The Hobo Ethical Code of 1889: 15 Rules for Living a Self-Reliant, Honest & Compassionate Life


Who wants to be a bil­lion­aire?

A few years ago, Forbes pub­lished author Rober­ta Chin­sky Matu­son’s sen­si­ble advice to busi­nessper­sons seek­ing to shoot up that gold­en lad­der. These law­ful tips espoused such famil­iar virtues as hard work and com­mu­ni­ty involve­ment, and as such, were eas­i­ly adapt­able to the rabble—artists, teach­ers, any­one in the ser­vice indus­try or non-prof­it sec­tor…

It must pain her that so many bil­lion­aires have been behav­ing so bad­ly of late. Let’s hope so, any­way.

While there’s noth­ing inher­ent­ly wrong with aspir­ing to amass lots of mon­ey, the next gen­er­a­tion of bil­lion­aires are play­ing fast and loose with their souls if their pri­ma­ry role mod­els are the ones dom­i­nat­ing today’s head­lines.

Wouldn’t it be grand if they looked instead to the Hobo Eth­i­cal Code, a seri­ous stan­dard of behav­ior estab­lished at the Hobo Nation­al Con­ven­tion of 1889.

Giv­en the peri­patet­ic lifestyle of these migra­to­ry work­ers, it was up to the indi­vid­ual to hold him or her­self to this knight­ly stan­dard. Hoboes prid­ed them­selves on their self-reliance and hon­esty, as well as their com­pas­sion for their fel­low humans.

The envi­ron­ment and the most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of our soci­ety stand to ben­e­fit if tomorrow’s bil­lion­aires take it to heart.

The Hobo Eth­i­cal Code

1. Decide your own life; don’t let anoth­er per­son run or rule you.

2. When in town, always respect the local law and offi­cials, and try to be a gen­tle­man at all times.

3. Don’t take advan­tage of some­one who is in a vul­ner­a­ble sit­u­a­tion, locals or oth­er hobos.

4. Always try to find work, even if tem­po­rary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a busi­ness along, but ensure employ­ment should you return to that town again.

5. When no employ­ment is avail­able, make your own work by using your added tal­ents at crafts.

6. Do not allow your­self to become a stu­pid drunk and set a bad exam­ple for locals’ treat­ment of oth­er hobos.

7. When jungling in town, respect hand­outs, do not wear them out, anoth­er hobo will be com­ing along who will need them as bad­ly, if not worse than you.

8. Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling.

9. If in a com­mu­ni­ty jun­gle, always pitch in and help.

10. Try to stay clean, and boil up wher­ev­er pos­si­ble.

11. When trav­el­ing, ride your train respect­ful­ly, take no per­son­al chances, cause no prob­lems with the oper­at­ing crew or host rail­road, act like an extra crew mem­ber.

12. Do not cause prob­lems in a train yard, anoth­er hobo will be com­ing along who will need pas­sage through that yard.

13. Do not allow oth­er hobos to molest chil­dren; expose all moles­ters to authorities…they are the worst garbage to infest any soci­ety.

14. Help all run­away chil­dren, and try to induce them to return home.

15. Help your fel­low hobos when­ev­er and wher­ev­er need­ed, you may need their help some­day.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How to Live a Good Life? Watch Phi­los­o­phy Ani­ma­tions Nar­rat­ed by Stephen Fry on Aris­to­tle, Ayn Rand, Max Weber & More

The Pow­er of Empa­thy: A Quick Ani­mat­ed Les­son That Can Make You a Bet­ter Per­son

Rules for Teach­ers in 1872 & 1915: No Drink­ing, Smok­ing, or Trips to Bar­ber Shops and Ice Cream Par­lors

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Her play Zam­boni Godot is open­ing in New York City in March 2017. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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Comments (9)
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  • Randy says:

    You’re seri­ous­ly pro­mot­ing big­otry as eth­i­cal?

  • Colin Wills says:

    Big­otry? Intol­er­ance towards peo­ple who hold dif­fer­ent views to your­self? Can’t real­ly see much evi­dence of that in the above.

  • Sting says:

    What a great mes­sage.… in a bot­tle.

  • Hoki says:

    Can­not read any part of this which pro­motes big­otry. You obvi­ous­ly have no idea what it actu­al­ly means.

  • Audge ratt says:

    Beau­ti­ful read­ing. Guide­lines to adopt into our own lives wher­ev­er we be..

  • ambrit says:

    We are see­ing a lot more than the usu­al num­ber of home­less and tran­sient here in the Deep South. I know locals who are squat­ting or sleep­ing in autos. To hold to a code of ethics requires both strong char­ac­ter and out­side sup­port. Fun­ny but it’s the poor amongst us who are hold­ing up ethics as a good in and of itself.

  • Jerry says:

    They need some­thing to rely on, even if it’s for their own san­i­ty. And fol­low­ing a code implies belong­ing to some­thing, a group. My 2 cents.

  • Michael says:

    When it comes to bil­lion­aires and ethics…There’s a lot of peo­ple that don’t get it… That these guys are play­ing for keeps. That they are going after YOU. That they are not gonna leave any lit­tle bit left for you. There’s only one thing that the rul­ing cir­cles through­out his­to­ry have ever want­ed, and that’s EVERYTHING. There’s only one thing they want — ALL the wealth, the trea­sures, and the prof­itable returns, ALL the choice lands an forests and game and herds and har­vests and min­er­al deposits and pre­cious met­als of the earth, ALL the pro­duc­tive facil­i­ties and gain­ful inven­tive­ness and tech­nolo­gies, ALL the con­trol posi­tions of the state and oth­er major insti­tu­tions. ALL pub­lic sup­ports and sub­si­dies, priv­i­leges and immu­ni­ties, ALL the pro­tec­tions of the law and none of it’s con­straints. ALL the ser­vices and com­forts and lux­u­ries and advan­tages of civ­il soci­ety with nine of the tax­es and none of the costs.

    Every rul­ing class in his­to­ry has want­ed only this — ALL the rewards and NONE of the bur­dens. Their oper­a­tional code is — ‘We have a lot, we can get more, we want IT ALL.

  • johnnie says:

    virtue sig­nal­ing is the worst form of big­otry

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