Saturday, December 7, 2013

Burgers and Bullets

News of fast food labor strikes continues pouring in.  Minimum wage workers are looking to increase their hourly wage to $15, which they contend to be a “just” living wage.   In my own Soprano State of New Jersey, the voters have recently approved a state constitutional amendment to increase the minimum wage by a buck and to mandate annual cost-of-living increases.

Please indulge me in a little thought exercise.

Let’s say that you go down to you local burger joint to ask for a job. The boss tells you that he can pay $7 but say that you want $15.  He says “too bad, take it or leave it”.  So you take it.   However you also take an additional $8 from the cash register for every hour that you worked in order to get up the $15 per hour that you feel you deserve.

Most people would call that stealing.  If most of your coworkers did it, the burger joint might soon be out of business and you would need to find a new gig.

Now let’s consider another scenario.  As before, you apply for the job, you ask for $15 and the boss offers $7.  This time you pull a gun on the boss and tell him that it will be $15.  End of discussion.  You also make sure that you bring your gun with you on payday to ensure that you are getting your $15 per hour.

If nothing else, this method is more honest and straightforward than stealing from the register.  At least the boss knows where his money is going.  Still, most people would still call it a crime.

Now let’s run through this one more time.

You and your fellow workers convince your elected representatives that you really deserve $15 an hour, not $7.  So then the State sends your boss a note informing him that he will be giving you a nice raise.  The letter also advises your boss that he must do so under the penalty of law.  “Penalty of law” is a polite way of saying that guys with guns will come by to ensure compliance “or else”.

Question: how is having the hired guns of government to extort an extra $8 per hour out of your boss any more moral or any less of a crime than doing it yourself?

I now turn the thought exercise over to you, the reader, to complete.

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