Since we find the idea of involuntarily committing psychiatric patients to be unpalatable these days, we have to either way until they commit a serious crime and go to prison, or live with them on our streets and in our libraries.
There are many homeless people who are not socially problematic, but that's not what this article is about. The problem people are incompatible with free housing, because they are violently unstable. They're schizophrenic, drug-dependent, or just plain violent.
All these responses about economic considerations or a lack of homeless support infrastructure are totally missing the real issue, which is that some people have such extreme mental illness or other social problem that they are incompatible with peaceful society, and it's not something than can be solved with housing and cash. That is a separate problem entirely.
We closed the asylums, because the long-term detention of the mentally ill is costly and inhumane. We can do better than just warehousing people in pseudo-prisons. We completely failed to provide adequate support in the community for people with severe and enduring mental illness, which is why so many people are trapped in a cycle of homelessness and incarceration.
Most of these people aren't "incompatible with peaceful society", they just need help and can't get it. If any one factor is to blame, it's the systematic defunding of social work and community mental health. If your local library is full of mentally ill homeless people, the fundamental questions are why do these people have nowhere else to go? and why is nobody here who actually has the training to help these people?.
Do you have any source that most of these people can't get it? With a father who outright refused any medical help unless basically forced on him, in a country where it's completely free, I can absolutely relate to the argument that not having involuntary psychatric treatment plays a big part here. And his mental state was only a minor part of his health issues.
It's not nice to be in stationary psychatric treatment. These are horrible places you want to leave as soon as possible. But it sometimes can't be helped.
I can even relate to the point that it's better for (some/most of) these people to live on the streets than in a psychatric facility, while it's probably worse for society as a whole.
One 30-something women who was on medicaid, suicidal, history of opioid addiction and (I believe, based on her living with us for 1.5 years and my reading everything I could about psychiatric diagnosis) schizoaffective showed up at the hospital and got discharged 48 hours later.
She killed herself a month after that. She was unable to work, even unable to get up in the morning and smoke a cig sometimes even though she was addicted to tobacco.
A 50-something man I knew drank antifreeze, presented at the ER. Was discharged 48 hours later. His family wondered where he was in that time. People in the ER don't take suicide attempts seriously because they have a few "frequent fliers" who take a handful of pills every week.
He gets a referral to a psychiatrist two weeks later. Has to fill out his name and birthday 20 times, gets asked questions like that over and over again, has an argument with a nurse, is underwhelmed with the doctor... That night we get a call from his wife and they don't know where he is. We told her to call the police, she did, they kicked down the door to the garage and found he was hanging.
Effective care for people with severe and enduring mental illness needs to be patient-led but assertive - we're not going to lock you up unless it's genuinely in your best interests, but we're not going to let you slip through the cracks either. Compulsory inpatient treatment is a necessary last resort where people pose a clear and immediate risk, but it should not be the basis of care for severe and enduring mental illness.
The issues regarding involuntary treatment in the US are highly complex, but the evidence indicates that involuntary community treatment does not make a significant difference in clinical outcomes. Forcing people to attend appointments or take medication doesn't seem to result in any long-term benefit on aggregate. Some people do benefit (at least in the short term) from being treated against their will, but compulsion undermines the relationship of trust between care providers and service users and discourages people from engaging with care.
But by removing these peiple from the streets nd the libraries, even if they are not cured themselves, we avoid a librarian -- a productive member of society -- from developing PTSD.
And I acknowledge and fully accept that this is a very rough position to hold today. But, it is born out of over a decade of direct personal experience. It's come from watching the state of California continually fail to provide adequate support to my clinically diagnosed family member, to our family as people who care about this person, as well as failing to protect to public from him time and time again.
We have a long history of simply 'hiding' people who were inconvenient and/or problematic, where in many cases various forms of treatment have essentially solved the problem.
I personally remember a time where kids with AD(H)D were sent to 'special schools', lumped together with others who often had more severe problems, for example. I definitely think things got a bit better now that we found ways to keep these kids integrated in society.
Frankly I believe the asylum would be a better place for many of them rather than taking dumps on the streets of San Francisco. Closing them was a mistake; rather what was needed was more oversight. It would be like shuttering all nursing homes and sending the elderly back onto the streets or into their children's homes, because the cheapest ones are run like deathbed holding warehouses. In fact they've all but reappeared, we just call them prisons today, or sometimes a long-term residential psychiatric care facility.
Historically the severely mentally ill were either put to death, or placed under the custody of their immediate relatives, with the family being punished if said ill person were to cause trouble in society. This is not really an option in modern society. The severely psychotic need inpatient care, and it should be an option. Today they're getting it in jail, this is not ideal.
It is also not safe. Although most homeless people in the city are non-violent, it's not uncommon to read about a delusional person slashing someone across the face with a knife or pushing someone in front of a moving train.
Involuntary commitment with compassionate care, properly funded with ethically-aligned incentives, is the most humane solution. Doctors should be the ones to recommend who among the patients is ready to reintegrate into society, and those individuals should receive an apartment and a job with some kind of state or federal work program to provide a routine, though they would of course be free to seek out alternatives.
There is a point between individual freedom and public safety. We can’t just sigh and throw up our hands in the air.
I'm glad that incapacity hasn't affected the whole world, yet. But it's seems to be spreading.
I don't really view that particularly to be a problem. Manhattan was already built in Manhattan, it doesn't need to be built there again. Now that it exists, it needs to be managed with the new problems that have arisen since the building of Manhattan. Problems change when you scale, things that were not a problem when you were growing are now a problem after you achieve massive success
"Do things that don't scale" is great advice for a growing startup, and for a very good reason. Because once you get to Manhattan size, you have to start doing things that do scale. If Manhattan hadn't changed its building codes, it would be unlivable today.
(I think the discourse is being revamped in light of the rise of democratic socialism in US politics)
The level of "adequate support" needed for (some of) those people are much higher than what you're probably imagining
> they just need help and can't get it
And even when they get one day they just say "I'm not taking the meds anymore" and then what? It's back on the streets or homeless hostels.
Sure, they might not be aggressive per se, but that doesn't mean they are "compatible" with society.
> the fundamental questions are why do these people have nowhere else to go? and why is nobody here who actually has the training to help these people?
You're just pointing out problems without pointing up the solutions. And I'm afraid the best solution would be something much similar to what's described in your 1st paragraph.
If someone goes off their meds, you don't just abandon them to the streets. You send a trained mental health nurse and/or social worker to talk to them, several times a day if necessary. If they don't want to engage, you work with them to build a relationship of trust. You work with that person to get them back on a suitable course of medication, or to help them manage their symptoms and manage their life while unmedicated. You provide supported housing and supported employment or work-related activity wherever it would prove beneficial. You keep working with them again and again and again unless you're damned certain that they're truly beyond help.
Of course that's expensive, but it's also remarkably good value for money compared to the alternative. The net difference between a borderline functional person and a completely dysfunctional person can exceed a million dollars per year in policing, incarceration, ER visits and other costs.
This model of community care isn't new and it's proven to work and to be cost effective. There are plenty of places in the world that don't rely on mass institutionalisation and have remarkably low rates of homelessness.
Serious question, would you be willing to do that job? For what price? For how long?
There is not a sustainable system where workers pay taxes sufficient to afford a specially trained nurse or doctor for full time, personal care for everyone who could benefit from it.
If we don’t have social networks that shoulder burdens at what looks like an economic loss, there’s not enough paid care to go around at the levels of empathy we want.
Recent studies of various practice settings in the United States and abroad found current panel sizes ranging from 1200 to 1900 patients per physician. For example, Kaiser Permanente reported a mean per-physician panel size of 1751 patients, and Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound reported a panel size of 1490 patients per physician.18 The US Department of Veterans Affairs reported a mean panel size of 1266 patients per full-time equivalent physician.19 One study in Canada found a panel size of 1400 patients per PCP.20 A study in Denmark found a maximum level of 1600 patients per physician,21 and a study in England found 2033 patients per solo physician.22
While they do have some training, it is not possible to shake some things off easily and it does get old quick. One of the reasons why drug abuse is so prevalent in some medical communities.
I wouldn't be willing to work as a psychiatric nurse or a social worker, but clearly plenty of people are. There are all sorts of jobs I wouldn't want that other people love and vice-versa.
At least not without significant compensation, which we as a society don’t want to pay for, considering the piss poor pay for social workers and lack of mental institutions.
It already exists, you don't have to invent it.
Do you force-medicate them? Restrain them? Kick them out? Or just let them ruin it for everyone else? What exactly are you proposing the institution should do?
What about someone overdosing twice a week? Do you just keep sending ambulances to drive them to the ER, until they finally die, and we can feel smug and superior that, well, at least their human rights weren't infringed?
This is a serious question.
Right now, we are housing them in open-air prisons - the various homeless ghettos in Vancouver, San Francisco, Seattle, etc.
What exactly do you propose we do for someone who is unable to, due to mental illness:
1. Maintain their living space, or themselves in a remotely neighborly manner. (All the problems the librarian faces? Imagine living in a shelter/state housing, next door to that.)
2. Take their medicine.
3. (Bonus). Do anything, or consent to do anything about their substance abuse problem.
These are not traits that most homeless people have. Most homeless people can be immediately helped by housing first, etc, etc. But these are traits that some homeless people have. And since you're hand-wringing about institutionalization, I would like to hear what you propose, as an alternative for them.
That's great. I fully endorse that. That's an improvement over them spending less time helping their patients.
How does this help someone who refuses to be treated? What do you do until they are willing to be treated? Keep them on the streets?
If they're not a danger to themselves or others you can't do either of this because they're both significant interferences with human rights. But it's important to recogise that forced hospitalisation doesn't always work, and that keeping someone banged up in hospital for two years is an expensive injustice.
So you provide assertive outreach - teams that maintain contact with people who deny their illness, and who aim to work with the patient until they're ready to engage with services.
It's possible to be someone who is not a danger to yourself, or others, and also be someone who is impossible to live next to. See: The 'harmless' guy who is screaming at invisible aliens at 3 am in the morning.
