rogues” who robbed and murdered travelers.nThe statute was also aimed at them.nSir William Blackstone gave muchnattention to the English vagrancy acts,nincluding one of Henry VIII’s that targetedngypsies, a people whose entire culture—thennas now—is based on theft.nThe gypsies were described as “outlandishnpeople, calling themselves Egyptians,nusing no craft nor feat of merchandise,nwho have come into this realm and gonenfrom shire to shire and place to place inngreat company, and used great, subtil, andncrafty means to deceive the people; bearingnthem in hand, that they by palmistryncould tell men’s and women’s fortunes;nand so many times by craft and subtiltynhave deceived the people of theirnmoney, and also have committed manynheinous felonies and robberies.” To “thenhonor of our national humanity,” suchnwanderers are no longer executed, saidnBlackstone, but rather subjected to finesnand jail.nUnder the Elizabethan Poor Laws, beggarsnwere forbidden to move; otherwise,nit was thought, “foreign beggars” wouldnbecome a burden on more desirable areas.nTaking a different view from Mr. Munoz-nMarin, Blackstone believed such lawsnwere justified because “idleness in anynperson” is a “high offense against the publicneconomy.” The “court of Areopagusnat Athens punished idleness,” he noted,nand the Roman law “expelled all sturdynvagrants from the city.” The Englishncommon law has long identified “idle andndisorderly persons” and “rogues andnvagabonds” as “offenders against the goodnorder.” The idle and disorderly, whoncould be punished with a month in jail,nincluded those who could support themselvesnand instead lived on charity.nRogues and vagabonds, who could benwhipped and sentenced to six months innjail, included the homeless: beggars whonlived “in the open air,” in tents, or in wagons.nWhen the American colonies secedednfrom the British Empire, they retainednmost English laws and customs, includingnthose against vagrants. In fact, ournfounding document, the Articles of Confederation,nassured all citizens the privilegesnand immunities of the severalnstates, except for “paupers, vagabonds,nand fugitives from justice.” The commercenclause of the Constitution, the originnof so many evils, was early used to trynto stop the states from inhibiting vagrants.nAn 1837 Supreme Court case challengedna New York requirement that ship cap­n50/CHRONICLESntains report the names and last addressesnof their passengers, to help keep paupersnout. Any ban on free migrationnviolated the commerce clause, it wasnclaimed. This was the Old Republic,nhowever, and the Court mled in favor ofnNew York. It is “as necessary,” it said, “forna state to provide precautionary measuresnagainst the wicked pestilence of vagrants,nvagabonds, and possible criminals as it isnto guard” against a “physical pestilence.”nThe justices did not foresee the day whennit would be politically incorrect to guardnagainst a physical pestilence as a socialnone.nIn 1903, the Court upheld a Californianlaw expelling Japanese immigrantsnwho had no “visible means of support.”nThe Japanese-American treaty that gavencitizens of each country reciprocal rightsndid not, of course, apply to “that classnwho from their habits or conditions arenordinarily and properly the object ofnpolice regulations designed to protect thengeneral public against contact with destitutenor impoverished persons.” By 1941,nhowever, in a New Dealized America, thenCourt struck down a California statutenforbidding the importation of indigents.nSuch a law was unconstitutional, said thenCourt, because “the relief of the needynhas become the common responsibilitynof the whole nation.” It rejected the traditionalnview that paupers are more likelynto commit crimes, “since poverty andnimmorality are not synonymous.” (Thatnmay be true in the country; in the bigncity, there is all too close a correlation.)nIn a separate opinion. Justice Douglasnagreed with the commerce-clause-basedndecision, but also defended an allegedn”right to travel.” The pernicious “rightsnrevolution” was well under way by thisntime, and egalitarians like Douglas targetednvagrancy laws because they soughtnto protect bourgeois society from bums,nwhile taking no notice of bums’ rights.nAn influential law review article innthe 1950’s denounced the police for movingnvagrants out of middle-class areas andninto the Bowery; “the freedom to movenrequires more than the freedom to bensent to a restricted ghetto.” Also considerednmonstrous by liberals was the usenof the vagrancy laws against people likelynto commit crimes, a concept that datednto 1404 when “suspected persons”nwere first included in the class of vagrants.nIn 1965, the Court overturned the convictionnof a Birmingham, Alabama, civilnrights protester for refusing to movenalong when ordered to do so by a police­nnnman. Such a law “bears the mark of anpolice state,” said the Court. More thanntwenty-five years later, most Americansnwould gladly exchange that “police state”nfor the vagrant state that has replaced it.nIn 1966, Douglas called vagrancy lawsnunsuited for America, whose open spacesncreated a land of “free-roaming peoplenwho shaped their own character.” In thensame nutty spirit, liberal Catholic bishopsnrecently created a ministry for “Peoplenon the Move.” In his 1972 court triumphnover vagrancy laws, Douglas madenwhat he must have felt was the clinchingnargument: vagrancy laws “could be usednas a means of social control, as poor people,nnon-conformists, dissenters, idlers,nmay be required to comport themselvesnaccording to the lifestyle deemed appropriatenby the Jacksonville police.” Twentynyears later, how many Americans wouldnfind that vision anything to worry about?nIn 1988, sleeping and loitering in thensubway was found to be constitutionallynprotected by a New York judge. A federalnjudge condemned vagrancy laws fornhaving the “practical effect of keeping anpublic problem involving the huiTiannbeings out of sight and therefore outnof mind. Indeed, it is the unsettlingnappearance and message conveyed bynbeggars that gives their conduct itsnexpressive quality.” What was once anmark of British-American civilization isnnow a hate crime.nBegging is, of course, a euphemism.nThe actual process is intimidation, andnmoney given under these conditions isnhardly a charitable contribution, althoughnthe ACLU has long sought to blur thendistinction.nDespite the popular conception. Christianncharity does not mandate warm feelingsnabout bums, let alone require us tonsubsidize their idleness. We are insteadnto seek what is in their best interests,ntemporally and eternally. What is mainlynin their interest is that they not benbums. As the New Testament tells us,n”he who does not work, neither shallnhe eat.” As Patrick J. Buchanan saidnin New Hampshire, there is no “constitutionalnright to panhandle. If theynkeep doing it, I would pick them up fornvagrancy and lock them up. We have anright, especially women and children,nto streets that are safe and free fromnfear. We’ve got to take the streets back.”nLlewellyn H. Rockwell, ]r. is thenpresident of the Ludwig von MisesnInstitute.n