Shellenberger: The Root Cause Of America’s Homelessness Epidemic & Why The Term ‘Homeless’ Is Misleading
“We’re literally paying people in the form of cash welfare, housing, and other services to live in tents on the street, use hard drugs, defecate publicly, and commit crimes,” says Michael Shellenberger, author of “San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities.”
In San Fransicko I explore how the conversation around how to use law and order to advance civil rights gave way to a debate over whether law and order is an obstacle to social justice. The question used to be carrots versus sticks. Do you reward people for not committing crimes, or do you punish them when they do? But that’s been superseded by a question from progressives: what if it’s a form of victimization to try to influence people’s behavior at all?
The governing majority in some of America’s cities seems to believe that the only real public policy problem is how to pay for letting people do whatever they want, from turning public parks into open-air drug encampments, to using sidewalks as toilets, to handing over whole neighborhoods to people who are heavily armed and purposefully unaccountable.
Progressives have been in charge of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, as well as California and Washington, during most of the decades in which the problems I describe here have grown worse. On the fundamental policies relating to mental illness, addiction, and housing for the homeless, moderate Democrats, conservatives, and Republicans have either gone along with the liberal and progressive agenda or been powerless to prevent it since the 1960s. And it was Democrats, not Republicans, who played the primary role in creating the dominant neoliberal model of government contracting to fragmented and often unaccountable non-profit service providers that have proven financially, structurally, and legally incapable of addressing the crisis.
Even the word “homeless” itself is a propaganda word, Shellenberger says.
“It suggests that the underlying problem is lack of housing, expensive rents, or poverty. And that’s not the case.”
The term “homeless” lumps together two groups that are radically different.
But it’s irresponsible to conflate mothers escaping abusive husbands, or people who are just going through some hard times, with people who are mentally ill, or drug-addicted, or both, Shellenberger says.
Fundamentally, a victim ideology guides how progressives deal with homelessness.
And this ideology refuses to demand even a modicum of accountability from so-called victims, Shellenberger argues, even when they’re engaging in self-destructive behaviors that could be deadly.
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Fri, 10/29/2021 – 22:25