Margaret Sanger’s Message to the Poor

Why are there so many poor people? Margaret Sanger was a nurse and eugenicist who believed that the drive for sex was “a factor in the perpetuation of poverty” and that if “civilization [was] to be saved”  (Sanger, 1922, pp. 10-11) we would have to keep them (i.e. the poor) from procreating so we could reduce their numbers and reduce the problem. She came to this conclusion after realizing that “well-defined programs of political and legislative action” (pp. 4) (perhaps like food stamp programs, welfare, training programs, etc.) would not work to reduce the “misery of the world” caused by the “urging power of sex” (pp. 7).  She appreciates lovingly the support she receives from the ‘new-Malthusian movement in Great Britain” (pp. 14) and lays the blame for the misery of the poor squarely on the “lack of balance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit’.” She means by this that the poor and unfit are breeding faster than the rich and educated. As she says, this “imbalance” is the “greatest present menace to civilization” (pp. 25).

The example of the inferior classes (i.e. high rates of procreation), the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken, should not be held up for emulation to the mentally and physically fit, and therefore less fertile, parents of the educated and well-to-do classes. On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective. Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon American society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupid, cruel sentimentalism (p. 25).

The “drastic and Spartan” methods she refers to are horrifying, but given her statements about the over-breeding poor, and her “emergency” alarm at the “ever increasing problem of feeble-mindedness,” which she says is caused by the “unrestrained fecundity in the ‘normal’ members of the population,” and which she calls the “fertile parent of degeneracy, crime, and pauperism,” (p. 81-2), we shouldn’t be surprised. She stops sort of suggesting that the “defective progeny” be sent to the “lethal chamber,”[1] but does come down in favor of “immediate sterilization” so that “parenthood is absolutely prohibited” for “every feeble-minded girl or woman of the hereditary type, especially of the moron class” (pp. 100-2), whom I think it is safe to say she figured, based on research done at the University of Oregan at the time, represent about “ten per cent” of the population (p. 94-5). She doesn’t stop at forced sterilization of the most feeble, however. That is just a first step. Ultimately she argues that the general solution is to encourage the poor to practice birth control. “Birth Control has been accepted by the most clear thinking and far seeing of the Eugenics themselves as the most constructive and necessary means to racial health” (p. 189).

Sanger is often considered a racist, but this is a bit of a (perhaps) intentional distraction. Her concern appeared to be not with specific ethnic groups, but with the poor in general, whom she blames for the descent of the species, regardless of their specific race. That is, she considered the overbreeding poor to be examples of, and the source of, “racial degeneracy.”  She quotes a Dr. Austin Freeman who notes that

Compared with the African negro, the British sub-man is in several respects markedly inferior. He tends to be dull; he is usually quite helpless and unhandy; he has, as a rule, no skill or knowledge of handicraft, or indeed knowledge of any kind… Over-population is a phenomenon connected with the survival of the unfit, and it is a mechanism which has created conditions favorable to the survival of the unfit and the elimination of the fit.

You can read her book and see for yourself who the eugenicists were aiming at. It is available at archive.org. It is quite instructive.

Notably, Margaret Sanger was instrumental in the emergence of organizations that eventually evolved into Planned Parenthood (birth control!). Note that Planned Parenthood does not espouse these offensive views anymore, and by encouraging reproductive control they have certainly contributed to the emancipation of women from reproductive slavery. Therefore, this little note should not be read as an attack on procreative autonomy and freedom. I write this analysis as I work on an article discussing the implications of recent biological research to our understanding of human potential and human dysfunction (Sosteric, 2018). I include it here simply to show how a concern with population control mixes with eugenics mixes with Nazi-ism mixes with Darwinian theory mixes with apologies for capitalist accumulation. The point is to show suggest that eugenicists are not racist and that their final solution is not a racial solution. Rather, it is a cost saving measure based on the erroneous belief that the feeble poor are the cause of their own unemployment, poverty, and misery. That is of course not true. As noted in my Rocket Scientists Guide to Money and the Economy (Sharp, 2016), poverty is caused by unfettered accumulation, not by bad genes. It is the fact that 62 people have managed to acquire half the world’s wealth that the poor are in such dire straits. This is something to think about as automation threatens to throw billions out of work globally, thereby increasing the “burden” on the capitalist system, and potentially requiring some sort of cost-saving solution. Most may not consider the “lethal chamber” an option, but other measures, like chip sterilization,[2] nuclear war that enlists and kills of the poor, or even a Malthusian program of soft eugenics, where disease and plague amongst the poor are encouraged by government policy,[3] are all strategies one can easily slip through the cracks of a scandal distracted, and racially misdirected, population.

