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Homeless and Unemployed


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#1 renamerusk

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:45 AM

Originally posted 11/20/03:

This is an particulary sensitive issue and I hope it will garner some serious contemplation.

Recently, I have began to notice more and more people seeking donations from motorists in Fort Worth and environs. I wonder, if recent efforts by Dallas to discourage panhandling there, had the unanticipated affect of making FW appear to be a more hospitable city for panhandling? If so, what steps should FW take, mindful of being respectful and sensitive to the less fortunate? I have to admit that my feelings are mixed.

#2 ghughes

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:45 AM

I was not aware that Dallas had changed policies, but certainly any tightening up would affect us over here.

I agree it's a tough issue. Aside from unsafe or obnoxious behavior, though, it would seem difficult to regulate. After all, freedom of speech is usually independent of content.

Face-to-face requests of money have been banned on the basis that there can be an implied threat if money is "asked" for in a demanding way. A passive request (with a sign) or a non-contact (on the street corner) couldn't be contrued that way too easily, though.

Along that line in a different way, didn't Fort Worth recently restrict all money-raising activities at certain intersections? And are permits required? I've always thought the Shriners, Firefighters, and Nation of Islam were tasteful and problem free on the streets. But then a lot of other groups started sending folks out and it seemed you couldn't go for a drive without feeling like you needed a stack of one's in the passenger seat.

#3 Nick

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:46 AM

I did see on channel eight5 that Mayor Miller was going to crack down on panhandling. So, yes I agree. We need to crack down here in Fort Worth.

By the way I notice the same guy off coopper in Arlington working that spot with a sign saying he was homeless.And saw a car with two other guys pull up and the guy jumped inside the car.

One more point I dont want anybody even the notiabel well respected organisation to ask for money on street corners.Its thier to drive on. To many close calls this must be stoped.Go into a buger joint or supermarket.I dont want anybody hurt .And i dont want to hit anybody.

#4 Urbndwlr

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:46 AM

We are naturally inclined to help someone who approaches us and is in need. Unfortunately, handing money to panhandlers is not a solution or even a decent strategy to help homeless people get back on track. In fact, the more people hand out donations, the more panhandling as a means of making a living, makes sense = more panhandlers. Look at San Francisco. They have the most "generous" panhandling polices in the nation, and the place is overrun w/ them.

Unfortunately, our society will always have people who are down and out, no matter how generous we are - there are several reasons for this I won't go into.

Rather than handing that money to the panhandler, make a donation to a group that actively helps these folks get back on their feet. It may not be the easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do.

#5 hipolyte

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:46 AM

I read somewhere that a large percentage of homeless actually have a mental illness of some kind, and have dropped through the cracks in the healthcare system. It becomes even more difficult to help people who don't face problems rationally.

#6 ghughes

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:47 AM

There was a time when many of the mentally ill were provided with full-time care. Then in the late '70s and early 80's there was a campaign to "mainstream" them. That basically meant closing the asylums that were judged to be too restrictive and non-theraputic. The result: mentally ill street people receiving almost no care or treatment. Go do a little work at a night shelter and you'll see it first hand.

Interestingly, it was the "liberal" crowd that pushed for mainstreaming and the "conservative" crowd that took the blame for a massive increase in homelessness. Nobody has taken on the task of fixing the problem. I suspect it's because the "liberal" folks don't want to simultaneously admit a mistake and propose restricting people's freedom and the "conservative" people don't want to throw money at the problem.

In Fort Worth we just make sure they aren't hanging around Sundance, the Stockyards, and the Cultural District.

#7 renamerusk

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:47 AM

ghughes, my purpose for beginning this thread was to address your most salient point which is to take on the task of fixing the problem; I do not think assigning blame will be productive.

Hopefully, this thread will produce some strategies which FW can implement to tackle this difficult situation. I would be against issuing fines or taking punitive actions. I would favor the creation of a new corp of patrolmen assigned solely to the removal of street beggars from the public right-a-ways and then having the corp transport clients to city shelters and local charitable facilities which would in turn provide for their daily basic needs. It is vitally important that FW get an effective strategy in place now before our city hall plaza and our downtown is faced with a similar situation now being actualized by Dallas' city hall plaza.

#8 JBB

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:48 AM

I see a few problems with that strategy.

Are you really doing anything to solve the problem by applying the force of the law to send them to a shelter? We already have public transportation and there's a good chance they already know about the shelters and they've chosen not to stay there. In the end, all you're really doing is just moving the problem to another area.

Also, is there a tangible, measureable economic benefit to spending thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars on more police officers whose pupose is to root out the homeless? I think many would argue that our police have bigger fish to fry and that the money would be better spent elsewhere (the expense would likely exceed the benefits).

In the end, this is a problem in our society that goes beyond law enforcement capabilities (just like any crime). I'm not disagreeing with you on the importance of the problem or the dire need to solve it. I'm just not convinced that your idea is the most sound solution.

To Ft. Worth's credit, I think the police do an excellent job of keeping the citizens safe in the downtown area. I can recall seeing very few homeless individuals when I've been there.

#9 ghughes

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:48 AM

Rather than fixing blame I was intending to bring perspective and history. But that's right, blaming does not contribute to fixing the problem.

BB is certainly right about transportation and all. But you have to keep in mind that shelters are not generally open during the day; they are for sleep. The S-T ran a fabulous series about that a few years ago. And anti-loitering laws have generally been removed from the books since they tend to make "being" illegal.

But as to safety: for the most part the homeless threaten us most by reminding us to be uncomfortable in our comfort. In other words, we are reminded that we are relatively well-off while they are in want. They un-Disneyland our surroundings. They may smell, be unsightly, or just poorly dressed. They may have all their belongings with them and may not exhibit our standards of politeness. But most of the threat is in our own minds.

Actual threats to safety are already covered by law, for the most part. I would be interested in knowing what is allowed at intersections. Perhaps that needs some attention.

#10 hipolyte

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:48 AM

based on that ST article, the Union Gospel Mission opened a dayshelter on East Lancaster, next to the night shelter. I'm sure capacities are limited, but it also gets down to a 'boredom' issue, as well as 'personal freedom'.
Would you want to spend every hour of every day cooped up in a shelter with a beautiful city was within walking distance?

#11 renamerusk

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:49 AM

JBB, if my comments were interpreted as applying strong arm of the police force than I failed to make them clear. However, I do believe that a corp of uniformed city officers and staff could be budgeted for to began managing the situation before it becomes unmanageable with the goal being to prevent this situation from becoming entrenched. One price of living in an urban area is that there mustl be some form of regulation governing any activity. I am suggesting that FW, whose reponsibility it is to regulate activities within its jurisdiction, develop strategies with the input of its citizens and the homeless to manage this problem.

Perhaps the city can issue allow authorized shelters to issue a a limited amount of daily non-fee permits specifying where and when panhandling is permissible.

In the end, there will have to be a compromise between the city and the panhandlers. FW does not want to or should it be heavy-handed nor should the panhandlers expect their liberterian concept of begging to be acceptable.

#12 JBB

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:49 AM

hipolyte said:
Would you want to spend every hour of every day cooped up in a shelter with a beautiful city was within walking distance?

Forgive me if this sounds a little cynical and narrow minded, but most could try to find work rather than be "cooped up" during the day. I'm of the opinion that, for most, other than those who are mentally ill and have fallen through the cracks, homelessness is a lifestyle choice.

rename: I agree that it is incredibly important for the city to be proactive on this issue.

#13 ghughes

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:49 AM

Although there is certainly overlap, we really are looking at two separate issues. One is homelssness and the other is panhandling. One is a condition (however it comes about) and the other is an activity.

I think the original concern about panhandlers is quite valid and we do need to make sure that it's restricted as much as possible. And if the focus remains there then things can be accomplished though local actions.

The homeless issue continues to require a lot of thought and resources. But certainly we don't want things to be so pleasant that FW becomes a magnet like SF has. And that's the problem. FW can do what it will, but state or national policies have to help level the playing field among cities so none of us become too attractive relative to another.

#14 hipolyte

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:49 AM

" Forgive me if this sounds a little cynical and narrow minded, but most could try to find work rather than be "cooped up" during the day. I'm of the opinion that, for most, other than those who are mentally ill and have fallen through the cracks, homelessness is a lifestyle choice."

That's an easy thing to say, but the job markets a little tight right now. If you needed some dependable help in your business, would you hire a homeless person?

#15 hipolyte

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:50 AM

Perhaps that was a little strident. I agree that it's a disagreeable situation, and dislike being accosted for spare change as much as anyone.
But the 'real' solutions to the problem cannot be addressed locally, or overnight, and are not likely to be addressed in the current social climate.
When hiring, you would out of a sense of self preservation look for responsible, well groomed people, who have their act together. Someone who can make good decisions based on rational thought. Where do people learn these skills? These traits are passed on by good role models, like parents.
If parents lack these skills, then their children lack them. That cycle is hard to break.
Schools don't really address problem solving skills as a course. They try to equip kids with the basic tools, and hope they will figure out how to use them. Job training programs either don't exist or are being scaled back. Credit checks for hiring are the norm. Bad credit? No job. At least no good job.
And on a minimum subsistence income, everything costs more; electricity, phones, car insurance. The old saw, 'neccesity never makes a bargain.'
For folks at this level, health insurance is nonexistent. Health care is high cost E.R. only, which we all pay for in higher premiums. When they can get that much.
The odds which our society has stacked against its poorest members are just ridiculous.
I believe in self reliance and earning a living by your skills. But the homeless panhandler problem will not be diminished by sweeping the dregs of our society out of sight.
This is a rich and powerful country, but we will not reach our true potential as long as we ignore major social issues. we seem to be slowly sliding into third world status.
So how do you fix that?

#16 hipolyte

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:50 AM

There's an interesting thread going on in the Dallas forum on this same topic, with newspaper articles included.
I particularly admire the comment that they wouldn't mind the homeless if they were 'better looking'.

#17 mikedsjr

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:50 AM

two cents.....

You will always have homeless. But that is what we call them. Some of these people, this is their choice now, though it wasn't their choice at one time. I think there are plenty of shelters willing to help. Maybe there isn't enough volunteers to get the effective help these people need, but their is always help out there.
When working at a couple of Christian shelters i found that there were always people who came only for unconditional free food. Then they left because they didn't want to stay under requirements of what the ministries asked of them. Many of these people make alot of money on the streets and living at some shelters require a small form of responsibility that they do not wish to abide by.

Trying to convert people from homeless to self sufficient person who pays for a roof over their heads and works a job for a living is difficult to demand some homeless people to do. Their are aliens from Mexico who get jobs and work hard and are not citizens of the US. The homeless who truly cognitively want the help are getting some form of help.

Just what do you do for those who don't want your help but your handouts?

#18 hipolyte

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:51 AM

yes, exactly, that is the question posed by this thread.
Do you tolerate the homeless folks existence and give them handouts, or pass laws against panhandling, and throw them in the pokey if they can't pay a fine? Export them to a neighboring city, as apparently Big D has done? Does'nt matter.
I'm saying that anything you do directly to a homeless person is merely treating the symptom, and not the deeper underlying social problems that encourage such extreme drop out behavoir.

And as for those who leave the shelters because of the asked for requirements, a hand out from a stranger elicits no entanglements whatsoever.
And I wonder at your statement that they can make a lot of money on the street. How much is a lot?
Am I in the wrong line of work?:ha

#19 mikedsjr

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:51 AM

I'm not sure that you could make a living. There are some depending on how agressive they are make 100s of dollars a week. I don't think that is the norm. But the aggressive ones do.

