In primitive groups, a “moral” control which kept all women at reproduction was neither eugenic nor dysgenic unless accompanied by systematic destruction of the least fit children. By “moral” control is meant the use of taboo, prejudice, religious abhorrence for certain acts and the like. The carefully nurtured moral ideas about sex and reproduction simply represent the system of coercion which groups have found most effective in enforcing the division of reproductive and other activities among the individual members. When this social machinery grew up, to regulate sexual activity was in general to regulate reproduction. The natural sex desire proved sufficiently powerful and general to still seek its object, even with the group handicaps and regulations imposed to meet the reproductive necessity. But contraceptive knowledge, etc., has now become so general that to regulate sex activity is no longer to regulate reproduction. The taboo or “moral” method of regulation has become peculiarly degenerating to race quality, because the most intelligent, rationalized individuals are least affected by it.
There is no turning back to control by ignorance. Even theoretically, the only way to stop such a disastrous selection of the unfit would be to rationalize reproduction—so that nobody shall reproduce the species through sheer ignorance of how to evade or avoid it. This done, some type of social control must be found which will enable civilized societies to breed from their best instead of their worst stock. Under the old scheme, already half broken down, natural selection favours primitive rather than civilized societies through decreased birth-rates and survival of the unfit in the latter. Even this is true only where the savage groups are not interfered with by the civilized, a condition rapidly disappearing through modern occidental imperialism and the inoculation of primitive peoples with “civilized” diseases such as syphilis, rum-drinking and rampant individualism.
To continually encourage the racially most desirable women to disregard their sexual specialization and exploit their social-competitive adaptation must, obviously destroy the group which pursues such a policy. The only way to make such a course democratic is to carefully instruct all women, rich and poor, wise and ignorant, in the methods of avoiding reproduction and to inject the virus of individualism in all alike. Then the group can get its population supply only by a new system of control. To remove any economic handicaps to child-bearing is certainly not out of harmony with our ideas of justice.