Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/475

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471
ECONOMIC FACTORS IN EUGENICS

ECONOMIC FACTORS IN EUGENICS
By WILLIAM LELAND HOLT, M.D.
FREIBURG IM BREISGAU, GERMANY

ALTHOUGH eugenics is perhaps the newest of all the sciences, it has already become one of the topics of the day. And this is well, for no science was ever founded which promises to do so much for the improvement of mankind. Sir Francis Galton defined eugenics as "the study of agencies under social control, that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations, either physically or mentally." Such a broad definition evidently makes eugenics include a large part of sociology.

The object of the present essay is not to review or multiply the sad facts concerning the diminishing birth rate among the better members of all civilized communities and the unrestricted propagation of the inferior and unfit. All intelligent people are familiar with these lamentable facts. In America, indeed, popular education concerning the latter evil has so far progressed that two states, viz., Indiana and California, have already passed laws which provide, under proper control, for the sterilization of confirmed rapists, criminals, idiots and imbeciles in the state institutions. The same states and also New Jersey have acts, which provide that no marriage license shall be issued when either party is imbecile, epileptic or insane. A similar act on the statute books of Michigan provides that "no person, who has been afflicted with syphilis or gonorrhea, and has not been cured of the same, shall be capable of contracting a marriage." Ex-president Roosevelt and others have also aroused Americans somewhat to the need of positive work against race suicide, and several societies have been formed to encourage marriage, and to promote all influences which tend to raise the birth rate. One western state in a fit of enthusiasm actually passed a law which put a tax on all bachelors who should not marry within a certain period of grace!

The present writer will not concern himself with these laudable endeavors in the cause of eugenics, but will rather aim to present the social conditions in a new light; namely, to show that their basic causes are chiefly economic, and hence that remedial measures, if they are to succeed, must also be chiefly economic. In order to do this I shall take up some of the leading problems of eugenics, and point out their economic factors. In making this analysis I wish to warn the reader against misunderstanding. When I mention only the economic factors