One of the common slurs against libertarianism is that we want poor people to suffer. Sure, we claim to be driven by principled opposition to the leviathan of government, but these critics see through that. They know that in our hearts, libertarians oppose wasteful social programs because we hate poor people. To be fair, that’s probably true for some people who call themselves libertarian. But you know what even the most ardent Ayn Rand worshiper wouldn’t do to poor people?
Starting in about 2006, several cities began arresting, fining, and otherwise oppressing private individuals and nonprofits that feed the homeless and less fortunate. A 2006 NPR report referred to a Las Vegas ban on feeding the homeless—a ban challenged by the Nevada state ACLU chapter—as “among the first of its kind in the country.”
As the ACLU described it:
In 2006, the City of Las Vegas became locked in a bizarre war with homeless advocates, and decided that no one should be engaging in charity in the public parks. The City began ticketing good Samaritans who shared food with more than 24 people, under the belief that giving food to people already in the public park violated statutes requiring permits for gatherings of 25 or more people. When the ACLU of Nevada took issue with this interpretation of permit laws, the City took a more direct approach: it explicitly outlawed the sharing of food with anyone who looked poor…
Other homeless individuals were being kicked out of parks under a questionable trespass policy called “86”ing, where Park Marshals essentially took photographs of certain people – almost always homeless people – who were then kicked out of the public parks on pain of a trespass misdemeanor if they returned. The 86ing process had no paperwork, no right to appeal, and no due process whatsoever.
Libertarians may not like the idea of forcing wealthy people to aid the poor through social programs and taxes, but they certainly wouldn’t try to block homeless people from receiving the voluntary generosity of others. That sort of callous indifference takes a government bureaucrat.
Mark is a computer programmer, website builder, photographer, and sometimes journalist in Chicago, where he also writes the long-running Windypundit blog.