If Only His Bootstraps Were Made of Red Tape

The blood-boiling story of the day comes from San Francisco:

He sleeps under a bridge, washes in a public bathroom and was panhandling for booze money 11 months ago, but now Larry Moore is the best-dressed shoeshine man in the city. When he gets up from his cardboard mattress, he puts on a coat and tie. It's a reminder of how he has turned things around.

In fact, until last week it looked like Moore was going to have saved enough money to rent a room and get off the street for the first time in six years. But then, in a breathtakingly clueless move, an official for the Department of Public Works told Moore that he has to fork over the money he saved for his first month's rent to purchase a $491 sidewalk vendor permit.

It just gets worse from there.

• The city bureaucrat who clamped down on Moore did so after reading about his success in the newspaper.

• A spokesman for the city's Department of Public Works described the city's interaction with Moore as an "educational" experience for Moore.

• The city official wouldn't tell Moore what building he needed to visit to get the permit, because she didn't know.

• When Moore was able to collect the money (which included donations from his outraged customers), got the right forms, and found the right office, they wouldn't take his money, because he didn't have a government-issued photo ID.

Moore is going to be okay, thanks to the generosity of the private citizens who have rallied around him. He now has enough money for the permit and his first month's rent, and he has the counsel of an attorney who is helping him navigate the city's maze of regulations free of charge. But it's certainly no thanks to San Francisco's famously progressive, pro-homeless city government. 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    A spokesman for the city's Department of Public Works described the city's interaction with Moore as an "educational" experience for Moore.



    I'd agree with this part, at least. Certainly an educational experience in San Francisco's government being a friend to the poor.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    yo, fuck San Francisco.

  • ||

    "But it's certainly no thanks to San Francisco's famously progressive, pro-homeless city government."

    They are pro homeless. You have to understand once this guy started to work for a living and do something productive he became just another bourgouise capitalist. At that point the boot had to be put on his face for the good of everyone.

  • Bill||

    Ye gods, when will that den of "progressivity" just slide into the Pacific already?

    I want to surf to Arizona Bay.

  • ||

    But he certainly owes nothing to San Francisco's famously progressive, pro-homeless city government.



    Anyone who has spent longer than a week in a deep blue county in a deep blue state knows that progressive liberals don't don't give a shits about the poor or disadvantaged. It's not about social justice, it's about further empowering a stifling bureaucratic government. That may not be what they say, but it is what they do.

  • ||

    This story demonstrates the fairness of our bureaucratic institutions. They will screw a homeless man just as hard as they screw anyone else. Is it illegal to sleep under bridges in 'Frisco?

  • ||

    I'm not a violent person by any means, but I just visualized myself beating the holy hell out of a DPW official.

  • ||

    Where's Juanita to explain to us why the city needs to have this kind of regulation?

  • the innominate one||

    As Zappa explained long ago, in order to be truly equal, we all have to be criminals.

  • KT||

    Nothing like this would ever happen in DC.

  • ||

    yo, fuck San Francisco.



    I live in the vicinity of SF and generally enjoy the city and its ideals even modulo all the craziness they have. But, in this case, yeah, fuck San Francisco.

  • Jennifer||

    Anyone who has spent longer than a week in a deep blue county in a deep blue state knows that progressive liberals don't don't give a shits about the poor or disadvantaged.

    I have the dubious privilege of talking to a LOT of these people at my current job, and I don't think that's quite accurate. They do want to "help" the poor, and they do sincerely care,but they get very offended at the thought of some of these poor people not wanting their "help," or figuring out ways to improve themselves without it.

    It's kind of like, say, an artist or writer who is more than happy to mentor students and nourish budding talent ... unless one of those students goes on to be more successful than said artist or writer. Or an inner-city teacher who's sincerely happy to help kids leave the ghetto, but not to the point of being more successful than the teacher.

