Kant on bums

We have great weather here in Atlanta. It's mild in winter and warm in summer. Our springs and autumns are most right where they need to be, sometimes a little warm. The upside of this is obvious: it's nice to be outside and we have active running and cycling communities. The downside: we get a lot of bums.

Every major city has plenty of homeless, but our mild climate means that we pick up a few from other cities. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it usually works out that way. They clog up social services and bother people all the time on the street.

When I first arrived in town I would occasionally throw some change a bum's way. Very soon I stopped; I realized that most of the ones I spent any amount of time talking to were responsible for their situations and that they'd just drink the money down anyway. Economics made me wary of giving to bums because they'll respond to incentives, and if lots of suckers give them money they won't feel any need to do productive work. Exceptions are the ones that actually give me something in return, e.g. Lenny Love, the freestyle street poet (whose poems usually sound the same, but hey, give the guy a break, he's trying).

Philosophy gives still another reason why you shouldn't give money to bums (I know, it can also gives you lots of reasons why you should). If we have excessive pity on the mostly voluntary homeless population and support them in that lifestyle, we are failing to treat them as moral agents. The consequences of not working are not having money, and to the extent that the decision to be a bum is voluntary (i.e. not due to psychiatric problems) we deny them their decision-making agency when we subsidize them.

I realize there are some genuinely unemployable people out there, and you do a good deed to help them out. But most of the ones I've encountered are employable and are kept out of the job market by either their own desire not to work or by the minimum wage (but that's a topic for another day). Not to mention that many of the employed people I do encounter would seem to be unemployable if I hadn't first seen them on the job.

I don't have a heart of stone. I know people can make mistakes, and I know that sometimes people can't help being a little crazy. It's a fine thing to help a man get back on his feet again. But when you see the same guys day after day on the same bridge to the same gas station, you begin to realize that you're making the wrong choice giving them money.

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Brandon, I'm not disagreeing

Brandon,

I'm not disagreeing with you here. I'm just pointing out that a _Kantian_ will disagree with you. Most Kantians think that some of our moral obligations turn out to depend, at least somewhat, on the state in which we find ourselves. Thus the fact that humans are finite means that our imperfect duties of charity are stronger than they would be were we less limited than we are. Similarly, when we design institutions, we have to think about actual violations of autonomy given the circumstances as we find them.

When you start making appeals to being better off or worse off in some hypothetical state, you're moving away from Kantian language. I'm sympathetic to such appeals (I'm a utilitarian and not a Kantian, after all). My point is something of an academic one (as Randall points out). I'm simply saying that _Kant_ wouldn't endorse the view that Randall and others are sketching in this thread, and not many _Kantians_ would, either.

I’m not arguing here that

I’m not arguing here that positive freedom is the correct conception. Only that it’s Kant’s conception.

I thought we were talking about Kantian ethics and not Kant's personal beliefs about ethics. Kant may have believed that the welfare state is compatable with Kantian ethics; I do not know enough about Kant's personal beliefs to answer either way. Regardless, Kant's personal beliefs are irrelevant to our present question about whether or not the welfare state is compatable with Kantian ethics. Kant may have simply been wrong and contradicted his own position, and he would not have been the first or last philosopher to do so.

You cannot appeal to Kant's personal beliefs about the nature of the good to resolve this issue. The compatability or incompatability of welfare statism with Kantianism must be determined by argument, not by appeal to authority.

Arbitrary, link fixed.

Arbitrary, link fixed. Thanks.

By "work" I mean nothing more than effort. Obviously nature doesn't force us to work a 9-to-5 job. Nature only forces us to exert a certain amount of effort to secure food, shelter, and other basic essentials if we are to survive.

Micha, Wolff is an outlier

Micha,

Wolff is an outlier among Kantians. See Onora O'Neill, Christine Korsgaard, Tom Scanlon, Ron Dworkin, or, of course, John Rawls, the _Theory of Justice_ Rawls, that is. All are better Kant scholars thant Wolff and all argue rather well for the basic consistency of the welfare state with Kant's moral theory.

Keep in mind that Kant endorses a conception of autonomy that is much more like positive freedom than Locke's conception. A real commitment to autonomy, the argument goes, requires providing the material equality necessary to pursue one's particular conception of the good.

I'm not arguing here that positive freedom is the correct conception. Only that it's Kant's conception.