Do you let that guy into the shelter? Or do you let him carry that behavior out on the street?
What about the guy who is ODing over and over again? Can he be institutionalized? Or is he not being a danger to himself? When someone downs a bottle of sleeping pills once a week, we consider them suicidal, and we can mandate treatment - but shooting up heroin until you're passed out, barely breathing under an overpass isn't considered self-harm?
Assertive community treatment is about much more than conventional healthcare interventions. When delivered properly, it's an integrative and interdisciplinary approach that includes psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and peer mentors. People with severe mental illness need medical care, but they also need good housing, support in maintaining that housing, meaningful daily activity and a network of social support. Most of that support can be provided by non-medical practitioners.
If someone is offered housing and doesn't want it, they are under no obligation to take it; they have the right to make choices about their own life, even if those choices don't seem rational. A lot of people genuinely do feel safer on the streets, which is in part a sad indictment of the standard of housing on offer to the very poorest.
If someone doesn't want to work with a mental health practitioner, send a social worker. If they won't talk to a social worker, send a peer mentor. If they don't want to work with anyone, train the local police in mental health crisis management so that they can provide positive interactions.
As is so often said in addiction treatment, you can't make someone want to get better. The idea that locking people up against their will consistently facilitates effective treatment is wishful thinking at best. Some people just need time, some need the right circumstances, some need a long and patient process of rapport-building.
Some people are just very difficult to treat, but that doesn't mean we should either abandon them to fate or lock them up indefinitely to keep them out of sight and out of mind. There are a whole spectrum of useful, evidence-based interventions, many of which don't particularly resemble what we might think of as psychiatric care. With a bit of imagination and sufficient funding, we can deliver good outcomes for people who seem to have intractable problems.
Apparently not, because we just kicked them out onto the streets to starve and freeze to death.
Interestingly, some years ago I watched a documentary (Frontline, most likely) on mentally ill people in jails/prisons. If true, it was eye opening, and changed my perception on a lot of things. They followed some of the patients around, including when they were released. The general takeaways were:
1. The mental asylums that were shut down were truly horrible places.
2. Currently the only reliable place these people get medical help for their mental issues is in prisons. And it's a much better experience than those asylums.
3. For a number of prisoners/former prisoners, life in prison was better than life outside and homeless - not because of shelter/food, but because they got treatment. Regression rates are high once they are released.
4. Providing voluntary mental health help on the outside will help some, but not many. It's just one of the problems with a number of mental illnesses that if you regress a little, you likely are not going to voluntarily seek help. The key is not to regress. When you have no family support and no help in job, housing, etc, the likelihood of regression is much higher.
The UK does many things badly wrong, but one crucially important programme is Early Intervention in Psychosis. EIP works with young people experiencing a first episode of psychotic symptoms, with the goal of preventing that episode from developing into an enduring psychotic illness. A majority of patients should be treated within two weeks of being referred. A care co-ordinator provides a single point of contact for the service user, guiding them to access clinical, behavioural and psychosocial treatment. The service provides integrated care for comorbid physical conditions and support for social issues such as social isolation, unemployment and homelessness. The available evidence suggests a 90% reduction in premature death and cost savings of £15 for every £1 spent.
Why as a society have we decided that libraries are where hurting people are to be herded? That librarians are their outlet to be heard?
We need more and richer commons, and particularly places that encourage healthy people to stay healthy and sick people to get well.
But that “care” for these people doesn’t extend to actually providing meaningful ways to improve their lot.
Personally, I see it in practical terms. Regarding the policy of using a library as a resource center, giving people access to computers and training materials is a pretty darn good idea for folks who want to enrich their careers or other domains of life.
Q. Why as a society have we decided that libraries are where hurting people are to be herded?
A. "...we find the idea of involuntarily committing psychiatric patients to be unpalatable these days..."
It's that we don't want to pay for it. We shut down all the state mental hospitals. Which moved that population to jails, prisons, and the streets.
The whole thing is complicated. Drug companies in the 60s and 70s advertised their antipsychotics very hard. They persuaded the public that drugs could cure mental illness. That was a big force behind the emptying of the hospitals.
Lots of short-sighted thinking.
That killed the state run hospitals. Running a 16 bed or less facility in a profitable way with Medicare reimbursement isn't possible. The money moved to other social programs.
We didn't. We instead decided that we have no right to interfere with decisions made by adults who cannot make decisions on their own.
>We need more and richer commons, and particularly places that encourage healthy people to stay healthy and sick people to get well.
Like what? What is an example of 'commons' where drug addicts or sufferers from schizophrenia can decide to go 'to get well'.
Not just for librarians.
A good mix of empathy and realism, it helped me understand the social issues much better.
Being homeless makes it difficult to find safely and sleep. Even a few days of that condition is extremely mentally taxing. Months or years? It's no surprise that so many of the homeless we see have mental issues. No surprise at all.
I don't think there's any evidence to show that being homeless causes schizophrenia or other forms of psychosis. Depression and bitterness, sure, but likely not psychosis.
> Their results, released this week, reveal just over 30 per cent had a mental disorder.
> "The figure was much lower than the community perception and what other researchers had put out there," Dr Johnson told AAP.
> About 15 per cent had a mental illness before becoming homeless, while slightly more, 16 per cent, developed a disorder while on the street.
Sure, one study in one city, but assuming it's roughly correct, roughly half (if not more) of the homeless with mental illnesses developed them after living on the street.
So in addition to simply helping people not, you know, be homeless anymore, it would very likely reduce the amount of mental illnesses suffered by those who are and have been homeless.
Additionally, with something like schizophrenia, a person can have the disease and under medical care be able to function at a high level. If, for some reason, they fall out of medical care and stop taking their medication, their symptoms can rapidly spiral out of control and lead to the sort of paranoid, potentially violent, homeless person described in the librarian article. This doesn't mean their mental illness was caused by homelessness, it just means homelessness enabled it to fully manifest itself.
If they were suffering from schizophrenia but it was controlled with treatment they would fall into the category of "had a mental illness before becoming homeless", not "developed a disorder while on the street".
Treatment, support and stability help immensely. We do none of that for the must vulnerable members of society. People don't end up like that overnight usually, it takes their mental health being neglected a long time. Often times the trauma starts in childhood. Can you blame them for that?
A real issue is ignorance and the resulting lack of compassion. Everyone is insecure about something, but some people make themselves feel better by judging others. The fact of the matter is we are all a few bad strokes of luck away from squabbling in the gutter. Some egos are too fragile to admit that.
Some unfortunate people may be unable to live in society, but they are in the minority and you don't know if they will respond to treatment until you try.
I am astonished that you put drug dependence in the same category as just plain violent. Mental health issues aren't a moral failing, and treating them as such further ostracizes already marginalized people.
Antisocial behavior arises when people feel rejected by society. Instead of blaming individuals from your position of privilege, perhaps you should consider the society and systems that created them.
I hope you never find out just how thin the line is.
That isn't really true. Even among those with mental illness, we can divide those into two groups, those whose illness isn't treatable using current methods and those who are.
For the first case, "free healthcare" doesn't work, because they're incurable. The only real option for a violent person with an incurable mental illness is prison or something so similar to prison as makes no difference in practice.
For the second case, free money does work, because when the problem is access to healthcare, money can be used to buy healthcare. (And when the problem is something else, money can be used to buy something else.) Particularly when you combine this with some kind of system for a homeless person to be evaluated by a doctor when referred by someone like this librarian. Because once they go to the doctor and get what they need in terms of medication, once they're on the medication they would have the wherewithal to use the money to continue taking the medication (and then ideally get into a state where they no longer have to live on the street).
Moreover, any kind of forced institutionalization is always "free" -- it's not as if you can get out of it for lack of money.
Furthermore, most of these figures includes people that are insufficiently housed like on a friends couch, in a windowless room, in temporary shelters and such, and do not tell you much about the population of people "on the streets".
You should at least consider the possibility that what you said isn't really true and just fits your preconceived notion of a heartless US society versus a supposedly more social environment in Europe.
The US leads the world in volunteering. https://www.oecd.org/els/family/CO4.1-Participation-voluntar...
You can also look at BLS info: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/volun.pdf
Most cities have programs with volunteering with the homeless, just visit a nearby church and ask. Clothes, food and resumes are pretty popular things to help with.
Please raise the level of discourse here by offering new information to support your claim.
The USA undeniably has a low macro rates of homelessness overall, but I wonder if it has high micro levels of homelessness, e.g. Sydney seems to have lower rates of homelessness than San Francisco or Seattle, even though Australia has a higher homelessness rate than the USA overall. I wonder as I can't find any data that uses the same measurements across cities and countries and is easy to compare.
On numbers, Seattle has 12,000 homeless according to wikipedia, and I can't find similar numbers for Sydney. Given Sydney is about 15% larger than greater Seattle, it would need to be closer to 14,000 to be the same. I doubt Sydney has that many Homeless, but with no data I guess it may.
I could be completely off base here, but I do think the USA has some really concentrated pockets of homelessness, and that skews people's views, in both directions, based on personal experience.
Of course for the perception of a non-homeless person, the problem will appear more drastic with a higher concentration.
Worse than that, the family and loved ones of the homeless individual have almost no rights to institutionalize them to get them the care they need. It is unbelievable that we're OK with it.
We can decide to let people have complete autonomy or they can be "picked up".
It's not like the Nazis taking prisoners to the camps...
It's true that wealthy families can afford much better care for their schizophrenic family members, but poverty certainly does not cause schizophrenia.
Otherwise, I strongly agree with you that generational poverty is a critical societal problem to be solved.
A laundry-list of adverse life experiences associated with poverty are known to increase the risk of schizophrenia.
It's entirely possible that some environmental factor associated with poverty might exacerbate the genetic factors responsible for the disease, but all things considered, schizophrenia is known to be a disease that affects rich and poor alike, across the globe, across cultures.
I imagine other developed countries don't have this problem to this extent. What do Denmark or Japan do that we can learn from?
They go to libraries, house entrances, metro stations, and so on because they have no other places to go. Putting them out of your sight will not make the problem go away.
