Bonus Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on August 15, 2016

in History, Hubris and humility, Work

… is from page 161 of Princeton University economist Thomas Leonard’s revealing 2016 book, Illiberal Reformers, which is a study of how the scientistic pretenses of late-19th and early-20th century “Progressives” led them to endorse illiberal – indeed, often vicious – social-engineering schemes, including eugenics and minimum-wage legislation:

The many left progressives who advocated the minimum wage, among them Father John Ryan, Charles Henderson, Matthew B. Hammond, Henry A. Millis, Henry R. Seager, Arthur T. Holcombe, and Albert B. Wolfe, agreed that the minimum wage would throw the least productive employees out [of] work and prevent their employment in the first place.  But the reformers saw the removal of the less productive not as a cost of the minimum wage but as a positive benefit to society.  Removing the inferior from work was not a regrettable outcome, justified by the higher wages for other workers.  Removing the inferior from work benefitted society by protecting American wages and Anglo-Saxon racial integrity.

Again, at least these early 20th-century “Progressives” – despite their egregious ethics and naive scientism –  correctly understood the economics of the minimum wage.

And for those who would do (dubious) “cost-benefit tests” to judge the worth of minimum wages, I’ve this question: suppose that the minimum wage causes the incomes of white blue-bloods to rise by $X but at the expense of causing the incomes of swarthy ‘inferiors’ to fall by .75$X; does this outcome pass your cost-benefit test?

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