When Bureaucrats Attack

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on June 5, 2009

shoe-shiner

When people wonder why it is that there is so much antipathy towards government’s tendency to officiously meddle in the lives of ordinary individuals, I like to point them to stories like this:

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.

“I had $573 ready to go,” Moore said, who needs $600 for the rent. “This tore that up. But I’ve been homeless for six years. Another six weeks isn’t going to kill me.”

The bureaucrat told Moore that she found out about his business after reading about his success in this paper.

Along Market Street, Moore’s supporters are indignant. Nothing happens when mentally ill men wander the street talking to themselves and drunkards pee in the alleys. Yet Moore creates a little business out of thin air, builds up a client base, and the city takes nearly every penny he’s earned.

Christine Falvey, spokeswoman for Public Works, said the department’s contact with Moore was meant to be “educational.”

“We certainly don’t want to hamper anyone’s ability to make a living,” Falvey said. “Our education efforts are actually meant to support that effort by making our streets an enjoyable place for people to visit.”

To be fair, this entire episode has been most educational. It tells me what kind of compassionate response I can expect when government gets involved in the health care industry.

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