Russ Roberts: I think the general thrust of welfare economics--which means something very specific in economic theory; it's not the study of payments to poor people: it's the study of wellbeing, human wellbeing--I find depressingly narrow, for starters. Overly confident. And I think incredibly self-serving: to place us as the engineers of the betterment of those who don't understand the world as well as do, is the claim. And I find it depressing.

Discouraging the reproduction of

I enjoyed this podcast. Both Russ Roberts and Thomas Leonard clearly did a lot of homework prior to the interview. However, much of the interview focused on racism and elitism in academics, which are, in and of themselves, uninteresting from a systems perspective given that fear-of-others and, therefore, fear of competition is universal. Fears and emotions present in all people cannot explain differences between people. What is interesting is the mechanisms that allow for the systematic expression of those fears, since such expression will almost certainly take the form of coercion harmful to the whole society—even the people doing the coercing. To that end, this comment around 23:00 bears particular attention: "When the Constitution was amended in 1913 to pass the income tax, economists were absolutely--today we'd call them 'public finance economists'--were at the forefront of that movement to move the United States government away from funding itself with tariff revenues and with taxes on tobacco and alcohol."

(situational ethics, as we would call it today) and on eugenics

The aim of Eugenics is usually to emphasize the importance of one trait over other traits.

After the Eugenics Wars ended, the United Nations debated the fate of thousands of Augment embryos. With a stalemate ensuing, the UN opted to store the embryos in : also kept from public knowledge. This move mirrored the move to cryogenically store victims as well. (: "", ; )

Thomas Leonard on Race, Eugenics, and Illiberal …

Part of what concerns disability rights advocates is the questionablerelation between the existence of certain impairments or bodilyanomalies and the availability of equality of opportunity orwell-being (Silvers, Wasserman, and Mahowald 1998; Amundson 2005; Aschand Wasserman 2005) that seems to be a common presumption in liberaleugenics theories. Broadly, they worry that many theorists arerelatively uninformed about the life experiences of people withdisabilities, or unfairly dismissive of their claims (Amundson 2005;Goering 2008), and thus rely on an overly negative evaluation of theirquality of life. As such, efforts to promote “good birth”undervalue existing people with disabilities. Additionally, advocatesof liberal eugenics, it is argued, allow one trait to stand in for allof what a potential person can be (Asch and Wasserman 2005), andunderestimate the value of human diversity that includes non-standardmodes of human functioning linked to disability (Silvers 1998), andthe possibility of “gains” made possible through livingwith disability (Garland-Thomson 2012). (For more discussion, see SEP entrieson ;and .)

"Eugenics: Its Definition, Scope and Aims" by Francis …

Other critics point to potentially troubling assumptions in thetheoretical framework of liberal eugenics. Bennett, for instance,looks at whether an appeal to impersonal or non-person-affecting harmcan get us out of the non-identity problem without resorting totroubling social justifications for a purportedly individualisticeugenics. She claims,


THANK YOU so much for your distinction between Darwinism and Eugenics, Professor Leonard. They are indeed the opposite: Darwinism is "survival of the fittest", Eugenics is "picking winners and losers because so-and-so thinks they have a better idea of what is fittest."


It was only later that Eugenics went out of style. First, the Nazis showed the horrific lengths that such logic can be taken to. Next, it was discovered that Carrie Buck wasn't even feeble minded. This cast much needed doubt on the trustworthiness of bureaucrats to make such decisions.