Social Darwinism was used to justify the unequal distribution of wealth in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Although its tenets have been refuted, it is still the basis of conservative political parties' economic philosophy today.
Social Darwinism is an illogical expansion of Charles Darwin's (1809–1882) theory of evolution. Darwin's ideas apply only to biology. His theory is that living beings evolve and adapt to their environment. Those organisms that do not evolve become extinct. Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) attempted to apply the "survival of the fittest" doctrine to economic competition. Those individuals who became wealthy deserved their success; the poor lost, and the government should not help them. In the United States, Social Darwinism was propagated by William Graham Sumner (1840–1910).
In the late nineteenth century, America went through a period of great economic transformation. A transcontinental railroad was built. The nation was industrialized. Great...
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