Most of us have given out money to beggars. Every time I see a homeless man who seems to be in need of some money to buy food or a cup of coffee, for every shilling that we give to a beggar, the more lucrative we make begging and, comparatively, the less lucrative we make working.
This is bad, for we want people to work, not beg. Working is productive; begging is at best neutral and often a burden and a nuisance. Second, there is no guarantee that the beggar who receives the money will spend it in ways that increase the quality of his life. He might well spend the money on alcohol or drugs, and end up financing organized crime.
Well, who cares about what a beggar does with his money? But did you know that if you give money to beggars, you almost certainly spend your welfare budget helping the wrong people
Sometimes I feel a possibility of giving my money to the beggars who already get the most from other givers. Depending on their location, their looks, and what they say, different beggars have different degrees of success in how much money they attract.
Like everyone else, you are statistically likely to give the most money to the ones with the locations, looks, and tricks that prompt people to give.
In seeking to help others, we should not merely give to those who are geographically close to us and whose appearance elicits our sympathy. Rather, we should give to those who are the worst off, who can be helped the most with each shilling that we give, and who are the least responsible for the situation that they’re in.
A friend one time told me of a beggar in the United Arab Emirates who spent the day on a veranda begging money and in the evening he would move to the back of the building and cruise his parked Mercedes Benz back home. That this one used to periodically come all the way from German to beg the rich from the rich Arabs.
There was a rich man who was approached by a poor beggar asking for food.
The rich man asked, “Do you smoke? I could give you some cigarettes.”
The beggar responded, “No, I don’t. I am just hungry and want food.”
Then the rich man asked, “Do you drink? I have a bottle of good whiskey I could give you.” The beggar replied, “No, I don’t drink. I am just hungry and need food.” Finally the rich man asked, “Do you gamble? I could give you some good tips on the races this weekend.”The beggar again replied, “No. I am just hungry and want some food.”
Finally the rich man said, “Well, in that case, I had better take you to my home.”
He invited the beggar into his car and drove him to his very substantial home. There, he introduced the beggar to his wife, who asked, “What are you going to do with this man? Are you going to invite him to live with us, eat our food, and wear our clothes?”
The man replied, “No, of course not. I just wanted to show you what happens to a man who doesn’t smoke, drink or gamble.”