Something wrong with the

Something wrong with the Wolff link. I'm a big fan of Wolff's philosophical anarchism, but I haven't read anything else by him - he's a Kantian?
Micha writes:
There is an implicit assumption here that disturbs me, and it’s an assumption that non-economists frequently make. No system designed by man forces people either to work or starve; nature forces people to either work or starve. We live in a world of scarcity - mana does not drop from heaven at our whim.

I rarely disagree with micha, but might here. What is this "work" to which you refer? Do you mean a job with a paycheck? Do children work? Housewives? By work I assume you mean more than "effort". Panhandling takes effort. It also entails a lot of risk. I knew a pandhandler; he was used to having guns and knives pulled on him.
And maybe starve was a metaphor. I dumpster dive for my food. I don't consider that work any more than a golfer (non-pro) works at golf.
Jobs and paychecks are relatively recent innovations, and probably a billion people don't have jobs and don't starve.

Alex, It’s “manna", see

Alex,

It’s “manna", see Exodus 16:13

Um, manna is simply a transliteration of the Hebrew. It seems strange to quibble over the spelling of transliterated words, since they are just phonetic representations.

- somebody’s been playing too many RPGs… :wink:

Indeed.

Joe, But it’s not actually

Joe,

But it’s not actually true, for any given individual in the U.S., that if he doesn’t work, then he will starve.

Earlier you were referring to a system when you wrote, "On the other hand, designing a system that forces people either to work or starve might very well violate the categorical imperative."

Now you are referring to specific individuals. Which is it? Do you agree that no system exists or could exist that does not force at least some people to either work or starve? If you do agree with that point, and it seems you do, then you cannot blame the "designers" of our current system, or any system for that matter, for not solving an insolvable problem - the problem of scarcity.

[M]any Kantians in fact take a very different line, arguing that a real commitment to Kant’s ethics implies a commitment to a pretty robust welfare program.

Many Kantians are wrong with respect to their Kantianism. One cannot advocate a welfare state without in some way violating universalizability. Welfare states necessarily must make ethically arbitrary distinctions based on things like nationality (else they would not be welfare states, but a single one world welfare state), and they necessarily violate equality of authority by granting to some actors in the political sphere the right to command others, while this same right is not granted to non-state actors. Even left-wing Kantians such as Robert Paul Wolff recognize the incompatability of the welfare state with Kantian ethics.

Mysanthropyst, Enforce

Mysanthropyst,
Enforce vagrancy laws? You ought to come on down to the People's Republic of Chapel Hill. Franklin Street always has panhandlers, and the local lefty alternative weekly claims that people who want to get the homeless off of Franklin Street just want to sweep them out of the way so we don't have to think about the fact that we don't do enough for them. They also cluck disapprovingly over the elitism and classism of the local people who, for some incomprehensible reason, don't want a homeless shelter in their neighborhood. Then again, I don't see the writers for that weekly offering a room in their house....

Sorry. I'll try to do

Sorry. I'll try to do better next time.

My policy is always to give

My policy is always to give money only to those bums who live in my neighborhood. Like it or not, they're part of my community. Plus, they're interesting to talk to and won't hesitate to offer up some cheap liquor that you helped them buy.

Outside of my neighborhood, you must entertain me in some fashion. Music is usually the best, but a quarter or 50 is a decent price for a good joke.

What about Nozick's

What about Nozick's footnotish exploration of the idea that, what with initial Lockean land claims, there's some minor deprivation of opportunities.
He murmurs something about 'rental value of unimproved lands' which he estimates as 2% of GDP (IIRC) being available for transfer.

It’s disingenuous for a

It’s disingenuous for a society stuffing itself to obesity to say, "Well, if you’re starving it’s just the scarcity of nature at work."

Not at all. The point is that those of us who do work do not make those who do not work any worse off. They would be no better off in a state of nature. If our actions did make them worse off than they would be in a state of nature, the claim that we have an obligation to feed them would be much stronger than it actually is, so the fact that scarcity is inherent in nature is a valid and important point.

The simple fact that industrial society creates opportunities for some people to eat without working does not mean that we are obligated to offer those opportunities to them.

Wow, lots of Atlanta folks

Wow, lots of Atlanta folks here, huh? I'm moving from CA in just under a month... But headed to Marietta where the homeless aren't around...

Like Randall, I'm of the mindset that if you're homeless and talented, you might get a buck from me. If you're playing some music, or show some discernable entertainment skill, I might give you something. If not, and all you're doing is asking for money, you're SOL...

