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Panhandling Middle-Class Kids

I got jumped all over on LRC blog for this post–by McMaken. Whatever. Lew Rockwell chimed in too, and Karen de Coster supported me (and responded to McMaken). The chain is below:

Panhandling Middle-Class Kids

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on October 13, 2003 05:10 PM

Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t stand when kids–typically elementary school students–embark on these little panhandling routines to beg for money from family, friends and neighbors. For example selling magazine subscriptions, or World’s Finest Chocolate, or raffle tickets, or wrapping paper, etc. Since when did begging become an activity for the middle class? Seems gauche and tacky to me.

I just paid $10 for a coupon from a co-worker, for his son’s school. It lets me get a Domino’s pizza free when I buy one–can use up to 20 times, over the next year. Forgetting that I get such coupons for free in the mail all the time anyway, this is what these stupid fundraising inevitable become–the parents do the work for their kids. I don’t want my kids going around panhandling.

One time, a few years ago, on a nice Saturday afternoon, my doorbell rang. It was some little kid, maybe 13-14 years old. Selling magazine subscriptions “to help him pay for college.” I said, “No thanks.” Incredulous, he says, “B-b-b-but, don’t you want to help me go to college?” I say, “No, not really, that’s your parents’ job.” After closing the door, I bump into my wife, who had an incredulous look on her face, as if to say, “Dang, that was kind of mean!” I’m thinking to myself,–why? why is it mean to refuse to give money to some panhandling middle-class kid?

Look, I’m all for eleemosynary giving. I support the Mises Institute and my private Catholic alma mater, for example. But should self-sustaining middle-class parents in effect have their kids ask for their education expenses from their neighbors?

Panhandling kids…continued

Posted by Ryan W. McMaken on October 13, 2003 11:33 PM

My thanks to Kinsella for illustrating for us why there are no women at libertarian get-togethers. Sheesh. Slamming doors in kids’ faces?

As a member of the fundraising community, I have to object to the reference to the admittedly obnoxious pre-teen fundraisers as panhandlers. By the rationale presented, Lew Rockwell is a panhandler every time he fundraises for the Mises institute, not to mention that shameless beggar Burt Blumert!

Panhandlers Are Public

Posted by Lew Rockwell on October 14, 2003 05:22 AM

We only have panhandlers at our doors (kids selling magazines, Jevhovah’s Witnesses, Greenpeace activists, etc.) thanks to public property–roads, sidewalks, etc. Such people are banned at condominiums and malls (unless government judges force the owners to admit them), and they would not be allowed in private neighborhoods.

Some towns, attempting to mimick this, required door-to-door solicitors to register, in an attempt to dissaude them. The Jehovah’s Witnesses sued, and the Supreme Court overruled the towns on grounds of “free speech,” as if these people have a right to enter your property and blab at you without your permission.

Re: Panhandling Kids and the Public Trough

Posted by Karen De Coster on October 14, 2003 07:18 AM

I think Kinsella made a funny, interesting point. I agree with Kinsella separating this type of thing from, say, supporting the Mises Institute. I get the porch panhandling at my home, from strangers, no less than twice a week. Plus, since I am “in good” with quite a few families in the neighborhood, they send their kids to my door first (I’m always the first one to fill out the order list) to hawk the latest overpriced items from some cheese and sausage catalog, or candy catalog. I always reject the former while being an easy target for all the good, little kiddies that I do know. How many times can I order peanut butter-filled, chocolate teddy bears that I don’t eat? (Ever try to explain a low-carb diet to a big-eyed kid?) Worse yet, is when you are assaulted by all of your co-workers to buy all of this junk from their kids, and you are made to feel like a heel for saying no. Ever walk in the lunchroom and see 5-6 public school-driven, buy-buy lists sitting on the table? I’ve been at places where Big $$$$ partners impressed upon me – and other company peons – the near-necessity of purchasing their kid’s junk, and it was implied that it was part of the “company culture.”

What kills me is when the *public* schools are sending these kids out to make tiny profit margins on this junk, because the parents are so reinforced on the idea of free education and free everything that they can’t fathom paying a cent so their kid can play in the band, play lacrosse, or go on a special field trip. They’ve been lined up at the trough for far too long, and they are mere parasites sucking blood from the productive elements in society.

Something I found most egregious was when the Detroit News ran a series of articles – this past summer – on how horrid! it was that parents had to pitch in some moolah when their kiddies wanted to engage in certain sports or extracurricular activities. Two of the articles, here and here, are bound to kick up one’s blood pressure.

These upper middle class, middle class, and lower class folks, that take my money to educate their kids, are appalled that they should have to fund their own child’s entertainment. These parasites bitch and whine about paying $25 or $35 for their kid to play some oddball sport, or in some travelling jazz band. When they have to fork over $100 for something, look out, ‘cuz it’s near-riot time. What really whales at ya is when some Grosse Pointe lawyer or doctor, who lives in a $2 million lakefront mansion, says, “I had to pay $225 for my daughter to play field hockey, and I think that’s really unfair….” At least private school parents – who are already paying public school taxes *and* private school tuition – are trying to soften the blow on their wallet by engaging in a little fund-raising.

As one who formerly had audited public schools, I noted that school finance is the most twisted, parasitical mess-of-a-rathole that I have ever witnessed.

Chasing away the Women?

