Thursday, 28 January 2016

Quote of the Day: On progressive economists, racism and the minimum wage


“The first generation of American economists were not laissez-faire capitalists …. In fact, they were anything but. ‘As Christians they judged laissez faire to be morally unsound, and as economists they declared it functionally obsolete.’ The British mode,l they said, (think Adam Smith)  was unsuited for the era of railroads, labour unions, and scientific management. They much preferred the German idea of society as a single organism. Granted the premise that individuals were shaped by the nation and not the other way around, progressive economists had to decide who would run the country. These people had to be unbiased, scientific, brilliant, and out for the public good. The progressive economists decided on themselves….
    “The progressives were able to unite idealism and pragmatism via science and the administrative state. What good was democracy if people voted against their collective interest? What expertise did the average American have in managing a state or a race? Black Americans in particular could not be trusted with the ballot. ‘The progressive goal was to improve the electorate, not necessarily to expand it.’ …
    “It’s impossible to understand early twentieth-century progressives without eugenics. Even worker-friendly reforms like the minimum wage were part of a racial hygiene agenda… The minimum wage, in addition to providing some workers with a better standard of living, would guard white men from competition.”

~ Malcolm Harris from his article at the New Republic: 'The Dark History of Liberal Reform', reviewing a new book from Princeton scholar Thomas C. Leonard: Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics & American Economics in the Progressive Era

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