(p. 22) In the words of The Saturday Evening Post: “If America doesn’t keep out the queer, alien, mongrelized people of Southern and Eastern Europe, her crop of citizens will eventually be dwarfed and mongrelized in turn.”
According to Thomas C. Leonard, who teaches at Princeton, the driving force behind this and other such laws came from progressives in the halls of academia — people who combined “extravagant faith in science and the state with an outsized confidence in their own expertise.” “Illiberal Reformers” is the perfect title for this slim but vital account of the perils of intellectual arrogance in dealing with explosive social issues. Put simply, Leonard says, elite progressives gave respectable cover to the worst prejudices of the era — not to rabble-rouse, but because they believed them to be true. Science didn’t lie.
But barring undesirables was only half the battle; the herd also had to be culled from within. In 1907, Indiana became the first state to legalize forced sterilization, starting a landslide endorsed by progressive icons like Theodore Roosevelt and the birth control champion Margaret Sanger.
For the full review, see:
DAVID OSHINSKY. “No Justice for the Weak.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, March 20, 2018): 1 & 22-23.
(Note: the online version of the review has the date March 14, 2018, and has the title “‘Imbeciles’ and ‘Illiberal Reformers’.”)
The book under review, is:
Leonard, Thomas C. Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.