Thanks to the depredations of government, people are weighed down by bureaucratic costs in virtually every aspect of their lives. In my attempts to free myself and those I interact with on a regular basis from these fiscal chains, I try to consider the most commonplace aspects of life and how I can remove layers of violence from the most fundamentally peaceful human interactions.
Eating is not only a matter of basic sustenance, but also a paramount social activity.
This is sort of a “low-hanging fruit” strategy of liberation. Because state expropriators tend to target and monopolize the most basic human needs (water, land (shelter), security, transportation [#WWBTR]), it only makes sense that we should focus on loosening the government’s grip on these necessities. Immediately coming to mind is arguably the most important of the basic human needs: food.
Eating is not only a matter of basic sustenance, but also a paramount social activity. In many cultures and throughout history the shared meal has long stood as a profoundly humane, even spiritual and holy, experience. Today, the global restaurant industry accounts for over 2.7 trillion dollars in sales. It employs well over 65 million people. It is plausible that the sharing of food was the original division of labor that led to the dawn of civilization. Across millennia, through the rise and fall of all of mankind’s cultures, there has been no greater or more universal act of peace and hospitality.
I travel quite a bit for work. I have not spent more than three weeks in a row in a city so far this year. As such, most of my meals are eaten at restaurants, served by one of these 65 million humans gracious enough to accommodate me. It is here that I attempt to offer both economic relief as well as a quick lesson in avoiding extortion. Every time I eat out, I generally pay with a credit card, but I am always sure to leave a generous cash gift rather than a tip on the receipt. I also always explain my reason to the server as follows:
A Gift with a Message
“Hi, can I talk to you for a second?
I want to let you know, I really appreciate your service today. So I want to give you this gift. This isn’t a tip. I always leave a cash gift, and I want to tell you why. Like I said, I greatly appreciate you and your team for serving me such a great meal today. I think everyone here did a great job. So I want to give you this, because you deserve to keep it all, and I don’t want you to share it with anyone who didn’t help you today.
Obviously I’m not talking about your restaurant’s policy on splitting it with those here who helped you out. If a bartender, busser, or other members of your team deserve a percent of this, by all means, share it with them! But what I don’t want you to do is give this to people who have already made this meal X% more expensive than it should have been (where X is the local sales tithe). To be honest, these thieves have most likely made it even more expensive than that – when you consider the many levels of stealing, from the money they’re directly and forcibly taking out of your paycheck, your employer’s payroll and profits, not to mention the amount of money they charge the owner of this place based on the property this building is on, and even the many, many levels they take a cut from in the process that got the food from the farm to this table... I think they’ve stolen enough and made this meal so much more expensive than it needed to be. So I’d like it if you kept this gift for yourself, and don’t give any more to those people who produce nothing and try to control everyone else who does.”
I find that this human connection is far more effective than senseless sloganeering.
Now, that may seem like a lot to go through. But I didn’t start off with this entire schpiel. Originally, I used a few quick lines. And to this day, I judge it based on how they’re reacting. If immediately the person nods their head, or interrupts me and says “I never claim cash!” or something to that effect, I can usually truncate it and adjust based on the individual. But I find a version of this generally elicits quite a good response from people.
Commerce and Connection
On the one hand, about 70% of the time (as service industry people are pretty keen to this idea), the server knows what I mean immediately, and says something to the effect that they completely agree with me. This allows me to relate to the person, and hopefully help them extrapolate out, that all forms of coerced, mandatory tithing is immoral. It is a great feeling, as someone who’s constantly fighting for more freedom, to have about two-thirds of my meals result in relating to the very basic human desire to be free that we all share deep down inside.
The other 30% of the time is really the best though. The person is genuinely blown away, and tends to be incredibly grateful to me for explaining it to them. I get a lot of, “Wow, I never thought of it that way.” I LOVE this response. At this point, I get to name drop my favorite institutions and websites for educating people on the nature of legitimized theft. Oftentimes they’re so interested that I’ll take my copy of the receipt and write the names of my favorite websites for this sort of information on the back of it for them to check out later.
I find that this human connection, made with someone with whom I’ve already been developing a rapport throughout the meal, is far more effective than senseless sloganeering and shouting inside joke memes at them. On the contrary, I build true human connections based on the voluntary interactions we share for mutual prosperity, and through the non-violent, community-based strategies of civil disobedience, agorism, and counter-economics. I cannot put into numbers how often a server remembers me the next time I visit their restaurant, and thanks me for showing them this new perspective. And that kind of human connection is what this whole thing called life is all about.