Wednesday, September 21, 2005

might be evil, but it's awfully smart

The daily show had a report on a guy who is advertising his badly-named website by attaching a sign to the "will work for food" type of signs panhandlers sometimes use. He calls it Bumvertising. He pays these people around 75 cents an hour. So basically he's got guys doing signboard-type work for next to nothing.

It's really pretty brilliant, but of course a lot of people are up in arms over it. The guy has a long explanation on his site of why he feels this isn't a bad thing, but what you think will depend on your presumptions. For Libertarians this is going to be fine. You're paying people for a service, they provide it. They're going to be standing there anyway, so it's good for them, they get extra money for basically doing nothing beyond what they normally do. It's good for the advertiser. What's there to complain about?

And it's not that easy to answer. But it just seems wrong. Because if you can pay people third-world wages because the job doesn't inconvenience them much, couldn't you start paying people less for all sorts of reasons. I mean, Bush is already letting contractors pay employees less than the going rate to rebuild New Orleans (even in a national emergency, even with the country against him, Bush can pass up no opportunity to screw over the poor on behalf of the rich, or to give handouts to his friends).

So what if this guy also starts paying bums to hand out leaflets. It's not more work than panhandling. But now what happens to the people who have jobs handing out leaflets? They've been replaced by people who will do the job for less. And that's where the whole system goes wrong, because anytime you allow an exception to the minimum wage laws then people get screwed. Which is fine if you're a Libertarian, but Libertarians have about as much common sense as Communists so that's not an argument for anything.

I hope this guy gets fined for flouting labor laws, but more likely Bush will give him a medal for finding a new way to screw over the homeless (probably at the same time he awards Michael Brown one for his disastrous reign at FEMA).

One interesting thing, he has an ad for a game called The Bum Game. The game has a disclaimer saying it's not for politically correct cry-babies, but in fact from the little I played it (I didn't find it all that interesting), the game does a good job of showing exactly how difficult it is to be a panhandler.

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