Social Darwinism masquerading as health care reform is the only way to accurately describe the American Health Care Act being rushed through the Congress by House Republican leaders.
Because of the provisions in Obamacare and the expansion of Medicaid in 30 states, over 11.5 million Americans gained access to something they once couldn’t afford, healthcare. If Republicans succeed in moving this piece of legislation through the Congress, President Donald Trump will sign into law two bills that will cause millions of Americans to lose their healthcare coverage.
That outcome is exactly what many Republican lawmakers want to see happen.
Responding to a question about the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, a first term Congressman, Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., who spent three decades as physician and is a member of the GOP Doctors Caucus, said: "Just like Jesus said, 'The poor will always be with us,…' There is a group of people that just don't want health care and aren't going to take care of themselves."
Marshall went on to say: "The Medicaid population, which is a free credit card as a group, do probably the least preventive medicine and taking care of themselves and eating healthy and exercising. And I'm not judging; I'm just saying socially that's where they are… So there's a group of people that even with unlimited access to health care are only going to use the emergency room when their arm is chopped off or when their pneumonia is so bad they get brought the ER."
Marshall is advocating for a form of social Darwinism. Even though he did not say it directly, he is asking us to ponder the question of whether or not it would be all that bad if people who are poor (disproportionately people of color) and sick should be allowed to just simply die.
During the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries, social Darwinism was a popular theory that attempted to apply biological concepts such as natural selection and survival of the fittest to explain social inequalities and cultural differences between people, groups, and races.
Social Darwinist believed that the strong possessed superior cultural attributes such as industriousness, abstemiousness, and prudence that justified their political and economic power, cultural influence and superior social standing over the weak. In other words, inequalities among individuals is natural in human societies.
The term “survival of the fittest” was first coined by the British philosopher and scientist, Herbert Spencer. Spencer believed that the strongest and the fittest should survive in society and the weak should be allowed to die. That some were rich and powerful while others were poor and weak was natural; the rich and powerful were better suited to survive in the social and economic climate capitalism was creating during his lifetime.
But, a disdain for the weak and powerless is not new. Even Plato, who has had an enormous impact on the development of Western philosophy, political thought and our understanding of human nature believed: "Mentally and physically ill persons should be left to death; they do not have the right to live."
Given that social Darwinism has been used to support laissez-faire capitalism and political conservatism, it should come as no surprise to hear some of the cold and heartless things being said about the poor by Republicans who now control the Congress. Spencer’s social Darwinism, the idea that aid to the unfit hampers the success of the most productive and talented members of society, has been a sine qua non of libertarian thought and is the basis of the moral argument against the welfare state Republicans have been making for years.