#20 hipolyte

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:52 AM

There is an article in this weeks Fort Worth Weekly that applies to this topic. 'Poverty by Policy' by Gayle Reaves.

#21 Dismuke

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:55 AM

"There was a time when many of the mentally ill were provided with full-time care. Then in the late '70s and early 80's there was a campaign to "mainstream" them."

That is exactly correct - and I suspect that such people constitute a major percentage of the permanent homeless population. These are people who are unable to take care of themselves and they need to be institutionalized if they have no one else to take care of them.

["i]"That basically meant closing the asylums that were judged to be too restrictive and non-theraputic."[/i]

There certainly were abuses inherent in the old asylums. But the answer was to put in place the proper safeguards to protect people's rights - not to turn such people out on the streets. I also suspect that part of the mindset behind it was a certain type of relativism that takes the view: "Who are we to say what is normal and that they are crazy? Perhaps it is we who are crazy and they who are sane."

"I suspect it's because the 'liberal' folks don't want to simultaneously admit a mistake"

When have they ever - despite a long list of abysmal failures of starting with their various alleged "War on Poverty" schemes which only had the result of creating a permanent underclass (a.k.a. "constituents") that is totally dependent upon government programs?

"and [don't want to] propose restricting people's freedom"

Indeed. They are reluctant to restrict the "freedom" of a mentally ill person to pursue his own self-destruction on the streets - but they sure don't mind restricting everyone else's freedom to run his business or spend his paycheck as he sees fit. They have no problem floating all sorts of freedom-killing proposals that would restrict our choices involving our medical care, what we eat, what we drive, where we live, etc.


"and the 'conservative' people don't want to throw money at the problem."

Well, the kind of money required to take care of the mentally ill is probably quite small compared to the money that is thrown at things such as paying able bodied farmers NOT to grow food and subsidizing generation after generation of unmarried able bodied girls who have multiple babies by multiple fathers in order to expand certain politicians' base of dependant constituents and all sorts of other sewers our tax money is flushed down.

As to the non-mentally ill homeless, I would say that there are two types. The first type is people who are capable of being productive who have, either through a series of unfortunate circumstances or their own irresponsibility, fallen on hard times.

All that those who are homeless because of unfortunate circumstances need is a temporary helping hand so they can reestablish themselves - and such people are usually more than eager to help themselves towards that end as much as possible. In truth, it is really not possible to "help" such a person in any fundamental sense. The only "help" that one can provide is temporary in nature in the form of removing blocks from their road to self-sufficiency - but only they alone can take the actual steps that are needed to travel down that road.

For those who have fallen on hard times because of their own irresponsibility, the only solution is for them to correct the underlying behavior that brought them to such a situation. Subsidizing such behavior is the last thing in the world that should be done for such people if one's real motive is their actual well-being. Until such people are willing to put in the effort and focus needed to become responsible, they alone should face the consequences of their own continued irresponsibility. The difficulty faced by anyone who has tried to assist people in need get a new start is to be able to determine who is seriously committed to putting in the effort to help himself verses the con artists who only seek a handout from a sucker. This is one of many reasons why charity is better off in the hands of private, voluntary organizations rather than the government. A private charity which has to work in order to secure funding instead of looting it from the paychecks of the productive and has to justify its results to its voluntary contributors is much more likely to draw such distinctions and refuse to subsidize willful irresponsibility. The government, however (quite properly) is legally prohibited from making such distinctions and judgments. It has to treat everyone equally and non-judgmentally so long as they meet certain criteria - and parasites will always find a way to ritualistically go through the minimum motions needed to meet that criteria.

Those who are homeless because of irresponsibility either eventually learn their lesson and become productive, responsible citizens - or they fall into the second class of non-mentally ill homeless people: those who are homeless by volitional choice. There is no power on earth that can make a human being choose to undertake the effort to become productive and responsible. There will always be people who refuse to do so - and nobody but they alone are responsible for it.

Ghughes also writes:

"for the most part the homeless threaten us most by reminding us to be uncomfortable in our comfort."


I submit that such a sentiment is nothing but unearned guilt.

The fact that you have chosen to be responsible and productive is NOT what caused someone else to be homeless. Would your being homeless as well make a single homeless person's lot any better? The only person who would say "yes" is someone who is motivated by envy and wishes to "level" you down to their level - sort of like the Western journalist who visited the USSR in the days of Stalin's mass exterminations and reported back on the "Soviet experiment" in glowing terms on grounds that, even though there was still plenty of poverty and misery in Russia, it was a wonderful place because everybody was "equally miserable." Ask yourself what the motives are of people who would want you to feel guilty for being productive and making something of your life. Whether you are blue collar worker drawing a modest wage or a multi-million dollar per year executive, your being productive, responsible and self-sufficient are virtues which you should properly be proud of. You should NEVER feel "uncomfortable" or guilty about that. Your honestly earned success is NOT responsible for someone else's misfortune. Indeed, quite the opposite is true. The reason the homeless in this country have a higher standard of living than many hard working people in Third World countries is due entirely to the surplus created by the enormous productivity of people like yourself.

I have provided assistance from time to time to people in need. I did so, in part, because when I was starting out I was the recipient of other people's kindness a few times and wanted to pass the favor on. I also did so because the people had certain character traits that I considered worthy and I respected and wanted to support their struggle to help themselves. But I did not do it because I felt guilty or because I felt their suffering somehow constituted a moral lien on my productivity. Nor did I consider myself to be somehow virtuous because I helped them out. There is no particular virtue in giving money away - anybody who has some to spare can do that. (And there is certainly no virtue in giving away someone else's money as those on the Left are so fond of doing.) The only virtue on my part of the equation was the fact that I earned the surplus money I was able to afford to give away.

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#22 ghughes

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:55 AM

I actually was thinking in terms of empathy rather than guilt. I have no problem with well-earned well-being. But I find it valuable to remember that many advantages were in my path without my having earned them. I have tried to responsibly make use of opportunities, but had they not been there, where would I have ended up?

A primary example would be having been born into a family that placed a value on education and taking responsibility. My core values were shaped by such people. By contrast, a kid who is surrounded by ignorance and crime has a much more difficult time establishing values that will earn an honest living.

But do I feel guilty about wearing nice clothes as I pass by a homeless person? No, no more than I feel guilty about walking by a paraplegic. But what I am is grateful for my circumstances. I am mindful that I am only an accident away from a wheelchair and a head injury away from mental impairment and unemployability. And frankly, such thoughts are uncomfortable.

#23 hipolyte

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:56 AM

I feel no guilt when passing the homeless and/or unemployed. Although I help where I can, it is too large a problem for any individual to resolve, even if one were an extraordinarily rich individual.
It falls to the society at large to deal with, whether through government administration or private institutions. But large social programs are poor tools to work with on an individual case by case basis.
Where things must change is the basic social philosophy, the way the public at large views the problem. Neither liberal hand-wringing or conservative cynical tight-fists will help.
Frank Capra's 'It's a Wonderful Life', although a feel-good holiday movie, is also a parable for the end results of two different economic philosophies. Both emphasize self sufficiency, and personal responsibility, but the hard nosed, just business philosophy results in one type of society, and the more empathic, give a hand up style, results in another type of society.
Would you prefer Potter or Bailey as your banker, and would you prefer to live in Pottersville or Bedford Falls?

#24 Dismuke

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:57 AM

"But I find it valuable to remember that many advantages were in my path without my having earned them. I have tried to responsibly make use of opportunities, but had they not been there, where would I have ended up?"

But what matters is that you made the choice to take advantage of the opportunities that others were kind enough to make available to you and made the choice to do what was necessary to become a good person and make something of yourself. In the final analysis, those advantages merely meant that you had fewer obstacles in your path - but, ultimately, you alone had to choose to exert the focus necessary to walk down that path by your own effort. Look at it this way: there are plenty of people out there who had the same advantages that you had and perhaps even more who became worthless, irresponsible rotters. Where would you have ended up had you not had such advantages? Perhaps you would not be as economically well-off as you are today. But chances are pretty good that you still would have exercised the choice to make something of yourself and to live a responsible and productive life. What matters most is not so much the specific opportunities that are presented to a person but rather what he chooses to do with the opportunities that are available to him. And in the United States of America today, the opportunities that are available to even the poorest among us are endless - just ask any would-be immigrant from some miserable socialist pesthole such as Cuba who would literally do anything, including risking his own safety, just for the opportunity to live in the United States at the very bottom of the social ladder as an illegal alien. People have no choice about the background into which they were born. But, unless they are living under a totalitarian regime, they do have lots of choices about where they attempt to go from there.


"I am mindful that I am only an accident away from a wheelchair and a head injury away from mental impairment and unemployability. And frankly, such thoughts are uncomfortable."

Such tragedies unfortunately do happen and it is, of course, a subject that is uncomfortable to contemplate. But how many people in such situations end up on the streets homeless? Furthermore, based on your postings here, my strong assumption is that you have both the financial means and the sense of responsibility to have purchased the necessary insurance that would take care of you and prevent you from becoming a financial burden on others in the event, heaven forbid, something like that were to happen. And for those who don't have the financial means to purchase such insurance and become victims of such circumstances, (and such people constitute only a very small percentage of the population), in a prosperous country such as ours, there is no shortage of people of goodwill who would be willing to help out.

I certainly don't fault you for your empathy in regard to people who fall victim to tragic circumstances beyond their control - in fact, I share it. On the other hand, I don't think most panhandlers are worthy of it. I think the default question in one's mind in regard to such people who are not obviously mentally ill is not: "what kind of tragedy are you a victim of" but rather "what choices put you where you are today and what effort are you willing to make to do something about it?" Chances are, if they were willing to make such an effort, they would be busy with one of the many people who are willing to lend a helping hand instead of pestering me.

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#25 Dismuke

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:58 AM

"Where things must change is the basic social philosophy, the way the public at large views the problem."

I am afraid that I must strongly disagree.

Where things must change is not with the mindset of how society views the poor but rather with the mindset of the people who live in poverty.

I am not talking about people whose financial prospects are limited by some form of disability or people who, through an unfortunate set of circumstances, may experience a temporary setback and endure a period of hard times while they reestablish themselves. As ghughes points out, such things could conceivably happen to anyone at some point in his life. Nor do such situations constitute any sort of major societal problem. As the popular expression goes, sh_t happens - and that will always be the case in any society. Disabilities are a tragedy, period - and such people may have no choice but to accept the charity and generosity of others. Temporary setbacks are just that - temporary - and most such people end up lifting themselves back out of poverty.

The people I am talking about are the able-bodied for whom poverty is a way of life. The root cause of such people's plight is their mindset - not that of society at large. It is a problem that has to be addressed on the level of the individual who lives in poverty.

If one wishes to eliminate poverty, the first thing one must ask is: what are the prerequisites for a person to become productive and self-sufficient independent of whatever perks and opportunities their parents may or may have been in a position to provide them? If you spend enough time around poor people (which I have done), you will eventually realize that it is largely a matter of one's basic outlook on life and one's lifestyle choices. The solution to poverty centers around the need of those who live in poverty to make certain fundamental changes in their behavior and outlook on life. And, if one is genuinely concerned with such people's actual welfare (as opposed to exploiting them for political advantages), then any assistance one provides them must center around encouraging them to make the necessary changes in their lifestyle choices. (And, here, I am assuming a society where there exists a large measure of economic freedom. To the degree that a country restricts economic freedom, even the hard working, ambitious and thrifty live in poverty due to the fact that the marketplace on which they could sell their effort and ability has been legally limited or even outlawed. Indeed, that is the plight of most people alive on earth today.)

