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In Defense of Beggars

The other day, as I was driving, I noticed a lady holding up a sign at an intersection. Some places where I lived, you find someone like this at every intersection, especially down south where the weather is mild. I have even noticed a shift change, where one beggar will leave and another will take his or her place. They have their territories and time slots.

Many people love to rail against beggars, especially those on the right. While this is to be expected from conservatives, too often, libertarians get in on the action. John Stossel once did a whole segment attacking and criticizing beggars and other freeloaders.

But what's wrong with freeloading? From a libertarian perspective, no rights are being violated, and beggars are not initiating aggression. We are assuming, of course, that they are not trespassing on private property that does not allow panhandling. So, from a non-aggression principle, libertarians should have no problem with bums.

But let's dig deeper. Sure, a libertarian might object, beggars do not violate the NAP, but we can object on moral grounds. They are unproductive free-loaders that live off other people's productivity. Oh really?

Austrian economics teaches us that all values are subjective. Everyone has different preferences, and we cannot tell what would make another person better off by a method other than by observing their behavior. In a transaction between a beggar and an alms-giver, each participant is better off because of the transaction, or they would not do it. The beggar is better off, because he now has the money that he values more than the time and effort expended to obtain it (by standing there and by thanking the alms-giver). But the alms-giver is also better off. The alms-giver has satisfied a psychic need, has eliminated a certain sense of uneasiness. The alms-giver now feels better. But as Mises explained to us, all transactions are done to eliminate a feeling of psychic unease. You buy something because you want it, and the want is a feeling of psychic unease that yearns to be satisfied. Thus, giving money to a beggar has the same psychological effect as, say, earning a paycheck.

So here is the thing:

Who are you to judge that one non-violent, mutually beneficial transaction is better than another one?

But, you may say, the beggar is not doing anything productive, is not making the world a better place! But he is! He is making one person feel better, the person that gives him money. How else can you improve the world, than one interaction at a time?

Imagine someone that loves model trains and spends all their free time and money buying and collecting model trains. Someone that wants to save the rainforest may see this as a total and utter waste of time and resources. I mean, how is the train collector making the world a better place? He is just wasting his time on a dumb hobby that helps nobody. But, you may say, he is providing a demand that keeps model train companies in business, thereby contributing to the jobs of the people that make model trains. But what if those people could be doing something better, if demand for model trains didn't exist, like saving the rainforest? The point here is that we people have different preferences. How are we to decide that one is better than the other?

If economic transactions are all about improving the psychic well-being of the participants, who are we to judge that someone that gives money to save the rainforest FEELS MORE than someone that buys a model train, or someone that gives money to a beggar?

Judge not, lest ye be judged. Do you want someone judging YOUR preferences?

Of course, sometimes preferences will come into conflict, so we need rules in place to resolve this. We libertarians believe in the non-aggression principle. The non-aggression principle is the simplest rule set for a civil society. But it is also the least judgmental, the most tolerant rule. It is the rule that respects the widest range of preferences. Therefore, it is the rule that allows for the greatest increase in psychic well-being for people. It is the rule that allows for the widest variety of methods of improving the world.

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Begging in Florida

I have talked to a beggar man that walks by my house for several years . He is crazy silly sometimes and a few eggs short of a dozen. But friendly. Almost everyday he puts on his green reflective vest. Walks to the bus stop. Heads to were he is pan handling. Takes the bus back home. He rents a one bedroom Apt . For all I know he might own the apartments on a water channel on Tampa bay. This is America. Land of opportunity. If people give money to him I am fine. He never asked me for money. I believe there is a fine line from being a genius to people with mental issues on the high IQ level. Thank goodness most people are in the middle of the high to low IQ spectrum.

Money talks and dogs bark

Beggars and Powerty Problem

I am on my way back to Texas. I spent 3 months in China working and later traveling to few new cities I have never been before. I must say I have only seen relatively few beggars here (most of them were people with extreme deformities) and there is simple explanation why. There are better (more productive) ways of making living, for example street vendors and small street business (such as selling snacks, fresh vegetable and fruits, or cheap products, collecting recycling products, providing customers with small repairs etc.). I have witnessed once or twice (in big cities like Beijing or Shanghai) some of those street vendors removed by the police, but it was not nothing as dramatic as one could imagine it in US: the policemen (only two) were unarmed and the removed individual was allowed to collect his/her things and walk away. My argument is very simple - here in USA poor people have no other option left to them: begging from the government or fellow citizens. Poor lost their ability to support themselves by exercising freedom of commerce in a real free market environment, without taxes, permissions, licenses, standards, regulations, rules, fees, ... So, please be understandable and compassionate.

