Customers Yielding Workers Their Just Wages Can’t Survive Governmentalized “Living Wages”

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Tips Are Owed, They’re Not a Favor.

Why Restaurants Are Eliminating Tipping“, proclaims a news article headline. The claims include the ideas, that it promotes bad service, it’s an obsolete concept, and is unnecessary because of the living wage movement.

Restaurant owners are certainly entitled to their point of view, but they are probably poorly served by latching onto “living wage”. But workers have a right to their own direct relationship with customers. Their independent legitimacy as professionals doesn’t have to be dependent upon permission from restaurant owners.

Early twentieth century Britain saw the rise of a national movement, growing out of Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (New Things), called distributism. This was based on the idea that gigantic business and gigantic government were colluding to restrict the freedom of the common people. The archtypical common man, Jones, could only have economic security if he owned his own property and, even if he had to work for another, more powerful person, his ultimate goal needed to be, self-employment. (Coincidentally, the age of cottage industries has been criticized for nothing more than inefficiency, which was “relieved” by the rise of centralized factories during the industrial revolution.)

My chief criticism of “living wage” is that it has the potential to intrude a class of regulators into the economic life of professional service workers. Progressives feel that government is intrinsically enlightened, and must regulate small business and, coincidentally, small workers.

Whether or not this plays out in the long run, uncritical calls for “living wage” ignore the fact that the first obstacle is the heightening of a conflict of interests between small business owners and workers.

I religiously practice tipping because I believe that tips are the property of the workers. I’m not doing them a favor, I owe them the tip for work that they perform. If I didn’t pay my fair tip, I would be defrauding workers of their wages, “a crime, the blood of which calls out of the ground for vengeance.”

Workers at L & L Hawaiian Bar-B-Que were somewhat bemused to see me bringing in a small tip without ordering anything. I didn’t have cash during a previous visit, and I was only paying what I owed.

If I can’t afford to tip, I shouldn’t be patronizing a restaurant. I should be going to the store, taking my own food home and preparing it for myself. Visiting a restaurant is a luxury; if it’s one that I can’t afford, I should refrain from it.

I’m committing a travesty against fundamental justice by omitting my tip. But I certainly don’t need Progressives taking away my freedom by raising prices. The principle of justice, which is only giving people what they’re intrinsically due by their inalienable nature, isn’t something that survives governmentalization.