Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Liberal vs Libertarian Approach to Homelessness

This comes from the San Francisco's Libertarian Party website, posted by Steve DeKorte.

I recently asked my friends' little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said she wanted to be President some day.

Both of her parents, liberal Democrats, were standing there, so I asked her, "If you were President what would be the first thing you would do? " She replied, "I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people." Her parents beamed.

'Wow...what a worthy goal." I told her. "But you don't have to wait until you're President to do that.. You can come over to my house and mow the lawn, pull weeds, and rake my yard, and I'll pay you $50. Then I'll take you over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out and you can give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house. "

She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked, "Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?"

I said, "Welcome to the Libertarian Party."

Her parents still aren't speaking to me.


Anonymous said...

That's funny!

I've always thought that panhandlers would make great salespeople. The only thing they're selling is a sob story, real or fake. Yet they still get money. In my mind, that defies logic.

As for the little girl, it may be too late for her to see the liberal light. Then again, her parents, school and the media have her for a while longer.

Anonymous said...

Good one...cut a little too close the bone I'm guessing. Her parents should have been proud of her realization!

DeShawn said...

The difference is that the little girl would be giving ALL her money to the homeless person.

Libs want to tax the rich to pay for homeless shelters, and even after their taxation, they will have plenty of money left over.

John Madigan said...

Funny post. Very relevant to the movement to "give work, not aid."

Especially in a tough economy, people need fishing poles instead of just the fish.

Anonymous said...

I recently saw a panhandler with a sign that said “out of work, family to support, need help." The sign bearer looked like a healthy middle class man instead of a homeless person. I wondered if he ever thought he would find himself in that position. Sometimes life surprises us and we see the raw reality of our existence. Certainly, a job is probably better for ones self-esteem than a hand out—but sometimes, the people down on their luck can't find a job. Then what?

Anonymous said...

There is a theory that liberals just refuse to acknowledge, it's the "Give it away and they will come",theory, and it's corollary, "don't feed the bears".
It goes like this: If you offer ten free homes for the homeless, one hundred people will show up, if 100 homes are offered, 1000 people will show up, 1000 free homes will draw 10,000 homeless. As long as you have programs to support homelessness, you will have homeless.

PhDTips said...

You make it sound like there's something terribly wrong with begging. It's not illegal to ask people for help. If you feel like it's not right to give beggars money then nobody forces you to.

Anonymous said...

And what if the homeless man is disabled or mentally ill, as so many are?

Anonymous said...

My sister is disabled. I mean to say, she has no legs. She worked her own way through college and grad school with no student aid. She's a CPA for a top firm in San Jose. I have found consistently that people with a disability deplore taking charity and demand to work.

Anonymous said...

Libertarians refuse to acknowledge that many people cannot be rational actors.

Adam Smith was wrong, he idealized actors within an economy, but life has shown us otherwise.

A homeless guy might be able to do some yard work for you, but then again he might be mentally ill and be incapable of following any of your instructions. You might also discover other reasons why these guys are unhire-able.

Grace said...

My husband was a cook in a men's shelter. The majority of men in the shelter had jobs. Their homelessness was caused by a series of unfortunate events, no family support systems and unreasonable damage deposits for housing and utilities.

The other men in the shelter had addiction/mental health issues.

There were only 2 or 3 in the whole place that really were professional moochers.

Blanket solutions are easy to create but difficult to implement because the problems are truly complex.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't the homeless man mow your lawn? Most times, it is because he can't.

He might be able to, for one day. But not everyday, consistently. Not enough to sign a lease.

Most homeless people have severe limits in mental or physical functioning. Some have problems with substance abuse. The bottom line is, if they aren't working a steady job, there is a serious reason.

I am libertarian, but I deplore the simplistic way many libertarians dismiss the complexity of homelessness as issues of greed and/or laziness.

You don't know until you've been there, or know someone you really care about in that type of situation.

helensan said...

I'm afraid you've misled the little girl. Both giving away her own $50 and having the homeless man earn it himself are libertarian solutions. Neither involved the government, and both are voluntary.

Libertarians believe in charity too.

Anonymous said...

We often think about homelessness as one big issue when at fact each hobo has a very unique situation. Sure, some of them have disabilities, but for the most part... they just got no one else that can support them. All you need is love.... and a free country to spread it in.

Anonymous said...

I found this when I was googling what a Libertarian thinks about the homeless problem. I seriously cannot find a coherent Libertarian led response to the homeless on the Internet. Many of the homeless are mentally ill, and as others have commented have a problem or problems that preclude them from longterm employment. The story about the kid is a cheeky story, but seriously, it's sad that I can't find a well thought out Libertarian response to this type of human suffering. You just get jokes, and blanket answers that laziness keeps people homeless. We're approaching another winter, and in my town, the homeless shelter only has 125 spots, and they turn away those who show up after it is full.

Marty Nemko said...

The Libertarian argument is:
1. Govt. does a terribly wasteful, expensive, fraud-filled job of using our tax dollars to provide services for the homeless.
2. The public believes it is government's responsibility to take care of them.
3. If the govt stopped, the public would step up and donate to nonprofits that would more efficiently serve the homeless.

Charlie said...

Thanks for the 3 points posted back in 2011. Here's the problem tho.One of the many societal penalties for not being able to hold a job is, at its extreme, homelessness (or worse, incarceration). But the fact is that there will always be people who are unable (not necessarily unwilling, but truly unable) to work. The Libertarian view tends to be: "Well you've got two arms and two legs, haven't you." But when it comes to mental illness, that "up by your bootstraps" exhortation falls short. I don't honestly know if private nonprofits would have the size and scope to deal with a large urban homeless population. How well did volunteer social reform and welfare advocates do with this prior to the Depression and its large-scale govt intervention? My impression: not too well. If you have evidence to the contrary, I'd be encouraged to see it.

Marty Nemko said...

Charlie, I agree with you. I part company with libertarians on the safety-net issue. I do believe there are people who need others' support and that the private sector can't or won't do it alone. Government is needed there, in my view.


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