The Case for Panhandling
JULY 01, 1959 by LEONARD E. READ
Often enough it is an alcoholic who sidles up to one on a sidewalk and pleads, "Buddy, can you spare a dime for a cup of coffee?" Occasionally, the panhandler shows real initiative, like the one who recently accosted me near New York City’s Penn Station, "Buddy, could you gimme the fare to South Carolina?"
Panhandling is a pretty low-grade, demeaning trade into which people sometimes sink, a vocation of last resort. Yet, this type of begging has its relative merit: Those importuned are allowed freedom of choice—to be lenient or not to be lenient. Person-to-person begging has far less to condemn it than does the legalized, "federal-aid" type currently endorsed and widely employed by our country’s social, intellectual, political, and commercial elite, as well as the not so elite! Let us test this startling assertion.
Our sewerage system is in disrepair! Widows and orphans, rich and poor—from
Now, what is wrong with this procedure? Not much, except with the people who make such degrading acknowledgments and confessions of weakness. At least, every citizen in the nation would be free to choose how he would respond.
Would the citizens of
Has legalization made the action any less degrading? Or restored manhood to the weaklings? There appears to be not a trace of mitigating evidence.
Sidewalk panhandling allows freedom of choice and causes no inflation. Nor do panhandlers injure the economy any more than do others who have retired from productive life. Legalized panhandling, on the other hand, allows no freedom of choice and is one of the principal causes of inflation and, thus, is destructive of the economy. Sidewalk panhandling is not nearly as bad as the legalized variety, this being the best case that can be made for panhandling on sidewalks.