Joe, I was being very

Joe,

I was being very general with the philosophy, and I certainly bow to your superior knowledge of same. I didn't intend for the post to actually be a rigid exposition of Kantian principles. There might have been a better name to attach to it, but that's why this is a blog and not an academic journal. I should have guessed that you would see it from your adacemic perspective, but it's a lot more light-hearted than that. Everyone else, take note.

Rusty,

It's true that there are a lot of reasons for Atlanta's homeless problem. My partial explanation is just that. I think the weather and location are important factors, but you're right that the problem is compounded by other features of Atlanta.

Victor, I get the sense from

Victor,

I get the sense from some of the comments here that Atlanta's homeless population is a product of the weather, and the size of the city relative to the rest of the region. As such, there is almost a between-the-lines implication that we'll just have to deal with it.

My take is that panhandlers and general homeless folks thrive here more than anything because people give them money and/or tolerate their behavior and presence. If you pay them, they will come. I know it's an obvious statement, but I think it gets lost when we start talking about weather and stuff.

Further, I think Atlanta has more of a homeless issue because of our land-use habits here. Panhandlers dwell and thrive in high-foot-traffic areas, or exit ramps. Donators to panhandlers are usually non-stakeholders in the immediate panhandling area. Atlanta's notorious state of sprawl creates a concentration of high-foot-traffic, no-residential-property areas like downtown. Target rich for panhandlers, and consequence-free for suburbanites. The perfect combination.

Other cities mentioned here have much more mixed-use or residential presence in their city centers. Thus, there are actual people who care about the high-foot-traffic areas, and either dilute the market of donators or actively take steps to curb panhandling.

So I'll say it again, giving money to a panhandler isn't just subsidizing someone who has decided not to work. It is also subsidizing the destruction of someone else's community and property.

I have been a resident of

I have been a resident of Atlanta for a few years now and like most residents, I have had my share of run ins with panhandling on the streets of our fair city. Last year, I took a week's vacation to Chicago and noticed the homeless that I encountered were much less abrasive than their Atlanta counterparts. Granted, I only encountered a few in Chicago and most of my dealing with bums in Atlanta take place at the aforementioned "same bridge to the same gas station," downtown, or L5P. Still, I have never experienced a bum apologize for bothering me; most homeless in Atlanta will curse you and/or your mother if you unable to "spare a dollar or some change." I have also been to New York City twice without incident from the homeless population there.

We've also had perspectives from Vancouver, Indianapolis, and St. Louis in previous posts. It seems, as Randall suggests, Atlanta's weather and the fact that Atlanta is the only major metropolitan area in the southeast, attracts homeless to our city; this increased number allows these people to be more agressive than their other large-city counterparts by "swarming" potential targets, as Nicholas points out. Surely Atlanta does not have the largest homeless population, albeit concentrated in downtown as Randall says.

Am I to believe that Atlanta is home to the most aggressive homeless (because I find that believable)?

Micha, We live in a world of

Micha,

We live in a world of scarcity - mana does not drop from heaven at our whim.

It's "manna", see Exodus 16:13 - somebody's been playing too many RPGs... :wink:

Randall, If you want to

Randall,

If you want to focus on the _consequences) of not giving money to the homeless, then perhaps your focus on Kant is misleading. Kant rather famously doesn't really care all that much about consequences. Maybe rather than couching your argument in Kantian language about respect for agency, you should boldly embrace your consequentialism. Once we start arguing about the consequences of our acts, we're more in Mill's territory than in Kant's.

Micha, _There is an implicit

Micha,

_There is an implicit assumption here that disturbs me, and it’s an assumption that non-economists frequently make. No system designed by man forces people either to work or starve; nature forces people to either work or starve. We live in a world of scarcity - mana does not drop from heaven at our whim._

It's true that the world as a whole is characterized by scarcity. It's also true, in this particular part of the world, the unless _some_ people work, we will all starve. But it's not actually true, for any given individual in the U.S., that if _he_ doesn't work, then he will starve. Indeed, the U.S. produces more than enough food to fill the needs of all its citizens with a lot left over to sell elsewhere. (That's ignoring all of the cheap imports and the fact that we pay farmers not to produce.)

So given the world as it in fact is (and more particularly, given the way that the U.S. currently is), the few individuals who currently choose not to work will starve only insofar as the rest of us decide to allow them to do so. It's disingenuous for a society stuffing itself to obesity to say, "Well, if you're starving it's just the scarcity of nature at work."

