Saturday, October 29, 2005

History of the Minimum Wage

An interesting excerpt from a paper by Tim Leonard called Protecting Family and Race: The Progressive Case for Regulating Women's Work:

It's no surprise that progressives at the turn of the twentieth century supported minimum wages and restrictions on working hours and conditions. Isn't this what it means to be a progressive? Indeed, but what is more surprising is why the progressives advocated these laws. A first clue is that many advocated labor legislation "for women and for women only."

Progressives, including Richard Ely, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, the Webbs in England etc., were interested not in protecting women but in protecting men and the race. Their goal was to get women back into the home, where they belonged, instead of abandoning their eugenic duties and competing with men for work.

Unlike today's progressives, the originals understood that minimum wages for women would put women out of work - that was the point and the more unemployment of women the better!

When we discussed minimum wage in class, our main conclusion was that the minimum wage would result in increases in unemployment among low skilled workers. The implication of the above excerpt is that the creators of minimum wage knew this and intended it to only apply to women so women would be kept out of the workforce to a certain degree.

Source: Marginal Revolution

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Daniel Ballard---
I had never thought of a minimum wage as a method of ridding the workforce of women. It appears to be helpful to all; increasing income among workers while decrease hours should benefit all workers. However, it is apparent that the progressives had other motives in mind. They knew that if a minimum wage were implemented, the more skilled workers would earn the jobs. Before, the workers were hired depending on how low a wage they were willing to work for. Women who were eager to enter the workforce would accept a lower wage than men. With a minimum wage, women no longer earn jobs because they will work for less money. The concept is interesting: a minimum wage used as a method of eliminating women from the workforce.