The only role that society plays in the matter is in the message it sends to people in poverty - especially young people who were born into it. While it is never too late for a person to decide to make a fresh start, it is much easier for someone born into poverty to make the necessary lifestyle choices when she is a teenager than it is a few years later when she finds herself in the situation of being a single mom in her early 20s with a shoddy public school education, no skills, in a low paying entry level job and pregnant with her third child. The children of the well-to-do have a certain luxury of being able to make stupid lifestyle choices early on because their parents are in a financial position to help cushion the consequences. The children of single parents on welfare do not have such a cushion and do not have the luxury of making such stupid mistakes if they wish to make better lives for themselves. Where are such children going to find the kind of guidance needed to help them make intelligent lifestyle choices? From their parents? Probably not. Their parents may or may not be caring and loving - but in most cases, it is the parents' own bad lifestyle choices that caused them to be poor in the first place. Most children's exposure to ideas and mindsets that are different than their parents' comes from their experience at school and what they absorb from the popular culture of the times.

It is very interesting to contrast the message that the culture and its educational system delivered to poor people 100 years ago verses today.

In the late 19th century, before the advent of all the wonderful technological innovations that raised our standard of living to where it is today, a far greater percentage of the population lived their lives unable to afford much beyond the basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter. If you look at old Sears catalogues from the period and adjust the prices for inflation, virtually everything was significantly more expensive than it is today while wages, in terms of real purchasing power, were much lower (though, unlike today, wages were entirely untaxed). In those days, the existence of non-dysfunctional families who were "proud but poor" was far more commonplace than it is today. If you look at old schoolbooks, a common theme of everything from reading lessons to math exercises was to stress the virtues of being industrious, keeping one's focus on the task at hand, having a sense of responsibility and living up to it, having a sense of purpose, living within one's means and being thrifty - and they warned of the evils and dreadful consequences that would befall those who were lazy, irresponsible, intemperate, spent too much time engaged in "idle amusements" and "dissipation" (i.e. living without a sense of purpose and engaging in the whims of the moment). A very common theme of children's literature was the example of poor children who, through their own hard work, persistence and sense of purpose, were able to rise out of poverty and become successful - Horatio Alger's books being but one of many examples. The message was one that children of urban factory workers and rural farmers needed to hear: that financial security and success is attainable for those who are willing to make the right choices and to acquire the good habits needed to achieve it - and that if they don't start working on acquiring those habits NOW, before they start out on their own, they will be faced with very unpleasant consequences that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

Contrast that with the message that is being delivered to poor children today - especially black children and other ethnic minority groups. The message delivered today by poverty pimping politicians and leftist intellectuals who have a vested ideological interest in the existence of a large, permanent underclass - a message which is filtered down through the popular culture and through the government-run educational system dominated by the leftist educational Establishment - is that such people live in an evil society in which they are doomed from the start and that no matter what they do or what they make of themselves, they will only be beaten down. Well, if that's the case, why should they even try? Rather than triumphing over the remnants of racism that undoubtedly still exist in our society by simply being the very best that they can be and offering skills and talents to the vast majority of people in the marketplace who are rational - they are told that their only hope is to vote for some leftist politician who might be able to swing them a handout or a reparation payment. Rather than being taught to emulate those who are successful, they are instead taught to envy them.

As to the message delivered to the poor by the culture at large - it, too, is poisonous. For the past several decades, the trends of our pop culture have largely been those established by the "Now Generation" hippies of the 1960s - who, among many other things, preached "living for the moment" (thus the name "Now Generation.") and pursing hedonistic pleasures regardless of the consequences. In other words, our popular culture has for decades unapologetically preached whim worship. Most '60s era hippies came from upper middle class homes - and they had mom and dad to buy them a college education and protect them from the consequences of their foolishness when they eventually decided to grow up. Poor kids do not have that luxury - but, nevertheless, that sort of whim worship is the cultural message that is transmitted to them on a daily basis.

A century ago, if a young unmarried girl became pregnant, it was considered a disgrace to her entire family. Such girls often went away for 9 months on the pretext of visiting a distant relative to have the baby and put it up for adoption. Such an occurrence was usually considered to be dark family secret. An unwed mother - and, unfortunately, even her child - was considered to be somehow "dirty" and was treated as a second class citizen. I am NOT suggesting that we return to the repressive sexual mores of 100 years ago or the cruel treatment single mothers were subjected to. But, considering that the majority of households in poverty are headed by single mothers and that the terms "my baby's daddy" and even "my youngest baby's daddy" are commonplace and socially acceptable in certain segments of our society, we have clearly gone too far in the other direction - and I blame the 60s era whim worshipping hedonism of our popular culture as a major contributing factor. Considering that today's young people have so many readily available choices and options that were simply not available to previous generations - such as birth control, contraception, abortion, adoption - there is NO excuse for young people to become parents before they have established themselves financially and there does need to be some sort of social stigma attached to it when they do so.

Unfortunately, for children born in poverty, our popular culture has been so dominated by '60s era whim worshipping hedonism, that many people they may be acquainted with from the middle class don't even provide good role models. I'm sure all of us have known middle class couples who earn good money but, nevertheless, live paycheck to paycheck because of spending habits driven only by their whims. How many middle class people do you know who do not have 6 months of living expenses saved up and who carry credit card balances but who go to restaurants several times a week instead of eating at home for a fraction of the cost and frequently drop several dollars at Starbucks for a few pennies worth of coffee? The notion of living within one's means and saving for a rainy day are regarded as quaint, old fashioned or even "square" by even many in the middle class. If one's income is sufficiently high and one has marketable skills, a person in the middle class might be able to get away with it - but the poor cannot. Since such spendthrift behavior has become elevated into a sort of cultural ideal, is it any wonder why so many poor people fall victim to the same bad habits and become filled with envy towards those who are able to get away with them?

What needs to change on a societal level is NOT the way it views the poor. What needs to change is society's view towards such issues as individual responsibility and holding people - including themselves - accountable for the consequences of their behavior. What poor people need most is not handouts or our teary-eyed "understanding" and certainly not government programs designed to keep them dependant so that their poverty pimping "advocates" can cling to political power. What they need is role models who have the attitudes and good habits that are needed to live an honorable and self-sufficient life - along with their own choice to endeavor to live such a life themselves. But it is important to keep in mind that, while the lack of such role models in our educational system and in the popular culture may help explain the poor choices of those who are raised in poverty, they by no means justify them. In the end, it all boils down to a matter of individual responsibility.

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#26 hipolyte

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 07:59 AM

While you strongly disagree with my statement, I oddly agree with much of what you say - however........

"The message delivered today by poverty pimping politicians and leftist intellectuals who have a vested ideological interest in the existence of a large, permanent underclass - a message which is filtered down through the popular culture and through the government-run educational system dominated by the leftist educational Establishment - is that such people live in an evil society in which they are doomed from the start and that no matter what they do or what they make of themselves, they will only be beaten down."

........I'm not sure that's so much a message as an experience.
The government run approach to this problem, colored by the perception that most homeless people are running some kind of scam and must be caught, can be demeaning and cruel. Offer assistance but make ‘em crawl for it. That's a compromise between the rose-colored glasses of the left and the jaundiced eye of the right. Not very helpful.
However, if holding misguided, uneducated people so accountable for their ill considered behavior, means that they must raise several children while living under a bridge, that is not helpful either.
Those children will learn from their parents lifestyle example and perpetuate or even multiply the problem, creating an ever larger drain on our society.
And drain it is. The productive segment of the population subsidizes the unproductive segment in various ways, obvious or not.
They eat food, or they would be dead of starvation, but they don’t pay for it. Who does? They receive the most expensive kind of medical care, and because of their lifestyle, wait until problems are far involved before seeking help. We pay for the emergency room costs in higher costs for our own care. Lack of ready access to basic sanitary facilities can lead to public outbreaks of disease. Even the obvious list just keeps going and going, and it’s coming right of our (your’s and mine) pockets.
It not even in our own best interests to ignore this growing problem.

The 'poisonous message' in my view is emanating from a capitalistic system which bombards people with a materialistic idealized lifestyle. It is a system which is designed to stimulate over consumption, and glamorize personal gratification. Do you believe any public awareness campaign, publicly or privately funded, can overpower, or even put a dent in, the enormous marketing machine that pervades every aspect of our society?
If the temptations to be lazy and wayward were severe in the 19th century and had to be constantly preached against, how about now with the ubiquitous television in every household? How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm once they've seen gay Paree on the Teevee?
So should we eliminate or sharply regulate advertising? Embrace communism?
Of course not. So far private capitalism is the best system in the world for providing oportunities for ordinary people. We live in a great country, a rich country, in a great society. I’m not going anywhere else.
But there is always room for improvement.
And as for ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’.....
The Oxford American dictionary defines ‘liberal’ as “open-minded, not prejudiced. Favoring individual liberty and political and social reform.”
Conservatives are defined as “averse to rapid change, avoiding extremes.”
So, if the conservative view point had prevailed 227 years ago, we would today simply address our questions to the Queen of England.
Our country has a history of attempting bold and radical solutions to ages-old social problems. America was founded on radical ideas, that ‘individual freedom’ was valuable and desirable, and that all men were equal under the law. At the time, not conservative. Our founders staged a successful revolution (not a conservative move) and created the platform on which we all stand today. The creation of a mandatory public education system for all, still a radical idea in some parts of the world, was certainly not a conservative move.
So our whole society is based on radical social and political reform, combined with rapid technological change. Where does the word conservative fit in here?
Personally, I think ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ are simply useless labels used with derogatory intent to discredit someone you disagree with. The real issues in this country always boil down to ‘money’. You could say, money & power, but power just boils back down to money too.
Rather than say that the homeless and poor are held down by liberal policies, I could say that they are held down by conservatives who fear if these people became politicized, they might vote for the left.
It’s just rhetoric, does’nt contribute, does’nt matter.
So, back to the problem. You want to simply leave the solution to those individuals who are clearly least qualified?
They should just change their ‘mindset’ and realize the error of their ways, and become productive citizens all on their own. Maybe one out of a hundred individuals would have the ability to do this without guidance.
What about the rest?
These people fall into these habits because in some limited way, they have worked for them. Some kind of reward system is there. Maybe even a romantic ‘outlaw’, ‘we outsmarted the system’ Bonnie & Clyde outlook.
But crack down and remove that reward without replacing it with something better, then you’ll create a new level of desperation. Outlaw panhandling, and you get the guy who gives you the line, "I'm out of gas, and my mom's in the ER in Poughkipsie, can you help", or worse, armed muggers.
All I'm getting at is if you get hardass without offering a real, well executed alternative, then this will become a much more dangerous place to live. Welcome to Pottersville. Potter wins in the end.
George Bailey dies a sad, broken man like his father.

#27 Dismuke

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 08:00 AM

"I think ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ are simply useless labels used with derogatory intent to discredit someone you disagree with."