The basic problem is that one believes that everything is real, and thus everything is treated as such.
---Kalu Rinpoche

Beggers and Self Providence

[The] poor lost their ability to support themselves by exercising freedom of commerce....

Your observation is on point. It is why people become poor, the rich slide to middle class and why the poor remain poor.

Taking the two words self providence for themselves -- to comprehend them as providing for yourself (understanding the providing is through mutual interaction) -- is something few people do and is something I try to advance on the DP.

This comprehension is simple and would do wonders for us in uplifting ourselves and spreading freedom which happens intellectually before it does physically or it happens at the same time, but not after, it does physically. Spreading this simple concept is something I do often and it has paid off: A co-worker of mine who got a job that became his primary job incorporated a component of freedom into his job as a manager. That component: argument.

New on the job, he invited it, not quarreling, from his subordinates. Argument leads to truth and truth is needed for freedom, just as freedom is needed for truth. Each needs the other.

Excellent comment, Dyzio.

School's fine. Just don't let it get in the way of thinking. -Me

Study nature, not books. -Walton Forest Dutton, MD, in his 1916 book whose subject is origin (therefore what all healing methods involve and count on), simple and powerful.

I have no problem as long as they hold honest signs---


"I just like living like this" or

"just too lazy to work" or

"Hoping you feel guilty if you don't give me money" or

"I'd rather live off YOUR labor"

and as long as they are not taking welfare--which is very rare.

Christians should not be warmongers! http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance87.html

Michael Nystrom's picture

Why how apropos!



To be mean is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that one is; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil out of stupidity. - C.B.

Wayne Dyer said someone once criticized him for giving money

To a beggar who was obviously going to use the money for booze. He replied "who am I to judge how someone pursues their own happiness? "

Don't feed the pandas. Ever.


Only you can decide your morality towards beggars. Some people rationalize homelessness and poverty by coming to a stereotypical conclusion: "If I give any money to the beggar, they are just going to use it to buy drugs or alcohol. I am enabling this beggar to continue his beggar ways. (Or something like that, hmm?)" We've all thought that.

But really, many of us have thought, "I need that money for myself (and/or my family)".

When the economy is good, "This person should get a job."

I had an interesting experience of my own. It was in blizzard conditions. I was dating a woman who worked as a lab tech at a hospital. I was waiting for the bus, to go help my now deceased grandfather plow his driveway. The streets were a mess and people were coated in wind, ice, and snow. I normally don't take public transit, but I needed to get home.

At the bus stop, a homeless man asked me for a cigarette. Then, dizzy and discombobulated, he collapsed. I broke his fall with my arms and legs, and slowly let him fall to the ground (There was no way I could carry him or keep him up, but I tried). Now, the behavior of people around me, was quite interesting. At first, they sort of ignored that this entire thing was taking place. Having lived with my elderly grandparents earlier in my life, I realized that this man may be having a heart attack, or some kind of medical condition. It is cold, and he is covered in snow, and it is not going to get any better.

Oddly enough, my now ex-girlfriend, the hospital lab technician says, you should leave him. He's a bum. I looked over at her, absolutely horrified at this statement. He is an old man, I replied. I wondered if she was saying this because he was black. It occurred to me that she was Asian, and in a different era, or area of the country, she would also be facing discrimination.

So I looked down at him and tried to keep him awake, talking to him. He was mumbling. I asked him if he could still wiggle his toes and move his hands. If he could feel his arm, and so forth. I was concerned he may have had a TIA (for those of you who don't know, this is a mini-stroke). He responded yes. The reality was that this was a difficult situation. Now, other people were staring. But still, not one word. Finally, I knew it was time to pick him up. Using all my strength, adrenaline pumping, I commanded him to try to get up and that I was going to lift him on the count of 3. I told him to nod if he understood and he did. Now, 1... 2... 3.. With all my strength, he is almost up, but on his knees, and can not catch his feet. I slowly place him back down. I realize, that I am making a very unorthodox move, by trying to lift him, but he now names the bus he trying to get on to go home, and it is coming. Finally, people see this, and are just standing around staring. I ask for some help, and a woman comes to help. She gets into an argument with my girlfriend. A man, and two other women, look away. Finally, my crazy girlfriend, decides to assist, probably because the other woman is helping. This man, I realize, wreaks of booze. But, he is still a man. He is at least twice my age. He deserves dignity. This has got to be a bad time for him. And who knows what is going on in his life.