The solutions are obvious and not mysterious at all. What do most of them need? Good social programs, free health care, job programs that work and are not just designed to "improve" statistics, personal mentoring, places to go where their few belongings are safe and they are not surrounded by criminals and troublemakers all the time, proper psychiatric care, drug help centres with medical professionals who are not allowed to cooperate with the police except in case of capital crimes, and so on and so on. What do they not need? Well, there are always hard cases and dangerous criminals can be mentally ill
like anybody else, but generally speaking, as a rule of thumb, the last place you'd want to put them are US prisons, because the people who leave them are more likely to be mentally ill than the people who enter them.
The quality of a society can be measured directly by how they deal with their outcasts and troublemakers.
All these things exist in many developed countries, but they don't solve the problem either. Schizophrenic people in particular are unlikely to actually accept help. They're incapable of appropriately judging the reality around them. They can't tell if somebody is genuinely trying to help or if they're "out to get them".
So you would have to force them into psychiatric care, but that's often not legally possible, and for good historic reasons.
Is it? I'm not convinced that we haven't over-inflated the harm of psychiatric institutions from 50s and 60s and 70s. I wonder if the spate of horror movies set in mental institutions are partly to blame in addition to over-focus on practices that have long been banned.
You're just claiming this without providing any evidence and I believe this to be false (in tendency), unless by "solving the problem" you mean "perfectly solving all problem in each and every case". In general, adequate medical treatment and improved living conditions will improve the situation. With proper medication and treatment people can live with schizophrenia.
As for putting people who pose no threat to the public or to themselves into closed institutions against their will, this is obviously immoral and not even worth discussing. At the meantime, every country I know of already as laws for mandatory closed therapy of people who actually pose threats. That includes the US.
Overall, it's not clear to me what you were trying to say. Given that the obviously immoral solution is out of question, that there always remain some problem with the outliers for which the help doesn't work? Of course, these will always exist, just like there always will be criminals. But that's a truism.
Am I supposed to just repeat myself? Schizophrenics refuse treatment a lot of the time. They can't tell you want to help them when they have paranoid delusions. Then what do you do? Unless they're provably a threat, you have to let them go their way, unmedicated.
> Overall, it's not clear to me what you were trying to say. Given that the obviously immoral solution is out of question, that there always remain some problem with the outliers for which the help doesn't work?
Your "obvious solutions" are not solutions. You make it sound like a solvable problem. It's not. It's really a tradeoff between public safety and personal freedoms.
Mental illness is not an "outlier". About 30% of the homeless suffer from severe mental illness:
The situation of homeless is not as bad in countries with better systems as it is in the US, precisely because, as a tendency, their situation can be improved and less is done in the US than in other countries. The effectiveness of social welfare programs, health care, and so on, is a purely empirical question that can be measured effectively. Contrary to popular belief, these are not questions of political opinion. (What is a matter of political opinion, of course, is how much you want to spent and who is going to pay for it.)
You could e.g. start by helping the 70% of those homeless who, according to your own statistics, do not suffer from severe mental illness. That's already the vast majority.
As for the remaining 30%, the suggestion you're trying to make, that they are all hopeless cases, is outright bizarre. We know that schizophrenia can be treated with medicaments and that not all of the people diagnosed with schizophrenia refuse treatment. You could start by treating those who want to be treated, for example.
Finally, you still haven't bother to tell anyone what to do about the 30% you incorrectly portray as being untreatable, because they allegedly refuse treatment.
If your suggestion is to put them into mental institutions against their will, even when they pose no threat to the public or themselves, then my reply is that you need to check your moral compass. This is prohibited by law and by very basic moral considerations. If you have another suggestion, rather than stating the obvious truism that not every schizophrenic can fully adapt to society or be treated effectively, then I'm all ears, and so are myriads of medical professionals and street workers.
Right now, to me you merely come across as someone who doesn't really have anything to say about the topic. As I've said, it works better in many other countries, so your idea of not helping at all does not really seem to be very convincing to me.
Those who don't refuse treatment tend to not be homeless. Maybe you should have a conversation with a social worker or a medical professional about homelessness if you still believe homelessness has an "obvious solution".
> You could e.g. start by helping the 70% of those homeless who, according to your own statistics, do not suffer from severe mental illness. That's already the vast majority.
Yes, we can have another conversation about how helping drug addicts is really difficult. We can talk about how hard alcoholics can't hold jobs or maintain a household. We can talk about all kinds of issues that are not solved by simple having more social programs than we already have.
> Right now, to me you merely come across as someone who doesn't really have anything to say about the topic.
You come across to me as someone who doesn't really have a good understanding of the actual problem. All you have to say is "the solution is obvious, more welfare programs! Throw money at the problem, it'll disappear!". It's just not true. No country in the world has "solved" homelessness while maintaining the level of personal freedom that you yourself seem to be vigilant of.
My point is not that we should institutionalize all these people, or that there shouldn't be more programs available. In fact I would argue that drugs in particular need to liberalized to keep addicts in the programs.
You just literally said that 30% of the homeless are severely mentally ill. That means that 70% of the homeless are not severely mentally ill.
And you have not proposed any solution or way to tackle the problem at all. Not a single suggestion.
In context of the reply, the sentence is: Those schizophrenics (not "those homeless") who do not refuse treatment tend to not be homeless.
> And you have not proposed any solution or way to tackle the problem at all. Not a single suggestion.
I don't have a solution and neither does the parent. Why should I make poorly informed suggestions on what should be done? To appear virtuous? Well here you go:
Is that what you expect out of people?
The only point that you backed up with some citation was the claim that only 20% to 40% of all homeless are seriously mentally ill, which seems to support the idea that it may be possible to start helping the majority 60% - 80% of homeless who are not seriously mentally ill. And, to make this clear, the vague suggestion that most or many homeless people who suffer from schizophrenia often refuse help wasn't really informative or helpful. Not without actual numbers and actual evaluation of help programs.
Your repeated suggestion that there is no solution and nothing can be done has certainly not convinced me.
There's a difference between "a solution" and "mitigation". All those programs that the parent mentioned do exist in so-called "welfare states" like Sweden, France or Germany. Yet, these countries have higher homelessness rates than the US.
> You started by insinuating that most homeless are incurably schizophrenic.
I actually didn't. I said that schizophrenics in particular are likely to refuse help. I didn't say all schizophrenics refuse help or that all homeless are schizophrenic.
If you can't solve the problem of getting those schizophrenics off the streets (without force), you can't have a solution to homelessness, period.
> Your repeated suggestion that there is no solution and nothing can be done has certainly not convinced me.
I didn't say nothing can be done. I particularly don't care about "convincing" some guy on HN with poor reading comprehension. Have you done anything besides complaining about my posts? Go educate yourself on the topic if you want to "prove me wrong" or something.
You're the last person on HN who should tell other people about reading comprehension, at least judging from this thread.
> > You started by insinuating that most homeless are incurably schizophrenic.
> I didn't say all schizophrenics refuse help or that all homeless are schizophrenic.
That's a typical example of your reading comprehension, which is based on constantly shifting the goalpost in order to "save face." And that is the reason why you're so unconvincing. You did start by insinuating that most homeless are schizophrenic and that most schizophrenic refuse to get help. Both statements turned out to be plain false according to your own Internet research - which you obviously conducted because you're not very familiar with the topic, otherwise you would have mentioned your single data point, namely the paper you linked to, right from the start. You dynamically adapted your claims instead of doing the mature thing of simply admitting that you were wrong and less homeless people than you thought were mentally ill.
> There's a difference between "a solution" and "mitigation".
This kind of hairsplitting is an immature reaction when someone points out inconsistencies in a post.
The fact is that in the end you said almost nothing, but you managed to achieve that goal with erroneous reporting of statistics, peppered with several false dichotomies and a lot of insinuation. So some percentage of the (i) 20%-40% of homeless that are seriously mentally ill might (ii) be schizophrenic, and of those (iii) some other percentage might refuse treatment, and for (iv) those there may be no solution. Nobody has ever denied that in this thread, and what is even more stunning about this conversation is that you have provided 0 evidence for claims (ii)-(iv). Zero. No data, no statistics, not even an argument that would withold basic scrutiny. That's not a good track record, especially not for HN.
Now you're again shifting goalposts and there is a new insinuation, of course. Now suddenly you're coming up with general homelessness rates. I suppose the insinuation this time is that mitigation strategies of welfare states like Sweden, France, and Germany don't help against homelessness - which is, of course, another obvious nonsense that could not possibly be backed up by looking at homelessness rates alone. Again, you're using the wrong data to insinuate something while keeping the actual position as vague as possible. You could just as well have mentioned North Korea and Jordan as positive examples with alleged 0% homelessness. Or that Mexico has a much lower homelessness rate than the US. Or that a welfare state like Portugal has a much lower homelessness rate than the US, too. And so forth. Fact is, of course, that homelessness rates cannot be compared in this way and that public policies need to be evaluated much more carefully by looking at their concrete effects.
> Go educate yourself on the topic if you want to "prove me wrong" or something.
That's called "projection" in psychology.
I made a plain statement. I don't have the need for "insinuations". If I had wanted to say anything about "most homeless", I would've used the word "most", as I have in all other instances where I used the word "most".
By using the word "insinuate" you are yourself weaseling out of having misread what I said. You can't just say I said something that I didn't say. So I must've "insinuated" it and you get to decide what I insinuated, not me. That's just really poor debating tactics.
> Both statements turned out to be plain false...
I never made such statements. Goalpost moved.
> ... which you obviously conducted because you're not very familiar with the topic, otherwise you would have mentioned your single data point, namely the paper you linked to, right from the start.
You are correct in guessing that I looked the number up after writing the comment.
> You dynamically adapted your claims instead of doing the mature thing of simply admitting that you were wrong and less homeless people than you thought were mentally ill.
You're basically engaging in mind reading now. My claims didn't need adaption because I never said anything premised on the proportion of schizophrenics among the homeless. Whether 30% is "more or less" than what "I thought" is irrelevant. I didn't have a number in mind at all.
> This kind of hairsplitting is an immature reaction when someone points out inconsistencies in a post.
