Walking along the other day I happened upon a beggar who asked if I could spare some change, and I thought to myself, “Why, this is like something out of a textbook and not like real life at all”. But then I began to consider whether or not I ought to give him alms…
“If I give him some money then he will be happier than he was before. But if he spends it on booze, that’s bad. Well, bad for moralists like me anyway. But he might spend it on food. That’s good for both of us and the shopkeeper he buys it from. Or is it? He’ll have to go into a shop and the people in there might not like how he smells. That’s bad for them. The shopkeeper will have to spray some air-freshener when he leaves. That’s good for the manufacturer, but now the shopkeeper is going to have to spend more money on sundries than he would otherwise. That’s bad. And what will his wife think? Perhaps she’s told him not to let tramps in the shop because it drives away customers. She’ll be in a foul mood. What if they argue? Oh! What if he hits her? She might leave him, leaving their children without a father. But she’s a good looking woman. She’s bound to find a new man soon. If he’s the love of her life then it’ll have been worth it. But what if this new man was married already and he’s cheated on his wife? What if she finds out? She’ll be heartbroken. But then again, the shopkeeper’s wife might not be anti-tramp. In fact, she might be so moved by her husband’s compassion that, later tonight, a child is conceived. The joy that that would bring! But at their age a new baby would be hard work; it could put a severe strain on their marriage. But they could always go to couple’s counselling, couldn’t they? And that’s good for the counsellor, too. More money for advertising, say. But the increased visibility of couple’s counselling services could act as a catalyst for couples to question the strength of their relationships where previously they wouldn’t have. But then again that’s more work for the counsellors, I suppose. Although the increased demand could lead to higher levels of stress…”
I paused for a moment. To my surprise, though I had only just begun to scratch the surface, the beggar had already moved on.
“Well, there you go,” I said. “Problem solved!”