.. the minimum wage is in a special category because, these days, its effects are so little understood. One hundred years ago, legislating a price floor on wages was a policy deliberately conceived to impoverish the lower classes and the undesirables, and thereby to disincentivize their reproduction. A polite gulag.
.. A national minimum wage passed in 1931 with the Davis-Bacon Act. It required that firms receiving federal contracts pay prevailing wages, which meant union wages, a principle that later became a national minimum wage.
Speeches in support of the law were explicit about the fear that black workers were undercutting the demands of white-only unions. The minimum wage was a fix: it made it impossible to work for less. The sordid history of the minimum wage law is harrowing in its intent but, at least, realistic about what wage floors actually do. They stop upward mobility.
.. The eugenics movement, however evil its motive, understood an economic truth: the minimum wage excludes people from the job market. It takes away from marginal populations their most important power in the job market: the power to work for less. It cartelizes the labor market by allowing higher-wage groups access while excluding lower-wage groups.
King wrote of the cruelty of government in his day. That cruelty extends far back in time, and is crystallized by a wage policy that effectively makes productivity and upward mobility illegal. If we want to reject eugenic policies and the racial malice behind them, we should also repudiate the minimum wage and embrace the universal right to bargain.