In one of those blogo-dust-ups (is that a good phrase? How about "blogcontroversy"? Or maybe blogscuffle? We need a word!) Ross Douthat over at the Atlantic has been taking some heat for suggesting that calling yourself a progressive implicates you in their past support of the eugenics programs of the early 20th century. Go here and wander around for a good example of how arguments just sail past one another.
For the record, I don't think that Hillary!'s self-labeling as a "progressive" of late means much of anything with respect to support for eugenics. And I do think there is a distinction to be made with the "new eugenics" in that its supporters don't want (yet) the state to enforce the improvement of human beings. And it seems right to say that if we could use some sort of gene therapy to prevent folks from developing, say, cystic fibrosis, that would be a very good thing. And most liberals/progressives really aren't tied to the sort of strong notion of progress that their forbears bought into.
Still, the liberal bleating that they're really *not* eugenicists and that it's all going to be merely individual choice and so everything will be just hunky-dory is just a bit disingenuous. These are folks, after all, who in every area of life other than those things that might ever so tangentially touch on the freedom to procreate as one will (or will not, in far too many cases) insist that free choice really isn't free choice. Hey, some folks decide to take out 35% interest pay-day loans - they made their own choice, right? The truth of the matter (it seems to me) is that in a society where certain sorts of perfection start being the product of choice, especially among the wealthy, well-born, etc., it will necessarily create an obverse pressure on everyone to *choose* in certain ways. One of the ways that Tocqueville gets democratic culture exactly right is his analysis of how public opinion works to ensure a uniformity of views that is much more powerful and much more thoroughgoing than anything government itself could do. So when the successful and wealthy people in a society suddenly start having children that all have TVD's beatific good looks and winsome personality and everyone has a "choice" about what "sort" of children they produce, they will "choose" to all have little TVD's. God help us.