The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

20 August 2006

Welcome to the Panhandle State

Dan Paden meets the beggars:

Perfectly able-bodied — they don't all have bad backs, friends — people, often young, standing on corners or walking around parking lots, begging. I swear sometimes I've seen it all. I've seen people begging — in tandem! — on a corner in one part of town, and getting off a bus to beg on a different corner later in the day. I've seen the same guy show up on the same corner at regular intervals — usually Saturdays. I guess he'd beg all week long, but it must interfere with something else he's doing. He must be doing okay. He's not getting any skinnier, that's for sure.

Nice work if you can get it. Oh, wait, did I say "work"?

Tulsa has an unemployment rate of somewhere between 3.75 and 4.25 percent, if memory serves. Employers are screaming for people, often anyone who'll just show up and try. At this point, you practically have to hide under a rock to avoid getting a job in this town. Or you have to be way too dadgum choosy.

Or maybe you'd rather just spend your days playing the slots and Governor Henry's lotto and letting strangers buy your beer, cigarettes, and lotto tickets before you go back home to the city-subsidized apartment you share with the disabled lady.

One commenter wrote that "they come to Tulsa because they can't panhandle in OKC," which should be a surprise to anyone who's driven past Penn Square lately.

In the event that you saw this and immediately thought "But panhandlers are protected by the First Amendment," I note that (1) courts have indeed often, if not invariably, so ruled, and (2) such protection, whatever its extent, imposes no obligation on the general public: no one is guaranteed an audience.

Posted at 6:10 PM to Soonerland


Herbert Spencer noted the very same thing, and discouraged his readers from any sympathy for such persons: "They are simply good-for-nothings, who contrive to live somehow off the good-for-somethings."

Like "the poor," they will always be with us. All we can do is adjust the degree of attention we pay them.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at 4:01 AM on 21 August 2006