  • Scott McKenzie||

    "If you're going to San Francisco
    Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
    If you're going to San Francisco
    You're gonna meet some gentle people there"

  • Nate||

    I saw this earlier and discussed it with some "normal" people (i.e., not libertarians). Everyone agreed that this is stupid, but everyone also agreed that the permit requirements for street vendors was necessary. ("Otherwise, there would be too many street vendors!") According to them the right thing to do would have been to ignore the violation in this specific case.

  • Warmongering Lunatic||

    Somebody who is pro-Christian would discourage Christians from becoming Muslims, right? So, the pro-homeless government of San Francisco did its best to discourage a homeless man from becoming a man with an apartment.

    See? Perfectly logical and consistent.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    argh. So in other words, the "normies" want special dispensations from God the Government only when the story is sufficiently tugs at their heartstrings.

    This makes me irritable.

  • Jennifer||

    According to them the right thing to do would have been to ignore the violation in this specific case.

    I hope you asked them, "So you're saying the law is necessary, but homeless people should not be expected to obey the same laws as everyone else?"

  • Wicks Cherrycoke||

    "They are pro homeless. You have to understand once this guy started to work for a living and do something productive he became just another bourgouise capitalist. At that point the boot had to be put on his face for the good of everyone."

    Damn it, John beat me to it.

  • Nate||

    Jennifer- I didn't ask, but that seemed to be more or less exactly what they were saying.

  • ||

    This is all a misunderstanding. The city government is protecting the public (and Larry Moore) fromn the acknowledged dangers of unlicensed and unregulated shoe shining. Oh, the horrors I could tell.

    Democrats love the poor. Really, they do. That's why they raise taxes on them.

  • ||

    Damn it, John beat me to it.

    My thoughts exactly. Well said John.

  • Rusty||

    Of course SF is pro homeless! Idiotic red tape like this leads to more homeless people.

  • No Name Guy||

    Another "Hell Yes" for John's comment.

    Heck - this guy was in fact threatening the democrat base. If a homeless bum can, god forbid, pull him self up, work at providing a useful service that people freely pay for, then what the heck do we need armies of social workers handing out welfare checks for?

    He's a threat that must be stopped by any means.

  • Brett Stevens||

    What kind of city government wants to support homeless people? Then you get MORE of them.

    And we wonder why California is having financial problems. This attitude seems to pervade every aspect of the state.

  • ||

    The liberals won't give a damn about their pet victims until the next election. Except when they can buy them in wholesale lots like giving GM to the UAW.

  • MNG||

    "Anyone who has spent longer than a week in a deep blue county in a deep blue state knows that progressive liberals don't don't give a shits about the poor or disadvantaged."

    That's bullshit. In fact there is a problem of frugal, red-state counties directing such folks to the more generous adjoining blue state cities (even to the point of driving them to the city line). Then they can say they have no homeless people so that's why they don't have any homeless programs. It's kind of the equivalent of when libertarians argue that we don't need health care reform because Medicaid takes care of poor people who really need health care...

    As to this particular case it's idiotic and immoral for SF to not have an exemption for the fee for people under a certain income level.

  • ||

    they do sincerely care



    I didn't mean to imply that they were cold hearted scrooges. Liberals are extremely caring. Unfortunately they never get beyond the caring part. To them just the act of caring is sufficient.

    There's a highly progressive lady down the hall who yammered on and on about participating in a food drive for the homeless. So the company put up a box to drop off food. She never brought in one can of beans. To her the mere presence of a food drive box was sufficient.

  • MNG||

    I have read that self-identified liberals give less to charity than self-indentified conservatives. The study didn't mention libertarians to my knowledge.

    An example of that has been playing out on the Colbert show lately as Stephen has been urging his viewers to contribute money to some military charity. Fairly paltry amounts have been given compared to what, say, O'Reilly or Beck could have raised from their viewers in the same time...

  • ||

    In fact there is a problem of frugal, red-state counties directing such folks to the more generous adjoining blue state cities (even to the point of driving them to the city line).



