Polemics & Exchanges

Imposing Duties

I always look eagerly for Thomas Fleming’s article when my latest issue of Chronicles arrives, but I was shocked and disappointed to read his cavalier dismissal of “seriously retarded people” and the “lowest” in the August Perspective, “And All Shall Equal Be.”  Fleming bemoans the “trillions of dollars” spent on “hopeless and useless projects to elevate the lowest a half-notch up the ladder.”  What a waste of resources to put the retarded “in public facilities where therapists vainly try to teach them to use a spoon or make a sign.”

Fleming’s attitude is chillingly similar to that expressed by Alfred Hoche, a medical doctor, and Karl Binding, a judge, in their 1920 book The Release of the Destruction of Life Devoid of Value.  Their philosophy set the stage for Hitler’s program to rid the Third Reich of “useless eaters” like those Fleming describes, “who cannot feed themselves or use a bathroom.”  Hoche and Binding call them “incurable idiots” who impose the “greatest burden on the environment and society while at the same time they are serviced by persons who are able to live a normal life,” like the therapists Fleming mentions.  The German authors go on to criticize the loss of resources,...

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