It’s become the style lately to call the Republicans “Social Darwinists”, just as it has for some time been the style for Republicans to call Democrats “socialists”. I’ve often said in responding to the Republican charge that, by their definitions, virtually everyone is a socialist. And I have to say, from what I read, by any definition, everyone is a “Social Darwinist”.
“Social Darwinism” means using the idea of “survival of the fittest to justify social policies which make no distinction between those able to support themselves and those unable to support themselves”, according to Wikipedia. Whenever I hear it, I think of Mandalore in KotOR II saying “the purpose of the weak is to feed the strong”. That’s what it boils down to: “Go Team Strong! Crush the Weak!”
The thing is, “the Strong” and “the Weak” are rather nebulous concepts. I mean, people are strong in some areas and weak in others.
For instance, here is a list of the most athletic Presidents ever. I bet Rob Gronkowski is a better athlete than any of those guys. Compared to him, they’re weak athletically. Yet, Rob Gronkowski will never be the Commander in Chief of the World’s most powerful military. And that’s because he is probably one of the weakest people in the world when it comes to politicking. Bill Gates can’t bench as much as Ryan Kennelly, and yet he has done alright for himself in the world. Who is “weak” and who is “strong” depends on the situation.
“Survival of the fittest” is practically tautological: “Who survives?” “The fittest!” “How do we know they’re the fittest?” “They survive!” (Before anyone gets excited, note that this does not disprove Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, much as some of my religious friends wish it did.)
In the broadest sense, “Social Darwinism” could be said to just mean “the world needs more good people and less bad people”. Everyone agrees with that. The difficulty comes in defining “good” and “‘bad”.
Ayn Rand, as we well know, chose to define good people as “people who had earned a lot of money by selling stuff in the free-market”, and bad people as “people who produce nothing and take government money”. So, the Randian worldview, somebody on welfare is “bad”, but a billionaire author is “good”. I have chosen these examples because I have in mind one person who was both: J.K. Rowling. And she would not have been able to be a billionaire author had she not taken government assistance. This is one of the biggest problems with the Randian worldview.
The Republicans are not “Social Darwinists” as much as they are “Defenders of People with Lots of Money”. Paul Ryan may have repudiated Rand the other day, but let’s face it; he’s just saying that so people don’t start saying he’s an atheist.