Ham-Fisted ‘Help’ for the Poor

by Don Boudreaux on July 25, 2013

in Reality Is Not Optional, Seen and Unseen, Work

Here’s a riff on my previous post on the minimum wage.

Washington, DC, like most cities, has many beggars.  (I’m not talking here about the Gucci-loafered ones with offices on K St.)  I’m sure it’s difficult to support a family on the earnings from begging.  So let’s pass a statute that mandates that the minimum hand-out to a beggar be, say, $25.00.  If you can’t or won’t give to a beggar, on any particular encounter with that beggar, at least $25.00, you are not allowed to give anything to that beggar.

Similarly, many U.S. cities have very poor people trying to earn money by selling the likes of pencils or cheap flowers.  I’m sure it’s difficult to support a family on the earnings from such sales.  So let’s pass a statute that mandates the minimum price of pencils be, say, $25.00 a piece.  Ditto for each stem of cheap flowers.  If you can’t or won’t pay at least $25.00 for each pencil or stem of semi-wilted rose that you buy, you are not allowed to pay anything for such items.

(Rhetorical) Question: will beggars and poor people be helped or harmed by such legislation?

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