I don't necessarily agree. Those specific terms may have become empty and meaningless in some respects (see below) - but the practice of attaching labels to people's viewpoints is anything but useless. One has to have access to some broad label by which to identify in very general terms the overall world view and ideological perspective a person is coming from. Now, the pragmatist who denies the validity of wider principles or ideologies as such will disagree - but the joke's on him. By refusing to take ideology - and labels such as "liberal" and "conservative" which identify specific ideologies - seriously, the pragmatist has what can only be described as a self-inflicted myopia on political matters. As a result of his reluctance to look one inch beyond the specific journalistic "issues" of the day, the pragmatist completely forfeits any say-so or influence he might otherwise exert over the long term direction of public discourse and debate. Instead, he surrenders it to those who are interested in matters of ideology and who might have agendas which he would find truly frightening if only he had a way of knowing about them. The pragmatist is blind to people's wider ideological motives and remains content to forever merely debate the pros and cons of whatever political and intellectual trends others happen put forward.

The only reason for which it can be proper to regard being labeled as a "liberal" or "conservative" as a valid concern is if it fails to adequately describe what a person does stand for - in which case, all he needs to do is point out the inaccuracy. Sometimes, as in my case, neither label quite fits - in which case I provide my own label to adequately describe my position (in this case: advocate of individual rights and capitalism). It is ok to take exception to the accuracy of a label. But those who are insulted by simply "being labeled" as such are usually trying to hide something from either themselves or others. There are an awful lot of people - especially politicians - who take exception to being labeled not because the label is inaccurate but rather because it is accurate and brings to light a wider agenda that they, for some reason, do not want known. Observe how many "liberal" politicians who are liberal, especially in non-liberal parts of the country, become upset when they are accurately labeled as such (and that does not come just from me - Howard Dean has been pointing this out as well). Plus, a lot of pragmatists become extremely offended whenever someone tries to attach a label to a specific position they may take on any given issue. That's because, as pragmatists, they refuse to admit the fact that the position they take on specific political issues does commit them to taking certain specific positions on other, different political issues if they wish to be consistent. Pragmatists prefer to regard political issues as existing in a vacuum and being non-interconnected. So when someone attempts to, in any way, attach a label to a pragmatist's positions, he is forced to confront the fact that various political issues are interconnected by broader political principles and ideological concerns - so rather than changing his basic premises on the matter, he instead lashes out at being "labeled."



The Oxford American dictionary defines ‘liberal’ as “open-minded, not prejudiced. Favoring individual liberty and political and social reform.”
Conservatives are defined as “averse to rapid change, avoiding extremes.”


Sure, those are the correct dictionary definitions of the terms - and they are even still valid in certain contexts such as "a liberal arts education" and "a conservative investment strategy." But if one tries to use such terms and their traditional definitions as a basis for analysis in the context of modern American politics, he will only end up being befuddled and speaking nonsense as they have, for all practical purposes, entirely different meanings today.

Up until about a little over 100 years ago, my own political views would have been most accurately described as "liberal." At one time, the advocacy of individual rights and limited government was considered to be the liberal position. Thomas Jefferson, for example, was a liberal. At the time, the "conservatives" were people like Alexander Hamilton and the later Whig and Republican parties who primarily represented the moneyed interests and advocated such things as a government controlled central bank and active government intervention into the economy in order to allegedly stimulate business conditions. Then, as now, the American political parties themselves were beset with enormous contradictions (for example, the Democratic Party, the traditional home of the liberals, supported the very backward, almost feudal, slave holding South) - but, generally, througout the 19th century it was the liberals who more consistently held the pro-freedom, pro-individual rights position and the conservatives who sought to expand the power and scope of government.

All that started to change around the turn of the 20th century when so-called liberals began to embrace socialism. By the time FDR and the New Deal came along, the transition was complete.

"Favoring individual liberty?" Modern so-called liberals have not been in favor of individual liberty for decades. The terms "liberty" and especially the term "individual" are a complete anathema to them. The political agenda of modern liberals is thoroughly and unapologetically statist and authoritarian. The last time I am aware of that liberals based their advocacy on individual liberty in any major way was the civil rights movement of the 1950s and early 1960s. Today, liberal advocacy - even on behalf of their core constituencies - tends be based on collectivist grounds such as class warfare. Occasionally you can still hear a liberal arguing on behalf of individual liberty on certain issues as abortion, sodomy laws, civil unions, etc. But I think their positions on such matters are motivated more by where they stand on so-called "cultural war" issues and not out of any respect for individual liberty in general. Look at it this way: ladies who have abortions and people who are gay would not be exempt from the same heavy handed big government agenda they propose subjecting everyone else to.

Now, prior to the rise of the late 1960s New Left, many liberals, despite their blind faith in big government, did have a genuine, albeit very contradictory, concern for the individual. Many liberals looked at the suffering of people born in poverty or who were somehow deprived of certain advantages and had a genuine concern for the individual welfare of such people. But they took an "ends justify the means" approach and advocated the use of political force in order to remedy what they perceived as societal injustices. They falsely believed that they could disregard "economic liberty" while preserving and even expanding "personal liberty." But that is a contradiction - there is no such dichotomy between economic liberty and personal liberty. Liberty is the freedom to live your own life as you see fit (so long as you do not violate the liberty of others by engaging in force or fraud) - and this includes your right to engage in production and trade and to keep whatever property (including your paycheck) you earn as a result of it.

By the mid 1960s, at the very height of their power and prestige, the bankruptcy of the liberals' contradictions had started to catch up with them and become open and obvious. Wherever it had been tried and under variously extreme variants (communism, fascism, "social democracy" and various third world hybrids of the above) governmental activism and intervention did NOT result in the material prosperity that was supposed to advance the well being of its intended recipients. At best, it only resulted in economic stagnation and, in the more extreme instances, in the sacrifice of millions of innocent lives in the name of an alleged social "ideal." The old line liberals, unable to reconcile their concern for the welfare of individual human beings with the disastrous consequences of their policies began to loose their moral fire and their voices were increasingly drowned out by a new generation of so-called liberals, the New Left thugs who were not bothered by such contradictions, who openly admired tyrants such as Mao and Castro and who supported authoritarian government as an end in itself. Because of the nature of their contradictions, the old line liberals were impotent to stop them. In terms of the "intellectual Establishment" which, in this country has always been dominated by liberals, the take over by the New Left was accomplished decades ago and they remain firmly entrenched (the "political correctness" on university campuses being but one of many examples). In terms of the Democratic Party, the battle has taken longer, in part because of the need of its politicians to win votes from a populace which is NOT receptive to heavy handed government control over their lives. But here, too, the New Left has gradually been taking control simply because their position is the most intellectually consistent.

Look at how the Democratic Party is increasingly drifting to the Left in spite of the fact that any ideological shift on the part of the American public has been going in the exact opposite direction for the past 30 years. Look at the candidates in the current presidential race. Since Howard Dean is able to articulate the "liberal" message more consistently and without the contradictions of what elements of old fashioned liberalism are still left in the party, he is able to project a moral certainty and fire that the more moderate candidates cannot - which has absolutely electrified the party's hard core base. Consider Dean's views on foreign policy. If enacted, his foreign policy agenda would be tantamount to American suicide. More reasonable Democrats such as Lieberman and Gephardt are fully aware of this fact and, I suspect, are genuinely frightened about such a prospect - and their views are certainly much more in line with mainstream voters than are Dean's. But observe how impotent and ineffective they are at responding to Dean's position in the context of appealing to the party's base. If one buys into commonly accepted liberal notions about foreign policy and America's position in the world, then Dean's view is the most consistent. What can Lieberman and Gephardt do to refute Dean in any fundamental sense? Become advocates of American self-interest as being the guiding force in foreign policy? Dean's approach to his domestic agenda is nothing more than heavy handed big government authoritarianism - which again, if one buys into commonly accepted liberal notions, is the most consistent position. What can a a more moderate Democrat do to refute Dean's positions? Become a champion of limited government and capitalism? The better elements of the Democratic Party are unable to refute Dean in any fundamental, ideological sense - and when they try, he just points out their contradictions and refers to them as "Lite Republicans." The only semi-effective argument they are able to muster on their own behalf is the pragmatic one that Dean is too far Left for mainstream voters and has no chance of beating Bush. If Dean actually gets the nomination (I don't think he will - I think it will be Gephardt), his candidacy will be one of the final nails in the coffin of the waning influence that old fashioned pre-New Left liberalism still exerts over the party.

For the reasons mentioned above, the current usage of the word "liberal" in contemporary politics is a complete bastardization of that once noble term - which is why I choose instead to refer to such people as "leftists" and why most history and economic textbooks now refer to the actual liberals of the 18th and 19th century as "classical liberals."

Conservatives are defined as “averse to rapid change, avoiding extremes.”


The term "conservative," by contrast, has retained much more of its original meaning - but it never really has been a particularly useful term for identifying and analyzing intellectual and political ideologies. Before its modern corruption, "liberal" referred to a very specific ideology with a proactive agenda - individual rights and limited government. And while the meaning attatched to that term has changed, it still identifies a very specific point of view. The term "conservative" by contrast does not so much refer to a specific ideology as much as a reaction to the dominant trends in play at any given time. For example, observe that during the final collapse of the USSR, the final, desperate attempted coup by hard-line Communists to oust the more moderate Gorbachev was referred to in virtually all of the news reports as being a "conservative backlash" - despite the fact that, in modern terminology, communists are usually regarded as extreme ultra liberals. Communist Party officials in China who oppose free market oriented reforms are also referred to as "conservatives" - despite the fact that, in this country, advocacy of a free market is also usually regarded as a conservative position.

For most of the 20th century in American politics, those who were labeled "conservative," unfortunately, for the most part did live up to the meaning of the term. A good example of this was the old "Rockefeller wing" of the Republican party who, in terms of their basic approach to issues, did not differ from the New Deal Democrats in any fundamental way - they did not oppose the New Deal in principle, they just did not want to "take it to extremes." They did not present any positive case for individual rights or for capitalism. The most they strived for was to slow down or hold the line on the growth of big government - which is why they were totally ineffective and were relegated to "also ran" status for decades. The only way to fight bad ideas is with better ideas - which means, to advance a positive ideological agenda. There are certain groups today who are referred to as "conservative" who do attempt to advance specific agendas - most notably the so-called "economic conservatives" who tend to make the case for limited government and free markets and the "Religious Right/social conservatives" who seek to base public policy on their religious beliefs. But the only thing that has really united the two camps over the years has been their opposition to liberal dominance - and, at some point, the two camps will end up coming to blows.

While the "economic conservatives" have had a certain policy impact in recent decades, the current success of the Republican Party has much more to do with the bankruptcy and collapse in credibility of post New Left liberalism than it does any great success of "conservative" ideology or political skill on the part of Republicans. The Republicans have been successful because they were the only guys left standing when the contradictions of the Democratic Party forced it to move increasingly Left and thereby abandon many mainstream voters.

I suspect that the days are extremely numbered for the Left as we have known it for the past few decades - though the underlying issues of freedom verses statism, capitalism verses government control will certainly not go away. My prediction, for what it is worth, is that we will eventually see another major realignment in our country's political poles just as we did a about a century ago. My guess is we will, on one side, have those who would today be best described as "economically conservative/socially libertarian" verses the other side which, using today's terms, will be "economically liberal/socially conservative." My basis for asserting that is because it is the only logical resolution to the internal contradictions that have plagued both sides of our country's political spectrum for a very long time. As to the timetable for when this will happen and the specific labels and political parties the two camps will affiliate with, I have no idea - but my guess is it will be within our lifetimes. We will just have to wait and see if I am right.

Hipolyte raised a number of other very interesting points in his posting that I would like to comment on - but because of time constraints I cannot do so now. Perhaps some other time.


