A Permit to Feed the Homeless?

To say the least, we at the Rio Grande Foundation are not big fans of government permits. Often, these permits come in the form of business permits or licensing in order to perform a particular job (like cutting hair). Usually, it is our friends on the right, conservatives and business owners that oppose onerous and unnecessary permitting. We agree with them.

But now, the City of Albuquerque is claiming that a man who has been feeding the homeless needs a permit to do so. In fact, they plan on re-file charges against him. This may be an instance where our friends on the left jump on the anti-permit bandwagon.

After all, it would seem that someone is sacrificing enough to go to the trouble to feed the homeless. Are they going to also go to the trouble and expense of obtaining a permit? What if I give a sandwich to a homeless guy downtown, am I violating this law?

The fact is that receiving a piece of paper from the government and paying certain government fees (actually taxes) does not make the food served, haircuts given, or other services rendered any safer or better. Usually, as Milton Friedman pointed out, licensing and government permits simply serve to reduce the supply of a particular service and increase its cost. It would seem that particularly in today’s economy, the City would try to encourage people to engage in economic or charitable activities, not discourage them.