The horrible David Horsey recently posted a cartoon about tipping that is nothing but stupid. We can closely match the type who might see in Horsey's "Seattle's Tipping Epidemic" a deep or legitimate general reading with one who believes they are having sex with another person but are instead fucking a rocking chair. (Admittedly, I stole the final image in that long sentence from some story or essay by Vladmir Nabokov—and I'm certain the Russian's chair did not rock.) Then there is Danny Westneat. Not too long ago, he became the Jimmy McMillan of tipping. But the latter's famous declaration, "Rent Is Too Damn High!," was justified and, despite its directness, had real depth. Westneat's "Help! Tipping in Seattle has become a psychological minefield," remained at the surface of a very complicated issue.
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And this is why my conversation with the co-owner of Good Weather Bicycle & Tailwind Cafe, Brandon Waterman, is informative. It explains a good part of the tipping system in fresh detail. What the interview makes clear is that when the owners of this small Chophouse Row shop and cafe decided to replace tips with high wages, they subjected the issue to the kind of consideration or analysis you will not find in the Seattle Times and much of Reddit.
The fact that, for example, credit card companies benefit from tips by adding extra processing fees was completely unknown to me. And nor was the raw wage unfairness caused by low-tip shifts and high-tip ones. Living wages make all shifts the same. But the real question, and one you will not find in a cartoon with a nose-ringed Zer demanding unjustified tips from a boomer, is this: Why don't we pay everyone wages that match the costs of living? The tipping discussion, if it is to have any kind of depth, must become one that sees the practice not as essential (Horsey, Westneat, and the like) but as phenomenal. To lock your thinking in the latter leads to the kind of politics that ultimately solves nothing. This is your war on drugs, in the first version and 2.0 version. It's easy for a politician to deal only at the level of appearances and avoid, at all costs, the structural.
And this brings me to an economist whose moment in history is found at the end of the 19th century, Alfred Marshall. He was by no means on the left. He was center-right. But his way of thinking had enough intelligence to result in the only answer capitalism had to post-World War I socialism, Keynesianism, which, in substance, comes down to just one thing: expand consumer demand. This directive required higher wages. But before getting into all of that (which is in my other posts and will be in future posts), back to Marshall. Let's close with this passage from his masterpiece Principles of Economics (1890): "...[I]n economics, neither those effects of known causes, nor those causes of known effects which are most patent, are generally the most important: 'that which is not seen" is often better worth studying than that which is seen."