2005 October 27 Thursday
Early 20th Century Progressives, Eugenics, Minimum Wage

Over at Marginal Revolution Alex Tabarrok says early 20th century progressives advocated a minimum wage for women only in order to promote their eugenic goals.

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!

Are today's progressives dumber than the progressives of a hundred years ago? Or are today's progressives more brain washed by the accumulated lies of politically correct ideology? My guess is the latter. People have become more unrealistic because public discussions are conducted under taboos that prevent honest discussion of obvious truths.

Alex is reacting to a paper by Princeton academic Tim Leonard: "Protecting Family and Race: The Progressive Case for Regulating Women's Work."

Seems to me these progressives who were pursuing eugenic goals made a fundamental mistake. To the extent that a minimum wage would keep some women home and pregnant it woud tend to have a dysgenic effect. Why? Because a minimum wage would reduce labor market participation of dumber women more than smarter women. Dumber women are more likely than smarter women to have their market wage fall below the minimum wage. Very smart women will still go off to work at higher paying jobs which their cognitive abilities enable them to do. Dumber women will get locked out of the labor market given a sufficiently high minimum wage.

A maximum wage for women only (and mind you I'm not advocating this) would be far more eugenic than a minimum wage. But a maximum yearly income would be even more eugenic. Smart women would, on average, work a fairly small fraction of the time to achieve their maximum income, freeing them up for child-rearing duties. Whereas dumber women would, again on average, work many more hours to achieve their maximum allowed yearly income.

To the extent that dumber women get locked out of the job market by a minimum wage that creates conditions that create support for the welfare state. Any woman whose husband died, became ill, or left her who was also locked out of the job market could be left in a position of being unable to support herself. At the same time, the welfare state encourages reproduction among those who have the least earning power in the job market. No need to spend time at work? The state will pay for your babies? Some (though not all) women will have more childen under those circumstances.

The progressives probably lost the ability to use state power to coerce for eugenic goals when women gained the vote. However, when DNA sequencing costs fall far enough to demonstrate in undeniable ways that genetic variations cause large variations in cognitive ability I predict the political Left will once again take up eugenic politics. I expect most of us will live to see progressives promote the use of state power to achieve eugenic goals in order to uplift the poor with genetic engineering and with restrictions on reproduction by those who refuse to use genetic engineering to have smart babies.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 October 27 11:03 AM  Human Nature

Hugh Angell said at October 27, 2005 1:21 PM:

While not part of the 'eugenics' movement there were other late 19th and early twentieth
century attitudes towards women in the workplace and divorce that showed a , perhaps,
greater understanding of the role of women and the needs of society than our own era of
super elightened intellectuals.

For example, women were commonly expected to give up their jobs upon becoming married.
This provided for the continued employment ( and career advancement) of spinsters who
failed to attract a husband. Thus a school teacher would upon marrying, leave the
classroom to raise her own family.

In another twist on today's conventional wisdom, men were often awarded custody of the
children upon divorce. This too was seen as protecting the woman and limiting the freedom
of men to divorce their wives in favor of newer ( younger?) ones. In this pre birth control
era a large brood of children could be expected and a woman saddled with their care and
custody would be unlikely to find another husband. By the same token a man burdened by 3 or
more children might not seem so desirable as a husband by another woman.

Our ancestors were not stupid though we, in our headlong rush to defenestrate centuries of
accumulated wisdom for what 'feels good' or is more convenient, might be.

Stephen said at October 27, 2005 3:16 PM:

Hugh, your argument contains a logical fallacy - first you give examples of policies that were sensible in the 19th century, and then imply that our policies (ie modern policies) have wrongly abandoned their inherent wisdom. However, at the same time you seem to be accepting that the abandoned policies are irrelevant today (ie because of birth control and the vanished social concept of a 'spinster').

In reality, it seems to me that its entirely wise for society to abandon social policies that are irrelevant now.

PS: Also I don't agree that the rationales you cite for the 19th century policies were intended - my guess is that, if they existed at all, they're probably incidental.

Hugh Angell said at October 27, 2005 4:39 PM:

Oh really! I suggest you look at 'replacement levels' in OECD countries before you conclude
that our ancestors did not know of what they spoke of.

What is the future of any society that has a birthrate amongst its female population below
replacement level? When the birthrate is most in decline amongst its most educated females?

A female CEO or Supreme Court Justice is just fine and dandy but, where the rubber meets
the road you need cops. Do you really believe that the graduates of some university law
school can enforce the law? Do we really want to have military composed of third world
mercenaries and pregnant females? We aren't far from it!

I'd suggest we stop thinking about high tech light bulbs and worry about low tech Muslims
with suicidal tendencies. It won't matter how clever our science is if we won't defend or
even replicate ourselves. Demographics is destiny and our destiny is in doubt. We build
5 bedroom houses for 3 person families. We have more cars than children. We won't face
the consequences of that but our children will.

Rob said at October 29, 2005 8:50 AM:

Even if the custody laws of yesteryear weren't meant to saddle men with kids to make divorce less fun for them and worse on women too, they certainly had that effect. The effect, not the intent is what matters.

If you don't believe demography is destiny, ask a native american.

Big Bill said at October 29, 2005 6:29 PM:

Why is it that the only white people who can talk about "the demographic problem" are Jews? The evils of assimilation, miscegenation with gentiles, below-replacement level reproduction, etc. Only the Jews get to talk about it. We need the white equivalent of the respectable elite Jewish magazine Azure, which preaches against assimilation and race-mixing.

My sister is a classic childless 50 something lapsed white Christian leftie. She works as a nurse for social services to teach white, black and Mexiccan single moms how to take care of their illegitimate kids. My tax dollars pay her salary.

I asked her why she wasn't upset that her people, her culture, her race are being replaced in America due to a low white birthrate. She expressed not the slightest concern. As she explained, white people are a cancer on society. White people have a history of evil and it is time they should be replaced. I was floored. I have begun to realize that her thinking is typical of white lefties. Over forty years of relentless white Christian demonizing, from King/Levison civil rights to from Steinem/Abzug feminism to Holocaustism/anti-Catholicism, to anti-imperialism and communism in their various guises have all taught her to ignore or deny her racial/cultural survival instinct and to understand her deepest nature as evil. She just doesn't care who takes over her country and what happens to her culture. She will spend the rest of her life atoning for her race guilt.

For her, as well as most lefties, the Progressive programs will never resonate, for she has drunk the Kool Aid. She is evil.

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