Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Minimum Wage, Eugenics, and the NAACP

This morning on NC Spin, the panelists were addressing the NAACP in North Carolina and their effectiveness, after their rally in Raleigh, in which they presented their 14 point agenda. Included was the following item:

Restitution for the 1891 Wilmington race riots and sterilization of poor, black women in the first half of the 20th century

The sterilization part is in reference to a horrid, dark period in our state's history. Long after eugenics had fallen out of favor, the North Carolina eugenics program continued into the late 70s!

As you can expect, the NAACP is rightly denouncing this horrible practice. And if any of the people affected by this program remain, then I hope they seek restitution.

But there is an irony here for the NAACP. As mentioned by Chris Fitzsimon, the NAACP fought especially hard for the minimum wage increase in the state in the last session. And the historical impetus for the minimum wage is not too distant from that of Eugenics, as I first saw here. As Sidney Webb, early minimum wage warrior, put it:

Of all ways of dealing with these unfortunate parasites [undesirable classes], the most ruinous to the community is to allow them unrestrainedly to compete as wage earners.

The minimum wage would price the 'undesirables' out of the labor market. Eugenics through economics. So it just seems funny to me to see the NAACP simultaneously condemning (rightly) eugenics with the one hand, and unwittingly attempting to advance it with the other.

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