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#28 hipolyte

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 08:01 AM

Dismuke, you make my head hurt.

#29 Dismuke

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 08:01 AM

hipolyte:

I am not sure how it is off topic. My last posting was in response to and my take on the following items from your posting:

"I think ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ are simply useless labels used with derogatory intent to discredit someone you disagree with."

and

And as for ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’.....
The Oxford American dictionary defines ‘liberal’ as “open-minded, not prejudiced. Favoring individual liberty and political and social reform.”
Conservatives are defined as “averse to rapid change, avoiding extremes.”

followed by your interesting analysis of the historical impact of and differences between the two in American politics.

I merely challenged some of the commonly held premises and what I feel are misconceptions behind some of the points you raised - and I provided additional background and elaboration on some that I more or less agreed with and considered interesting. I didn't consider your initial remarks to be off topic - so how is it that my response supposedly is? Neither your remarks or mine are off topic in that issues of how to deal with the poverty and poor are usually discussed in terms of "liberal" and "conservative" approaches. If so, then it is important to and is very much on topic to define exactly one means by such terms in both their historical and modern meanings - which is what I did.

Now what is a valid criticism of my posting (as well as many other of my postings) is that it is rather long winded - and that certainly can make one's head hurt. Certainly if I were writing in a more formal context such as for publication or a report for school, I would need to subject my efforts to a significant degree of editing. But for me, at least, editing usually takes more time than writing - and I don't have that kind of time to devote to an informal discussion group that I post to primarily on a recreational basis. So my postings tend to read more like a verbatim transcript of points that I might raise in an extemporaneous verbal discussion - which, by its nature, tends to be long winded when compared to a properly edited essay.

Sometimes I will discover while in the middle of composing a posting that my basic point is a bit broader or more complex that I initially realized and that, if my remarks are to be anything more to the average reader than just an arbitrary assertion of unsupported opinion, the posting is going to be longer than what I had initially planned. When that happens, I have two choices - I can narrow the scope of what I intend to say and start from scratch or I can just plow ahead. The second choice is what I usually take as it is less time consuming. Plus, part of the reason I am interested in posting in the first place is because, in order to address a specific point or question that someone else brings up, I am usually require to make some new identification or intellectual integration that had not previously occurred to me - and I end up learning in the process. So, in some respects, I get the same benefit form my postings that others get from working puzzles - a form of intellectual exercise. So, for me, the only alternatives to my sometimes long winded postings would be to spend more time editing (which is not an option) or to either post about a more narrow range of subject matter that I would find less interesting or not to post at all. And if others do not enjoy my postings, then the most rational option for them is to simply gloss over them altogether.

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#30 gdvanc

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 08:01 AM

my impression was that hipolyte's "off topic" label was meant to be self-referencing --- not directed at your post.

#31 hipolyte

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 08:02 AM

A thousand pardons, Dismuke. Gdvanc was correct in that my 'off topic' comment was in reference to myself.
Actually, I often find that the most difficult writing to do in these posts is the 'subject' header, which I feel should be a synopsis of the post.

#32 Dismuke

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 08:02 AM

My goodness... it never occurred to me that it could also be read that way. I guess I was too busy rereading my posting trying to figure out exactly how I might have been off topic. Gee - now I feel a bit silly.

I guess it is just one more example of how one must be careful when dealing with written communication. Several years ago when I first got email, a friend of mine who I was already mildly annoyed at sent me an email about a topic of contention between us. The email contained a statement that I considered outrageous and offensive. So I sent back a very angry reply. I then received a reply back in which he said that he could not understand why I was so upset. Well, the fact that he could be so blind to the obvious got me really mad and I sent back an even angrier reply - this time with a few choice insults. Fortunately, he had the good sense to contact me by telephone instead of sending another email reply - and when I told him why I was so upset, he claimed that he never said what he did. So I pulled up the email and read it to him verbatim. His reply was: "Oh, I guess that I actually did say it - but that is not what I meant to say." Since then, I have learned to pause a moment before responding to an email message that, for some reason, does not quite add up. I guess it is probably good advice to do the same with discussion forum postings as well.

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#33 hipolyte

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 08:03 AM

Well Dismuke, after rereading Renamerusk's original post, I see that we actually are somewhat off topic.
The original question was how could Fort Worth best address the homeless' panhandling problem, which was perhaps exacerbated here by Dallas's recent crackdown.
Large philosophical debates aside, are there any ideas?
Should Panther City follow suit and crack down with police action on our homeless population if they engage in undesirable behavior?

#34 Dismuke

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 08:05 AM

"Well Dismuke, after rereading Renamerusk's original post, I see that we actually are somewhat off topic. The original question was how could Fort Worth best address the homeless' panhandling problem, which was perhaps exacerbated here by Dallas's recent crackdown."

I disagree. Neither of us was off topic. How on earth can one intelligently discuss the homeless problem and what Fort Worth should do about it without being prepared to address wider issues such as the causes of poverty and homelessness, the pos and cons of the various approaches that have traditionally put forth to deal with it, and the proper role of government in dealing with the matter?

One certainly can advance specific opinions or proposals on the matter - but the very instant one is challenged on them, it becomes necessary to defend one's position by explaining one's reasons, i.e. by making reference to one's position on the wider issues involved. In order to persuade someone that your solution to this or any other problem is wise and valid, you must first find some sort of intellectual common ground on which you can both agree and then proceed from there - and the only way to do that is to explore the wider premises upon which your opinions and proposals are based.

"Large philosophical debates aside, are there any ideas?"

How on earth can a person put forth any ideas on any subject of public policy without reference to "large, philosophical debates"?

When someone is asked to explain his reasons for advancing a certain approach to a problem, on what is he going to base his answer other than his implicit or explicit take on wider philosophical issues? What is the standard by which you or anyone else judges the validity and merits of another person's proposals and opinions? Is it not one's take, either implicit or explicit, on wider philosophical issues? A person's opinions on the journalistic political/social issues of the day are ultimately formed by and based on his take on the deeper, more fundamental issues involved - i.e., they are based on his philosophical premises. (Whether he has ever bothered to identify exactly what his philosophical premises are and whether they are thought out and consistent with each other as opposed to merely being a collection of random, largely unidentified contradictory notions that he has unthinkingly absorbed from his parents, peers and the culture at large is a different matter)

For this reason, it is simply impossible to divorce a discussion of differing viewpoints about social and political issues from the underlying philosophical debates upon which they rest. The only time such a discussion can be held is when it is amongst people who are all more or less in agreement about the relevant underlying philosophical issues. In the real world, the only time that you are going to encounter such a discussion is amongst like-minded friends or if you join an organization or a forum whose membership is restricted based on adherence to a commonly shared set of ideas. When you participate in a discussion of ideas that is open to people from a wide range of philosophical and intellectual viewpoints - as is this forum - then you should expect the conversation between thoughtful people who take their ideas seriously to drift towards the "large philosophical debates." As long as those debates flow from and are critical towards a deeper understanding of the main issue of the thread, they are NOT off topic. To demand that they be so would be to reduce the level of conversation to nothing more than a series of competing and ultimately arbitrary "you ses, I ses" type exchanges.

"Should Panther City follow suit and crack down with police action on our homeless population if they engage in undesirable behavior?"

To illustrate my point, rather than tossing out my specific opinion on the question (If someone is particularly interested in knowing it, I will be glad to answer it if asked) I will merely list some of the wider philosophical questions that a serious and intellectually responsible person must consider before he can properly answer the question.

The question boils down to whether the government and its armed police officers should resort to the threat and/or use of physical force to address certain allegedly "undesirable" behavior associated with a specific social problem. So here goes:

What constitutes "desirable" verses "undesirable" behavior? By what standard does one determine one from the other? Who is qualified to make such a determination? Do they have a moral right to pass such a judgment - and, if so, on what basis and why? Is this allegedly undesirable behavior something that homeless people can realistically be expected to refrain from engaging in? Or does this behavior result from the very fact that they are homeless to start with? If so, then who or what is responsible for the fact that they are homeless? Is it the homeless people themselves? If so, are they homeless because of poor choices they have made? Is it because they are not capable of being self-sufficient due to something such as a physical or mental disability? If the reason does not rest with the homeless people themselves, then who is responsible? Society in general or certain segments of society such as the productive or the "rich"? Are specific government policies responsible for the problem? What are the causes of poverty in general - of which homelessness is an extreme subset? Are there alternatives to a life of poverty for the poor and homeless? What are the prerequisites, behavioral and otherwise, of being able to live a life where one is able to be self-sufficient and provide for one's basic needs such as adequate shelter, food, clothing and medical care? What is the source of wealth and what is required to create it? Since we are discussing the merits of a possible police "crack down" - what is the proper role and function of government? Is it proper for the government to "crack down" on so-called "undesirable" behavior? If so, then what type of undesirable behavior is it permissible to crack down on and why? Any type of behavior that is somehow deemed "undesirable"? Or only certain types of undesirable behavior with other forms of undesirable behavior being legally permissible despite its offensive nature? Are individuals properly subservient to the dictates of government officials - or is it the other way around? Do the liberties enjoyed by individual citizens exist as a matter of privilege determined either by government officials or by their fellow citizens through majority vote? Or do individuals have certain rights that are inviolable regardless of what government officials or public opinion might think or want to do? If so, what is one's basis for asserting that such rights exist - and why is it wrong for the government or one's fellow citizens to violate these rights? Do these rights extend to homeless people as well? If not, then why not? I could continue - but I think I have made my point.

Any thinking person (as opposed to someone merely regurgitating the opinions of his parents, friends, colleagues or favorite movie stars which he uncritically accepted either by default or on the basis of emotion) is going to base his answer to the question about whether or not there should be a police crackdown on the homeless largely upon his take on the wider, more fundamental questions I raised - plus a whole bunch of others that I did not raise. That is why neither of us was off topic. Asking - and debating - such questions is an essential part of formulating and ultimately defending a reasonable and thoughtful answer to the initial question about how to properly address our city's homeless problem.

The approach that I demonstrated in my example is an illustration of the process of thinking in terms of principles - and it is the only approach by which one can fully and properly understand the journalistic social and political issues of the day. The fact that a great many supposedly well educated people today are completely unfamiliar with such an approach and regularly put forth opinions about a wide variety of public policy issues without first asking themselves the sort of questions I raised is a damning indictment of the influence of pragmatism on our culture in general and of the bankruptcy of our shallow,third rate, largely government controlled, education system.

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#35 hipolyte

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 08:06 AM

I’ve been too busy to post lately. This is a “snatched moment’.
I am aware of all that you are speaking of, and totally agree that any solution to the problem at hand must come through deep philosophical debate of all the fundamental issues, both apparent and underlying.
What I am saying is that is exactly what you will not get, here, now, today, in this society. It is not the approach our neighbors to the East used when they decided to crackdown on their homeless panhandlers, precipitating an influx of same into Panther City.
More and more, our society is based on appearances only.
Just as much of our architecture is constructed of styrofoam and plaster coatings, all smoke and mirrors to simulate what is too expensive or time-consuming to actually build, our typical approach to public policy is to gloss over the symptoms with a coat of splashy paint.
Our leaders are more devoted to gaining and consolidating power than they are in egaging in possibly politically risky attempts to resolve sticky social ills.
It's much easier to have the police remove any social misfits from sight, and then, voila! Outa sight, outa mind. "What homeless problem? Looks just like Disneyland to me. No disturbing sights, sounds, or aromas in sensory perception."
It's the easy, knee-jerk instant solution to the symptom, and it's exactly what Fort Worth's leaders will do if citizen's complaints become loud enough to galvanize them into action, and there's not already a better, easier, cheaper solution ready for them to see.
And counting some Dallas Police Officers among my friends, I can tell you that they could use some sensitivity training before they draw this duty. One told me just days ago that he is activley advising ‘repeat panhandlers’, that “they better move to Fort Worth, where the policies are less strict, because if he sees them again he’s going to have to throw them in jail”.
So what's a quick, better, mechanical, more sensitive and humane treatment for the symptom, just to bridge the gap between now and the complete restructuring of modern homo sapien's mindset?
And I have noticed that at least twice, dismuke has posted lengthy responses to side issues I have touched on,liberal and conservative labels, and the merit of philosophy in the debate, leaving the rest to some 'other' time. No offense intended, as I probably hit some touchy subjects, and I truly respect dismuke's indepth research and insights.
Dismuke, what is your opinion of what should be done on this issue?