Another poor debating tactic - accusing the other side of "arguing semantics".
> ...several false dichotomies...
Really? Cite two.
> That's not a good track record, especially not for HN.
Dude, you're not exactly helping out with these kinds of posts...
80.2 million Americans (25% of the 325 million total population) suffer from mental illness so severe they take drugs to treat their condition:
This does not include the number of people who suffer from mental illness that does not require drugs for treatment or those who would benefit from drugs but who do not wish to or can not afford to take them, or who are undiagnosed. So the actual number with severe mental illness is much higher than 25% of the population.
Above, DanHulton tracked down a study that also found that 30% of homeless suffer from mental illness:
Since only 15 percent were ill before becoming homeless, this means that homeless people are much less mentally ill than the general public.
It is a disproven myth that homeless people are more likely to be mentally ill than the general public. It is also a dangerous myth since belief in this myth drives nearly all discussion and proposed solutions (such as institutionalization, imprisonment and forced drugging) to address the problems of widespread poverty, lack of universal basic medical care, lack of affordable decent shelter, etc, in the US and in several other industrialized modern countries.
That's not the same as having "severe mental illness". Doctors in the US hand out psychomeds like candy to anyone who has a mild depression. That's how you get to 25%.
> It is a disproven myth that homeless people are more likely to be mentally ill than the general public.
It isn't. You just took some numbers from one bucket, put them next to numbers from another bucket and then concluded that for some unexplained reason, it's actually the people who become homeless that have on average better mental health than the general population. Non-Sequitur.
Mind you, I never said that the majority of homeless people are mentally ill, but there's a set of hard cases that you will literally not be able to help with any program that is meant to get them off the streets.
Why is it obviously immoral? Is it moral to allow people who cannot make decisions for themselves to live in squalor and filth?
Looking at it another way, municipal governments set living standards for housing, with requirements around sanitation, access to clean running water, heating, etc. ... unless you're a drug addict or a sufferer of mental illness, in which case go right ahead and live in a tent city surrounded by filth and vulnerable to the elements, disease and crime?? That's your moral option? Ask politely the individual if they would not like to live in squalor and if they say 'no', leave them be?
Why is it immoral to lock away people against their will, people who have not committed a crime? Because freedom is a basic human right.
The moral option is good street work, effective welfare programs and to give people housings rather than let them live in tent cities in filth and disease, something against which to which other poster has vigorously objected without providing any argument for his position other than falsely claiming that these people are all incurable schizophrenics.
What's wrong with people in the US that this even has to be discussed?
That's unfair. It isn't right to talk about doing things against the will of an individual who isn't a free actor due to their condition. This is very well established notion legally, culturally and morally.
For example, if a schizophrenic person commits murder, their condition is a mitigating factor in their sentencing and will prevent them from simply being locked up with the general population.
Similarly, you're already treating them as individuals incapable living up to the responsibilities of living in society. All municipalities have zoning laws to control where citizens can live and laws against squatting in tent-cities or on a sidewalk and living in squalor and filth, without proper sanitation, and protection from elements - yet somehow you still argue that those laws should not apply those individuals. So you're trying to have your cake and eat it to. On one hand, you're saying forced institutionalization where care could be provided, is wrong because those individuals CHOOSE not to be institutionalized, and on the other hand, you're arguing they shouldn't be held to the same responsibilities as other citizens because they can't help their situation.
This position is arbitrary and incoherent.
Finally. I disagree with your contention that institutionalizing people for the purpose of providing care (not locking them up - as you called it) who aren't capable of making their own decisions is immoral - and you haven't attempted to show why it is, you just assert it as a fact - which it isn't.
>What's wrong with people in the US that this even has to be discussed
I'm not American.
I have given a reason why incarcerating adults who have not committed a crime against their will is obviously immoral, namely because freedom is one of the most fundamental human rights. Of course, there can be reasons that might outweigh this right, for example when someone has committed a serious crime and there was a fair trial. Another reason would be the medical assessment that the person would likely severely harm himself or others. For the latter, the hurdles are extremely high. You can ask your lawmakers why they think they should be high. They will probably tell you that's because freedom is one of the most fundamental human rights.
"Caring" for someone is traditionally not considered a sufficient reason. And that includes parents, who are definitely not allowed to lock away their children indefinitely (as a reply to the other poster, who seems to be even more confused than you).
> you're arguing they shouldn't be held to the same responsibilities as other citizens because they can't help their situation.
I have never argued for such an absurd claim at all, in any form whatsoever.
You haven't actually answered the one objection I have, namely, why do you think it moral to let distressed individuals who cannot make decisions for themselves live in filth and squalor. Apparently, this is a human right - which is insane.
But let's leave it at that. I'll simply state that I disagree with your position. Moreso than that, I find that position highly immoral.
>I have never argued for such an absurd claim at all, in any form whatsoever.
I didn't say you argued it, I asked what your position is on that. It is actually illegal to pitch a tent on a sidewalk and live there. It is illegal to setup a 'tent city' for purpose of long-term habitation. There are plethora of laws preventing that kind of behaviour. And I get it, you don't admit to the moral imperative of institutionalizing those individuals to provide care, but then are you OK with enforcing laws on the books against those individuals - because that isn't done either if you go to cities like San Fran and LA and enforcing those laws would lead to heavy fines or incarceration, if you treat those individuals as rational actors expected to live up to the responsibilities of living in a society.
> Apparently, this is a human right - which is insane.
It is one of the most fundamental human rights and not insane at all. Some scholars would even argue that autonomy is a defining characteristics of being a moral agent.
Every human has a right to make mistakes, too.
Generally, freedom can only be restricted when serious harm would be caused otherwise. There used to be a consensus about this in every capitalist democratic society, and I still think there is one. That's why your reply is kind of surprising to me.
> are you OK with enforcing laws on the books against those individuals
The laws are the same for everyone, whether they are homeless or not does not play any role. otherwise the law is unconstitutional. At least that's how it works where I live.
To answer your question: Of course, I'm not fine with any kind of laws that would be specifically bad for homeless. Imposing fines on people who cannot pay them is pointless and there is something wrong with a law that does it. Replacing fines by incarceration when a person could not possibly pay the fine is equally stupid, and btw in many countries this is not how it's done. Where I live you can declare personal bankrupcy in a similar way as companies can do it. You will still have to pay off your debts once you have a job, though.
If your laws would put homeless in more misery than putting them into mental institutions against their will, then there is something wrong with those laws. Besides, people don't set up tent cities because they prefer to live in tents. This is simply false and where I live such tent cities don't exist. Ghettos and tent cities hint at deeper problems in your country, problems that will likely not be solvable by reforming laws alone.
On the other hand, you can take solace in the fact that your perspective is the one that governs homeless policy today ... and you can see the end result.
Speaking about England: most of the people I talk to who've been detained under section of the mental health act (involuntarily committed to hospital) talk about it as being locked up, even if they're on an unlocked ward.
There are strict legal protections in place to prevent abuse of powers, although these aren't always being followed.
There has recently been a review of the English law to see if too many people are being detained.
You should view this as more severe than a prison sentence, because that mindset allows you to put in place the protections of freedoms needed to guard against abuse.
You can discuss the finer points of various restrictions, but there's nothing morally wrong with restricting someone with reduced mental capacity, below some basic level of competence, according to their mental capacity.
You state this like it's obvious, but it really isn't that obvious and there are severe problems with detention of people who don't pose a risk of hamr to themselves or others. And there's even problems if they only pose a risk of harm to themselves. The UK sees people banged up for years becuase they pose a risk of harm to themselves, when what they really need is better community treatment.
The only argument I can think in favor of this is that arbitrary age-based standard is much harder to abuse. But that is a (valid) implementation problem, not a moral one.
But it is. We do that all the time like, for example, during criminal proceedings. We understand that an individual with particular mental handicaps may not be fully (or at all) capable of making rational decisions and therefore should not bear the full responsibility for their actions.
>when what they really need is better community treatment.
What do you think 'community treatment' means!?!?!? You let them live in a filthy tent, with no clean water, no sanitation, no protection from the elements, with an occasional visit from a social worker to make sure they don't have cholera and have a blanket so they don't die from exposure?? That's your definition of 'community treatment'???
Maybe you start by thinking about how you would like to be treated if you happen to start suffering from schizophrenia, and then read up a bit on freedom and other fundamental human rights. Then you could read up on actual laws and the guidelines for psychiatric evaluations. Then at least you would have something to say.
> therefore we should err on the side of caution to such an extent that we cannot make a judgement call on anybody?
Well, I haven't said that, you're replying to a strawman. There is also no need to use an ominous "we". There are psychiatrists who make the judgement call under judicial oversight and their main criterion is, of course, whether the patient poses any imminent danger to himself or others. This is regulated by existing laws and procedures. Anything beyond that is illegal and, as I have argued, also immoral.
Overall, I have to say that some of the replies I've seen in this thread are far below the usual level of HN. It seems that some people have a personal vendetta against homeless people, or otherwise I can't explain that behaviour. At least, I seriously doubt that the same people would be willing to suggest that their mother or their wife should get locked up in a mental ward against their will if they happen to get ill from schizophrenia but nevertheless do not pose any danger to themselves or others - which was the premise of that discussion, mind you.
And I agree with that. Those standards should be high. The problem is that they seem to be so high as to make it impossible when looking at actual policies of West-coast municipalities.
>Well, I haven't said that, you're replying to a strawman.
I am really trying to understand what the standard is that you're advocating for because thus far it seems like it should never be the case that a homeless person with a mental illness is institutionalized.
>It seems that some people have a personal vendetta against homeless people, or otherwise I can't explain that behaviour.
That is an unfair assessment and you know it. The fundamental disagreement is that because we're talking about people who cannot make decisions because of debilitating mental illness some of us argue that therefore we should make certain decisions for them - one of which is, to provide them with care in a better setting than a tent-city. We're not talking about incarcerating or institutionalizing a 20-something that decides to live in a van.
