Buck v. Bell, American Eugenics, and the Bad Man Test: Putting Limits on Newgenics in the 21st Century

15 Pages Posted: 3 Dec 2018 Last revised: 16 Feb 2021

Date Written: November 6, 2018

Abstract

With its 1927 decision in Buck v. Bell, the Supreme Court embraced the American eugenics program, which was then at its peak. An association with fascism and a discredited pseudoscience was one reason why the Buck case would later became infamous. Another reason was that, rather than resolving a true conflict, the case was seen as contrived: designed strategically to validate a particular Virginia law and ensure the success of the eugenics movement.

Because the strategists were a close-knit group of elites and eugenics proponents, and the guinea pig at the center was poor and disadvantaged, the case provided a striking example of the way that a legal system intended to protect the most vulnerable members of society can instead be manipulated and used against them in the name of reform.

Today, it is important to remember Buck and its legacy in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

Keywords: SCOTUS, Supreme Court, eugenics, Buck v Bell, Carrie Buck, Eugenics Record Office, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Bad Man Theory

Suggested Citation

Suuberg, Alessandra, Buck v. Bell, American Eugenics, and the Bad Man Test: Putting Limits on Newgenics in the 21st Century (November 6, 2018). Alessandra Suuberg, Buck v. Bell, American Eugenics, and the Bad Man Test: Putting Limits on Newgenics in the 21st Century, 38 LAW & INEQ. (2020)., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3279543 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3279543

Alessandra Suuberg (Contact Author)

Decency LLC

398 Columbus Ave
#313
Boston, MA 02116

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