by Tyler Cowen
on April 24, 2009 at 6:55 pm
I thank Davis King, a loyal MR reader, for the pointer and photo.
Or fraud edition: who knows who has the key to that thing?
We’ve got the same thing here in Ottawa, though they aren’t so explicitly anti-panhandling:
People I’ve talked to about these “kindness meters” tend to heavily associate them with our mayor who spearheaded the project. He’s a very unpopular mayor, which I think is part of the reason that the meters were greeted with a lot of cynicism. There’s also the familiar feeling that “throwing money at the problem is a band-aid solution.”
This article from before they were introduced here also mentions similar ones in other Canadian cities:
I think this might actually decrease aid to the poor. The meter is kind of impersonal — a potential charity-giver would feel less personal satisfaction from giving to a meter than giving to an actual person.
I must inhabit a different margin from the marginalist. A “personal interaction” with a panhandler does not entice me. I have gotten distinctly menacing vibes from some. I imagine that if you dressed up in your Monday worst and tried to share the street corner with one you would be treated to a forceful demonstration of property rights. The meter is personal enough for moi.
Annapolis, Md., has these meters, too:
From the looks of that building, the meter is right outside of the Fox Theater (Georgia Tech is my alma mater, so I know the area well), which tends to have traveling Broadway shows, and the like. The Fox caters to a wealthy clientele, which I suppose makes it an especially attractive spot for panhandlers. I can see the city and the Fox having an incentive to make the area unattractive for panhandlers, but I’m not sure that this meter would be anywhere near sufficient.
On another note, I did notice a significant (although not total) decrease in the number of panhandlers in the area once the city enacted measures to curb aggressive panhandling. That had been a major, major issue downtown.
It’d have been more fun to take out all the parking meters and hire homeless people to stand there and take quarters…
@Peter: But you are neglecting the free-rider problem. A panhandler that is successfully taken off the street you walk down is also successfully taken off the street I walk down – unfair, if you paid and I didn’t, but there is no alternative. (I assume here that having fewer panhandlers on the street is a benefit to all who walk down it, and that the collective value of this benefit exceeds the cost of getting the panhandler off the street. If not, the best solution is clearly to do nothing.) Like all free ride situations, this creates a perverse penalty for people who don’t free ride: they have to carry the free riders in addition to their own share, if the problem is going to be actually solved.
Fortunately, we have an institutional solution to the problem of funding public goods without free riding: it’s called taxation. The same program funded by tax revenue will be fairer than being funded by these meters.
@DaveinPhoenix: If everyone got together on the solution, wouldn’t it ipso facto *be* (democratic) government? Or if 90% got together and wanted to eliminate the potential free riding of the other 10% wouldn’t they need a solution equivalent to a government? Maybe you just believe in a right to free ride on others’ efforts?
Those meters are a common feature in many cities, as this story makes clear:
There was a lovely funny campaign that hasn’t got much to do with this one at first sight. There was a jar full of money and on it it was written: “Afraid of change? Leave it here”. If we’re going to make donations like these in order to prevent the spreading of the homeless people, why not donate a car?
DonateCarUsa is so cool. They get fake links adding the ascii code for a double quote to their link in the comments section. CONOR MAGUIRE can do that too.
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