To me, that's a bug. Jeffrey A. Tucker offers evidence that to the self-styled progressives of a century ago, rendering unproductive people unemployable was the goal.
But 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.His article relies heavily on a Journal of Economic Perspectives essay by Princeton's Thomas C. Leonard. Much in that essay to digest.
As time went on, the blood lust of the eugenics movement died down, but the persistence of its minimum wage policies did not. 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.