Have you actually done any work with homeless? The face of homelessness is the face of drug addiction and/or debilitating mental illness. I suspect that there are people who still view homelessness in light of great depression where the homeless where those of sound mind simply seeking work, or run into some bad luck, and not have enough money to pay for housing. This is not the reality of homelessness in our society.
>At least, I seriously doubt that the same people would be willing to suggest that their mother or their wife should get locked up in a mental ward against their will if they happen to get ill from schizophrenia
Are you serious? It isn't even close. I would absolutely want my loved one to get the care they need instead of languishing in the streets. This isn't a choice between an individual living in a nice apartment with family and friends being around the corner to take care of their needs, and a government mental institution. This is a choice between being in a filthy, dangerous tent-city exposed to the elements or a government mental institution. It is a no-brainer. How could you think otherwise???!?!?
Maybe it is the specific handicap that you're objecting to. Maybe you think you can be a functional schizophrenic to the extent that you can choose to live in a tent-city in filth and therefore that right should be respected.
But what about others? What about someone suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia - when those people wind up homeless, is it OK to institutionalize them??? Or still not?
I'm really struggling to understand your standard here, because it's easy to say that every individual has a fundamental right not to be 'locked up' (as you put it), but then I don't know how you square that with realities on the ground that these people end up in atrocious circumstances.
Just yestersay some spanish tourists were asking me why were there so many homeless people in SF. I told them "America".
How w is this an A answer? It doesn't tell you anything about _Why_ there are so many homeless people.
In Western Europe these people are likely held against their will in mental institutions, but in America, especially in San Francisco we'd rather they be out walking around off their meds if they haven't murdered anyone yet. There are homeless people who regularly randomly assault people for no reason and as long as they don't use a weapon they are back out on the street in 24 hours.
It's not a question of preference. Our constitution is incompatible with treatment programs that involve indefinite imprisonment when the individual is not a serious threat to himself or others.
Further, If your actions as a semi-coherent group are enough to cause PTSD in library personnel, how can that not be considered as being dangerous to others?
PTSD is no joke, it can easily lead to life long suffering.
With that said. Assuming the constitution really disallows all forms of "closed" psychiatric care and it's not only a convenient interpretation.Then the lack of, or reduction in other kinds of care still points to the actual reasons for effective care being something different than simply an issue of law. It might in addition be a matter of law, but certainly not only a matter of law. If it were then somehow a way to work with/around that would have been found, as always happens. The will of a significant majority has never been stopped by what's written in in any law ever.
There is a fair number of homeless that would voluntarily get treatment/help/support if it was readily available, of high quality, and safe.
But. Care for homeless is almost universally terribly underfunded, and this is clearly a willful act of society.
True, but it's usually not an immediate threat, and that's the one where people get hospitalized. Living on the streets certainly isn't good for your health, but it's closer to "smoking, drinking and unhealthy diet" than to "putting a razor to your throat" in terms of immediacy, and it's the latter part where most people agree that the state can and should act against your "will".
After renting for two years I was evicted with a 2-month notice for what was essentially a simple disagreement with the landlord. They didn't even attempt to resolve it: they just evicted me.
It took me over half a year to get half of my £1 100 deposit back; they initially tried to charge me £1 400, mostly for bullshit general maintenance and/or lying about either the initial state – even though it was unambiguously stated in the original inventory – or agreements we had made about the checkout condition (I asked if I had to fix a few minor issues, they said no, and then charged me anyway). About £100 was reasonable, the rest wasn't.
My point here is, all of this would be highly illegal in the Netherlands. You can't just evict people because you feel like it, and you can't just send a bill well over a month later for all sorts of items (or maybe you can, but it's certainly not common). It's not hard to imagine how I could have ended up homeless if I had been more vulnerable – for example by actually needing that £1 100 deposit for a new deposit, or suffering from depression or other mental illness, etc.
I think homelessness is a complex problem, and dealing with people after they become homeless is a only a part of it. This is not very scientific, but in general, I've observed that homelessness is correlated with the amount of empathy in a society, which is something that affects many laws and attitudes.
: A little footnote: technically also not legal in the UK, but they interpret "notify about deductions within 10 days" as "send standard form letter that there may be some deductions within 10 days", which is obviously not the same. But ... what can you do about stuff like this as a tenant, right? I might have considered the small claims court, but have since left the UK as I was fed up. Even "notify within 10 days" is already very strange, as this means they have all the time to collect all the evidence, while robbing me the chance of actually giving any sort of counter-argument. In NL, it's always been arranged at the checkout, with both parties present.
Were you actually evicted, or did your lease simply expire without an option to renew? Because even here in the US, it's very hard to impossible to evict someone who has a lease and is still paying rent and isn't flagrantly violating laws or destroying the dwelling.
Details: https://www.gov.uk/tenancy-agreements-a-guide-for-landlords/... – tl;dr is that after 6 months you can just end the tenancy agreement with a 2 month notice.
Assured shorthold tenancies are pretty much the standard; you don't have a lot of choice. Either sign a contract like this, or don't have a house to live in :-/
The entire thing is seriously fucked up if you ask me, because at the slightest hint of being "difficult" (e.g. because you demand they actually fix things, or because you object when they act like assholes) you just get evicted :-/
That said, I also never rented in a major city. Mostly during college in a small city, and while most students were a bit clueless, their mostly middle-class parents were not. Then a few homes after college, but again, in a wealthy suburb where tenants typically had the means to enforce their rights via the courts.
The dispute service of the deposit protection services are completely useless as well. They took over 4 months to reply, didn't address half the stuff I had sent in, had no way to see what the landlord sent in, and made some spectacularly wrong decisions. The entire thing felt like it was rushed by an intern.
I think the problem is that as a landlord/rental agent you have a lot of power, especially in a high-demand market (I lived in Bristol). My apartment was listed as "let agreed" just 4 days after I left for £75/month more. Power corrupts.
If you get cancer it won't mean you'll have so many bills you'll have to live outside. If you have disability, mental or otherwise, it doesn't mean you'll have to rely on the generosity of your family to be able to survive. And if you do sleep outside the police will likely make you not is my understanding.
A lot of this comes down to the municipalities though, which recently clashed with national politics on the subject of shelter for rejected immigrants. Some municipalities (including mine) wanted to provide bed bath and bread to these people. On a national level, the policy was to force these people to leave the country, as they were here illegally.
I imagine some of the more christian rural municipalities have a much harsher approach towards homeless people. It's probably effective as well, insofar as it pushes the homeless people out.
There has been a bit of an issue with what the police calls 'confused people'. These are the people with psychiatric issues that are a burden to people around them, but not enough to warrant forced institutionalization. Instead, every time something boils over, the police have to be called.
It is very hard to get some of these people evicted, even when they routinely tear up their house and bother neighbors to the point of police involvement.
This is not a homeless issue though. Just one of psychiatric care.
Perhaps they are well-hidden?
We aren't offering treatment for free or even making sure there is enough treatment available. We are more likely to put them in jail for a small crime instead. Same with drug addiction: We tend not to offer free, medical based care and instead refer folks to AA or NA. I understand that some folks are helped by these organizations, but many are not.
We don't make sure folks have homes. Sometimes, simple solutions like driving a person to their home over and over is enough of a solution. If someone really wants to life outdoors, we could make room for such things while making sure things look nice and are secure.
We could have an actual safety net too keep folks from homelessness in the first place.
We can invest more in group homes as well, since some folks need help with everyday tasks. Some folks need this long term and some are just short term.
Have enough shelters for the folks that slip through the cracks. Make sure these shelters are safe for disabled folks, children, and everyone in between.
I know all this stuff costs money, and I'm more than willing to pay more in taxes so that folks are being fed and housed and have medical care and things like that. Honestly, we are paying for this stuff in one way or another anyway through our jail system, public services, and so on, so I'm not convinced it would have been that much mroe than it was when I was living in the US anyway.
That’s a everybody should pay more taxes in disguise.
If it was only your taxes, nobody is holding you back to support a charity of your choice to do the job you want to be done.
But please let me support the charity of my choice instead of paying more taxes.
How much more? I'm not trying to argue against what you're saying, but I believe that many Americans don't have a good idea of what it costs to run a Western European welfare state. What's the pain maximum for you? 10% more taxes? 50% more? 100% more?
Nope, we pay that on top, currently ~14% of your salary (half of which is paid directly by the employer), the same goes for pensions etc. You do get free healthcare only if you're unemployed, but that's not reality for most Germans.
I'm pretty certain I'm paying the same or less overall. This is especially when I consider my healthcare is included in that tax. This simple things means I'm not as stressed as I would otherwise be.
But hands down, Norway is cheaper. Taxes include healthcare and my tax rate has been just slightly higher than it was total in the states, and many times lower than taxes + health coverage + deductibe + out of pocket.
There are lots of hidden consumption taxes: VAT is 25% on most things, 15% on food, but there is none on books and newspapers. A TV lisence is a thing. On the other hand, they try to make sure poor folks have internet and phone service.
I do think the top tax rate is about half of one's income, which is fine with me if I'm making more money. I'm fine with VAT and things like that.
The thing folks also forget is that some things are actually cheaper when centralized and spread out and coordinated. This works really well in health care because you can do cost evaluation on costs of covering a home nurse a few times a day vs a nursing home.
Americans also forget that one of the missing bits in American society is trust in the government. Folks here don't believe the government is perfect, but most of the bureaucratic bits just work, and lots of them are online and easily accessible.
If it works out for you to live cheaper in Norway, that's great, but Norway has a very special position due to the vast oil wealth, that's not typical for Western Europe.
Also, I'd love for HN to stop flagging just because they disagree politically. It's so annoying to get timed out because of a civil exchange of arguments and opinions. Always look for light in the dark: this community has convinced me that direct democracy isn't a solution for moderation - it means giving the power to censor to those who are most willing to use it.
Sure, but a welfare state isn't just about open homelessness, it's about free education, free health care etc as well.
2. Free public education has made this country what it is today. We wouldn't be one-tenth the world power we are now if we hadn't educated our citizenry to create a high knowledge work force. Killing off education and leaving the majority of the population uneducated would be the single best one change you could make to turn us into a third world country. It's the ultimate in short-termist thinking.