Posted by Karen De Coster on October 14, 2003 07:28 AM

Quoting Ryan McMaken: “My thanks to Kinsella for illustrating for us why there are no women at libertarian get-togethers. Sheesh. Slamming doors in kids’ faces?” Ahem. The ratio is about 100,000-1, but so what? I’ve never found a reason to complain about this overwhelming majority. Seems perfectly fair to me. ;^)

Besides, only at the Mises Institute can I experience the absolutely delightful thrill of seeing a long line for the mens’ water closet, and walk right into the little ladies room without any wait. Yeah!

kids pt2

Posted by Ryan W. McMaken on October 14, 2003 10:01 AM

First of all, asking for money without offering a tangible service in return whether it be panhandling or fundraising is unrelated to what the government does unless the panhandler holds a gun to your head while he asks you for money.

And yes, the kids are taught that “the community” owes them something by their braindead public school teachers just because the school doesn’t get new imacs every semester.

But does the fact that the kids use public streets and foolish court rulings mean that we must be less than polite? I would argue no. The government forces me to call out those idiotic “cable marker” guys who tell where I can and cannot dig in my back yard, but I don’t feel the need to treat them like dirt while they’re there. These people are essentially powerless, so whats the thrill in mistreating them? Law enforcement officers, on the other hand…

Yet more on panhandling kids…

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on October 14, 2003 12:30 PM

McMacken is right, we should be polite even when declining to give money to those asking for it–especially innocent (and manipulated) children. I did not mean to imply that I slammed the door in the kid’s face while he was in the middle of talking. I first told him no, not interested, as one does to a telemarketer calling one’s house; when he persisted, I explained why, politely, but firmly–that no I didn’t want to help him go to college since that was his parents’ job. Then I closed the door and got back to my Saturday. My wife was incredulous that I was so blunt and honest with the kid, not that I terminated the conversation–whenever someone comes knocking on the door begging for money–usually some homeless guy claiming to represent a fundamentalist church and asking for money to help “stop drug addiction”–she stays out of sight and lets me be the bad guy. Hey, division of labor.

I do not at all mean to bash charitable giving; of course, it’s a good thing to do (and no, it’s not just “morally neutral, at best,” as Randians would say (more on Rand below)–obviously, it’s genuinely good to be generous and helpful to those in need). So I don’t mind being asked to help nonprofit groups or needy children. There is no other way for them to survive without monetary assistance given by those who are able to help.

What I find inexplicable and rude is middle-class or richer parents in effect asking their fellow middle-class neighbors to help pay for the educational expenses of their own children. What’s next, do I need to make an occasional car payment on the fancy sports cars some parents stupidly give their teenage kids?

Rand wrote: “My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.”

Only Randians would be so anal that they would feel a need to justify helping others; they actually seem to feel almost guilty for wanting to be decent neighbors. “There is nothing wrong in helping other people“–whoa hoa, how generous, Miss Rand! Don’t bend over backwards, now! I have no idea if charity is a “primary virtue.” But common sense indicates that decent people should help each other out, so yes, it does seem like a moral duty. Of course, this does not imply that it should be a legally enforceable duty or legally enforceable claim by those in need. But a moral duty? Sure, why not.

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{ 4 comments… add one }

  • terrymac May 20, 2011, 9:56 am

    Since hardly anyone saves – not even lawyers who charge $500/hour – every unanticipated expenditure seems like a major burden to such improvident creatures. Of course, we who study Austrian School Economics know why this should be so: artificial distortion of the price and availability of money. Throw in “free” education paid for, of course, by taxing one’s neighbors, and it is little wonder that parents now expect everything to be “free.”

  • SebastianOrtiz May 21, 2011, 4:40 am

    It must be just a matter of projection but I must admit it was an interesting experience reading these posts as I look forward to begging for money from my extended family to go to medical school. My father died when I was 9, my mother got a small pension from the state which she would lose if she was reported as hired, as all employees are legally required to. This coupled with the fact that rationality and stability were not common in my household led to years of self destructive behavior and jobs with no greater purpose than doing something so the extended family would leave me alone.
    I can attest to government distorting my life in strange ways. It might be worth mentioning that my father never had a private office but rather focused his life on founding the first nuclear medicine wing in Central America which bears his name. Were he alive I would probably get a scholarship at the local state university as he was a teacher there. In general I dislike the iffiness of sans state speculation. This is an example of why.

  • Misty Khan May 21, 2011, 11:44 am

    Whatever happened to going out and earning money the old fashioned way (manual labor) to pay for your class trip? You know, car washes, dog washing, mowing lawns, weeding yards, flipping burgers, delivering newspapers, inventory at the local department store? I actually got paid to cross stitch napkins. That is how we did it when I was in drill team and no one really even had to know that I was working to pay for a trip – they just had to know that they had a job that they needed to get done and I was willing to do it in return for payment. And of course I knew that in order to receive that payment and be offered more work in the future, I would actually have to take pride in my work and do a good job.

    What ever happened to working your way through college for that matter. I found the semesters that I paid for myself to be very rewarding.

    There is some real pride that comes in actually earning your money through physical labor. Its a shame more kids these days don’t get the opportunity to experience that pride and resulting confidence. And there is a good lesson in humility and later appreciation for the service provided by manual laborers as well. Just sayin…

  • Marissa June 3, 2011, 2:10 pm

    What I find inexplicable and rude is middle-class or richer parents in effect asking their fellow middle-class neighbors to help pay for the educational expenses of their own children.

    Consider also that you are already paying their children’s educational expenses through your property taxes.

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