Tanton Memo of the Month: Passive Eugenics

In 1975, John Tanton, the founder of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), wrote an interesting paper called The Case for Passive Eugenics. In the paper Tanton not only argues that Hitler’s reign “did little to advance the discussion of eugenics among sensitive persons”, but reaffirms his support of eugenics, a pseudo-science that was used to justify U.S. slavery and crimes against Jews in Nazi Germany.

tanton_eugenics quote

Not only is Tanton a strong supporter of eugenics, his “passive eugenics” idea suggests that a woman’s childbearing years should be restricted “between the ages of 20 and 35” in order to “maximize reproductively”. Going one step further, he also suggests the number of children in a family is “positively correlated to intelligence,” and therefore, “limitation of family size” should be considered.

While Tanton states that passive eugenics is “far from being racist or genocidal” he fails to highlight what exactly these “genetic defects” are and whether or not a specific government policy should target specific people he defines as having “genetic defects”.

Even though the paper was written over thirty years ago, the development of over two dozen anti-immigrant organizations orchestrated by John Tanton makes one wonder if he would define his anti-immigrant agenda as a form of “passive eugenics”.

Considering Tanton’s solicitation and receipt of over $1 million from the Pioneer Fund, a pro-eugenics organization, to fund his controversial organizations, it’s a fair question.

*The John Tanton letters and memos are a public collection at the Bentley Historical Library.