Let’s pretend that minimum wage did not cause unemployment or price inflation (so that, you get paid more money that no longer can buy as much as it used to). Does that mean that, if you are a minimum wage worker, it makes rational sense to strike for it? Should you spend time as an activist?
I highly doubt it.
We can expand the question to think of all sorts of types of social justice. We can include issues like police brutality that are quite real. Think of all the unfair things that make being a poor person more difficult. How much time should you devote to advocating for justice?
If you are prone to suffer injustice, advocating for justice is probably the stupidest or (at best!) slowest way you can put yourself in a better situation. The wisest thing you can do is figure out how to control as much as you can of your situation and how to change as much of your situation as possible. Becoming a public target is the opposite of wise.
If you don’t like being victimized as a poor person, you have a much better shot at helping yourself by trying not to be poor or to appear poor than you have of changing the world.
If you want to avoid suffering from police brutality, do everything you can to avoid attention from police. No it’s not fair. But do you want to stand up for what’s fair or do you want to reduce the chances of suffering from police brutality? Antagonizing a cop because of your sense of fairness just shows you are a fool.
So in the case of minimum wage, if you succeed in raising the minimum wage a couple of dollars, is that going to transform you life? Will you not be poor anymore? But rather than getting paid minimum wage to go on strike, aren’t there other things you can do to find better pay? Will your efforts really make your family and your children better off in the long term compared to other ways you could expend your efforts?
What will you do to better yourself once your wages are raised a few dollars an hour? You still won’t be able to “make ends meet.” So will you strike for more pay? But the fact that you just got a “raise” will mean that it will take many years before you can convince the voters or politicians to give you another one. That kind of tiny step up will come way too late to be worth the effort.
And even if you spend no personal effort trying to raise the minimum wage, just waiting and hoping for it could be toxic for you. Isn’t there something, anything, you can do to increase your chances of getting better pay?
Take another example: tobacco taxes are constantly going up. These are mostly an unjust targeting of poor people to pay the salaries of middle class government workers. So you could advocate against tobacco taxes if you want to.
Would that be a battle worth fighting? What would transform your life is for you to add up all the money you spend each week on cigarettes (and throw in lotto tickets too). Then quit smoking and bank that money.
Every one of us is on a journey, that seems too slow but is going by too fast, to a different future. The question is which one you will travel to. You want to leave a better world for your children? Spend your life moving to one. You may fail, but the other “method” WILL fail.
Here is a corollary to my argument: the people who are trying to recruit you to be an activist, or advocate for change, are people who are exploiting you for their own dreams and who don’t care about you at all. You will receive very little benefit even if and when you succeed. You are basically allowing yourself to serve the agendas of other people.
Bettering yourself is always hard. It is sometimes impossible. But it is far more likely to end up paying off for you or your children than political activism ever will.