Alright... on the count of 3... 1... 2.... 3... all of my strength in my bones is now lifting him, and the others are helping. I use, literally, every muscle in my body, as he is practically dead weight, but conscious. His bus is now visible and coming. But he is wasted... I am helping him trying to keep him alert, and lifting... and... after some struggle. He is now back on his feet.

"He smells of booze. He's a drunk!" my now ex-girlfriend yells. No, he is going to get on the bus. The bus approaches, and the doors swing open. I have his arm around my shoulder, and he is swaying back and forth. But he is ready to go. Alright, sir, its time for you to go home. i tell the bus driver that this man is in bad shape, and needs help. What does this bus driver do? "We can't let him on the bus like that. You should call an ambulance." He closes the bus door and drives away. Even the bum now says "Oh, no". Slowly. he loses his grasp of me. I tell him to keep it together, and again, as others come to his aid (now willing to participate in at least trying to get him up after a long argument with my girlfriend), he is back on the ground.

I now imagine him, after nightfall, covered in snow, hypothermic and unconscious, with the words of my now ex-girlfriend echoing my head "Just leave him, he's a bum".

What should we do, I ask her?

He's just using you, she says to me. I can't believe what I'm hearing. He is playing a game with you, she says.

What are you talking about? This is an old man. He needs our help, whether he has been drinking or not. We're in a blizzard. He could die out here.

She seems to scoff. I look at him on the ground and notice he is wearing a hospital band. Look at this, look at this, I say to her... By now she is waiting for our bus. She begrudgingly comes over, as if I am the bum, when I am simply trying to help a fellow human being.

He has a hospital band on him, he could have a heart condition. (My grandmother died of cardiac arrest, and my grandfather would too, about 4 months after this incident, but I couldn't help but think of him. He suffered a quadruple bypass several years before "the bum incident")

Then, the most outrageous thing is said to me. She tells me he probably just got out of the hospital for drinking too much, and that he got drunk again to get free room and board there, and that we should literally drag him from the bus stop over to the snow covered train depot, a block away, and leave him on an outdoor, snow covered bench.

At this point.. I lose it. "Are you f*cking crazy? He will DIE overnight. It will be below zero." She replies quickly, that it is someone else's problem. "What if he falls onto the tracks?"

I tell her, with no uncertainty, now filled with rage, "No, this is our problem. This is a human being. This could be your father, or my father. This could be one of us some day. We will help him."

She looks at me. I can't tell if shes unphased, or finally realizing that what she has been saying is almost accessory to murder. If someone has fallen down, what do you do? Drag them into a forest and let animals eat them? I think to myself.

Any way, long story short, our bus came, but this time, the bus driver waited, I kept the man awake, even bringing him some coffee. I called 911, something even my now ex-girlfriend tried to stop. "He'll just be sent back to the hospital I work at." So? Who cares, I say. He'll live, do you understand. It's where he has to go now.

I get on my bus. I tell her that I can make it home alone. "OK, give me a call later. I'm sorry. I hope you're not angry at me." No, I say. I am disappointed that this is the way you are.

You can probably guess how long that relationship lasted.

I went back, with my grandfather waiting at our old family home. What took you so long? He asked. "Someone needed my help." And I told him the story. I figured he would make some comment, that I'm too generous, or naive. Instead, my old man goes, "I'm proud of you." It would be the last time he said it to me.

I noted that day. That was the day I helped someone who had fallen down. I helped them get back up. And I got them to a hospital. As fate would have it, I would do it one more time, with my grandfather.

God bless.

Thank you for sharing this.

I don't think I will ever forget your story.

Reminds me of this quote-

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.

George Washington Carver


Shoe-on-the-other-foot philosophy can certainly add perspective and IMO, enhance appreciation.

+1 for empathy and kindness, and may that elderly gentleman find peace

What is a bum, anyway?

I learned, that day, to be a man. And to do something you know in your heart is right, even if no one cares.

