Anti-panhandling campaigns attack symptoms instead of disease

Businesses in my former home of Redding, California have launched a campaign to encourage people to deny money to panhandlers and others asking for help on the streets of their city. The publisher of the leading, local paper supports this initiative. This is my response to the publisher, which is applicable in principle to similar campaigns in other cities.

We have laws that restrict the supply of housing, thereby causing higher prices for the housing that does exist than would otherwise prevail.

We have erected legal and administrative barriers to the creation of even the simplest, personal-service businesses, preventing people from earning a living in these businesses if they cannot find a way over or around those barriers.

We have price controls on labor, so that employees and employers may not be able to meet at a wage that makes sense for both sides, denying each the services of the other.

We have monetary, fiscal, employment, and tax policies that cause massive dislocations and malinvestment, hampering entrepreneurship and job formation, and causing manufacturing to shift elsewhere, resulting in fewer jobs that would otherwise exist.

We conduct an immoral “war on drugs” that imprisons people for non-crimes and then leaves them unemployable.

We wage needless wars on an endless basis that breaks the bodies, minds, and spirits of those enlisted in the cause, leaving them unemployable and incapable of taking care of their families; we throw our broken soldiers away like trash when we are done with them.

We run institutional, compulsory, indoctrination centers and call them “schools,” teach moral values suitable for alley cats but not human beings, and reward young girls for having children out of wedlock, condemning millions of single-parent families headed by little more than children to lives of poverty.

So, yes, we have a homelessness problem. And some of these people are mere hucksters (not unlike, morally, the hucksters passing the laws that destroy our economy).

But the defects in our society that lead to so much homelessness hurt the great mass of the people, too. A few benefit at the expense of the many. A few do not have the resources to keep roofs over the heads, or food on their tables.

But I have to believe that Redding businesses could spend their persuasive energies, advertising dollars, and political capital in a better way than on a campaign against panhandling. Strategically, fighting the disease is smarter than fighting the symptoms.

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