This is still not to say that we ought (or ought not) help the starving. My initial point was only that a _Kantian_ wouldn't obviously take the sort of line that Randall suggests, and that many Kantians in fact take a very different line, arguing that a real commitment to Kant's ethics implies a commitment to a pretty robust welfare program.

Ladies and Gentlemen, First,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First, re: downtown Atlanta, that's where most of the homeless are. We're too sprawled for the pickings to be decent (from a bum's perspective) in most of the city.

Second, re: consequences of not working. What we're debating is whether we should give bums money, so we have to look at their situation without that element in it. In that case the consequences of not working are not having money. Hence, if we introduce our donations into the mix we are rewarding a behavior that is naturally unproductive. I did not say (nor will I) that not working is immoral. It's just a bad idea. Starting a car company that produces only Flintstone-model cars isn't immoral, but it's not behavior you'd want to reward either. When we debate whether to start the company or not, we don't assume people will naturally be charitable with us and donate pails to our sinking ship. We look at the situation without charity first. Obviously, any endeavor makes money if people just hand you money for nothing.

If we have excessive pity on

If we have excessive pity on the mostly voluntary homeless population and support them in that lifestyle, we are failing to treat them as moral agents. The consequences of not working are not having money

Not if people give to them. Duh.

- Josh

I’m not disagreeing with

I’m not disagreeing with you here.

No, no, no. Agreeing is forbidden. We at Catallarchy stress the importance of complete acrimony betwist our commenters, and will not stand for collusion between them.

Scott, I disagree.

Scott,

I disagree.

Furthermore to the above, you are a poo poo head and are also dumb. :stupid::dunce:

On the other hand, designing

On the other hand, designing a system that forces people either to work or starve might very well violate the categorical imperative.

There is an implicit assumption here that disturbs me, and it's an assumption that non-economists frequently make. No system designed by man forces people either to work or starve; nature forces people to either work or starve. We live in a world of scarcity - mana does not drop from heaven at our whim.

Now, it is true that different socioeconomic systems create different sorts of incentives. But regardless of these differences, they all share certain common features - they must, because they must all deal with the everpresent problem of scarcity. Under all conceivable socioeconomic systems (barring some future Star Trek-esque techonology), some people will be forced to either work or starve.

You don't get around the problem of scarcity by pointing out that it is present under capitalism. It is present under socialism, too.

I figure if you can get

I figure if you can get someone to give you a dollar every 12 minutes, then you are ahead of someone making minimum wage.

Then I got it precisely

Then I got it precisely backwards.

Gentleman, I ask that you punish me for my wrongdoing. I want to be taken seriously as a moral agent.

I might be. Are you from

I might be. Are you from around here?

In an immediate sense, yes. I was a student at Georgia Tech until 2000, although I'd never been to Georgia before that. IIRC, bums were a fairly static fixture on that overpass.

I can only assume that Scott was joking about Rand and Kant. I can't remember which was which, but between Plato and Kant, she regarded one as the root of all evil and the other as the next best thing.

Randians despise everything,

Randians despise everything, so that doesn't really tell us much.

Then again, didn’t old Ayn

Then again, didn’t old Ayn Rand love Kant?

I don't know about Rand herself, but I've run into many followers of Rand who despise Kant.

You're asking the wrong

You're asking the wrong person about Rand. I find her more bewildering than Kant's kingdom of ends argument. The best I can tell, Rand is a utili-ego-Kantian, managing somehow to combine all of the worst parts of each.

Joe would know better than

Joe would know better than I.

Then again, didn't old Ayn Rand love Kant?

It's true that Kant says

It's true that Kant says that wrongdoing ought to be punished, but that's not really his central point. Or rather, that claim is an implication of his more general views on morality.

For Kant, doing wrong equals treating another as a mere means rather than as an end-in-himself. So on Kant's account, not working does not amount to doing wrong. Neither does panhandling, for that matter, as long as both of you are up front about the relationship you're entering. Indeed, Kant would tell us that at least sometimes, we have to discharge our imperfect duty of charity; because it's an imperfect duty you can pick when and where you discharge it.

It's an odd view of Kant, though, to think that he would say that giving money to the bum fails to respect his agency. Panhandling would seem to pass the Kantian test, whether one applies the formula of the universal law or the formula of humanity. I don't know if it passes the formula of the kingdom of ends because, quite frankly, I've never been able to figure out what the hell Kant means by it.