My grandfather would joke, that I was a hero, and that my ex-girlfriend would have waited for me to get sick and leave me unconscious at the train station. Any time he reminded me I was some hero, I told him that I had learned from the best. For all intents and purposes, I did, and he raised me as his son

You see, that bum I helped, it didn't matter to me that he was a bum, or that he was drunk. He may not REALLY have been a bum. Maybe his wife kicked him out. Maybe he had kids and a family to get home to. Maybe he just lost his job. I didn't know this man. But I knew he needed help. And people standing around like they don't exist? Thats not going to solve the problem. Some politician in D.C. isn't going to solve the problem. Its feet on the ground with a level head that are going to prevent people from, literally, dying on the street. And yes, some day that person could be anyone you know.

You know that kid in school you remember being friends with? How about your 8th grade class? High school home room? There is a very good chance, that for kindergarten, middle school, and high school, at least one person you remember (not in the whole school, just remember), is that homeless guy, somewhere.


The faculty of choice is indeed a constant agent, while I can't help but think that for some individuals, deep pain is a formidable obstacle to overcome.

Hence why IMO, the virtue of abstaining from judgment is our most civil route.


This is How I Respond to Beggars

I don't care if they appear as if they are doing it to buy alcohol, I don't judge and I don't try to read their mind. I say a quick, silent prayer over the bill or coins that I'm going to hand out and ask God to bless that money that it may bring some light, healing and hope to that person. Even if the prayer might have zero impact (for those here who don't believe in God), this voluntary transaction does provide me with good feelings and satisfaction and I get to go on with the rest of my day feeling so good that my interactions with others improve. Win win situation that does not violate the NAP, as opposed to government hand outs that are based on aggression and which negatively impact the quality of human interaction. THANK YOU OP FOR THIS GREAT POST.

"To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize." Voltaire

Experiment with a panhandler....

Experiment, just by changing the way he dresses. see how the perception of the people walking by changes...


A good way to defend your freedoms: www.libertymagazine.org

Beggars have infinitely more

Beggars have infinitely more respect from me than any single person receiving any sort of government assistance whether it be welfare, public housing, or even one food stamp. I will defend the ability of the beggar to ask for money to be given to him voluntarily all day long and rebuke those who receive even 1 cent from the theft of people's wealth hiding behind the term 'government assistance'. They are cowards and beggars are brave.

I will try more and more when I do give a beggar some money to tell them that Yahushua loves them and mention liberty in some way or fashion.


Anyone receiving "government" assistance through welfare, public housing, or food stamps, has infinitely more respect from me than any single person who works and pays taxes, i.e., who is a law abiding taxpayer.

Why? Because the one extracting resources from the evil system we have in place is much more effective in his effort to bring down that system than the coward who supports it with his labor to strengthen his own chains and those of others.

The welfare recipient may be a coward and he may be ignorant; he may want to get something for nothing. But the law abiding taxpayer is an ignorant coward who is destructive, and destroys his own self for the perception of getting something for nothing. The welfare recipient benefits from the theft; the taxpayer supports the evil directly.

But you may be right that a begger deserves more respect than either of the other two.

That's wacked out.

" But the law abiding taxpayer is an ignorant coward who is destructive, and destroys his own self for the perception of getting something for nothing."

What is the something for nothing that the taxpayer gets? I'd love to know.


I said the *perception* of getting something for nothing. He actually doesn't get anything for his tribute...that all goes for the benefit of the ruling caste and the maintenance of his chains. I would assume you might understand that as falling under the heading of "ignorant." But since you don't seem to get it, let me try to help out:

...ignorant *and stupid*...



Hope you get a +10 for the Great Points

Especially this:

I will try more and more when I do give a beggar some money to tell them that Yahushua loves them and mention liberty in some way or fashion.

"Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern." ~~C.S. Lewis
Love won! Deliverance from Tyranny is on the way! Col. 2:13-15


in that voluntary churches or charitable organizations are more principled in practice than pilfering taxes or coercive mandates.

Beyond that and politically speaking, I've been calling for the establishment of public Trusts to volitionally endow governmental, civic and cultural functions.

More here

I was in Sand Diego once.

I was in Sand Diego once. There are homeless people everywhere. I have to give props to the one who help up a sign that simply stated "I ain't gonna lie, I need money for booze".

