Tipping: Backing Up Your Beliefs with Money

If you think that there should be a minimum wage, then you should pay–people who think there should be minimum wages should voluntarily pay everybody around them the difference between whatever they are getting and that minimum wage. And, when you go to McDonald’s, you should leave a $3 tip or $4 tip to the person. If that’s really what they want to do, they should do it themselves. – Nassim Taleb

I agree. In part. I disagree with Taleb concerning minimum wages. But I agree that we should spend consistent with our professed beliefs. Walk the talk, if you will.

I think we underpay many people for their work and contributions. Taleb would argue that the market decides. He’s right of course. But should we settle for market determinations? I don’t think so.

Market forces aren’t perfect. We alter those forces in many ways that benefit people of education, power and privilege (those born into rich families). We erect barriers to protect certain professions and people. We skew public policies and tax codes to favor one group over another, and to favor capital over labor. In short, the market isn’t allowed to do its will; rather, we alter market forces to favor the select few. So I don’t have the same confidence in markets that Taleb does. Consequently, I support a minimum wage. But it doesn’t end there.

Do the math. You can’t live on a minimum wage job. Yet political support for increases to the minimum wage simply doesn’t exist at the national level. So it’s up to people who think it’s wrong to pay people so little. It’s up to us to do some economic justice.

It’s not always easy to effect justice, but in many cases, it’s actually quite easy. We can tip.

Restaurants are an obvious example. Lodging establishments are another. The people who deliver my paper in the middle of the night are another.

We recently moved. Moving presents quite a few opportunities. The manual laborers who load and unload the vans. The people who hang the blinds. The men who constructed the retaining wall. Etc. Etc.

I lost count, but I spent several thousand dollars in gratuities over the past several months in connection with our move. I was glad I could.

I was a decent tipper at restaurants my entire life, but in recent years have turned it up a notch. Gratuities now range from 20 to 100%, depending on the size of the bill and level of service.

So what’s the point of all this, Vera. The point isn’t my tipping practice. Rather, the point is the same one Taleb made: we always have the option of backing up our professed beliefs with our actions. And the most telling action typically involves the way we spend our money.

Our spending has a way of separating the real from the fake words and beliefs. It’s not a bad thing to endeavor to be as real as possible.

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