Also implicated were several founders of the London School
of Economics and Political Science, including socialists
George Bernard Shaw, Beatrice Webb, and her husband Sydney
Webb. The latter once said that "twenty-five percent of our
] is producing 50 percent of the next generation.
This can hardly result in anything but national
deterioration; or, as an alternative, in this country
gradually falling to the Irish and the Jews." For him and
for others, it was necessary to reduce the fertility rate of
"lesser" populations while increasing the fertility rate of
This included US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell
Holmes, who upheld a statute of sterilization of the "mentally
feeble" by the state of Virginia in his infamous Buck V.
Bell ruling. However, reducing their fertility rate was
apparently not sufficient. In his judgment, Holmes
stipulated that the reasoning behind the reduction of the
fertility rate through sterilization "fails when it is
confined to the small numbers who are in the institutions
named and is not applied to the multitudes outside." Thus
there was a need for more aggressive policy to reduce the
chances of survival of the feeble.
Sydney Webb defined the part of the population that he saw
as "problematic" as the "unemployables" and said that the
capping of work hours and the minimum wage would have the
social benefit of eliminating these so-called unemployables.
Contrary to Marshall and Pigou, Webb actually saw
disemployment as the desired effect of the minimum wage. The
idea was that a high minimum wage would shield the "deserving"
workers from competition by the unfit by making it illegal
to work for less than a certain amount. If wage-determination
was left to the market, the unfit would be able to find work,
even if badly paid. Even if they were considered incapable
of outdoing their superiors, they were capable of "under-living"
them because of a biological predisposition.
In the United States, this was especially aimed at the black
community for fear that they would be able to replace
existing workers at lower prices and thus receive wages on
which they could subsist. Irishmen, Asians, and Italians
were also among the "unemployables" in the United States. In
the United Kingdom, the Irish were the main target,
especially of Sydney Webb.
So even if there was a social cost to the minimum wage
through less employment and lower output, it was outweighed,
as the former president of the Association of American
Economists A. B Wolfe said, by the elimination of those "who
are a burden on society." A similar logic applied to the
capping of work hours, the Immigration Restriction Act (which
increased quotas for "race importation") of 1924 under
President Coolidge that was advocated by Irving Fisher, and
the regulation of working conditions. It always came back to
the necessity of excluding certain population groups so they
would not lower the genetic makeup of a community and foster
its decadence and destruction.
Since World War II, with the horrors of Nazi Germany,
eugenics has completely disappeared from the mainstream
academic community. Academic papers like the Journal of
Eugenics, Eugenics Review, and Applied
Eugenics have disappeared, and the Eugenics Society is
less than a shadow of its former self. However, some of the
policies they proposed, like the minimum wage, remain alive
today. The minimum wage is today presented as a tool for
providing anyone with a decent wage, regardless of racial
origin, and its level is always calculated by government
officials so as to produce the least possible distortion of
employment. Still, when analyzing ideas, it is worth
remembering who first bandied them about, and their reasons
for doing so.