No, you're replying in a subthread that you didn't want to apparently. To quote myself: "I believe that many Americans don't have a good idea of what it costs to run a Western European welfare state".
> Free public education has made this country what it is today
Possibly. I think high skill immigration has also played a very strong role.
And again, since nobody is reading what I'm writing before flagging or angrily replying: I'm not arguing that a high tax welfare state is necessarily a bad idea. While I do believe that it creates bad incentives and has to be very well calibrated (which is hard and usually fails in my experience), that's not what this is about.
The point is that it does not come for free. You will have to pay for it, and you will pay via taxes. You should be aware of that, and I'm interested in finding out how much more people are willing to pay. The reactions I get (anger, disbelief, flagging) lead me to believe that people are vaguely aware of that fact, but don't want to face it. I suggest they do before they implement it.
It's not that hard - give them a flat and maybe some daycare. The rest of the world outside the US seems mostly to manage that.
These library "residents" force the state - and its workers - to help them by confronting them with their sheer humanity. It is easy to refuse services to people you don't know, it's harder to send them out into the cold face to face. Most Human beings can't stand seeing another Human suffering. It just hurts us. Hurting them, by removing them forcibly, also hurts us.
Universal access to health care has become the majority opinion. As has the idea that locking up the mentally ill in prisons isn't really Ok. And that the current way the justice system works isn't really working.
Believe it or not, but the majority opinion in the US, especially among those who vote and given the unfair voting weights, was against even Obamacare at some point, much less to spend billions more on social welfare issues.
And part of that is the idea that taxing the rich and the companies will hurt the lower income workers. Many people don't want to tax millionaires because they fancy becoming one soon. Good luck...
Those attitudes seem to have changed, and that sounds like progress to me. Now get rid of the Cheater in Chief and vote for people who actually want to help the lower classes...
It’s a consensus opinion in SF that we ought to tax millionaires. But we’re unwilling to touch the asset class where the millions are actually stored.
It’s a consensus opinion in SF that tax revenues should be used to help vulnerable populations stay in their communities. But “this is a community” is an ironclad argument that it’s an inappropriate location for any services or supportive housing.
Have 80% of it get sucked up by the bureaucracy? And the other 20% is used on surface issues.
>social welfare is not an altruistic indulgence
Both sides want to help people, the great question is, what is the best way?
Should we spend 1B on bandaids? Or should we start earlier in life, giving people opportunities that keep them off the streets?
If you promote "giving people opportunities that keep them off the streets" as a solution, you profess to a total ignorance of how homelessness in the US (and most developed countries) works.
It's not poverty or lack of employment. It's more about mental health and substance abuse. You can offer those people all the jobs you want, without medical and psychological/social help, they don't stand a chance.
So yes, "1B on bandaids", like better mental health care for the poor, more social workers, more social housing would be a very good start.
At the time i didn’t think much of it, but I was reflecting back on it after a awesome episode of 99% invisible (palaces of the people). The guest talked about how libraries changed and have a different function. And the importance of something he called social infrastructure as something that doesn’t get seen as important as let’s say, roads and electricity.
It’s Very related to what the author of the article is saying. We don’t nearly appreciate enough how libraries function in society. When we keep looking at as a buildings where you can get books and use the internet we totally miss the human side of it and if we don’t equip the people with the skills or experience to deal with it. They are going to be burned out.
Hopefully we can recognize the importance libraries have and support them in a way it benefits whole cities.
Working in retail making 7.85$/hr, we had plenty of crazy people.
There is something noble about being a librarian, and this article discusses that phenomenon.
There was nothing noble about serving enraged customers, customers that stole, or creepy customers.
Maybe it's lack of understanding. Maybe lack of knowledge. Maybe selfishness. But it's doable, more efficient and decent.
(I also submitted that as an own thread at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19705704 )
Because we live in a finite world, you're always going to be resource constrained, what happens is that you have to necessarily create a massive bureaucracy to triage and control who should and shouldn't get access to this program - which explodes the cost, and incentivizes cheating by those that don't get access. It also sets up an arms race, where you keep increasing the bureaucracy in order to control for new inventive ways that the program is abused, leading to more costs. I'm not sure if you're suggesting that property rights be given to the individual, or if staying in social housing is dependent on certain criteria being continually met. Either way, you're looking at more bureaucracy, and corresponding cheating, that again, explodes costs and creates new unintended consequences (for example, preventing able-bodied people from moving around to seek better opportunities, in the same way that rent-control does).
In other words, you'll merely recreate our present system. Writing a check is easy and if that was all that was needed, we'd have solved every societal problem a long time ago. There is no free lunch.
Or how about we collectively got our shit together and realized that it is _not_ wrong to require certain things of people, and to enforce consequences when they don't obey them.
But I don't think it's remotely worthy of respect. You want to live in a society like that, go somewhere with no public schools or roads or firefighters.
"I really like this library. So uh, come here use their computer and smoke out here. They must have been freaking out because such an impure person was in their presence."
This is not true. Money for low-income housing and social services has massively increased over the last 40 years.
The problem is, this approach is not working. The state psychiatric hospitals were closed because of the deinstitutionalization movement which was strongly supported by advocates of the mentally ill.
Now they don't want to acknowledge the consequences of that advocacy, and keep blaming the phantom menace of austerity and social spending cuts.
People tend to solve problems with the tools of their field, and it's telling that your first idea was "a startup opportunity". Really? Our solution for homelessness should also make a profit? We're going to bring our neighbors out of poverty by earning a buck in the process? Where does this money come from?
First, start by "doing things that don't scale": solve homelessness for one person. Then do it for 2, 5, and 10. My impression is that, like many human problems, a real solution might never scale.
Profits are merely an incentive to getting more individuals involved and VC capital backing is unlikely unless there is an eventual ROI I'd imagine. How that ROI is determined is beyond the point, it could be government subsidies, cryptocurrency/blockchain related, etc.
But reading this, the idea that libraries are doubling as homeless shelters is the most shocking thing I think I’ve ever encountered about poverty in the US.
Sorry to provoke anyone from the US reading this but how badly does your society have to be broken to allow this to become an accepted norm? Given it’s an extremely wealthy country, the cruelty of the system that lets this happen is hard for me to even imagine.
This whole “survival of the fittest is what makes America great” crap needs to stop. Period. Because to me that seems like that’s the root cause, the excuse for treating a societies weakest so cruelly. The only discussion should be “how do we fix this?”.
OK rant over ... apologies to anyone triggered but genuinely shocked.
It is easy to help the innocent. Real charity comes when asked to help someone you may hate.
The reality today is that most, think 90%+, involves purely online activity. These arent rapists. They are caught downloading stuff.
Yeah, I reserve my sympathy for the children.
Besides, it's not even about "sympathy", it's about preventing crime and general nuisance (like for the librarian in this article). I don't think anyone wins by making circumstances for sex offenders so hard they're living on the street. I'd much rather have these people in a safe environment with proper counselling/therapy.
As for the rest it isn't just about forcing them to live on the street, ideally I wouldn't let them live in society at all, far away under a bridge is the closest I can get.
Now think of being barred from all of these opportunities. Yes, they committed a crime, and yes, it may not a good idea to allow them to mingle with other people sharing these facilities (especially if these people are children) but...where else does one go to improve oneself? You'd think, especially after being charged with a heinous crime, anyone who truly wishes to reform themselves would benefit from these places. But it is those exact people who are barred from doing just that, and the cycle repeats, because there is no way out.
I'm not saying there's an easy answer here, and it wouldn't be feasible to rebuild these places for criminals only. But these restrictions absolutely make it difficult to integrate and become a productive member of society again.
But justice isn't served by making someone homeless and then preventing them visiting a library.
Importantly, that also doesn't help with rehabilitation or with preventing reoffending.
If you have a sex offender at risk of re-offending you want to know where they are and what jobs they have. That's made much harder if they're homeless.
Going meta - your comments are all along the lines of crime and punishment and whether they "deserve" it etc. The replies to you are all along pragmatic lines - what we should do to make society behave the way we want. These approaches are incompatible - when the pragmatic approach disagrees with the fire-and-brimstone approach, ignoring pragmatism will by definition get a worse outcome. Your own feeling of righteous anger is not a good thing to optimize society around.
The notion of justice and punishment is a subsidiary mechanism to pragmatism - one of many ways to achieve a peaceful, stable society.
(One that does not appear to scale especially well beyond groups where everyone knows each other, or into deeply complicated and partially enforced rule sets. Don't kill your tribe member or the tribe will cast you out = effective. Don't exceed the speed limit or you might possibly receive a fine of some constant amount plus a proportional factor to the amount you exceeded it by = ineffective.)
The most egregious misapplication (in my opinion) is "public urination", that is, being caught doing it by the wrong person, or if they consider you an unperson. Used to brand the homeless and turn them into national criminals by following them around with a camera.
Or human traditions under attack. A mixed group of adults and minors caught skinny dipping in the wild by the Wrong Deputy is another example. They'll nail the oldest and fill the younger with crushing guilt, if they are friends.
Consensual sex between teenagers is another. It's the ultimate glass-house throw stone legal abomination. And one or both gets the Scarlet Letter into their young adult years. Talk about a suicide trigger!
"Most people assume that a registered sex offender is someone who has sexually abused a child or engaged in a violent sexual assault of an adult. A review of state sex offender registration laws by Human Rights Watch reveals that states require individuals to register as sex offenders even when their conduct did not involve coercion or violence, and may have had little or no connection to sex. For example:
"At least five states require registration for adult prostitution-related offenses;*
"At least 13 states require registration for public urination; of those, two limit registration to those who committed the act in view of a minor;
"At least 29 states require registration for consensual sex between teenagers; and
"At least 32 states require registration for exposing genitals in public; of those, seven states require the victim to be a minor.
This comment about sex offender lists being full of people who had a single piss in public, but whenever I've asked for evidence people post maybe three or four examples.
Feel free to show me research that these public urinators aren't people flashing to children.
There are two options for that: a) solve homelessness b) send in the police to make sure the homeless stay where you can't see them.