Indeed, most interpreters of Kant would argue that you get things exactly backwards. Not working is hardly a moral wrong on Kant's account. On the other hand, designing a system that forces people either to work or starve might very well violate the categorical imperative. I'm pretty sure that Kant isn't much of a marketist.

Don’t give money to

Don’t give money to bums
Over at Catallarchy, Randall McElroy reminds us not to give money to street beggars: Economics made me wary of giving to bums because they’ll respond to incentives, and if lots of suckers give them money they won’t feel any need

Doesn’t follow. The

Doesn’t follow. The consequences of not working are “not having money” only if people don’t give them money. So you’re sneaking in a normative claim (they shouldn’t be given money) under the guise of a simple statement of fact.

As I understand it, the point of Kantian philosophy is to make normative claims along those lines.

It is somewhat awkwardly put however. The normal Kantian line is that people deserved to be punished for their wrongdoing. If we equate "not working" with doing a wrong, then Randall's statement seems coherent. If we equate not having money from working with doing a wrong--as Randall seems to have done--then his statement is coherent, but in a way that makes me somewhat squeamish.

The consequences of not

The consequences of not working are not having money, and to the extent that the decision to be a bum is voluntary (i.e. not due to psychiatric problems) we deny them their decision-making agency when we subsidize them.

Doesn't follow. The consequences of not working are "not having money" only if people don't give them money. So you're sneaking in a normative claim (they shouldn't be given money) under the guise of a simple statement of fact.

Two years ago, I moved from

Two years ago, I moved from Indianapolis (we're the only bums I'd come across were the run-aways that would live under this bridge in the summer, most of whom I would know from parties) to St. Louis, where I can't remember the last time I've gotten gas without being asked for a. money b. a cigarette or c. my phone number. I used to feel bad about lying by saying I had no cash, but I've gotten over that.

I am a fan of the musicians and other street performers, though. Last summer my friend did fire breathing as her summer job.

Jeez, I'm glad to know it's

Jeez, I'm glad to know it's not just me who thinks Atlanta is unusually bum-infested. I went there for a convention in January, and they were swarming around the convention center in huge numbers, offering to "guide" people to their hotels, restaurants, etc; clearly they knew they'd have easy pickings. Many of them were hard to resist because they seemed so genuinely friendly and well-mannered, except for the bit where they hit you up for cash; you didn't want to feel rude (or racist) by just ignoring their greetings. Perhaps this is a Southern-culture-as-seen-by-Yankees thing.

Bums, panhandlers, and the

Bums, panhandlers, and the homeless, are three different, somewhat overlapping, populations. Us bums tend to resent panhandlers. Lots of homeless people have jobs.

I prefer to refer to them as

I prefer to refer to them as "Urban Outdoorsmen."

Here in Raleigh, NC (also blessed with mild weather) we have two downtown parks that are beautifully maintained by the city. Unfortunately, normal people cannot make use of them due to the infestation of the Urban Outdoorsmen and their charming panhandling and toileting activities. Raleigh has just joined a "Ten Year Plan To End Homelessness," which allows politicians to avoid being tagged as failures for the next ten years. It will accomplish nothing else.

The answer is simple -- enforce vagrancy laws.

A "bum" is a guy who's too

A "bum" is a guy who's too lazy to work. A "homeless person" is a victim of right wing policies.

I'm glad we're back to calling the bums "bums."

People do need to be aware that giving money to bums only encourages more begging. It's like buying from telemarketers--it encourages more telemarketing.

Rusty, Your comment wasn't

Rusty,

Your comment wasn't visible to me until after I posted my first one. L5P is a great example of a place with both good and bad vagrants. Most of them, you are correct, are the bad kind, the kind that bother people and don't respect the area. I'm not a resident of that area so I don't see as much of the bad side. [I do, however, go all the time to the Indian place on Euclid and occasionally to the bookstore across the street or the comic book/music store, the coffee shops, and the pizza joint on the other end.] As far as the Gwinnett reverse deposit, I like the idea.

