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American Economic Reform in the Progressive Era: Its Foundational Beliefs and Their Relation to Eugenics

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  • Thomas C. Leonard

Abstract

This essay explores the progressive beliefs other than human hierarchy that inclined Progressive Era economic reform toward eugenics. It argues the following: that the progressives believed in a powerful, centralized state, conceiving of government as the best means for promoting the social good and rejecting the individualism of (classical) liberalism; that the progressives venerated social efficiency; that the progressives believed in the epistemic and moral authority of science, a belief that comprised their view that biology could explain and control human inheritance and that the still nascent sciences of society could explain and control the causes of economic ills; that the progressives believed that intellectuals should guide social and economic progress, a belief erected upon two subsidiary faiths, a faith in the disinterestedness and incorruptibility of the experts who would run the technocracy they envisioned, and a faith that expertise could not only serve the social good, but also identify it; and that, while antimonopoly, the progressives believed that increasing industrial consolidation was inevitable, and desirable, consistent with their faith in planning, organization, and command.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Duke University Press in its journal History of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 41 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (Spring)
Pages: 109-141

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Handle: RePEc:hop:hopeec:v:41:y:2009:i:1:p:109-141

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Keywords: Progressive Era; eugenics;

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Cited by:
  1. Matthew Hood & John Nofsinger & Abhishek Varma, 2014. "Conservation, Discrimination, and Salvation: Investors’ Social Concerns in the Stock Market," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer, Springer, vol. 45(1), pages 5-37, February.
  2. James L. Butkiewicz, 2013. "Eugene Meyer and the German Influence on the Origin of U.S. Federal Financial Rescues," Working Papers, University of Delaware, Department of Economics 13-09, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
  3. Luca Fiorito & Cosma Orsi, 2012. "Anti-Semitism and Progressive Era Social Science. The case of John R. Commons," Department of Economics University of Siena, Department of Economics, University of Siena 658, Department of Economics, University of Siena.

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