Busking: Free Speech or Free Pass?

Busking has become apart of urban culture throughout America. From musicians, to clowns, human statues and theatrical arts, all have had their share of time on the busy street corners of New York, Chicago, Massachusetts, San Francisco and the like. But as The Economist highlights, each city deals with busking differently. Some cities have outright bans on busking. Arguments have been made that this suspends the first amendment right to free speech. Others require permits, which may be costly, but remove the risk of being harassed or arrested (Like Space Cowboy in the article above, arrested for “brandishing weapons in public”). Cambridge, Massachusetts appears to be a beacon for pragmatic regulation. Permits are issued for a small fee with no limit on the number of permits. This permit acts as a free pass to busk anywhere in the city, and the money generated goes to art festivals and events that can act as a venue for buskers. The ability to regulate and generate revenue from busking seems ideal. Cities could capitalize on a open and free market such as this. But is paying a small free for a free pass worth giving up free speech?

About Jared Soares

Hello, my name is Jared Soares. I am pursuing a degree in economics with minors in mathematics and computer science. Outside of school I enjoy hiking, rock climbing, cooking and performing with the improv comedy troupe Ubiquitous They.

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