Steven Hayward‘s review of the book Illiberal Reformers in the latest print edition of National Review features the following observation, which should give pause to those on the political left who dedicate much of their time and energy to raising the government-mandated minimum wage:

To the extent that eugenics is thought about today, it is chiefly relegated to social and political enthusiasms, and it is [author Thomas] Leonard’s great service to have provided and exhaustive and detailed account of its centrality to advanced economic thinking and of the specific policies Progressive economists advanced in its name. And his exploration goes beyond simple issues of racial condescension to show how specific economic doctrines were vitally connected to eugenic ideology.

The most embarrassing idea was that the minimum wage could be a tool for discouraging immigration and promoting racial purity. (No one tell Paul Krugman.) “A minimum wage worked on two eugenic fronts,” Leonard explains. “It deterred immigrants and other inferiors from entering the labor force, and it idled inferior workers already employed. The minimum wage detected the inferior employee.” The Progressive economists a hundred years ago understood what progressive economists today have forgotten or willfully overlook. A minimum wage prices out marginally productive workers, who today as then tend to be young, unskilled, and minorities. The Progressives a century ago thought this would indirectly discourage immigration and reduce birth rates among immigrant populations. A number of other labor-union and liberal measures of the New Deal, such as the Davis-Bacon Act, also had eugenic underpinnings; they ironically remain totems of liberalism today, despite their nefarious origins.