    Are you aware of California geography. That might be true of Fresno or San Jose, but it is most certainly not true of San Francisco. It is a blue county surrounded by blue counties. It is surrounded by liberal Marin, Alameda and San Mateo counties. To the North is Sausalito, to the East Berkeley and Oakland, and to the south San Mateo.

    Hmmm, maybe all the San Francisco homeless are coming from San Benito County!

  • ||

    ...libertarians argue that we don't need health care reform because Medicaid takes care of poor people who really need health care...

    No libertarian has ever argued that.

  • ||

    The poor are a gold mine for bureaucrats. Why in the world would they let one escape?

    -jcr

  • ||

    There's a highly progressive lady down the hall who yammered on and on about participating in a food drive for the homeless. So the company put up a box to drop off food. She never brought in one can of beans. To her the mere presence of a food drive box was sufficient.

    Did she at least have the decency to STFU after her hypocrisy was pointed out to her?

    -jcr

  • ||

    I just visualized myself beating the holy hell out of a DPW official.

    If all I had was the money for rent, and some bureaucrat tried to take it away from me under threat of destroying my means of supporting myself, I might do the math and decide that beating it senseless and getting a couple years of free room and board in jail made economic sense.

    The satisfaction would of course, be priceless.

    -jcr

  • PETE||

    A lesson on sweeping generalizations from Brandybuck, H&R commenter:

    "Progressive liberals don't don't give a shits [sic] about the poor or disadvantaged"

    Evidence: ____

    "Liberals are extremely caring. Unfortunately they never get beyond the caring part. To them just the act of caring is sufficient."

    Evidence: A lady down the hall

    "No libertarian has ever argued that."

    Yeah, how dare MNG make such a ridiculously sweeping generalization.

    End of lesson.

  • shecky||

    A lesson on sweeping generalizations from

    They're getting more common around here. How else are we going to get that bludgeon to beat down the evil folks we love to beat down on?

  • MNG||

    Brandybuck
    I've heard it here on H&R. It usually happens like this:

    Liberal poster: We need health care reform, what about a poor uninsured person who gets seriously hurt but cannot afford health care, are we going to let him die?

    Libertarian poster: Oh bullshit, noone gets turned away at the emergency room, Medicaid picks up the tab. Uninsured people are covered by that.

    But that's off topic so I'll let you have the last word on it.

  • ||

    Note that in a true Libertopia, there wouldn't even be any public property for street vendors to ply their trade upon. And please don't tell me that the owner of the Rothbard Blvd. sidewalk would be happy to let all comers set up shop on his or her property for free, either.

    Requiring a permit for street vending makes sense. $491 is exorbitant, though, and the bureaucratic mess you have to go through is inexcusable.

  • JB||

    Again, I'm truly amazed that more people just don't take out government officials.

    I shocked that experiences like this don't cause people to lose it and just go after every government employee they can get their hands on.

    I mean there was that guy driving through city hall, but it's so much more rare than one would think.

  • shecky||

    This seems to be an interesting litmus test. Having no love of bureaucrats, and generally being a live and let live kind of guy, I can muster up all kinds of outrage.

    However, perfectly rational people can (and do) legitimately cite "rule of law" argument against the guy. Does he get special privilege? Is homeless affirmative action something libertarians can get on board with now? At what point do you say to a guy wanting an exception to vending permits to fuck off?

  • shecky||

    Another interesting test would be to set up a shoeshine stand without any official sanction in a red county somewhere in flyover country. I wonder how long it would take for someone to shut you down?

  • Omegis13||

    Somehow, I'm surprised nobody has posted or referenced this classic bit from South Park.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5219RJfZF6Q

  • Fluffy||

    Note that in a true Libertopia, there wouldn't even be any public property for street vendors to ply their trade upon. And please don't tell me that the owner of the Rothbard Blvd. sidewalk would be happy to let all comers set up shop on his or her property for free, either.

    Requiring a permit for street vending makes sense. $491 is exorbitant, though, and the bureaucratic mess you have to go through is inexcusable.


