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Eugenics and Other Evils

G. K. Chesterton

Book Overview: 

Most Eugenists are Euphemists. I mean merely that short words startle them, while long words soothe them. And they are utterly incapable of translating the one into the other, however obviously they mean the same thing. Say to them “The persuasive and even coercive powers of the citizen should enable him to make sure that the burden of longevity in the previous generation does not become disproportionate and intolerable, especially to the females”; say this to them and they will sway slightly to and fro like babies sent to sleep in cradles. Say to them “Murder your mother,” and they sit up quite suddenly. Yet the two sentences, in cold logic, are exactly the same.”

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . offered us as something highly scientific and humane. All these people, in short, being barbarians, have always kept their captives captive until they (the barbarians) chose to think the captives were in a fit frame of mind to come out. It is also the plain fact that all that has been called civilisation or progress, justice or liberty, for nearly three thousand years, has had the general direction of treating even the captive as a free man, in so far as some clear case of some defined crime had [36]to be shown against him. All law has meant allowing the criminal, within some limits or other, to argue with the law: as Job was allowed, or rather challenged, to argue with God. But the criminal is, among civilised men, tried by one law for one crime for a perfectly simple reason: that the motive of the crime, like the meaning of the law, is conceivable to the common intelligence. A man is punished specially as a burglar, and not generally as a bad man, because a man may be . . . Read More

Community Reviews

Chesterton began this book in the 1910’s, before eugenics realized its full horror in the holocaust, but it is a disturbingly prophetic and surprisingly poignant book even in our own day. What makes this book so arresting is that it is about far more than eugenics: it is about how evil succeeds s...more

Chesterton was a literary genius. His satirical prose and command of the paradox leads the reader dumbfounded how anyone could accept the tenants that Chesterton argues against in his Eugenics and Other Evils. Don't be fooled by the age of this book; the eugenics movement has notgone away, it has just changed...more

If a gross injustice appeared disguised in scientific lingo and talk of progress, would I recognize it for what it is? That was the question I had in mind as I started this book. I greatly admire Chesterton and his contemporaries for recognizing eugenics for the monster it was, and without the be...more

Don't be fooled by the title or how old this book is. It is an amazing takedown of the entire basis of eugenic thought as well as a profound argument against unregulated capitalism. It not only does those, but highlight problem after problem that you never have even considered before. And it was...more

I love old, forgotten, underrated books which present good to excellent pictures of now. Eugenics and Other Evils was published back in 1922 at the beginning of the last century and here we are almost a century later still wrangling over these same issues and heading down the same wrong road, sti...more

ENGLISH: At first I thought that this book would be outdated, as Eugenics, which was a problem in 1917, when the book was written, would no longer be a problem. But then, in the second part, I saw that just the name has been abandoned, due to the fact that Hitler appropriated it, but the contents...more

For the most part, eugenics has receded as a respectable academic discipline. But while one would have a hard time finding blatant exponents of the idea of eugenics, the principles of eugenics are very much alive today. The common misconception is that they died with Nazism, but even a cursory gl...more

I write down commonplaces as I read books: little items worthy, as N. D. Wilson said, of imitation and remembrance. I have several of these empty, unlined notebooks filled, and have broken tradition with Chesterton in not actually keeping track. With Tolkien, I devoted an entire commonplace book....more

This book was truly prophetic. George Bernard Shaw said of G.K. Chesterton "he was a man of colossal genius"-- he most certainly was. But Chesterton was beyond intelligent. He was wise.

That is, he had a firm grasp on human nature. He represented the absolute best side of cynicism and...more

I was under the impression that this was a book about eugenics, and it was -- but it was also a beautiful defense of property rights, a powerful assault on plutocratic elitism, and an unusually compassionate statement about the dignity and difficult position of the post-Victorian working poor. I...more

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