I don't know about other Western European countries, but neither is done in Germany. You will see homeless people in Berlin near monuments. Maybe Berlin is an exception, but I have some doubts.
> Given it’s an extremely wealthy country
I always have huge problems with statements like these. What makes a country wealthy? The size of the federal budget? The amount of debt? The private wealth of the median citizen? The number of billionaires? And even if you find a country to be wealthy while having social issues - how much should it invest, and how should it prioritize, and who should be paying the extra taxes, or which other parts of the budget do you want to reduce? I don't believe in the "wealthy country" meme in a "look, you have lots of money, why don't you just buy a new pair of pants" way.
> The only discussion should be “how do we fix this?”
I'm certain that nobody sits there and says "Listen, we must not fix this, otherwise we lose our edge". It's just hard to fix. You can temporarily make homelessness disappear by simply throwing money at it, but you won't solve it. Homelessness in general isn't so much a financial problem as it's a mix of mental health, drug abuse, bureaucracy, broken housing markets and certainly many more factors.
Name the country. I have lived in many cities and towns across Europe. I know that homelessness is tolerated one street down from Edinburgh castle, next to the parliament building in Budapest, in front of the Deutsches Museum in Munich, in the stations of Rome, and don't even get me started on Brussels.
These European cities you name are no comparison to SF. Brussels is known to be one of the more shoddy, dangerous places in Europe, I've been there very recently (i.e. even with many refugees who have fallen out of the system on the street) and it still did not compare to the degree of homelessness that can be seen in SF. I have yet to find a whole downtown street full of homeless people in Europe.
Berlin's homeless people become most visible when they enter the subway to politely tell their story and let people know why they need to beg for money. In terms of danger the organized beggar-robber gang type (which are not really homeless people) may be on the rise, but this is no comparison to what could be seen in SF. While there is the occasional lunatic you have to avoid, you usually just feel pity for Berlin's homeless people. There is also, without doubt a relatively stronger social net that can catch more of these human beings.
You may also want to check out www.crimemapping.com for more "cultural differences".
The homeless problem is mostly attributable to laws in the 70s and 80s which released mentally ill patients from hospitals and prevented their future incarceration.
This is an over-simplification of homelessness that doesn't bear much scrutiny.
Many people develop mental ill-health after, not before, becoming homeless. Many people are homeless without "severe mental illness" (schizophrenia, bipolar).
> According to a 2015 assessment by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 564,708 people were homeless on a given night in the United States. At a minimum, 140,000 or 25 percent of these people were seriously mentally ill, and 250,000 or 45 percent had any mental illness. By comparison, a 2016 study found that 4.2 percent of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness.
Looking at the common disorders we can see the causal direction could easily be "the misery of homelessness causes the mental disorder".
> Affective disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and substance abuse disorders are among the most common types of mental illness in the homeless population.
It's absolutely stunning that there is > 1.5 million non-profits in the US, and one has to question why?
Looking at a bunch of them in the homeless causes, and seing that it's not unusual at all that the chief executives of tiny non-profits receives $100 000-$200 000 in compensation which in many cases is 4%-7% of the expense budget, one might be tempted to think that many of the non-profits and their donations are based more on economy than empathy.
Then you have the people who used to have great coverage, but it's slowly gotten less good and more expensive over time. They are mainly worried about doing something that will make the problem even worse.
Then you have people like me, who are paying ridiculous money for what is basically "catastrophic" insurance, and like to complain loudly any chance we get, mostly on deaf ears because people hope the problem won't come their way if they just ignore it and carry on.
A political ideology centered on market fundamentalism and individual responsibility (eg. "The free market is always more efficient than government provided services", "Why should I pay for your poor choices in life?").
European countries have tried to offset the marketisation of human life and society through universal healthcare, labour regulations, and (mostly) generous welfare systems. The US does not have universal healthcare, has few of Europe's labour regulations (e.g. mandated working hours, holiday time, sick and paternity leave) and spends half as much on welfare programmes. It would be astonishing if that had nothing to do with American homelessness.
The fact that Americans donate a lot means nothing in particular in this context. Little of that goes toward creating a working healthcare and welfare system, or changing the basic moral fabric of American life. The largest share goes towards religions, as I understand it.
Economics is one sphere of human life, alongside culture, society, politics, and ethics and religion. The relative importance of these spheres is not fixed, but changes over time. One of the aims of the welfare state is to constrain capitalist market relations in order to make room for other spheres of life, for democratic control, family and community, moral values, and cultural creativity.
You appear to be claiming that humans are, always and everywhere, solely moved to maximise their material interests. That has no anthropological plausibility whatsoever, and reveals a deep misanthropy on your part. Contrary to your suggestion that welfare claimants comprehensively exploit the system, official statistics in the UK state that only about 2% of claimants do.
There is no evidence or indication that competitive impulses change as a result of changing or eliminating laws that provide people security of property and contract liberty. When you repeal those legal protections to forcibly redistribute income, you just cause people to find new ways to compete, like minimizing the taxes they pay (people in the US spend $265 billion a year attempting to minimize their tax exposure) or maximize the benefits they receive. And those ways are much less beneficial to society.
>You appear to be claiming that humans are, always and everywhere, solely moved to maximise their material interests.
No I'm saying that to the extent that they do try to maximize their own material interests, that will not change by changing the laws relating to private property rights.
>Contrary to your suggestion that welfare claimants comprehensively exploit the system, official statistics in the UK state that only about 2% of claimants do.
You can't actually measure successful fraud, and moreover, expending energy on maximizing welfare benefits isn't limited strictly to committing fraud. There are ways to increase welfare benefits that are legal and both unethical and socially detriment, like having additional children when you already cannot independently support the ones you have.
The original post to which I responded argued that homelessness has nothing to do with the 'survival of the fittest'. I argued two things. First, that it does insofar as capitalism is based, structurally and psychologically, on the transformation of humans into commodified labour to be sold on the market. Second, that the welfare state is an attempt to try and offset the human cost - deprivation, precarity, unemployment, exploitation - of the marketisation of social relations.
In response to what you said.
(1) 'Competitive impulses are not capitalist'. I never mentioned a 'competitive impulse'. I made the trivial claim that, (a) economics is one sphere of human life among others, and has no necessary priority over them; (b) that humans are moved by more than material self-interest. Both of those claims are compatible with the idea that humans are generally, and to varying degrees across history, 'competitive'.
(2) 'There is no evidence or indication that competitive impulses change as a result of changing or eliminating laws that provide people security of property and contract liberty'. You are reifying human psychology. Humans do not possess fixed and determinate 'impulses', apart from for simple objects like food, shelter, water, and sex. Humans are distinguished from other animals by their capacity for non-genetic learning. We create cultural meaning through language, art and social practices. These accumulate over time. Ultimately this dominates human behaviour and history. That means that you can rarely explain complex social behaviour by reference to fixed features of human psychology. We vary over time according to our social conditions.
The general idea that humans manifest the same competitive behaviours regardless of social conditions is comprehensively refuted by history. Do you really think pre-historic tribes, fifth century BC Sparta, and feudal Japan instantiated the same competitive dynamics as modern capitalist societies?
(3) 'No I'm saying that to the extent that they do try to maximize their own material interests, that will not change by changing the laws relating to private property rights.'
This is very vague. 'To the extent to which they do try to maximize their own material interests' leaves unstated how and to what extent humans maximise their material interests.
In response to the substance of your statement, let's imagine two scenarios:
Scenario 1: 'X' has to work 50 hours a week for the means of survival and, if she fails to do this, becomes unemployed, or suffers health problems, she faces death.
Scenario 2: X works 36 hours a week for a legally mandated minimum wage. If she is fired she is entitled to unemployment benefits. If she falls ill she has access to healthcare that is free at the point of use.
I take it to be patently obvious that X in scenario 1 is moved by material self-interest to a greater extent that is X in scenario 2. For in the first scenario it is a question of survival, whereas in the second case she has the time, ability and security to significantly give herself to extra-economic activities - culture, politics, morality and religion, society and family.
P.S. 'contract liberty' is a wonderful euphemism.
I'm saying that people are always going to be mired in materialist competition with those on the losing end seeing relative deprivation.
That is a property of the world, not of capitalism. I didn't even mention the inflammatory slavery-associated characterization of people choosing to sell services as "the transformation of humans into commodified labour to be sold on the market."
Welfare doesn't eliminate deprivation, it just changes the avenues through which deprivation emerges.
>>(1) 'Competitive impulses are not capitalist'. I never mentioned a 'competitive impulse'.
Yes you did, here:
>>That statement would only hold if capitalist market relations were a universal feature of every facet of human life, and if humans were driven only and voraciously by self-interest.
The self-interest drive is what I'm referring to by "competitive impulse". It contrasts with the communal impulse of working for the common good.
That will not go away by virtue of eliminating laws that provide people with security of property and contract liberty (aka "capitalist" laws).
>>(2) 'There is no evidence or indication that competitive impulses change as a result of changing or eliminating laws that provide people security of property and contract liberty'. You are reifying human psychology. Humans do not possess fixed and determinate 'impulses', apart from for simple objects like food, shelter, water, and sex. Humans are distinguished from other animals by their capacity for non-genetic learning
Humans absolutely do possess innate impulses. Humans share 96% of their DNA of chimpanzees, 90% of cats, and 85% of mice. We are not fundamentally that different from other animals, and numerous studies demonstrate the massive influence that innate traits play on our behaviour.
For example, numerous studies have shown that the Big Five personality traits have an approximately 50% hereditary factor. And the other 50% are cultural traits that are not going to be wiped away by some radical social engineering project , since they are passed on through micro-interactions and social dynamics far beyond the reach of the state.
You are far more likely to cause havoc in any attempt to socially re-engineer mankind than you are to do any good. Social interventions are generally much more likely to have negative unintended consequences than produce desirable results, because existent social dynamics often exist for good reasons that are not obvious to a superficial analysis like the kind produced by simplistic ideologies. Cultural traits and dynamics emerged over long periods of time through a process of iteration, and it is folly to recklessly try to re-engineer them based on a crude ideological assumption about the world.
