Giving to Panhandlers Doesn’t Help anyone

We talk a lot about government economic policies at this site. This is more of a personal plea: “Don’t give to panhandlers!” Kudos to the City of Albuquerque for finally taking action to address the issue. You can’t get off of a highway in this town without someone with a sign asking for money. That’s not the real problem.

Rather, my issue with panhandling is that it doesn’t really help the people who are out doing it because it violates the old proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” One panhandler detailed on the front page of the Albuquerque Journal this morning is a perfectly-healthy 38 year old man who makes up to $30/hour tax-free from begging. I don’t know what his personal issues are, but he should be able to work. At $30/hour (or something like it), what incentive does he have to work? If he doensn’t work, how will he get skills and become a productive member of society? If he does have real issues that prevent him from working (mental health, say) he certainly isn’t getting help on a street corner.

And here’s where the government policies come in. According to the Cato Institute, in New Mexico government welfare payments already exceed the minimum wage (as seen in the chart below). So, in our personal lives and the government policies we advocate for, it only makes sense that we emphasize what Arthur Brooks calls “earned success,” as opposed to the quick freebie.