June 04, 2007

The Beggars' Place in the Social Biospehre

Attention. This is a passenger announcement: Beggars occasionally board the trains. Please do not encourage them by giving money. If you see a beggar on this train, please tell a member of staff.

If we take Darwin’s theory of biosphere, in particular the interdependence between species in a biosphere, and apply that relationship to social sphere, then, theoretically, if there were no beggars, then there would be an imbalance of some kind. But what would really change if there were no beggars? Can beggars be equated to the species that have no natural enemies?

The existence of the social niche filled by beggar-ism can be viewed as an alternative social form. Variety of social roles as well as good social mobility is paramount to an open liberal society. Perhaps the sole reason for the existence of beggar-ism and general social tolerance to it lays in the fact that beggars still hold a place on the ladder of society and the position of beggar-ism provides a social safety net.

If there were no beggars, an altogether different social class would be filling the gap and laying down the safety net. With beggars being the less populous social form, or for other unstudied reasons, there are no riot eruptions to be seen. However, if the beggars as a social class cease to exist, then the social balance would shift and a much more populous group may feel increasingly insecure and ‘on the edge’ of social ladder, thus creating a prerequisite for social instability.

It is thus evident that beggars as a social class are neither irrelevant or redundant in a developed society.


- 4 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Alex

    More barely penetrable English – what you appear to be saying is:

    We need beggars because they make poor people feel like at least they’re not that bad off. I turn your argument on its head – how about we get rid of beggars and it makes poor people think that they should work harder to make sure they don’t die because there’s no rung further down on the ladder? You’ll note that tight-rope artists are much more studious when they don’t have anything to catch them should they fall…

    04 Jun 2007, 18:28

  2. I interpreted this post differently to the first commenter.

    Consider a simplified model of nature: “Where there exists something to eat, something will arise to eat it”. Applying this to generosity and beggars: Given that beggars exist, people must have a certain amount of generosity. If beggars did not exist to take advantage of this generosity, some other beggar-like thing would turn up to take advantage of it.

    I’m not really clear on the rest of the post, though.

    In reply to comment 1: I would rather see a hundred tightrope walkers fall into a net safely than a single tightrope walker die horribly without a net. Furthermore I suspect, though having no net would make tightrope walkers more careful, it would be difficult for carefulness to deliver a one hundred to one reduction in accident rates.

    04 Jun 2007, 22:43

  3. Alex

    To continue the analogy – would the second commenter feel any differently if he paid a significant proportion of his salary to keeping said tightrope walkers safe, if he disliked the whole concept of the death defying stunt in the first place?

    06 Jun 2007, 19:50

  4. Alex, people in countries like Switzerland pay 53% of income tax. They get the appropriate amount of social care that eliminates poverty altogether, along with that the people are rid of crimes and inequality, they get free education, top quality health care and have a guarantee of a great living standard. What are you going to do with the rest of the money you won’t spend before you die? Pass it on to your children? Or just let it rotten in your bank account without doing much for you or the economy of the country? There’s a Chinese saying that goes: he who is full can not sympathise with people who are hungry.
    Michael: it’s a very interesting idea about generosity generating a social role that responds and accepts generosity of the well-off. I wonder if that could be extended to a full debate.

    10 Jun 2007, 17:51


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