#36 Dismuke

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 08:09 AM

"I am aware of all that you are speaking of, and totally agree that any solution to the problem at hand must come through deep philosophical debate of all the fundamental issues, both apparent and underlying.
What I am saying is that is exactly what you will not get, here, now, today, in this society."


And there are many reasons why this is the case. Americans have a tendency to be somewhat "anti-intellectual" - and not for entirely bad reasons either. For well over a century, the dominant intellectual/philosophical trends in the West have come out of Europe and have been, quite frankly, extremely hostile to the spirit of individualism and self-reliance and the this-worldly, reality oriented approach (which people often take for granted and simply refer to as "common sense") that has always uniquely defined America. The recent well publicized tension between the United States and France provides an excellent example of the clash. If one takes a look at the deeper ideas and philosophical outlooks upon which the French position rests, one will see that they are the exact same ideas that have animated the intelligentsia in this country going way back well into the 19th century. And there is no doubt that, if one were to conduct a survey of academia in this country today, especially in the social science fields, it would almost certainly reflect a very high level of sympathy for the French viewpoint in the recent controversies. The American public has always had a similar attitude towards the academics that it currently has towards the French in light of recent events - not so much an expression of outright contempt as a disgusted refusal to take them very seriously. As a result, Americans tend to think of academics as being "pointy headed" and, consequentially, of "deep philosophical debate" as being little more than a form of mental masturbation practiced by such pointy heads with little relevance to real-world issues. They could not be more wrong about the importance of philosophical issues - but I completely sympathize with why many people feel that way. This contempt for intellectuals and for philosophical issues is one of the reasons why the influence of pragmatism - which originated in America - is so widespread in our culture today. As I have mentioned in previous postings in this thread, pragmatism basically dispenses with "deep philosophical issues" altogether - and its influence is one of the reasons why contemporary political and social discussions tend to be so myopic. Plus, on top of all of that, is our education system which is quite horrible even compared to what is offered in other countries today. Our public educational system has a hard time just trying to graduate kids who can actually read (by which I mean the ability to comprehend as opposed to merely being able to recite a bunch of words on paper) and write (by which I mean the ability to clearly express one's thoughts on paper as opposed to merely taking dictation) let alone to engage in the critical thinking necessary to explore deeper philosophical issues.

"Our leaders are more devoted to gaining and consolidating power than they are in egaging in possibly politically risky attempts to resolve sticky social ills.
It's much easier to have the police remove any social misfits from sight, and then, voila! Outa sight, outa mind. "What homeless problem? Looks just like Disneyland to me. No disturbing sights, sounds, or aromas in sensory perception."
It's the easy, knee-jerk instant solution to the symptom, and it's exactly what Fort Worth's leaders will do if citizen's complaints become loud enough to galvanize them into action, and there's not already a better, easier, cheaper solution ready for them to see."


As obnoxious as politicians can be, it is difficult to rest the ultimate blame for society's ills with them. In the long run, politicians tend to be nothing more than mere reflections of a country's overall cultural trends. Obviously, there are occasional anomalies but they are always temporary. Look at it this way: If Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin had been born in the United States, they would have been doomed to a life of obscurity, frustration and impotence. Had Thomas Jefferson or James Madison been born in early 20th century Russia or Germany, they would have ended up being murdered in a concentration camp or gulag. Had a Jefferson or Madison lived in 20th century America, they might well have made names for themselves in some other field of endeavor - but certainly not politics where their views would have been largely dismissed as belonging to an out of fashion fringe. Successful politicians are nothing more than creatures of and reflections of the time and place in which they live. People who are significantly out of step with their time and place - either for the better or the worse - simply do not show up on the political radar.

As to the responsibility of Fort Worth city leaders for solving the issues mentioned, I will comment below.


And counting some Dallas Police Officers among my friends, I can tell you that they could use some sensitivity training before they draw this duty. One told me just days ago that he is actively advising ‘repeat panhandlers’, that “they better move to Fort Worth, where the policies are less strict, because if he sees them again he’s going to have to throw them in jail”.

Sounds to me like the officer you mention is being very sensitive. Police officers do not have any say-so in the policies they enforce - it is simply their job to enforce them. Sounds to me like this is a police officer who does not particularly want to throw the offender in jail and is trying to help him in the best way he can by offering advice.

Dismuke, what is your opinion of what should be done on this issue?

Gee - I could probably type out an entire book on the subject. But I will just touch on a few points and if I am too vague or insufficiently clear, I can elaborate in follow up postings if necessary.

Ultimately, my bottom line answer is yes, city governments do have valid authority to pass anti-panhandling ordinances. That having been said, I also understand why this may be regarded as a touchy issue for some - and these concerns largely center around difficulties inherent in the concept of "public property." Some might argue that, since the streets and parks are public property and that since the homeless are members of the public and have the same basic rights as all other citizens, they have an inherent right to engage in panhandling on such property.

There is no real issue when it comes to panhandling in places such as Rigmar Mall where everything is private property and where management has every right in the world to demand those who do not follow its rules to leave. Other than a few hard core socialists, nobody challenges Rigmar management's right to establish and enforce such rules. The reason why following a similar approach in downtown Dallas or downtown Fort Worth is more difficult is, of course, because the streets and sidewalks are considered "public property." Ultimately, the question boils down to exactly what rights do individual members of the public have when it comes to the use of so-called public property.

The notion of "public ownership," while popular in some quarters, is ultimately untenable. Ownership implies certain specific inherent rights - and those rights are simply non-existent when it comes to a citizen's alleged "ownership" of public property. One of those rights is the right to sell or dispose of that which one owns. Go try and put up for sale your share of alleged ownership in the Tarrant County Courthouse and see what happens. You would probably be arrested - and properly so. But let's take a look at situations where it is possible for ownership in something to be shared between many thousands or even millions of individuals - for example, the ownership of a publicly traded company. In such situations, the range of action that one is able to properly exercise as an owner is extremely limited. One's rights as an owner in such situations are limited by the exact same rights of all the other owners. In the end, this usually translates into one's say-so as owner being limited to a mere democratic vote on those who will administer and make executive decisions regarding the entity's assets. The fact that you may be a stockholder and, therefore, part owner in General Motors does NOT give you a right to walk past the security gate of the GM plant in Arlington. And while "public property" ultimately means government property, since, in a free country, the government is controlled by and answers to the citizens, a similar principle applies when it comes to an individual citizen's right to access and use government property.

As a property owner, a government does have the authority and responsibility for establishing guidelines as to the acceptable use of that property. In a free country, the proper principle for determining such guidelines is to make them as publicly inclusive as possible within the constraints of the specific purpose the property serves. The specific purpose of Carswell is national security and defense - so it is entirely appropriate that I am not allowed to enter that facility as I have no legitimate purpose for being there. The purpose of government owned roads is to allow access to one's property and to provide routes for vehicular traffic to follow. Because there have to be certain commonly agreed upon procedures to ensure the safe and smooth flow of traffic, it is entirely proper for the government to define and enforce such procedural rules on its roads - and to prohibit behavior that interferes with the road's proper function. One does NOT have a right to drive 90 mph down Hulen. One has every right in the world to protest governmental policies - but one does NOT have the right to block traffic in order to do so. On the other hand, in a free country, such rules do need to be limited by their relevance to the instance at hand. For example, it would not be proper for the government to limit drivers' licenses only to people who dress a certain way or to those who first perform a certain number of hours of "community service."

The same applies to the issue of how citizens - including the homeless - may properly use and conduct themselves on city streets, sidewalks, parks and other public facilities. Panhandling (as well as solicitation for charitable contributions) at street intersections is a disruption to the flow of traffic and is entirely within the authority of a city government to restrict such behavior. On the other hand, standing on the side of the intersection holding a banner with a political message is not such a disruption and it would not be appropriate to ban such an activity. The purpose of sidewalks is to enable people to get from point A to point B - and they have every right to do so without being hassled or subjected to unwelcome confrontations along the way. If such unwelcome confrontations become a significant impediment for people to use the sidewalks for their intended purpose, it is entirely proper for the government to establish procedural rules to remedy the situation - so long, of course, as the rules apply equally to everyone. On the other hand, it would not be proper for the government to ban people who dress in shabby clothes or who wear signs with unpopular political slogans from using the sidewalk as that in no way interferes with the sidewalk's intended use. The city owned library may not properly bar someone from entering and using the facility just because he is homeless and scruffy looking. But it is entirely proper for the city to prevent the library from being used for purposes for which it was not intended (such as sleeping) and to prohibit behavior that interferes with other patrons ability to use the facility (The courts have prevented public libraries from excluding those who stink to high heaven. This is insane - I was once unable to access a particular reference book I was looking for in the Dallas public library because it was located in a stack in close proximity to a sleeping bum whose stench almost caused me to throw up many yards away never mind up close). The same goes for city parks. Such parks exist for certain specific purposes - recreation, preservation of natural areas, etc. It is entirely proper for the city to regulate conduct on park property in a manner consistent with the park's purpose - indeed, as guardians of the park, it is their responsibility to do just that.

If you would like to test the motivation and consistency of those who disagree with me and assert that there exists a right to panhandle on city property, try the following experiment. Without any mention of the issue of homelessness, ask such a person whether they would object to the city prohibiting or severely restricting the ability of someone with a large hand held trunk from using a downtown street or a busy public park to peddle merchandise such as discounted watches, jewelry, wallets, purses etc. If they have no problem with such restrictions being placed on peddlers, then what they are saying is that unwelcome confrontations on the sidewalk are an inviolable right if it is for parasitical purposes - but using the sidewalks for the productive purpose of facilitating the exchange of values is not. Sadly, when it comes to issues such as homelessness, there are people who have agendas motivated by world views that regard those who engage in parasitical behavior as being somehow morally superior to those who are productive.

As to the Dallas City Council's actions - that city has desperately needed to do something for a very long time in this area. Visiting downtown Dallas after hours and on weekends can be a very unpleasant experience because, in certain sections, it is difficult to walk two blocks without being hassled. That is a major impediment to a downtown renaissance in that city. As to the impact it might have on Fort Worth - well, quite frankly, the job of a Dallas city counsel person is to look after the interests of his or her own constituents. It is not the job of the a Dallas city council person to solve the problems of residents of a city 30 miles distant.

