The Least Of These

Andrew Sullivan posted an interesting link:

[T]he restrictions on soliciting never seem to apply to teen-agers in bikini tops waving car-wash signs. Or to campaign canvassers seeking petition signatures to get political candidates on the ballot. Or to firemen passing the boot for a local charity. Somehow it’s only the homeless who aren’t supposed to pester anybody.

Courts have struck down panhandling ordinances time and again. In 2011, an Arizona appeals court ruled that Phoenix could not ban panhandling after dark. Last March, a federal judge ruled against Utah’s anti-panhandling law. In August, a federal judge ruled against Michigan’s state law against panhandling in public places. Time and again the courts have found, as the 4th Circuit did last week, that “begging constitutes protected speech.” But cities across the country keep passing anti-panhandling ordinances anyway.

I would add to this various charities using clean-cut young folks asking for money to help the poor or hungry elsewhere as well as various “street teams” insisting that I try the latest energy drink/active wear/trendy food. One of the great lies of North America is this insistence that class is not a real thing, that everyone has equal treatment under the law. I don’t know what the argument is that homeless people are in a different category from all the others who might accost me on the street. Is it that they smell bad? Then we should round up all the people with too much cologne. I suppose that some might say that homeless people don’t add any value to society by begging. To that I would say that, at the very least, the old man who panhandles in the Annex in Toronto in a red toque and a white beard with a sign that says “sleigh broke down” is more entertaining than 90% of sitcom jokes.