The heart of social Darwinism is a pair of theses: first, people have intrinsic abilities and talents (and, correspondingly, intrinsic weaknesses), which will be expressed in their actions and achievements, independently of the social, economic and cultural environments in which they develop; second, intensifying competition enables the most talented to develop their potential to the full, and thereby to provide resources for a society that make life better for all....Great label, isn't it? It's completely deserved, and it drags along with it eugenics and racism. But just disentangle those nasty associations, why don't you?
So long as social Darwinism is disentangled from the ancillary eugenic and racist ideas, so long as it is viewed in its core form of the two theses... the label President Obama pinned on the Republican budget is completely deserved....
Now, Professor Kitcher, let's move forward with your approach to political labeling. Let's derive a general principle. Let me posit that it is appropriate, in your view, to label a politician with the name of a distinctive and historical ideology that contains some nasty elements, if you can establish that there is a "core" to the ideology that in fact does apply.
Test your commitment to your style of philosophical argument by imagining someone using your approach against Obama (as opposed to defending him, as you did). What if an Obama opponent called Obama's approach to government "socialism" or "communism" or "fascism"? Would you swallow an argument that extracted a couple "core theses" from those ideologies and characterized the inapplicable elements as non-core and expected listeners to disentangle those things?
Or would you say that using language like that is manipulative, deceptive, and devious — a tainted product in the marketplace of ideas? Imagine a marketplace not of ideas but of food, and a butcher who's got luscious piles of ground beef up for sale. He knows it contains e. coli, but he figures it's not core and people can disentangle it. Imagine your friend bought and ate that beef and got sick and said to you: I'm never going back to that butcher! Would you say: Oh, that's silly. You got beef, which was what he was selling. You should simply cook ground beef well enough that any e. coli is destroyed. He's a perfectly good butcher.
What's the most misaligned aspect of my analogy? It's that the butcher would prefer to have untainted meat to sell. He's not using meat as a vehicle for delivering e. coli.