Social Darwinism waited in the shadows for worldwide attention for eons, and still lurks over humanity today. The idea that the human race could improve by selective breeding dates back to Aristotle's teacher in ancient Greece. It finally got its “big break” through Social Darwinism under Herbert Spencer's manipulation, and people identify it most with Germany, but in reality it existed among the elite all over Europe. Lombroso in Spain wrote in the late 1800s that some people just had criminal genes. A harsher breed of colonialism, opposed to the idea of the “white man's burden” to educate the ignorant natives world-ever, held that the fitter civilizations had the right to take over the weaker or the foolish. In these situations, Social Darwinism had the effect of promoting discrimination based on culture, and suspicion based on parentage.
In Germany Social Darwinism had the greatest power as race-based discrimination. In some ways, it was not anti-Semitism that drove Hitler, but Social Darwinism that drove him to anti-Semitism. Interestingly, some educated Jews in Germany accepted the idea of Social Darwinism, but included themselves in the “chosen race.” Hitler himself explicitly stated that one must follow science (as opposed to a societal, religious, or other code) when deciding on morality. The only really fundamental moral right, then, he said, was the moral right of one race to subjugate the other. In fact, this competetive right became the duty of every superior race, and he even explicitly stated that he took pride when people labeled him as a barbarian because nature supported competetive barbarianism. Social Darwinism originally targeted the “less accomplished” (in Hitler's eyes) races, and of course, blacks and other very distinct people became immediately unfavorable, as did the old, weak, and sick. Many Jews often had liberalizing or, on the other end of the pendulum, distinctly communist tendencies. This political enmity probably prompted Hitler to notice the differences they bore biologically to himself, for to him their widespread "political ignorance" certainly had something to do with their genetics. At any rate, Social Darwinism, if not the motivation for anti-semitism for Hitler, became the justification for all of Germany.
Some feel that only fringe fanatics, like Hitler, would apply the principles of biology to human society, and even today continue to argue against the use of the term “Social Darwinism.” However, they fail to realize how widespread and natural the extension from biological evolution to evolution of human societies really seemed to people. Not all the reasoning behind Social Darwinism produced death and discrimination: Andrew Carnegie did not believe in welfare handouts, for he hoped that the deserving poor would succeed, and the undeserving poor would not succeed (and thus eliminate their genes from the gene pool). In order to help the deserving poor he built libraries and other public outlets for aid that required effort to access. Most of the legacies of Social Darwinism, however, have deep roots in racism and bigotry. In the US, between 1910 and 1930, 24 states passed eugenics laws, and Congress passed a migration law restricting who could enter the United States based on race and genetic/ethnic fitness. Margaret Sanger, the avid contraception and birth control activist who founded Planned Parenthood, suggested that her ideas of contraception would best apply to the blacks in the US. She actually wrote that she hoped to convince black women to have as many abortions as possible, and to use contraception as much as possible, in order to gradually eliminate the race, and suggested that people convince black pastors to tell their congregants that contraception and abortion would benefit their families. Ironically, probably through economic disadvantages or other social factors, today minorities are overrepresented in abortion clinics as compared to whites, and Margaret Sanger's dream has in some ways begun to come true, not through social planning as she had suggested, but by accident. Ms. Sanger's plan, like that of Hitler and others, however, held the utmost of intention. They really did believe that science needed to dictate their morality, and that to follow nature's example required the subjugation of the unfit. The harsh legacies of Social Darwinism still remain with us today.