The beggar you see in sitting on walkway not too far from Ballys Casino in Las Vegas was actually reading while waiting for handouts. I told the pauper I would give him a buck if I could take a quick glance at what he was reading. It was some work on problems in welfare states by Michael Adler & Catherine Bromley & Michael Rosie. He shared that he used to make well above 6 figures for a Fortune 500 company, but was laid off for dating the daughter of the CEO. Yeah, I didn’t believe that either.
What follows is a snippet of their work which I had to look up after we returned home:
Begging is neither a new nor an exclusively British phenomenon. However the apparent growth of street begging in Britain represents a return to practices which were common in previous centuries but which the welfare state appeared, until quite recently, to have eliminated. In The Needs of Strangers, Ignatieff (1984, 9-10) points out that the institutions of the welfare state effectively distance those who give from those who receive. As he puts it, My encounters with [the poor] are a parable of moral relations between strangers in the welfare state. They have needs and, because they live in a welfare state, these needs confer entitlements – rights – to the resources of people like me(this is what makes homelessness such a contentious, angry issue). Their needs establish a silent relationship between us … They are dependent on the state not upon me, and we are both glad of it. We are responsible for each other but we are not responsible …
I am beyond fascinated that a homeless, vagrant, street bum would be passing his time reading this type of graduate level sociology material. Perhaps he was trying to determine whether he would be better off being a beggar in the United States or England. He was smart enough to put the dollar I gave him in his pocket rather than than in the tray of coins you see near his feet. His sign to passing pedestrians was season sensitive saying God Bless and Happy New Year.
Contrast this introspective beggar with the marginally retarded beggar we saw in Toronto, Ontario, Canada who was smart enough to have a pair of crutches nearby to help feign disability.