Halliday Sutherland

"A born writer, especially a born story-teller. Dr. Sutherland, who is distinguished in medicine, is an amateur in the sense that he only writes when he has nothing better to do. But when he does, it could hardly be done better." G.K. Chesterton.

Who are the Unfit?

One challenge for eugenists is identifying and separating the “fit” from the “unfit”. Dr Halliday Sutherland made these suggestions in his 1925 book, Birth Control Exposed. In addition, he identified the real possibility of a “eugenic nightmare”.

That neo-malthusian assertion is put forward as a biological argument, and therefore must be tested by the laws of biology. Now in biology the essential mark of success of any species in relation to environment is the ability of that species to procreate and continue its existence in spite of its enemies. According to that standard, poverty is not evidence of inferiority , because the poor, in spite of miserable conditions and high death rates, have always managed to increase their numbers. Biologically, they are successful. Moreover, if all the poor of Great Britain and America were destroyed to-night, these countries would be rapidly depopulated in the future, because the richer classes are not creating a sufficient number of children to maintain even a stationary population. In other words, by this standard, the rich are the unfit.

Neo-malthusians will have to find some other standard by which we may recognize inferior stock. Do they suggest moral qualities? Very good. I shall tell you a true story about the great differences of opinion which may arise on the subject of moral qualities. A friend of mine was once invited to a very select meeting held on a Sunday afternoon by some well-intentioned people who wanted to help the poor. The way in which they proposed to help their less fortunate bretheren was by sterilizing all poor persons who were moral degenerates. After much discussion they decided on what the thought was the best method, and then my friend was invited to address the meeting. He did so. He told them that he was not a scientist and had no knowledge of medicine, but that he was willing to accept their particular method of sterilization as the most suitable. That was a matter for experts. As they were dealing with the subject of moral degeneracy, the selection of the patients must also be a matter for experts. Having devoted some forty years of his life to the study of morals, he regarded himself as a moral expert, and therefore they had invited their opinion, he had no hesitation in stating that every man and woman in the audience, with the exception of himself, was a moral degenerate.

If a wave of madness passed over our country, and this eugenic nightmare came true, we might very well ask what tribunal is to decide as to which of us is unfit. About you who are reading this book, I know nothing whatever, but I have a shrewd suspicion that the neo-malthusians have already decided about me. The point is that when these people discuss sterilization, they picture themselves sitting round a table and ordering other people to be sterilized. In the same way Communists, when they talk about the bloody revolution, always picture themselves knocking other people on the head, and indeed they become very angry when I tell them that the other people will retaliate. And thus do all enemies of freedom.

from Birth Control Exposed by Dr Halliday Sutherland (1925)

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This entry was posted on 1 August 2020 by in Books, Eugenics.

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