Thursday, April 28, 2011

"The Economics of Street Charity"

Courtesy of Stephen J. Dubner's "Freakonomics" blog, I pose a question to you:

You are walking down the street in New York City with $10 of disposable income in your pocket. You come to a corner with a hot dog vendor on one side and a beggar on the other. The beggar looks like he’s been drinking; the hot dog vendor looks like an upstanding citizen. How, if at all, do you distribute the $10 in your pocket, and why?

Read the blog for guest commentary, but this one was my favorite by Barbara Ehrenreich:

"....Although I’m atheist, I defer to Jesus on beggar-related matters. He said, if a man asks for your coat, give him your cloak too. (Actually, he said if a man “sue thee at the law” for the coat, but most beggars skip the legal process.) Jesus did not say: First, administer a breathalyzer test to the supplicant, or, first, sit him down for a pep talk on “focus” and “goal-setting.” He said: Give him the damn coat.

As a matter of religious observance, if a beggar importunes me directly, I must fork over some money. How do I know whether he’s been drinking or suffers from a neurological disorder anyway? Unless I’m his parole officer, what do I care? And before anyone virtuously offers him a hot dog, they should reflect on the possibility that the beggar is a vegetarian or only eats kosher or Hallal meat. It’s none of my business whether he plans to spend it on infant formula for his starving baby or a pint of Thunderbird."


Comment on how you would distribute the money, if you would......and don't forget to follow me!


  1. This is a great post! LOL. I loved it! And thanks for visiting my blog and for the sweet comment! I would give it away SOME way - maybe not to the beggar who I thought had been drinking - but give away nonetheless. I know a lot of people (friends, friends of friends, or people affected by the recent tornados) who need it just as bad as homeless people on the streets.

  2. HAHA my first thought was to buy the hot dog and give it to the begger. Funny.


  3. Well in NYC, a hotdog is about $10 so unfortunately it's an all-or-nothing situation. So, sorry, but I get the hotdog. In other cities it might be different though.

  4. Lindsay With An "A" : Thanks!! You make such a good point too-many of us are just one paycheck (or disaster) away from being on the street. Thanks for the thoughtful post, and follow me if you like :)

    Michelle's Style File : Love your comment!!

    MichaelB : So true, I have family in Brooklyn! Thanks for the comment!