Choice of employment and beggars

Finland is now arguing internally whether begging should be restricted. The same problem with beggars and squatters has come up elsewhere, e.g. in France: Roma people, mostly from Bulgaria, Romania and other East/Central European countries, have become a rather visible and sometimes obstructive and distressing phenomenon in cities. The begging is an organized industry, utilizing child labour as well as people with mutilated limbs and other disabilities. There is also a related phenomenon of pickpocketing, shoplifting, burglaries and squatting, with camps being built (with the kind support of some progressive youthful organizations, funded by the taxpayer).

"Racism. Useless law. You cannot prohibit poverty." These are slogans by those who oppose any restrictions to begging. Also, people are saying that it would be against Finnish constitution and European human rights law to restrict begging, particularly because there is the freedom of movement (of labour) in Europe and there is freedom of occupation in Finland.

Now, it is obvious that the Roma beggars (at least the foot soldier level) are poor, abused and not to be envied. But is allowing them to beg really helping them at all? I don't think so. Make up something else.

Prohibiting poverty?

Saying that restrictions would attempt to prohibit poverty is a moot point. Begging is certainly not the only option available, and giving money to beggars is not an efficient way to help anyone. Rather to the contrary. Whatever the country where I am, and whatever the nationality of the beggar, I don't give money, though I may give food or used clothes.

There are lots of poor people even in Europe, but only a few of them beg, and on the other hand, many of those participating in the begging racket are not poor. Encouraging begging is a bad way to help the poor. It's not just ineffective, but outright bad, because it sets wrong incentives. The Roma will not get out of poverty by continuing to beg; getting education is a better way, and working in the begging industry is making it more difficult to get an education.

Freedom of movement

The freedom of movement in EU is another moot point: the principle applies to labour who is working or looking for a job, not to begging, and it is limited to a 3-month period. It is perfectly legal to deport people who are abusing this.

Of course, there are no easy solutions to the beggar issue. Beggars won't go away if we just pass a law. And I don't think anyone believes so - although a straw man argument is often built around this. However, laws can be used for controlling unwanted, abusive behaviour, including things like human trafficking.

Coice of occupation

What amazes me is the argument that unlimited begging must be allowed because freedom of occupation is a human right, i.e. people have choice of employment - the principle that everyone is free to choose what he or she does for living.

Sure, let's facilitate freedom of occupation to beggars. Just like any other people offering services to the public, they will need a license. They will need to file in paperwork to guarantee health and safety for their clients and the employees in this industry - after all, the begging racket is an industry with a strong if not publicly very open hierarchy, reporting and profit structure, so the employment laws are applicable. The begging enterprises will be subject to tax law, they need to pay tax advances, file in tax reports.

What? It's too difficult for them? Yeah, right. It is. And this is a problem not only to the beggars, but everyone else as well, including far more useful occupations. There is quite some bureaucracy and cost in working as a self-employed person or setting up a company, but we just have to live with it; it's the price of the welfare state. Allowing some people to slip off legislation (because of their race, skin colour, or similar properties) would be racism.

I think everyone should be treated the same, independent of whether they belong to some ethnic group - and even if it is a hip and cool ethnic group whose cultural difference from the majority of local people is as big as possible. Somehow I don't think that the red-green progressives (and Sauli Niinistö) really want to help anyone. It's just cool to have beggars on our streets - so we have some easy puppets who can be used to show how good people we are when we want to use other people's money to help and support them.


Sure, a law against begging doesn't stop the nuissance completely. After all, even the law against killing doesn't stop all homicide, and making a crime of petty theft only worsens our crime statistics as the police has no time to investigate practically any of it. Still, the laws about murder and even bicycle theft have a point and they do some good.

Of course, it could be that the begging law is no good because it will be completely impossible to enforce, as the police are far too few and the cities are too broke to hire any "community officers" or the like. However, at least the police representative in the committee working on the issue seemed to favour having some legal tools that the police could use against obstructive begging. But if difficulty of enforcement is such an important criteria, we should urgently abolish zebra crossings and traffic lights, because currently few car drivers properly respect zebra crossings, and even fewer pedestrians obey traffic lights in crossings.

We're not quite that desperate yet.

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