Gabriel Rosenberg on W. E. D. Stokes, Charles Davenport, and eugenics

I try to avoid critiques about eugenics as it boils my half-breed blood. But I gave this piece by Gabriel Rosenberg my time and it was really interesting. He discussed the partnership of “rich fool” W. E. D. Stokes and noted eugenicist Charles Davenport and described it as a “Great American Story of Money, Guns, Sex, Racism, Divorce, and Horse Breeding”:

Someone ought to write a book about the Rich Fool in American history, for they are ubiquitous: men—and they are almost always men—who by virtue of their reputation for financial success believe they have very little left to learn and no need to exercise the caution or restraint you or I might deem wise. They wander into circumstances they cannot navigate and debates they are ill-prepared to conduct. They tender specious opinions, and, by the power their wealth gives them, they sway people, policies, and institutions, often to catastrophic effect.

It’s not that Rich Fools are stupid, for stupidity is merely the other side of the coin the Rich Fool spends: innate genius. That is, they overrate the concept of “inborn intelligence” and underrate the degree to which intelligence, however you define it, is necessarily a social good—produced, maintained, and valued never in isolation and only among and between persons. I do not want this to devolve into a debate on IQ or the biology of intelligence, so I will just keep it to this: irrespective of their cognitive prowess, Rich Fools are produced by the social contexts they inhabit, not by how quickly their brains process information.

Davenport used Stokes for his money, which he needed to get into social circles to spread his bigoted views, while Stokes needed Davenport to push a false narrative that he was the genius Roseberg alluded to. What started out as a relationship of high convenience soon became a mess for both parties and a weird obsession with horse breeding.

Read it in full on Roseberg’s Substack.

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