As to the wider issue of homelessness, I am afraid that is an issue more fundamental than can be addressed by city government - and I don't think it is fair to fault city leaders for being unable to solve or do much in the way of addressing it. It is simply beyond the scope of their office to do so. A mayor or a member of the city council is in much the same position as the cop whose job is to arrest homeless panhandlers despite the fact that he might not particularly enjoy or want to do so. It is not the cop's fault that the person is homeless and there is absolutely nothing as a policeman he can do about it. It is the responsibility of city leaders to see to it that the intended use of city property is not disrupted - by the homeless or anyone else. It is not the city council's fault that people are homeless and it is not in their power to solve the wider problem.

How should the wider problem of homelessness be addressed? Well, my brief answer is that part of it has already been discussed in this thread. Many of the homeless are mentally ill and are simply unable to care for themselves. At one time such people were institutionalized until the courts basically threw them out on the streets. If a person truly is mentally ill and unable to take care of himself, then he does need to be institutionalized and cared for. Obviously, however, there do need to be very stringent safeguards in place to protect the rights of those who are falsely accused of being mentally ill and to protect the dignity of those who are - safeguards which very often did not exist in the past.

Excluding those who are mentally and physically disabled and baring a major economic calamity on the scale of the Great Depression or worse, homelessness is NOT so much a social problem as it is an issue of personal responsibility. As a human being, it is your responsibility to learn and practice behavior that is responsible, productive and which will enable you to be self-sufficient. If, because of bad choices or unfortunate circumstances beyond your control, you become destitute, it is your responsibility to accept what helping hands are extended your way and to make reestablishing yourself your highest priority and to devote your full-time focus and effort towards that end. Those who choose to ignore the lessons of their unfortunate circumstances and choose to continue to engage in irresponsible or self-destructive behavior and who refuse to accept the help towards self-sufficiency that others may be willing to offer....well, I am afraid that is their choice. They have every right in the world to make such choices - but they alone are responsible for and must accept the consequences of the path they have chosen. That may sound harsh - but the simple fact is that there is no power in the world that can make another person choose to be responsible and productive. One can try to motivate, inspire and show them the way - but it is impossible to make them.

It is completely natural and healthy for a person to have empathy and concern for strangers who are facing unfortunate circumstances and to want to do something to help. Unfortunately, many people get so carried away in their benevolence that they end up taking on a great deal of unearned guilt - and there are some out there who are more than eager to cash in on such unearned guilt in order to further their wider political and/or ideological agendas. The important thing to keep in mind is this: the fact that you are productive and have pursued and achieved certain rational values (material and otherwise) that have made your life worth living is NOT what is responsible for another person's unfortunate plight. Wealth is not something static - it is created by people engaging in productive behaviors. Your hard-earned wealth that you created through your honest efforts did NOT come at the expense of those who did not create it. Indeed, the exact opposite is true: the more wealth that those engaged in an economy are able to create, the more economic opportunities are opened up to those whose skills are marginal. So long as a society has economic freedom, the long term solution to poverty rests not with taking away and redistributing some of your pies but rather with showing everyone else how to make their own pies - along with defining poverty as someone who is going hungry for lack of pie as opposed to someone who simply has fewer and less tasty pies than his neighbor.


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#37 Dismuke

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 08:09 AM

By the way, one thing I forgot to mention in my previous posting was that the best thing that one can do on an individual basis to help address the issue of homelessness is to refuse to give money - not even a penny - to panhandlers. All that does is subsidize and perpetuates their self-destructive lifestyle choices and encourages behavior which makes the general public less sympathetic towards individuals who actually do need and are worthy of a helping hand. Urbndlwr FW hit the nail on the head when he suggested:

"Rather than handing that money to the panhandler, make a donation to a group that actively helps these folks get back on their feet. It may not be the easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do."

If you are too consumed by bleeding heart unearned guilt to do that, then carry with you a stash of such an organization's business cards and hand them out instead of money to the panhandlers - and tune out the barrage of verbal abuse which you will undoubtedly be subjected to secure in the knowledge that you have done more than most to make a genuine effort to make a helping hand available.

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#38 ghughes

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 08:10 AM

I echo Urbndlwr FW and Dismuke, but would also add that, if one is interested in direct action (or, of course, cash is in short supply), personal effort is always welcomed by those same organizations. It can take a wide range of forms, from fund-raising and administrative work to on-site help (tutoring, etc.). Activities which puts one in less or more contact with the clients, depending on your interests.

I mention it in that way because, while some may wish to help, they aren't necessarily interested in singing around the campfire with the homeless. There are volunteer opportunities that are quite useful yet, shall we say, a bit removed from the problem.

#39 Dismuke

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 08:10 AM

Plus there are organizations that help prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place. I have known over the years several ladies who were able to summon up the courage to get out of physically abusive relationships because of organizations that provided them with temporary shelter and a chance to start over - and, perhaps more importantly, assistance with identifying the psychological factors that cause a lot of such ladies to end up in subsequent abusive relationships.

I'll share a very sad story. I once witnessed the process of someone becoming homeless. I was 18 years old and on my own for the first time. My very first place of my own was a small one room apartment on the fourth floor of a run-down but clean 1870s vintage row house in a yet-to-be gentrified Boston neighborhood. Boston rents have always been expensive and about half of my meager pay went towards rent - and I was relieved to find a place so inexpensive compared to everything else. At the time the local economy up north was in the toilet and, when I lost my job and had a hard time finding another, there were a couple of times when the only thing that prevented me from acting on my discreet inquiries about how to get to and use the local soup kitchen was the kindness of friends who picked up on my situation and invited me to dinner. I wasn't that far from being homeless myself. But since I was young and starting out for the first time, I considered the whole experience to be a grand adventure in a great city chock full of incredible old buildings and had lots of fun. Plus, unlike the homeless, I had in my suitcase a return airline ticket back to mom and dad in the event things got really bad - but the last thing in the world I wanted to do was use it.

My fellow tenants in the row house were, as one might expect, a rather odd lot. Next door to me was a Marxist cab driver who would hang handwritten signs on his window with slogans about the "workers' revolt" and "the Revolution." Needless to say, he and I did not get along very well. There was a really nasty unfriendly old woman who lived directly below me. Next door to her was a strange man in his 30s who bragged to anyone who would listen about his large collection of porno magazines. Two floors below me was a kindly man somewhere in his 50s or early 60s who seemed, by comparison, to be relatively sane. His name was Alex and he would occasionally invite me into his room/apartment for conversation. I always liked going into his apartment because, unlike my digs in the former servants' quarters, it had obviously been a somewhat grand room before the single family row house had been converted into a rooming house decades earlier. Plus he had a large collection of books which gave the room lots of character. Alex did not talk much about himself - but I did learn that his means of support was some sort of disability check from the government, that he was a Korean War veteran and that after the war he was an engineer and worked in aircraft design. I realized that things were not all quite right with Alex when, one day, he invited me in and I watched him drink a ridiculous amount of vodka in a very short time while seeming to remain remarkably lucid. Turns out that he was a binge drinker. Every month when his disability check came in, he would drink for days and wouldn't stop until his money ran out or he became unconscious. He would end up being hauled off to the drunk tank at the VA Hospital to dry out and come back a few days later seemingly fine until his next check arrived. Apparently he fell behind in his rent because the manager of the building was successful in getting the necessary city paperwork to evict him. A day or two before the eviction, Alex, so drunk he could hardly walk, fell off the building's front stoop, split open his head and was rushed away to the hospital in an ambulance. I learned about the eviction when I was walking down the stairs and, seeing Alex's door open, spotted the building's manager boxing up his belongings. I went inside and found out what was happening. As the manager was gathering the stuff up, he showed me a number of photographs that appeared to be from sometime in the 1960s of Alex with people that I assume were his wife and children. A closer examination of his book collection indicated that he was obviously a well educated individual. We both openly wondered how on earth a person like that could come to such an end - and where was the family in the photos and why they weren't there to help them? Then, to my great shock, the building manager asked me if there was anything amongst the stuff that I wanted. "Want? It's not mine to want!" I replied. He then explained that whatever I did not take was going to end up on the front sidewalk where it would be most likely stolen or destroyed by the elements. I couldn't believe what I was hearing - how could he just throw away the few precious remnants left over from the man's life? His answer was that it was not his problem. Even at that age I could understand why, as manager, he had no choice but to evict a tenant who wouldn't pay his rent - but this seemed to me to be extremely callous. I asked why he couldn't just store the stuff for a while in the building's basement until Alex found some other place to live. He told me that he couldn't - that the eviction was an all or nothing matter. He also said that he didn't think Alex would even be coming back anyway. I don't know if there really were legal reasons that required him to take such a position or not - but I was unable to talk him out of it and everything, boxes, furniture and all were placed on the curb. A few days after everything had gone - where I don't know - Alex did come back from the hospital and stood outside and just kept ringing the building's doorbell. Everyone in the building was under orders not to let him in - not that there was anything left for him inside. The manager finally called the police who escorted Alex to the homeless shelter. I never saw him again and, a few weeks later, I moved away from that building and from Boston.

I have no way of knowing whether Alex was ever able to get out of the shelter or what became of him. But my guess has always been that, without even his mementos from the past to cling to, why would he even bother? What was there left for him to live for? I have had to perform the unfortunate task of firing people I knew to be in tight financial circumstances more often than I care to remember - and I was completely ok with doing it. I would have no problem evicting a non-paying tenant. I have no idea what sort of legal complications the building manager might have faced had he kept Alex's belongings in the basement. I know it was not his fault that Alex had entered into a downward spiral and I realize he had a business to look out for or he himself might have been out on the street. But I could never have done what he did and, to this day, I wonder how the man managed to sleep at night. In fact, looking back, I am amazed at how come I didn't try and do more than I did. I could at least have tried to find someone who might have had some extra storage space and been willing to help. And why didn't I at least attempt to salvage the photographs? I guess 18 year olds are congenitally stupid.

I have no idea about what sort of daemons haunted Alex. Was he mentally ill? Is that why he was on disability? Or was his downward spiral caused by his own evasive refusal to deal with life and reality? What happened to his family - and if they were still alive, why didn't they help him? Why didn't the people at the VA hospital help him? Could they have helped him? Could anyone have helped him? One cannot say that "society" turned a blind eye on him - he received a government check every month that was undoubtedly more than what I was supporting myself on at the time. My hunch is that nobody could have helped him - and that whatever internal daemons started his downward spiral were every bit as destructive and ultimately fatal as if his body had been riddled with cancer. I hope I am wrong - but I doubt it. It is all so very sad because, at least towards me, he was a very nice man and someone who, at one time, was apparently very productive and had a lot to offer.

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#40 hipolyte

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 08:11 AM

Sorry to read the story about your friend Alex. It is definitely true that you can't save everyone, or perhaps even very many. It is the human condition to be pursued by daemons, and everyone's response to that is a personal matter.
However.....

" homelessness is NOT so much a social problem as it is an issue of personal responsibility. As a human being, it is your responsibility to learn and practice behavior that is responsible, productive and which will enable you to be self-sufficient."

This is a behavoir pattern, which with most people must be taught, either by parents, peers, mentors, or experience.
If you discovered a small child living alone on the street, even by choice, would you consider it the child's responsibility to improve his/her lot?
Of course not. You would recognize that this young person would not have the skills, the knowledge, the experience, to even know how to begin. The child is not responsible for the situation, and does'nt even understand the choices.
So if, say a three year old, is perceived as not having the skills, what about a 9 year old? 14? 18? The difference between 14 and 18 is just a matter of degrees, and what with racing hormones, the 14 year old is probably more capable.
If a child has'nt learned the lessons you wish for them to learn, it's because you have not taught them, and if they don't have them in place by 14, then it's too late to expect them to 'just know'. If they have to figure it out for themselves, then they may arrive at a creative, easy solution you don't like, and thus our problem.

