The call went out for “misfits and weirdos” to come and work in Downing Street. Andrew Sabisky, a “super forecaster” decided this was his time. He answered the call and was, very briefly, ushered into the heart of Government. He was given a role as a contractor, which seems to have avoided a lot of pesky vetting. The hitch came when evidence emerged that he is, or at least was, rather keen on eugenics. In 2014 he wrote:
“One way to get around the problems of unplanned pregnancies creating a permanent underclass would be to legally enforce universal uptake of long-term contraception at the onset of puberty. Vaccination laws give it a precedent, I would argue.”
A pretty shocking proposal, which is not destined to become Government policy, despite Sabisky’s claim that “in transhumanist circles I believe these problems have been discussed for a while.” I’m not sure if Sabisky was entirely serious about the proposition. Perhaps he was just shooting the breeze. The words quoted above were written when he was 24. He preceded them by a reference to “good dystopian sci-fi”. They were followed by conceding that “some people reading this will definitely think I’m crazy” and that bold plan was likely to face some backchat from “the God squad.” Was he wanting to stop all teenagers from breeding? The conception rate for under 18s is already at a record low.
That was not all. Earlier that year he made another comment about American data showing that white people have a higher IQ on average than black people. I’m not sure that IQ is a particularly worthwhile measure of intelligence. It certainly doesn’t seem much guarantee of success – as anyone who has been to a Mensa gathering will confirm. My advice for anyone who believes that black people are of lower intelligence who be to visit the Michaela School in Brent which has a high proportion of black pupils and last summer celebrated GCSE results that put the school at the top of the league tables.
If Sabisky does have wacky, even offensive, views does it matter? Should not the measure be whether he was able to do a good job with his “super forecasting”, or whatever it was, that would have been benefited all of us? Our criteria in our daily lives is whether people whose services we employ are good at their jobs. Does it matter if your dentist is a Buddhist? Or your plumber is a Communist? Others will retort that working in Downing Street is a different matter.
Either way, some on the Left have taken this rather bizarre incident to associate Conservatives with eugenics. Before they get too carried away, they might care to reflect on their own ideological roots. If they thought Sabisky’s comments were bad then perhaps the Twitter lynch-mob should put down their pitchforks just for a moment and reflect on the some of the following.
George Bernard Shaw wrote:
“The only fundamental and possible socialism is the socialisation of the selective breeding of man.”
“A part of eugenic politics would finally land us in an extensive use of the lethal chamber. A great many people would have to be put out of existence simply because it wastes other people’s time to look after them.”
Bertrand Russell offered a milder policy proposal that the state should issue colour-coded “procreation tickets”. Those who decided to have children with holders of a different-coloured ticket would be punished with a heavy fine.
Beatrice Webb, who with her husband Sidney founded the Fabian Society, regarded eugenics as “the most important question” of all, while her husband declared that ‘no eugenicist can be a laissez faire individualist… he must interfere, interfere, interfere!’
HG Wells praised eugenics as the first step towards the elimination of “detrimental types and characteristics” and the “fostering of desirable types” instead. He offered this message to the working class:
“We cannot go on giving you health, freedom, enlargement, limitless wealth, if all our gifts to you are to be swamped by an indiscriminate torrent of progeny…and we cannot make the social life and the world-peace we are determined to make, with the ill-bred, ill-trained swarms of inferior citizens that you inflict upon us.”
In July 1931 the Labour MP Archibald Church sought legislation to halt the reproduction of those “who are in every way a burden to their parents, a misery to themselves and in my opinion a menace to the social life of the community”.
The same month the New Statesman declared:
“The legitimate claims of eugenics are not inherently incompatible with the outlook of the collectivist movement. On the contrary, they would be expected to find their most intransigent opponents amongst those who cling to the individualistic views of parenthood and family economics.”
The Manchester Guardian backed his call. Despite such cheerleaders, forced sterilisation was not adopted. Though it was implemented by Social Democrats in Sweden.
A few minutes walk from my home is a block of council flats named in honour of Ellen Wilkinson, a cabinet minister in the Attlee Government. She wanted the Eugenics Society to form a special committee of Labour sympathisers. John Maynard Keynes served on the society’s governing council and was its director from 1937 to 1944.
Will Cooks, one of the first Labour MPs was another enthusiast. Speaking in support of the Feeble Minded Person Control Bill he remarked:
“There is only one fitting description… they are almost like human vermin. They crawl about, doing absolutely nothing, except polluting and corrupting everything they touch. We talk about the liberty of the subject. What nonsense! What a waste of words!”
Harold Laski, the Chairman of the Labour Party from 1945-46 wrote an essay on The Scope of Genetics:
“Extreme emphasis must be laid on the danger of breeding from the unfit at the expense of the fit… The different rates of fertility in the sound and pathological stocks point to a future swamping of the better by the worse. As a nation, we are faced by racial suicide… The parentage of the fit must be encouraged, the propagation of the unfit must be prevented… The time is surely coming in our history when society will look upon the production of a weakling as a crime against itself.”
Marie Stopes called for:
“Sterilisation of those totally unfit for parenthood to be made an immediate possibility, indeed made compulsory.”
In 1935 Stopes attended the International Congress for Population Science in Berlin, sponsored by the Nazi regime and just before the War she sent Hitler some of her poems.
Karl Marx wrote in the New York Tribune, in 1853:
“The classes and the races, too weak to master the new conditions of life, must give way.”
In 1849, Friedrich Engels wrote in Marx’s newspaper, Neue Rheinische
“Among all the large and small nations of Austria, only three standard-bearers of progress took an active part in history, and still retain their vitality—the Germans, the Poles and the Magyars. Hence they are now revolutionary. All the other large and small nationalities and peoples are destined to perish before long in the revolutionary world storm. For that reason they are now counter-revolutionary.”
To their credit, some of the Left, notably Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian, have acknowledged this uncomfortable history. After the Holocaust the climate of acceptable opinion certainly changed very significantly. Nor was it only socialists who advocated eugenics. But it should also be noted that plenty of others defended the cause of freedom and civilisation. When the eugenicists were advocating their poisonous schemes it tended to be Conservatives, such as GK Chesterton, who robustly refuted them. For us individual life is precious – we are not units to be allocated or discarded according to some central plan.
It was probably necessary for Sabisky to go. I feel sorry that a young nerd should be hounded out for silly comments he made when younger. But doubtless, he will find alternative gainful employment in a less sensitive building. The irony is that some of those denouncing him with the loudest voices seem unaware of views of their intellectual heroes.