Sydney Webb in Industrial Democracy (regarding the minimum wage) – 1920
The problem of the Unemployable is not created by the fixing of a National Minimum by law. The Unemployable we have always with us. With regards to certain sections of the population, this unemployment is not a mark of social disease, but of social health. From the stand point of national efficiency, no less than from that of humanity, it is desirable that the children, the aged, and the child-bearing women should not be compelled by their necessities [to be employed]. But in all other cases, incapacity or refusal to produce a livelihood is a symptom of ill-health or disease, physical or mental. With regard to the principle classes of these Unemployable–the sick and the crippled, the idiots and lunatics, the epileptic, the blind and the deaf and dumb, the criminals and the incorrigibly idle, and all who are “morally deficient”–the incapacity is the result of individual disease from which no society can expect to be completely free. […]
If we desire to reduce these Unemployable to a minimum, it is necessary […] to pursue a twofold policy. We must […] arrange our social organisation in such a way that the smallest possible amount of such degeneracy, whether physical or mental is produced. We must […] treat the cases that are produced in such a way as to arrest the progress of the malady, and as far as possible restore to health. [As regards to bodily disease, this twofold policy is now prescribed by the Public Health Acts]
[Referring to the ‘Unemployables’] These physical and moral weaklings and degenerates must somehow be maintained at the expense of other persons. They may be provided for from their own property or savings, by charity of from public funds, with or without being set to work in whatever ways are within their capacity. But of all ways of dealing with these unfortunate parasites the most ruinous to the community is to allow them unrestrainedly to compete as wage-earners for situations in the industrial organisation. For this at once prevents competition from resulting in the Selection of the Most Fit, and thus defeats its very object.