Economics columnist Robert Samuelson returns today to his 1997 column arguing that the Euro, which would be introduced in 1999, was a "lunatic idea."

The Euro initially was a political success–Europeans embraced because they liked the ideas it supposedly embodied, but it was based on ignorance or denial of economic cycles and realities. 

The same sort of problem, Samuelson argues, is likely to arise with regard to the "populist crusade" to drastically hike the minimum wage.

The column is headlined "Minimum-Wage Madness." Municipalities across the country have embraced a $15 minimum wage. Legislation to raise minimum is before Congress. Samuelson, who believes that  in many instances some rise in the minimum wage is justified, says that the move for a dramaticincrease won't end well:

The immediate political benefits are clear. But is the federal government smart enough to set wages for two-fifths of workers? Can it recognize the circumstances of individual industries and firms? I doubt it.

With time, job losses would mount. Some companies would become unprofitable and shrink or close. Others would automate. Some startups would be scrapped. How many jobs would be lost is guesswork. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a $10.10 minimum (President Obama's proposal) would cut employment by about 500,000. The American Action Forum, a right-leaning think tank that says it followed CBO's methodology, calculates that a $12 minimum would cost 1.3 million jobs and a $15 minimum would cost 3.3 million.

 Moreover, the least-skilled workers might suffer the largest losses, especially if higher wages draw experienced people back into the labor market. Family incomes would rise, but about four-fifths of the gains would go to workers in households above the government's poverty line — though often not by much — because "many low-wage workers are not members of low-income families," says the CBO. College students with minimum-wage jobs aren't all from poor families.

A central problem of modern democracies is to reconcile politics and economics. Politics has a short-term bias. Political leaders invent the future they want to justify the present they need. Future dangers are discounted because they are usually distant and hypothetical. Meanwhile, the present's rewards are immediate and tangible. But economic logic ultimately imposes its own reality.

What history demonstrates is that undoing past mistakes is hard. In the United States, the crushing of inflationary expectations was wrenching — unemployment in the 1981-82 recession peaked at 10.8 percent. As for the euro, it's entrenched in Europe's political culture and financial institutions, even if it's a drag on the economy. We should hope that the ambitious plans to improve economic justice through steep minimum wages do not lead us to a similar blunder and that common sense triumphs over expediency. 

President Obama has never been savvy about economics, though he is the consummate politician. We can see both these traits in his push for minimum wage hikes that will likely hurt the very segment of the population the president clams to most want to help.

I urge you to read the entire Samuelson column.