You Need A Permit to Give Food to the Poor? Seriously?

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Love Wins Ministries is a charity that helps the poor and at-risk populations of Raleigh, NC. Their activities include feeding the homeless at local parks, assisting with job searches, and generally helping to increase their standards of living. They’re actually doing some pretty great things for the people of Raleigh. I mean, who would want to mess up a bad thing?

Oh right, the government.

This past Saturday, Love Wins Ministries were about their usual business of feeding the homeless at Moore Square, something they’ve been doing for six years with other churches. But along came a police officer that told them if they distributed food, they would be arrested. Seriously—this church would be arrested for helping feed people in a park.

If there’s anything that libertarians can agree on, it’s that the government doesn’t really have a vested interest in serving the poor. Unfortunately, this is just more proof. For six years, this charity had been serving the indigent people of Raleigh by providing food on the weekends, but the Raleigh Police Department decided to name some obscure local ordinance that had never been enforced prior to this episode to keep them from helping those in need. The ordinance calls for an $800 permit in order to distribute food in the park—$1600 every weekend for Love Wins Ministries to simply provide free food.

So why doesn’t the charity simply pay the $1600 each weekend for the permits? It’s simple—money used to pay for the permits will come right out of their budget that helps feed the homeless. By removing the market mechanisms of distributive justice, the local government is forcing the charity to use their already scarce resources in an inefficient manner, therefore limiting the potential positive impact they can have on the most vulnerable members of the community.

Look, the  government might not be efficient in helping people (or much of anything else), but that doesn’t mean they have to ruin a good thing like Love Wins Ministries’ charitable endeavors. Even though the government would like to think that its already available services for the poor are sufficient and more efficient than private, voluntary methods, the truth is when help is given privately, 70% or more of each charitable dollar gets to a recipient. However, only 30% (roughly) of each welfare tax dollar reaches the needy. Imposing fines on and arresting those who provide valuable services to the marginalized people of Raleigh does nothing to further society. All it does is reinforce the state’s arbitrary monopoly power over our ability to voluntarily serve one another. Providing 100 biscuits and large amounts of coffee for those in need should never be a crime.