Imagine you’re in a park with a friend. He doesn’t have lunch, but you’ve got two sandwiches, so you hand him one. Charity at its most basic. Person helping person.
He might even reciprocate later by giving you something if you’re lacking, like, say, a pair of tickets to see The Damned in concert -- ‘cause, everybody knows that’s a great way to return a favor.
Now imagine you’re in Kansas City, Missouri, and before you hand the food to your pal, city bureaucrats pour bleach on it.
That’s what’s happening each time a group called Free Hot Soup Kansas City tries to give food to folks in public places. The Kansas City Health Department (because, ya know, people have to have their cash taken from them to fund bureaucrats to make sure “health” is maintained in the city) keeps shutting them down. And not just “shutting them down” -- we’re talking shut-downs with extreme prejudice and nastiness, just to spice things up.
It looked ugly Sunday. Home-cooked chili, stacks of foil-wrapped sandwiches, vats of soup and other food prepared by volunteers with Free Hot Soup Kansas City were dumped in bags and soaked in bleach to make sure no one went back to try to recover it.
Incredible. Think about it for a moment. The essence of human existence: to acquire sustenance. Agents of the government are literally destroying that sustenance and preventing people from offering it.
Would individuals in society ever stand for behavior like that if one of their neighbors violently interfered with their voluntary choices? Not a chance. How is it, then, that people can become so inured to the artifices of the state that they will sit idly by and allow the government to behave in a manner that would never be accepted in society?
Ahh, but, you see, the people of Free Hot Soup KC don’t have permits to hand out the food!
In other words, they haven’t bowed before the bureaucrats for “permission” to engage in voluntary association and acts of charity.
As Robertson reports:
The inspectors were protecting the public health, Kansas City Director of Health Rex Archer said Monday. People who are homeless, Archer said, would be at even greater danger in the event of an outbreak of food-borne illness, many not having access to health care. ‘There is no question that feeding the homeless is critical,’ he said. ‘There are 43 organizations (not including Free Hot Soup KC) that have permits and do it in a safe way.’
This is a matter of free will, and each individual, be he homeless, or in some other dire situation, makes a choice to eat food or not. Not only is the government taking that choice away when it engages in violent activity like this, it is using taxpayer money, taken under threat of enforcement actions, from other citizens to literally stop people from having the choice of deciding to take an offer of food fro kind neighbors.
As Robertson notes, Archer, aka the Health Department kingpin, says:
(T)he city can't allow food to be served publicly without affirming that the preparers are trained in safe food management, proper temperature controls and other defenses against contamination, and have an inspected kitchen.
Remember that, should you decide to share a sandwich with a friend in a KC park.
And remember also, all the good people of Free Hot Soup KC who repeatedly see homeless folks when they try to hand out food are seeing people they consider friends. They volunteer, bring their own treats. As Joe Seyton reports for Reason:
‘We don't have to have a permit to go have a birthday party in the park with our family and friends," one of the group's leaders, Rachelle Burnett, points out to WDAF. "Why would we have to have a permit to come here and have a picnic with our friends in the park?'
Perhaps the most stunning thing about this situation is that so few people realize this is about a fundamental precept, that of the freedom of association, and it’s about how charity can only be shown through voluntary actions.
Not only that, but aid to the indigent is best supplied through voluntary, non-governmental, means. Even Alexis de Tocqueville noted this, first, in his highly insightful 1833 essay “Memoir on Pauperism”, in which he observed that “legal” (ie government) philanthropy was less efficient than private, and it fostered sloth and senses of entitlement – rather than gratitude and reciprocation -- among those who received the aid. Later, he reiterated the point and amplified it, when, “Democracy in America” was published.
Tocqueville understood that there was a stark difference between voluntary philanthropy and government welfare. In fact, he was so impressed by the level of private charity in the U.S. and the way it kept indigence and starvation low, he focused his book on that, rather than his original intent of writing about the U.S. penal system.
That recognition of the personal bonds of charity has been lost, smothered by bureaucrats who are actually willing to pour bleach on food to stop homeless people from being able to eat it.
What’s that clichéd, hackneyed argument many state agents use to try to excuse their unethical behavior in multitudinous situations?
“We were just following orders.”
It’s not a line that’s been buried with historical despots of the past. And we should not get accustomed to it being the norm.