"our education system which is quite horrible even compared to what is offered in other countries today. Our public educational system has a hard time just trying to graduate kids who can actually read (by which I mean the ability to comprehend as opposed to merely being able to recite a bunch of words on paper) and write (by which I mean the ability to clearly express one's thoughts on paper as opposed to merely taking dictation) let alone to engage in the critical thinking necessary to explore deeper philosophical issues. "

I agree. The public education system is only works for the kids who have massive support from their parents, and who therefore would probably get by without it at all. I would rather every kid who graduated had the ability to think, prioritize, and problem solve real world situations, than be able to pass written tests.
The opposite is true. In our schools, creative thinking is quashed, because it creates unpredictability and disrupts quiet classrooms.
This system does not teach personal responsibilty, and is moving farther away from that, not closer.
Poorly educated children who lack problem solving skills simply become poorly educated adults who lack problem solving skills, and are a drag on our society.

" As obnoxious as politicians can be, it is difficult to rest the ultimate blame for society's ills with them. In the long run, politicians tend to be nothing more than mere reflections of a country's overall cultural trends."

Once again I agree, but.....
This is where a shift must occur in how our society perceives and addresses problems. Our leaders won't attempt to repair major social ills unless the majority of the population supports them. Part of our underlying problem is our 'America goes it alone' attitude. "I'm not my brother's keeper","it's their responsibility", and "it's their choice" will not fix this problem.
This is where we seem to disagree. I feel that to reduce homelessness, and therefore panhandling, most people must be 'taught' to appreciate their role in our society. If their parents are unable to do this, it is because they were not taught either.
If they pick up wrong messages by osmosis, that's our failure as a society, not theirs.
The public school system would be the logical place to begin.
And I do not think that annoying parasitical behavoirs in public places are protected by law.
But I don't agree with sweeping unpleasant problems under the rug.
All right, I'm out of time.

#41 Dismuke

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Posted 24 July 2004 - 08:11 AM

The public school system would be the logical place to begin.

I agree that school is a major part of the solution. That is where kids can be exposed to lifestyles and viewpoints different from those of their parents and peers. But public schools are NOT the answer - indeed they are part of the problem. Public schools are subject to the influence of too many people with agendas (ideological and otherwise) that are contrary to the best interest of the kids. What is needed is a voucher system which will enable parents in poor neighborhoods to shop around for educational quality the same way that wealthier parents can. Most parents - even single moms on welfare - want their children to have a better life than their own. With real school choice and free market alternatives to the gang ridden, politically correct public schools, poor parents would suddenly be in a position to actually provide their kids with such an opportunity.

Can it be done? Can one reach disadvantaged kids through a quality education? Yes it can be done - and there is a very remarkable lady who has spent her life doing just that. Her name is Marva Collins and you can read about accomplishments at: http://www.marvacoll.../biography.html

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#42 David Love

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 04:42 PM

QUOTE
Obviously some very complex issues with no clear cut solutions, I am pleased to see that they're making an attempt to get their heads around the problems.

Council to vote on alcohol-free zones near shelters
By MIKE LEE
Star-Telegram staff write

FORT WORTH -- In the shadow of a freeway overpass on East Lancaster Avenue, Leo Kobinski said banning alcohol near homeless shelters won't work.

To illustrate, he pulled out a ticket he got in mid-July for public intoxication. Like a lot of people who live in or near the homeless shelters, he can't afford to pay the fine, so another ticket is of little consequence.

"I've got 2,000-something dollars' worth of tickets," he said.

The City Council will vote today on banning alcohol and open containers within 1,000 feet of homeless shelters. It's aimed at curbing public drinking near the shelters on East Lancaster Avenue, just south of downtown Fort Worth.

Fort Worth is the first city in the state to vote on the ban since the Legislature approved the measure this past session, according to a spokesman for state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, the law's sponsor.

Council members, advocates for the homeless and shelter managers say the alcohol prohibition can work only as part of a wide-ranging plan to address homelessness, alcoholism, mental illness and other problems that can be found along Lancaster Avenue.

"I think it's an important first step," Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks said.

Fort Worth's three main shelters are clustered along Lancaster, and the number of people seeking shelter -- both short-term and long-term -- is growing.

The city is looking for larger solutions, including more transitional housing, where residents can have access to social services while they try to get on their feet.

At the same time, owners of surrounding businesses are becoming frustrated by what they say is a constant parade of people drinking -- sometimes urinating and panhandling -- in the homeless district.

"We have customers that really don't want to come to this area," said Glen Lea, manager of Marshall Grain Co. on Lancaster near Riverside Drive. "They stop at Riverside and people are just staring at them. Either that, or they're just staggering out in the street banging on windows, asking for money."

Suzette Watkins, who owns a kennel near Lancaster and Riverside, said the city needs to impose consequences on people who flout the law.

Right now, she said, "They get off scot-free."

Don Shisler, president of the Union Gospel Mission, said the alcohol ban might help remove temptation from children and from people who are trying to quit drinking.

"It would be helpful if that type of influence weren't available to the people we're working with or ministering to," he said.

But homeless people often walk for miles, so 1,000 feet won't be much of an impediment to those who want to keep drinking, he said.

Other cities have tried similar bans. Seattle prohibits the sale of several brands of fortified wine and malt liquor in its downtown area. Washington, D.C., restricts the sale of single-serving containers in one ward.

But those rules have had little effect, said Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington.

"Prohibiting the sale of alcohol is not going to attack the root cause of substance abuse among homeless people," he said. "Detox and residential treatment programs are the way to go."

Hicks sees the 1,000-foot limit as part of a larger campaign. She and other community activists have been fighting alcohol sales permits for stores along Lancaster and other areas of southeast Fort Worth.

They recently got the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to deny a license to a convenience store at Riverside and Lancaster, which is halfway between two of the major shelters.

"I'm not trying to make everyone alcohol-free. I'm trying to cut down on how many [stores selling alcohol] there are," she said.

The manager of a convenience store on Lancaster Avenue, who declined to give his name, said the city isn't addressing the right crowd.

"Most of our customers are not shelter people; they're the neighborhood people," he said.

Beneath the overpass on Lancaster, Kobinski and a knot of other men acknowledged that alcohol is a serious problem on the street. But most of them have already been ticketed for minor offenses such as trespassing and jaywalking and still haven't been able to quit.
Mike Lee, 817-390-7539
mikelee@star-telegram.com

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#43 ramjet

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 06:16 PM

Gritsforbreakfast blog (a blog that covers Texas criminal justice issues and for my money the best hands down blog of any kind I've ever read) has an interesting posting comparing Fort Worth's new homelessness initiative to Austin's efforts to control the problem here by stepping up police enforcements. Even though a bit old, this thread had a pretty intense and informative exchange about the issue in Fort Worth. Now that the Fort Worth has a 10 year strategy to end homelessness through supportive housing, I was wondering what support it had up there and what folks thought of spending $3 million to tackle the problem. If you've been to Austin, you know that homelessness is a big and very visible issue here. Much more visible throughout the city than I see up there in either Fort Worth or Dallas. And agreeing with Grits, not sure aggressive police enforcement is the right answer....

http://gritsforbreak...melessness.html



#44 David Love

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Posted 29 December 2009 - 08:47 PM

Housing for homeless to open in long-vacant downtown Dallas high-rise

Thought this was a great idea and with stimulus funds and grants are there any such structures in or around downtown that would serve a similar need? I see the Knights of Pythias boarded up and a run down house next to it, then there's the brick structure that's falling to pieces next to the old candy company and fresh fruit packing company.

QUOTE
By JESSICA MEYERS / The Dallas Morning News
jmeyers@dallasnews.com

After years of planning, Dallas will open its first mixed-use housing development with units set aside for low-income residents and the formerly homeless today.

CityWalk@Akard, a historic 15-story brick building in downtown Dallas, will offer 200 affordable-housing apartments, with 50 reserved for the formerly homeless. The spot at 511 N. Akard St. will also house a 7-Eleven, several companies and six additional condominiums.
511 N. Akard St.

The Bridge, the city's homeless assistance center, opened a year and half ago. But with few affordable units available in Dallas, the center has been unable to provide the transition to stability that its name implies.

Dallas has long lagged behind other major cities in creating these developments, often labeled permanent supportive housing. CityWalk is the first step, said John Greenan, executive director of Central Dallas Community Development Corp., which is spearheading the project along with Central Dallas Ministries. Both their offices will be stationed there.

"This is going to set a pattern by taking people with no home and finding them a place to live in the center of downtown in a very public location," he said. "Everyone knows what we are doing, and it will be a lot easier next time."

CityWalk was set to open earlier in the year, but the aging building took longer to revamp than expected. The structure, which had been vacant since the 1990s and was acquired by the Community Development Corp. in 2006, now boasts one- and two-bedroom apartments with soft green hues.

Construction workers are still drilling in the lobby and fresh "Wet Paint" signs dot several hallways.

Only the first few tenants will move in today, but the building, which has a third-floor deck with views across the city, is almost completely rented out, Greenan said.

Some tenants have been on the waiting list for more than 18 months. Greenan expects the $35 million project to be complete by the end of February.

The building's opening represents a shift in mentality toward the city's homeless, said council member Steve Salazar, who heads the City Council's housing committee. It comes just as the state's housing authority announced a $3.3 million award to help Dallas' chronically homeless find rentals and gain self-sufficiency.

The city provided $2.25 million for CityWalk, with investors putting in about $15 million and private loans and donations making up the rest.

"This is the most significant [project] we've done," Salazar said. "CityWalk involves providing those services to individuals who need them," whether that means someone who is trying to "start over again" or people with persisting medical needs.

The project was not always met with enthusiasm. Larry Hamilton, whose company developed the luxurious Mosaic apartment building down the street, was skeptical at first.

"I didn't want to have a Skid Row there," he said. "But as soon as I understood what it involved, I became supportive. This is just giving people a home."

He's now part of a development team trying to carry out the city's goal of opening 700 apartments for the homeless by 2014.

Anthony Pearson, a 28-year-old consultant who lives in the Mosaic, is a bit more hesitant.

"I can't say whether it's going to be a negative for the area or not," he said.

"It's definitely a positive if it cleans up downtown. We're just going to have to wait and see."

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#45 vjackson

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 01:06 PM

QUOTE (David Love @ Dec 29 2009, 10:47 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
are there any such structures in or around downtown that would serve a similar need? I


Yes, the (original new) Tarrant County College Campus.

#46 gdvanc

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 01:57 PM

the bunker, vj? criminy, what have you got against the homeless?

#47 David Love

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 08:04 PM

Speaking of the bunker, they are going to paint that Fort Worth tan aren't they?


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#48 Owen

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 08:54 PM

Tan, hell; paint it purple!

#49 David Love

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Posted 30 December 2009 - 09:03 PM

I know there's a mission of sorts over on Lancaster and a few other options, just seems like there should be a few more mixed use for mixed socioeconomic groups.

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#50 gdvanc

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 01:35 AM

I'm pretty sure housing is an important component of Fort Worth's (fairly new) "Directions Home" program. I'm not sure how much progress they've made yet or where the housing is or how it is integrated with other uses. I wonder how that program is doing.

Fort Worth also has the Day Resource Center which doesn't address housing but does give the homeless a place to go during the day and provides for some basic needs.




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