 

Additional Resources

The real cause of poverty revealed

Free PDF | Amazon.com | Book Finder Version: 1.0
Status: In Print

Money Moksha

Liberate yourself from power, greed, addiction,
global deception, and self-delusion

Accompanies the Rocket Scientists Guide
to Money an Economy

 

References

Hiscott, R. (2014). Bill Gates Backs Birth Control With Wireless On-Off Switch. Huffington Post.

Lee, D. (2014). ‘Remote control’ contraceptive chip available ‘by 2018’. BBC News.  Retrieved Feb 19, 2018, from http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-28193720

Ramsey, L. (2017). Former Obama administration officials blast Trump’s proposed health budget cuts. Business Insider.

Sanger, M. (1922). The Pivot of Civilization. New York: Brentano’s Publishers.

Sharp, M. (2016). The Rocket Scientists’ Guide to Money and the Economy: Accumulation and Debt. St Albert, Alberta: Lightning Path Press.

Sosteric, M. (2018). Gateway to Eden: Darwin, Lamarck, and the Ascent of Humanity.

Endnotes

[1] Oh yes, she said that. She referred to “lethal chambers” as a solution for the degenerate poor. She may not have stepped over that boundary, but we do know that others did indeed put the “lethal chamber” into practice.

[2] Rich billionaire Bill Gates, whose father headed Planned Parenthood, and who hypocritically uses a remarkably disproportionate amount of the world’s resources to support his lavish lifestyle, while pushing birth control to save the planet’s environment (Hiscott, 2014), has helped developed contraceptive chips which can be implanted into the human and which can turned on an off remotely (Lee, 2014). And while currently, you have to make contact with a person’s skin to activate the technology, no technology is unhackable, and not all individual and governments share the same ethical limitations of people like Bill. We can certainly envisage a future where these chips are implanted in all newborn babies and where birth control can thus be applied to curb the procreation of “undesirables” in specific ethnic or national locations. With technology such as this, it is possible to engage in “soft genocide.” Simply implant all new children with the chip and disallow procreation of African’s, Haitians, Jews, and any others deemed as inferior, “unfit,” or (as Donald Trump says) come from “shithole” countries.

[3] Thomas Malthus was a priest who suggested that elites should do what they could to encourage the poor to die off from disease and malnutrition.

All children born, beyond what would be required to keep up the population to a desired level, must necessarily perish, unless room be made for them by the deaths of grown persons .… Therefore … we should facilitate, instead of foolishly and vainly endeavoring to impede, the operations of nature in producing this mortality; and if we dread the too frequent visitation of the horrid form of famine, we should sedulously encourage the other forms of destruction, which we compel nature to use. Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague. In the country, we should build our villages near stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations. But above all, we should reprobate [i.e., reject] specific remedies for ravaging diseases; and restrain those benevolent, but much mistaken men, who have thought they were doing a service to mankind by projecting schemes for the total extirpation of particular disorders.” Quoted in Allan Chase, The Legacy of Malthus: The Social Costs of the New Scientific Racism (New York: Knopf, 1977), p. 7.

Perhaps a Malthusian strategy of population control is behind a GOP budget that cuts billions from public health, the CDC, Medicaid, and the FDA (Ramsey, 2017)

Written by Mike Sosteric (Dr. S.)

Just another loud mouth sociology professor, teaching sociology courses. Check me out here at the Socjourn, over there at The Conversation and at academia.edu.

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