In Dicta

Monday, August 15, 2005

Panhandling bans

"Homeless people and dozens of their advocates spent the night at City Hall to show their opposition to a proposed panhandling ban backed by businesses in the city's downtown.

"It's far from out of control," said Ronald Lee, a 48-year-old Washington, D.C., native who has been homeless in Atlanta for eight months.

"In our nation's capital, people ask for money right in front of the White House," he said. "If someone wants to assist you, I don't see a problem with it."

Lee was among those who gathered on the steps before a planned vote on the ban Monday by city leaders — a vote that was delayed last month after a contentious meeting that included shouting matches and hissing from critics.

The proposed resolution would make it illegal to beg for money near downtown hotels or tourist sites. On a third offense, beggars could be jailed or fined.

Downtown business owners say aggressive beggars are keeping people away from the central business district. Last month, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, who is bankrolling the $200 million Georgia Aquarium being built downtown, threw his support behind the ban, saying the success of the attraction depends on its passing.

Advocates are instead pushing for affordable housing and a living wage for the city's homeless population, saying the ban would criminalize a person's right to ask for charity when they cannot take care of themselves.

"People have the right to ask, and people have the right to say no," activist and former city council member Derrick Boazman said.

I think this is a bad idea. Insofar as this is a "free" country, people should be allowed to ask for money, even if others do find it annoying.

Furthermore, from an economic point of view, think of this: assuming that people really are rational economic actors that seek to better themselves off, then panhandling should be allowed. Why? If panhandlers (and "artists" on streetcorners and subway stations, among others) have searched for a job on the hob market, and found that they can make more money with the skills that they have panhandling or playing an instrument or something of the sort, then these people are making a rational economic decision. Why should the government deter them from doing this?

From Yahoo! News.


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