The chorus of disapproval that greeted Howard Flight’s remark about how cuts in child benefits will encourage “breeding” among the lower social classes has left the impression that such comments are now to be judged in a historical vacuum, purely on the basis of whether or not they accord with what some would sneeringly call political correctness. This solipsistic reaction is dangerously shallow.
Whether through squeamishness or ignorance, the media coverage has largely ignored the connection between Flight’s comment and the argument for eugenics originally advanced by Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton in the late nineteenth century. Galton voiced explicitly what Flight only implied: given the chance, the inferior stock among the lower classes will breed like rabbits.
Galton worried about the “yearly output by unfit parents of weakly children who are constitutionally incapable of growing