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The Untold Eugenics Legacy Behind Today’s Minimum Wage Policies


The ongoing harm that progressives inflict on the poor isn’t merely the unintended byproduct of bad economic policies but flows organically from an odious ideology that has always been premised on social control.

Why do progressives keep oppressing the poor? That’s the burning question we asked in a recent article, prompted by a new Seattle law causing chaos for app-based delivery services like Uber Eats and DoorDash.

Seattle’s clueless politicians imposed a “living wage” on drivers, making the effort to contract with them so costly that consumer demand for food deliveries plummeted. Now, drivers are left waiting up to six hours for one order to come through.

The Seattle City Council is scrambling to clean up their mess, which is the MO of liberalism: always addressing the unintended consequences of their market meddling.

To be fair, Seattle isn’t the only progressive enclave dealing with a fallout from minimum wage hikes.

California’s entire fast-food industry is laying off workers and hiking prices due to a new state law that raised the minimum wage to a ludicrous $20 an hour. The predictable result? Low-skilled workers are becoming too expensive to employ.

We’ll dive into the broader damage shortly.

But why do liberals persist in pushing economic policies that consistently end in job losses and higher prices, as shown by nearly all studies and real-life anecdotes? The short answer is — they can’t help themselves. Harming such vulnerable populations is in their DNA.

Put differently, what if what conservatives have been calling unintended is actually the game plan?

History might just confirm that. Did you know the push for a minimum wage emerged from the eugenics era of the 20th century? And by “emerged,” I mean that the grisly adherence to eugenics actively drove the push for minimum wage laws.

Eugenics, recall, is the vile ideology anchored in Darwinian evolution, which aimed to craft a superior human race by purging society of those deemed “unfit.” Think forced sterilizations to rid the country of the “feebleminded,” as the U.S. Supreme Court condoned in the ugly Buck vs. Bell decision. “Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. infamously stated.

In case there’s any confusion, I’m referring to the progressives in Great Britain and the United States in the early 1900s, not Nazi Germany (though the Nazis later adopted these ideas and took them to the next level).

While eugenics is often linked to abhorrent practices like forced sterilization, the movement’s influence extended far beyond. Eugenicists were adept at leveraging economic agendas, including pushing for minimum wage ordinances, to further their social engineering obsession.

Progressives believed that manipulating economic laws could help eradicate the workforce of those they regarded as undesirable, ensuring their so-called “superior race” could thrive.

Princeton Professor Thomas C. Leonard highlights this thinking in an academic paper titled “Eugenics and Economics in the Progressive Era.”

He writes, “Progressive economists, like their neoclassical critics, believed that binding minimum wages would cause job losses. However, progressive economists also believed that the job loss induced by minimum wages was a social benefit, as it performed the eugenic service ridding the labor force of the ‘unemployable’” — meaning blacks, immigrants, etc.

In other words, job losses from government price floors were intentional.

And Professor Leonard brings the receipts.

In the Journal of Political Economy, for instance, Sidney Webb, who helped found the London School of Economics, argued in 1912 that, “Of all ways of dealing with these unfortunate parasites, the most ruinous to the community is to allow them to unrestrainedly compete as wage earners.” From Webb’s perspective, the government needed to mandate a minimum wage to keep these “parasites” unemployed by rendering them a burden to hire, which, in an earlier book, he called the “mark” of “social health.”

Then there’s Royal Meeker, who served in President Woodrow Wilson’s cabinet. He said it was much more effective “to enact a minimum-wage law even if it deprives these unfortunates of work,” adding that it was preferable for the state to “support the inefficient wholly and prevent the multiplication of the breed than subsidize incompetence and unthrift, enabling them to bring forth more of their kind.”

Wait, so it’s better to hand out welfare checks than to encourage a strong work ethic and self-reliance? Sound familiar?

And let’s not forget John R. Commons, a leading economist at the University of Wisconsin and author of the racist tome, Races and Immigrants. He argued that “competition has no respect for the superior races” and that “the race with lowest necessities displaces others.” Thus, Commons maintained that the government should uphold artificially high wages and incorporate other labor regulations to safeguard any competitive practices that could undermine the paycheck of the social betters.

These are but a small fraction of the ugly musings from progressive economists during the eugenics heyday. Bottom line, as Professor Leonard notes, “For progressives, a legal minimum wage had the useful property of sorting the unfit, who would lose their jobs, from the deserving workers, who would retain their jobs.”

And that “sorting” endures today, albeit under different pretenses. The latest example comes out of the Golden State.

As mentioned at the top, California’s political class juiced up the minimum wage for the fast-food industry to a ridiculous $20 an hour. Consequently, these restaurants have already slashed 9,500 jobs, and that’s only the beginning.

According to the Hoover Institution, profit margins for these restaurants are already razor-thin, anywhere from 5 to 8 percent. There isn’t much the industry can do other than fire workers and raise prices if they want to remain profitable. Fast-food employment has, in turn, declined by 1.3 percent since the law passed, whereas overall “private employment in California declined just 0.2 percent during the same period.”

Bravo, progressives — your fervent championing of the working poor has made dining out more expensive for them and boosted their chances of unemployment. Well done!

We shouldn’t be surprised, though. These outcomes aren’t merely the byproduct of bad economic policies but organically flow from an odious ideology that has always been premised on social control.

Indeed, as the progressive economist Sidney Webb intoned back in the day, “[N]o consistent eugenicist can be a [laissez-faire] individualist unless he throws up the game in despair. He must interfere, interfere, interfere!”

And here we are more than a century later, still fighting that same totalitarian impulse from the Left — interfere, interfere, interfere!

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