    This is actually not a counterargument, because under our current system the pretense is that the roads and sidewalks are public property that everyone has access to.

    I have argued both sides of the "public ways" issue before. In one sense, the taxpayers own the roads, and should be able to act as owners and impose whatever restrictions to public way use that they want. In another sense, however, all citizens should have equal access to public ways, without restriction or precondition. In this particular case, while there may not be a clear and ready answer to the question of what access to public ways Moore is due by right, denying him access to those ways as he tries to improve himself certainly would seem to put the lie to San Francisco's claim to be a special realm marked by love for the downtrodden and a sense of tolerance for self-experimentation.

    And btw, it might be more difficult to be a sidewalk shoe shiner in Libertopia, but about 100,000 other occupations would be easier to enter due to the absence of cartel-driven licensing schemes. And there probably would be more opportunities for non-sidewalk-based shoe shiners, since any property owner that wanted to provide him with a place to work or add shoe shining services to the services offered at their site would be able to do so, without worrying about tax implications, zoning codes, bitchy neighbors, permits to change the use or design of a piece of property, etc.

  • Fluffy||

    I also need to point out, to Shecky and MNG and others, that panhandling is expressly tolerated in San Francisco, and only "aggressive" panhandling is illegal.

    So if Moore wanted to stand in one place on the sidewalk in San Francisco and beg for money, he would be permitted to do so. The city is only mad at him because he's offering to shine shoes in exchange for money. Because that's so much worse, and therefore not a civil right.

  • Bill||

    More importantly, and more to the point:

    Is there some way we could send this guy a couple bucks and some notes of encouragement?

    I mean, he has demonstrated the fortitude and discipline to get himself unhooked from alcohol, and despite his terribly depressing situation, to remain positive and make a serious, determined effort to better his situation - on his own, by old-fashioned WORK. The guy deserves a pat on the back and a few bucks tossed his way to help him pull himself out of the hole he got himself into.

    I'd much rather give this guy some money than someone who just sits around and whines about how the government isn't doing enough to help them. This guy is doing it not only without the government's help, but IN SPITE OF the goverment's "help".

  • ||

    I also need to point out, to Shecky and MNG and others, that panhandling is expressly tolerated in San Francisco, and only "aggressive" panhandling is illegal.

    What's the license fee that San Francisco charges for non-aggressive panhandling?

  • Solanum||

    So if Moore wanted to stand in one place on the sidewalk in San Francisco and beg for money, he would be permitted to do so. The city is only mad at him because he's offering to shine shoes in exchange for money.

    Maybe he should have a sign saying "Free Shoeshines", with a donation cup below the sign, although I'm sure the DPW would find some other "educational" experience for the guy.

  • Untermensch||

    You know, this licensing fee is a great idea. It should just be applied equally so that Moore has to pay around $4000 (I'm guessing at what she might make in a month and trying to come up with a proportional equivalent) to have an office worker's license. After all, what's good for the goose… Somehow I doubt she'd think it so fair, "educational", or important if she had to bear the same sort of burden, proportional to her income, that she has imposed on this fellow.

    Too bad bills of attainder aren't allowed, or some legislator in SF would have to implement one aimed at Moore as an "educational" experience.

  • Untermensch||

    Err, sorry. Not Moore, but the functionary who was cold enough to look at a feel-good story in the news and try to figure out how to make into a feel-bad story.

  • shecky||

    I also need to point out, to Shecky and MNG and others, that panhandling is expressly tolerated in San Francisco, and only "aggressive" panhandling is illegal.

    Okay... Point noted.
    ???

  • JB||

    Okay... Point noted.

    Wow, you really are dense.

  • ChrisO||

    It's not that San Francisco is anti-homeless, it's that they are anti-shiny shoes. Think of all the environmental damage that shoe shining wax causes. The answer is clearly city-issued Birkenstocks for everyone.

  • ||

    Californ-ya-ya... Super Cool To The Homeless!!

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement