How did Social Darwinism affect the social, economic and political landscape of the United States after the Civil War?

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We see the attributes of Social Darwinism in the current debate about the role of government in creating a fair, just, and compassionate society. Although the term “Social Darwinism” is seldom actually used in this context, it is really about the debate over the “survival of the fittest,” and in the view of some, providing social welfare violates this principle.

The idea is that if some folks cannot make it on their own, then they shouldn’t be provided for by other means. People who espouse this view believe that helping provide for the underprivileged or the weak just creates more weakness. Darwin’s theories would indicate that the weak should be allowed to fail (this is not something Darwin wanted for human beings, by the way).

We should note, however, that social Darwinism is NOT the prevailing attitude in most societies, including the United States. There are many agencies that aid the weak, underprivileged, and poor. Almost all of these have been established in the last...

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