financials to favor these rich folks for
so long that they are able to convince themselves that they earned all their
wealth with no help from the laws of our nation or from those same people who
used to work in their factories and who are now unemployed. The burden of the
poor has gotten heavier since the recession but the taxes on those who “have”
have only been raised once. The poverty at the bottom of America is dragging
the federal budget down into greater and greater debt because the wealthy
refuse to pay more and because they want the federal government to fail. They
still are trying to convince us that if we are kind to the people at the top of
the ladder they will shed crumbs that can be collected by those at the bottom
of the ladder and that these crumbs, wisely used, can bring those at the bottom
closer to the top (this is trickle down which has never worked – there have
always been poor people – this is also a theory that cannot be proven
scientifically).

I just don’t buy this self-serving, untested theory; this
theory which flies in the face of centuries of proof that the opposite is true.
In a system with no social safety net the poor stay poor and the effects on the
society as a whole are more negative than in societies with a social safety
net. We may reach a point where we actually have to pay people not to work in
the same way we pay people not to farm. There seem to be plenty of goods and
services around even given the number of adults who are not working. I just do
not see any evidence that getting rid of or drastically cutting back on the
social safety net will benefit either society or the poor.
 

Saying something over and over does not in any way
constitute proof that what is being said is true especially when this idea
comes from the pages of a book of fiction.

 

This is the view from the cheap seats.

This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com

 

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