It's the weather and sadly, vets.

I live in San Diego County and when I am out walking on the pier or bar hopping in Downtown, I like talking with the people who ask me for money. It's amazing how many are vets. I have heard some crazy stories, some I would never repeat.

From http://www.kpbs.org/news/2014/apr/17/san-diego-countys-annua...
"... Partly to blame is the increased number of veterans coming to San Diego, he said.

“Our workload at the Veterans Center is up 5 percent this year, and San Diego County is the No. 1 destination for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

San Diego has the fourth largest homeless population in the nation, according to a HUD report."

I always give to the ones that sing

or have their dog with them. And extra when the dog is wearing a bandana and sunglasses.

Very well written.

Easy to read and thought provoking.


> Many people love to rail against beggars, especially
> those on the right. While this is to be expected from
> conservatives, too often, libertarians get in on the
> action. John Stossel once did a whole segment attacking
> and criticizing beggars and other freeloaders.

As far as I can see, the paragraph above represents the closest you come to actually trying to make a point.

You go on to say "What's wrong with freeloading?"

OK. Look at your paragraph. What's wrong with "railing against beggars"?

Who are you to judge?

When you talk about John Stossel, you are using "attacking" in a metaphorical sense. He has not violated the non-aggression principle by "criticizing" beggars. And for the record, I don't particularly care for John Stossel. I don't like many of his ideas. I don't like his presentation. But if he wants to criticize beggars, who cares? Why do you care? Why do I care? (Caveat: Stossel may very well wish to take beggars off and put them in a cage. I don't know about that, but that's a real attack, not just talking. Actually, I'm sure he wouldn't put them in a cage---he would want someone else to do his dirty work for him, but anyway, you get my point.)

I think a beggar, perhaps, needs to be criticized because he is not being productive. Yes, that's my evaluation. He can take it or leave it. It's not clear to me that a beggar is actually being responsible for himself. On the other hand, I am under no obligation to have anything to do with him or make a contribution---so I really don't care too much.

Actually, I do care to the extent that I'm willing to criticize him to his face. I'd like to help him. Criticizing and "attacking" people is very often what they need. I would really really be thankful for someone who would "attack" me for having wrong ideas, for leading my children into a world in which they are ignorant slaves. There are a lot of things over which I would appreciate being attacked by people who care about me.

Being "attacked" in this way is not the problem. Unfortunately, this honest effort at a critical attack is all too rare. Unfortunately, I end up being truly attacked by people who don't care about me at all. That is the norm in our society. That is how it is set up. I don't want anything from beggars, but most people think I owe them all kinds of things which are harmful to all of us, and they're willing to send ignorant enforcers to try to get these things from me. This is a real problem to worry about. And I'll have to say, that I assume most beggars aren't paying taxes. That is definitely very commendable. It's certainly better to beg than do honest work and pay taxes to support this evil system. But I think a guy can do better than begging.

So, yes, absolutely I want someone judging my preferences. The only requirement is that they provide constructive helpful criticism (all too rare).

And someone needs to have a talk with those model railroad idiots too.

And think about the resources that go into college football---or sports in general. These things all need to be criticized relentlessly.

In short the problem is not an abundance of criticism. It's a lack of good direction and advice.


About a week ago I saw an elderly man with a sign near the freeway entrance. It was a really hot day, nearly 100*. I didn't have any dollar bills or change to give him, but I had some half frozen water bottles. I rolled down my window ahead of time and as I drove past him I threw the water bottles into the small bucket he was holding, as fast as i could as I kept moving. I barely glanced into this old mans eyes and it nearly broke my heart. He looked so old and gentle. I wish I could've done more to help him. Then I hear this super loud, long honking from the car behind me.. I said to my 12 year old daughter "Who would ever honk at someone who is giving a homeless man water??!!"

Some people are so impatient in this crazy world. I do not understand it.

the virtue of patience...

is all but lost today... only a few still hold that key.

"Automatic" - Miranda Lambert.

I use Blue Wave, but don't expect one of THEIR silly taglines.

Bump for changing my career

And feeling good about it. Lol

"A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within" W. Durant

Bump for love and compassion

Bump for love and compassion

Dailypaulers are the alchemical GOLD, transmutating the world around them, into the universal panacea! The Daily Paul then, is the alchemical vessel.