Here in Vancouver, otherwise

Here in Vancouver, otherwise known as the Amsterdam of NorthAmerica, we have thousands of people roaming my area where i work, mostly completely fried on crack OR WORSE ecstacy. Man, if you really wanna ruin your long term outlook, do that crap. You can recover from crack but holy shit does ecstacy ruin your ability to control your muscles etc. There are huge line ups every morning at about 6 or seven food kitchens with most 'patrons' unable to dress themselves. The weather is warm for Canada year round and they have an extremely entrenched welfare system/industry to keep it all rolling along smoothly. Theres nothing we can do for these people, other than support them until they a.die, b. snap out of it(debateable for ecstacy users) or c. continue for years. That means this entire area is one welfare cheque away from absolute mayhem and uncontrollable crime. They are unemployable as well, and this area has virtually no large industry that they could use thier meager skills at anyway.
Bottom line; they are not going away. A solution we devised was to admit they can't be controlled, and the best case is to disperse the delivery of money to them. There are hundreds of crack dealers waiting to sell to them IMMEADIATELY upon receiving thier cheques. So in order to receive a cheque you must be physically remote from the downtown area, and go to towns or places geographically spreadout so as to remove the convienience of drug sales. A person can be a useless crack addict just as easily in northern Alberta, as downtown vancouver, and you have denied them nothing, other than the ability to easily access crack. Not only that but they may have a better chance of gainful employment and recovery. I'm assuming the goverment welfare system would scream bloody murder and the civil liberties pepper haired types would be all over the media with the Hitler analogies against any politician who tried it.
Bottom line #2....its not going away.

Brandon, I might be. Are

Brandon,

I might be. Are you from around here?

Xavier,

There are some homeless who add to the mix instead of subtracting from it. I like the itinerant Rastafarians who beat drums in Little Five Points. I don't have a problem with the gutter punks who go to shows. I met an interesting guy named Chicago (guess where he's from) who didn't bug me for money and had some fun stories (even if they were made up). Lenny Love and his street poems are full of character. There's even the guy who does magic tricks. All of these guys bring flavor to the city without being obnoxious and parasitic.

I too am an Atlanta

I too am an Atlanta resident, and for a few years lived within a block of Little Five Points, which is sort of an alterna-hipster area with high foot traffic that inevitably attracts lots of panhandlers.

Many measures have been employed by both the city government and community to try and reduce the panhandling and loitering that take place in L5P. For example, the City erected wrought iron fencing around the tree islands in the main plaza area, to keep the bums from sitting/laying/camping/relieving themselves on them. The city also removed the park benches. The bums now sit/lay/camp/crap on the sidewalk.

The community, with private funding from neighbors and businesses, set up a police mini-precinct in one of the storefronts of the main plaza. The idea was to establish a more permanent police presence that would reduce typical illegal activity surrounding the homeless such as drug dealing, public drunkenness, urinating in public, etc. Most local residents and businesses will tell you that this initiative has not been effective. There certainly has not been a reduction in the number of panhandlers. The empty malt liquor and Listerene bottles (on Sundays - thanks blue laws) that litter the area indicate the activity continues.

Other similar ideas have come and gone. The homeless remain, in pretty constant numbers. The trashing of the area continues. Why is this?

The answer, or one of many answers, arrives every Saturday morning in a green minivan with Gwinnett County (suburban) license plates. The van pulls up to the curb of the plaza, the windows roll down, conversations with the bums take place, and the van pulls off. It returns a half hour later and drops off burritos, or burgers, or sandwiches purchased from some fast food drive-thru.

These minivan drivers are well-meaning, and infuriating. Ditto the slacker suburban kids shopping for bongs and Che t-shirts at the head shop who drop change in the homeless cups. Ditto the bikers who leave some money for the panhandlers on their way in and out of the Yacht Club. Ditto the business lunch crowd who feed the homeless after burgers at the Vortex.

The commonality amongst these "well-meaning" people? They don't live there. They don't have a stake in the area. It's not their neighborhood, or town. They can give to a homeless person without worrying that this person will be on THEIR block expecting more.

I don't hate these "givers" - I used to be one too. But over time I learned firsthand the harm (economic and otherwise) that attracting and retaining homeless can do to a community and to property owners. I don't know if this perspective will ever go mainstream enough to make a difference in a place like Little Five Points, but it doesn't hurt to mention it every time I can.

It has crossed my mind at times that the best way to stop this activity is to deposit homeless panhandlers on the sidewalk in front of these people's homes. Call it a fantasy, if kidnapping a slew of gawd-awful smelling beggars, piling them in my own car, and driving them long distances out to the suburbs could ever really be called a fantasy.

