I came across this bit of free market capitalism via kottke and was surprised at the level of vitriol expressed in the public opinion section. A Seattle businessman has created what he calls Bumvertising. We've all seen bums standing on street corners with their signs begging for food or money or sympathy. Well, this businessman has recruited some of these bums to also hold up a small sign advertising his business. In exchange, the bums get some water, a bit of food and some compensation. Sounds like a great idea. But from some of the public reaction, you'd think he was gathering up the bums into concentration camps. Many people are calling it exploitation. Well, of course it's exploitation. But couldn't you say that about any job? Isn't my employer exploiting me and all my years of education by offering me money in exchange for my services? Sure they are. I could certainly say no. I could take the high road and insist I worked too hard for too long to be bought. But then again, wasn't that the point of all that work--I was depending on the fact that someone would want to buy my services; that someone would want to exploit me.
How is bumvertising any different? Sure, they don't get paid very much--in fact it's not even close to minimum wage. But they can certainly say no--and some do. So what's the big deal. I can't help but wonder how many of the people who are screaming about how dispicable this is actually stop and give the bums money. Probably a big fat zero! We're far too busy and self-absorbed to care--but how dare someone offer them money in exchange for services. In the interest of full disclosure, I don't stop and give them money either, but I certainly don't have any problem if you do--even if you expect something in return.