>>This is very vague. 'To the extent to which they do try to maximize their own material interests' leaves unstated how and to what extent humans maximise their material interests.
That's not relevant to my point, and it's not something I can answer anyway, because I, like you, have no way of knowing. My point is that there's no indication that human impulses would be changed by changing economic laws. They are far more deeply ingrained than you give them credit for.
To assume otherwise is a reckless form of optimism about any coherent plan to re-engineer a large population's impulses, in order to rationalise very radical social engineering project that could and likely would cause terrible suffering.
>>I take it to be patently obvious that X in scenario 1 is moved by material self-interest to a greater extent that is X in scenario 2. For in the first scenario it is a question of survival, whereas in the second case she has the time, ability and security to significantly give herself to extra-economic activities - culture, politics, morality and religion, society and family.
That's overly simplistic. You don't raise wages by increasing the minimum wage. If it were that simple, we could make everyone wealthy with absurdly high price floors on labour.
Price floors harm the economy for reasons economists have exhaustively detailed.
You will also pay a price in per capita GDP from taxing and redistributing income. If reducing income inequality were as simple as redistributing income, reducing poverty would be trivial: just tax and redistribute 100% of income.
A higher income country with less redistribution can provide a higher quality of life to the very poor than a lower income country with high levels of redistribution. That's why reducing poverty over longer time frames is not as simple as redistributing income. The effect of redistribution on income growth has to be factored in.
The empirical data suggests that the best way to raise per capita GDP is with free markets not interfered with by disruptive government interventions like price floors (minimum wage) and income redistribution programs.
And how long do you think your welfare programs are going to work for the poor? Highly productive people will find ways to escape the clutches of your redistribution program. A social system in which the producers are coerced to giving up a massive share of what they produce is not sustainable.
You run the real risk of training your hypothetical woman to become dependent on the government, have children as a simple mother on the assumption that she will receive child benefits, and then see the economy implode, the government cut back services, and she and her children be left without the means to take care of themselves.
As for contract liberty being a euphemism, you wouldn't be saying that if the state imprisoned you for entering into a contract with another consenting adult.
Deprivation is the lack of material things. People without universal healthcare or benefits systems in unpropitious circumstances will have neither healthcare nor shelter and food. Ergo, welfare alleviates deprivation. That follows logically. It is also the incontrovertible historical picture. I have heard many arguments against the welfare system, but I have never heard anyone argue that providing people with life-saving medicine or food to eat makes them materially worse off. I don't know by what ideological self-contraption you have been able to convince yourself of that.
>'I'm saying that people are always going to be mired in materialist competition with those on the losing end seeing relative deprivation. That is a property of the world, not of capitalism... Humans absolutely do possess innate impulses. Humans share 96% of their DNA of chimpanzees, 90% of cats, and 85% of mice. We are not fundamentally that different from other animals, and numerous studies demonstrate the massive influence that innate traits play on our behaviour.'
Once again, this is under-specified. I am arguing that one of the roles of the welfare state is to create the basis for humans to give themselves to non-economic activities: to culture, community, politics, ethics, and so on. That is compatible with the fact that humans are to some extent competitive. You seem to be saying that humans are sufficiently competitive that this would only displace their competitiveness into new domains. But you have shown nothing of the sort.
You claim that we have innate impulses. I wouldn't use the word impulses, but I agree that there is such a thing as human nature. You say that we share most of our DNA with chimpanzees, cats and mice. That's true enough. But then you leap from these two platitudinous claims to the idea that human nature is both fixed and determinate. I see no reason whatsoever to believe that.
Take two of the strongest genetic determinists that I know of. Steven Pinker argues in the The Better Angels of Our Nature that our psychology is made up of a number of dispositions and that human history consists of our changing our environment such as to change the balance and strength of those dispositions. In other words, our psychology is majorly conditioned by our social conditions. Robert Plomin, the world's leading genetic determinist, argues - and his claims are far stronger that most geneticists - that even physical traits like height, weight and eyesight are only partially (30-70%) accounted for by genes. In other words, neither of them claim anything like what you seem to be arguing: that we have fixed dispositions (not dispositions which change in balance and strength) which strictly determine (not tendentially shape) human behaviour. I happen to disagree strongly with both Pinker and Plomin for the reason I gave previously. Humans are radically different from other animals because non-genetic learning - culture, norms, social practices, meaning - accounts for more of our behaviour than our genes do. Hence why human change occurs in historical time and not, like other animals, in evolutionary time.
>'That's overly simplistic'.
You are changing the question. We are talking about whether humans are always and at all times moved by self-interest in the same way and to the same degree. In my scenario they are clearly not. I note that you do not disagree with that judgement, i.e. you implicitly concede that in that hypothetical those two people are moved by self-interest in different ways. Instead, you claim that that scenario is impossible. I would engage with your reasoning but it's a red herring - it is nothing but misdirection from the relevant question.
>'As for contract liberty being a euphemism, you wouldn't be saying that if the state imprisoned you for entering into a contract with another consenting adult.'
This is rhetoric. It is both possible to think that 'contract liberty' is a euphemism that conceals the fact that many contracting parties do so from structurally asymmetrical positions, and to think that arbitrary imprisonment is wrong. What you are saying depends on the theory of negative liberty first propounded by Thomas Hobbes, where liberty is the absence of physical interference. I take that to be manifestly wrong. We don't want to be interfered with, because we want to be able to do things. But negative liberty only secures us the former, not the latter. For example, it does me no good if the police permit me to use the train to see my family if I don't have the money to pay for the train to see my family, if I am starving to death, or if I need to work all hours of the day to keep a roof over my head.
That is far too simplistic. Like I said, a higher income country with less redistribution can provide a higher quality of life to the very poor than a lower income country with high levels of redistribution. That's why reducing poverty over longer time frames is not as simple as redistributing income. The effect of redistribution on income growth has to be factored in.
>>It is also the incontrovertible historical picture.
Every measure of deprivation was improving faster before the creation of large welfare programs than after their creation, so no, it not the historical picture at all.
>>Once again, this is under-specified. I am arguing that one of the roles of the welfare state is to create the basis for humans to give themselves to non-economic activities: to culture, community, politics, ethics, and so on.
Of course if you're looking to dismiss all of my points, you can demand an unrealistic level of specification and dismiss anything that doesn't meet it. I'm being more specific than you.
I was addressing your argument that human nature is totally malleable. It absolutely is not.
>> I am arguing that one of the roles of the welfare state is to create the basis for humans to give themselves to non-economic activities: to culture, community, politics, ethics, and so on.
Non-economic activities are not non-competitive. You won't make mankind less competitive by creating a forcible income redistribution scheme. You will divert that competitive energy into avoiding having one's income redistributed to others, and trying to maximize how much income is redistributed to one's self. That is reality, and wishful ideologies do not change that. Ignoring that reality leads to disastrous social consequences.
And social status competitions emerge in all sorts of situation not involving money. You don't reduce competitiveness by equalizing the distribution of reportable income and consumption of remunerated services. Competition just emerges in other areas, like developing social connections to get to know the right doctors to get better quality healthcare.
>>But then you leap from these two platitudinous claims to the idea that human nature is both fixed and determinate. I see no reason whatsoever to believe that.
I didn't say it was totally fixed. I said: "numerous studies have shown that the Big Five personality traits have an approximately 50% hereditary factor. And the other 50% are cultural traits that are not going to be wiped away by some radical social engineering project , since they are passed on through micro-interactions and social dynamics far beyond the reach of the state".
>>We are talking about whether humans are always and at all times moved by self-interest in the same way and to the same degree. In my scenario they are clearly not.
There is no evidence or reason to believe that redistributing reportable income changes the extent to which people are moved by self-interest.
Perhaps people having more material resources will allow them to focus on things other than survival - which is not the same thing as not being moved by self-interest, or not being competitive - but redistribution of income does not lead to people having more material resources over any extended time frame. It will lead to people having less material resources.
>>This is rhetoric. It is both possible to think that 'contract liberty' is a euphemism that conceals the fact that many contracting parties do so from structurally asymmetrical positions, and to think that arbitrary imprisonment is wrong.
You're making blanket judgements about contractual interactions instead of letting each interaction be judged on its own merits by a court of law. Courts will invalidate contracts which are deemed to not be genuinely consensual. Your assertion that parties with unequal levels of wealth are not able to enter into consensual interactions is the kind of overly-simplistic generalization that is produced by crude ideologies like socialism, that cause so much pain and suffering in the world.
"Contract liberty" merely means people are free to enter into contract with others that are deemed consensual by courts of law. Courts aren't perfect, but they are far more discerning than an ideologically-motivated cookie-cutter rule that generalizes entire classes of interactions as non-consensual.
I'm not sure the issue is "survival of the fittest" mentality though. I think it may be more the idea a person is an individual and can do as they please. That idea is deeply ingrained in America like it's not in many parts of the world, including Europe. The actual laws sometimes don't reflect the idea (for example the draconian laws on drug use vs massive amounts of drug use that actually occurs on the ground in the USA).
It's an idea I agree with, and it has some serious benefits in terms of productive capacity and potential for achievement, but taken to extremes, the idea manifests in some pretty ugly ways. It's not that there isn't help for the homeless, more that no one is enforcing help or otherwise structuring life for people. Add to this the pursuit of wealth by whatever means necessary destroys community and aggravates the situations that produce homelessness.
I'd also like to point out America is indeed a land of immigrants. Many of these have been from the lower or disadvantaged classes or otherwise people who just didn't fit in with their previous societies. Much of the time they did indeed achieve a better life for their children but sometimes the generational cycle of irresponsibility and squalid behavior didn't disappear upon touching down on new shores.
Just my theories. Not sure of accuracy. But it is a shocking state of affairs and shouldn't be as it is.
Perhaps I'll start:
I think this is tragic but the average American feels totally powerless to help. In San Francisco the homeless are almost all mentally ill, often dangerous, people from other states. My suggestion would be to pool money from all cities they come from and fund homeless programs outside of SF, outside of metropolitan areas. Then, transfer the homeless there and give them another chance to restart and get the help they need outside of a revolving door urban environment.