The idiomatic expression “race to the bottom”, generally used in economic and financial contexts, refers to:
A situation in which striving to have the lowest possible prices in order to attract the highest number of customers also drives down standards of the product or service, worsens conditions for workers in the industry, and ultimately leads to problems for everyone.
According to Wikipedia the idiomatic figurative usage of the expression is from the late 19th c.:
The concept of a regulatory "race to the bottom" emerged in the United States during the late 1800s and early 1900s, when there was charter competition among states to attract corporations to base in their jurisdiction. Some, such as Justice Louis Brandeis, described the concept as the "race to the bottom" and others, as the "race to efficiency".
When and possibly by whom was the expression actually coined? Is there evidence of late 19th c./early 20th c. usages? What spurred its increasing usage from the late 70’s?