Survival of the Fittest

Disciplines: Political Science, Sociology

Theory of social progress of English social scientist Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), wrongly attributed to Charles Darwin (1809-82).

If government is kept to its minimum functions of the defence of persons and property, the enforcement of contracts, and the defence of the frontiers, individuals will flourish according to their ability or fitness to adapt to changing circumstances.

Although Spencer believed in the inheritance of superior and inferior skills, and in the passing on of skills acquired in one generation to the next, he did not share the fatalism of Darwin's theory of natural selection. Thus desirable human characteristics were naturally rewarded, and undesirable ones naturally discouraged.

Rodney Barker, Political Ideas in Modern Britain (London, 1978)


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