Thursday, June 4, 2009

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

While this didn't happen in Oakland (which has its own success-punishing policies) this account is a perfect example of the anti-success bigotry that defeats efforts to improve our cities. Inspiring long story short: homeless guy gets off the bottle, cleans himself up, and starts a successful sidewalk shoeshine enterprise. Someone writes about it. City employee reads it, confronts him, demands he get a permit that eats up most of what he'd saved for a deposit on a room.

I don't take issue with the need for a permit. What I take issue with isthe selective enforcement of the policy, which has the effect of directly discouraging people from improving themselves and the economy. Most people in this man's position wouldn't have his fortitude and would say "You know what? The hell with trying to work. I'm going back to depending on soup kitchens and wandering around drunk at 11am." The kicker is that the city employee that told him he needed a permit couldn't tell him where to go, just that he needed one to continue.

We have to decide whether we want our cities to be places where people who try to better themselves are punished, or rewarded. It shouldn't be a hard choice.

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