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

  • Thomas C. Leonard

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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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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