But I digress. Long story short, there are more parties involved in a panhandling transaction than just the giver and the beggar. Think about the local residents and/or businesses, imagine you are one of them, and decide if you'd prefer to participate in devaluing the area if it were your own.

"Every major city has plenty

"Every major city has plenty of homeless, but our mild climate means that we pick up a few from other cities. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it usually works out that way. They clog up social services and bother people all the time on the street."

How would that not be a bad thing? Is there any way a city can benefit from a homeless population?

But when you see the same

But when you see the same guys day after day on the same bridge to the same gas station...

Just out of curiosity, are you referring to the freeway overpass between Georgia Tech and the BP station?

I was rereading Daniel

I was rereading Daniel Dennett's "Freedom Evolves", about how to reconcile morally relevant free will with our increasing understanding of neuroscience.

To heavily paraphrase him, his take is that like money (pieces of gold) or language(sound waves), while free will has a physical basis (brains), it has an emergent social reality distinct from its physical basis.

He advocates that full rights of citizenship be reserved for those who proclaim their free will, and who are thus willing to suffer (or enjoy) the consequences of their actions.
For those who deny their free will, who say 'my limbic system made me do it', he seems to advocate a fairly wide-ranging paternalism.

A two-tiered, but self-sorted, system.

Micha, I think that you've

Micha,

I think that you've misunderstood my claim. When I say that I don't mean to argue that positive freedom is the correct position, I mean that I'm not arguing here that positive freedom is the right answer, that the _correct_ understanding of freedom, once we get around to asking God, is that freedom is properly understood as positive.

I was arguing, however, that Kant's notion of freedom is positive. I'm not saying by that that _Kant_ thinks that freedom is positive (though he did); rather, my claim is that the notion of freedom to be found in Kant's writings is a positive conception.

As far as your claim that I've resorted to fallacies rather than argument, I might point out that I directed you to a number of different arguments. I offered several examples of Kantians who offer very good defenses of the claim that Kant endorses positive freedom. Indeed, while I'm not a Kant scholar and while my graduate courses in Kant's ethics, modern ethics, contemporary ethics, and contemporary political philosophy were a few years ago, I can't say that I recall ever seeing anyone seriously defend the claim that Kant endorses negative freedom. Some argue that way about Mill, and lots make the claim about Locke, but no one, as far as I can tell, seriously holds that view of Kant.

Nozick makes one throwaway reference to Kant in _ASU_, but he doesn't defend the interpretation, and indeed he offers it really only (a) as an alternative to utilitarianism, and (b) to help explain Locke, which is really where Nozick thinks he gets negative freedom. Pretty much every Nozick commentator mentions the oddness of Nozick's appeal, since once can get negative freedom out of the FEI only by ignoring the "treat everyone as ends-in-themselves" part and using only the "don't treat others as mere means" part.

Wolff, by the way, isn't really a Kantian, either. He calls himself a Kantian and he uses the term 'autonomy,' but nowhere does he really show that this is the conception of autonomy that actually comes out of Kant. Wolff's 'autonomy' really turns out to be just negative freedom couched in different language, namely, the claim that only the individual is capable of determining right and wrong for himself. 'Autonomy' means more than simply taking responsibility for one's own actions.

Indeed, _In Defense of Anarchism_ isn't about interpreting Kant; it's about arguing for anarchism given a certain understanding of freedom. As I understand it, you and I are discussing whether or not a welfare state is consistent with Kant's ethics. Pointing to someone who simply calls himself a Kantian and then argues for anarchism with a peculiar notion of Kantian ethics isn't really providing much in the way of evidence for your position.

So take a look at Korsgaard's _Creating the Kingdom of Ends_, O'Neill's _Constructions of Reason_, or Scanlon's _What We Owe to Each Other_. You might also look at John Christman's _The Moral Citadel_. All offer sustained arguments for interpreting Kant as endorsing positive freedom. Alternatively, suggest someone who endorses a different notion and actually argues for that notion (not just someone who assumes a different notion and argues for something you like based on it.)

One other minor note. The fallacy is an appeal to _inappropriate_ authority. While you're right that people can often misunderstand the implications of their own position, it's still hardly _inappropriate_ to point to what someone actually says as evidence for what follows from their views. That seems particularly true of a careful philosopher like Kant. So even if I had been doing that (which, as I say above, I wasn't) it still isn't obviously a fallacious move.