Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Kool Aid Tastes Bitter

Thankful for Spineless Hypocrites

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841-1935) is one of the most celebrated jurists ever to sit on the benches of the United States Supreme Court.  He was an atheist.  He had little respect for human life in an abstract sense.  Accordingly, he could write as follows to a correspondent:
I see no reason for attributing to man a significance different in kind from that which belongs to a baboon or a grain of sand.  [Holmes to Frederick Pollock, August 30, 1929, in Richard A. Posner, ed., The Essential Holmes: Selections from the Letters, Speeches, Judicial Opinions, and Other Writings of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (University of Chicago Press, 1992), p. 108.]
Consistent with this particular religious commitment, Holmes advocated forced sterilisation and eugenics.  the following citation is taken from Conservapedia

Holmes was a believer not just in Darwinism, but in Social Darwinism[35] and eugenics. In 1915, he wrote that “wholesale social regeneration” could be effected “only by taking in hand life and trying to build a race.”[36] What he meant, he explained six years later to Frankfurter, was not merely “restricting propagation by the undesirables,” but “putting to death infants that didn't pass the examination, etc. etc.”[37] His denial of human rights thus extinguished even to the right to life.

As early as 1895, Holmes said, “I can imagine a future in which science... shall take control of life, and condemn at once with instant execution what now is left for nature to destroy.”[38] Two years later, he wrote that in order to “see socialism successful,” society must “substitute artificial selection for natural by putting to death the inadequate.”[39] He wrote of his “contempt” for “socialisms not prepared... to kill everyone below standard,” adding, “I shall think socialism begins to be entitled to serious treatment when and not before it takes life in hand and prevents continuance of the unfit.” (In 1941, Father Frances E. Lucey, regent of Georgetown University Law School, remarked that "if recent reports are true" National Socialist Germany appeared to satisfy this standard.)[40] “I can understand saying,” wrote Holmes, “whatever the cost, so far as may be, we will keep certain strains out of our blood.”[41] Holmes looked forward to a future civilization “perhaps with smaller numbers, but perhaps also bred to greatness and splendor by science.”[42]

Buck v. Bell

As a Supreme Court Justice, Holmes read his belief in eugenics into the Constitution, writing the decision in Buck v. Bell (1927) upholding the forced sterilization of a young woman, Carrie Buck, on the grounds that she had a low IQ. Substituting his personal views in place of the Constitution, he wrote, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough," referring to Buck, her mother, and her six-month-old baby.[43] The Nazis, who sterilized more than 400,000 people, used Buck v. Bell in their propaganda.[44] When that practice was condemned at the Nuremberg trials, counsel for the accused Nazis likewise cited Holmes' opinion in their clients' defense.[45]
“One decision that I wrote gave me pleasure,” confided Holmes, “establishing the constitutionality of a law permitting the sterilization of imbeciles.”[46] “I wrote and delivered a decision upholding the constitutionality of a state law for sterilizing imbeciles the other day,” he wrote Laski, “and felt that I was getting near to the first principle of real reform.”[47] As his biographer Sheldon Novick comments, Holmes “in personal letters seemed to espouse a kind of fascist ideology.”[48]
  1. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., “Ideals and Doubts,” 10 Illinois Law Review 1 (1915), reprinted in Collected Legal Papers (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1920), p. 306
  2. Holmes to Frankfurter, September 3, 1921, postscript, in Robert M. Mennel and Christine L. Compston, eds., Holmes and Frankfurter: Their Correspondence, 1912-1934 (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1996) ISBN 0874517583, p. 125
  3. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., An Address (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1895), p. 5
  4. Holmes to Claire Fitzpatrick, Lady Castletown, August 19, 1897, quoted in Sheldon M. Novick, “Justice Holmes' Philosophy,” 70 Washington University Law Quarterly (1992), pp. 703, 729
  5. Albert W. Alschuler, Law Without Values: The Life, Work, and Legacy of Justice Holmes (University of Chicago Press, 2002) ISBN 0226015211, pp. 27-28
  6. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., “Law and Social Reform,” in Max Lerner, ed., The Mind and Faith of Justice Holmes (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1943), p. 401 (PDF p. 446)
  7. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., “The Law and the Court,” Collected Legal Papers, p. 296
  8. Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927)
  9. Stephen Murdoch, Review of Paul Lombardo’s Three Generations, No Imbeciles: Eugenics, the Supreme Court, and Buck v. Bell (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), History News Network (George Mason University, January 13, 2009
  10. William E. Leuchtenburg, The Supreme Court Reborn: The Constitutional Revolution in the Age of Roosevelt (Oxford University Press, 1996) ISBN 0195111311, p. 17
  11. James Bishop Peabody, ed, The Holmes-Einstein Letters: Correspondence of Mr. Justice Holmes and Lewis Einstein, 1903-1935 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1964), p. 267
  12. Holmes to Laski, May 12, 1927, reprinted in Mark De Wolfe Howe, ed., Holmes-Laski Letters: The Correspondence of Mr. Justice Holmes and Harold J. Laski, 1916-1935, Volume 2 (Harvard University Press, 1953), p. 942 (PDF p. 141)
  13. Sheldon M. Novick, Honorable Justice: The Life of Oliver Wendell Holmes (New York: Dell Publishing, 1990) ISBN 0440503256, p. xvii
Of course Holmes's opinions based on his Darwinist and atheist convictions are embarrassing today to those of  the politically correct brigade.  But not embarrassing to those dedicated to logical and rational thought.  Start where Holmes started (man is no more significant than a baboon or a grain of sand) and you end up where he ends up (inferior humans need to be excised from history).

Granted that many within the world view of secularism would recoil from such ideas.  But to the true believer, these fellow travellers are spineless and hypocritical.  They lack the courage of their convictions.  They are too concerned with what others might think of them.

We, for our part, are very thankful that there are so many "spineless and hypocritical" people out there to restrain the resulting reign of terror, were our self-esteemed betters to gain unrestrained control.  But at the same time we recognize that the poison is already in the kool-aid; those dispensing the poison must be exposed and confronted again and again. 

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