The old joke used to be about the Marxist who, presented with some plan for reviving the economy that held huge promise, replied, “Oh sure it will work in fact. But will it work in theory?” Here is a plan that seems to be doing very good things to help the homeless in Utah, but which goes against just about every trope and assumption of the Thing that Used to be Conservatism.
Utah has reduced its rate of chronic homelessness by 78 percent over the past eight years, moving 2000 people off the street and putting the state on track to eradicate homelessness altogether by 2015. How’d they do it? The state is giving away apartments, no strings attached. In 2005, Utah calculated the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for an average homeless person was $16,670, while the cost of providing an apartment and social worker would be $11,000. Each participant works with a caseworker to become self-sufficient, but if they fail, they still get to keep their apartment.
On Facebook, I wondered if FOX consumers and Talk Radio ideologues would likewise let their theories and slogans get in the way of what works? Right on cue, lots of people showed up to denounce Utah (!?) as the most left-wing state in the Union (?!), to fret about “unforeseen consequences”, to quote “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (because everybody just knows the homeless “will not work”) and to ignore “give to him who asks”, to spout social Darwinist doctrines about how helping the poor does not allow them to toughen up and how charity to the weakest is an insult to the hard working (because, again, we just know somehow that the poor “won’t work” and therefore deserve to sleep on the street), and to insist that–even if it saves money–it is better to punish the poor with homelessness than give them shelter.
Why? This comment pretty much sums up the triumph of the Hannitized mind over both charity *and* fiscal common sense:
Where are these apartments coming from again? This is what was done in the Soviet Union too. I was told by several fellows who loved the Social Justice paradise so much they left as soon as they could find a method of escape. Next step will be to criticize the “dignity” of these “free” apartments and demand better conditions until I pay $1200 a month, from an already taxed income, for a 3 bedroom apartment that a “homeless” family gets for free because I’m not a drugged out parasite that refuses to be productive! Social Justice!
Social Darwinism, not anything like the gospel, is the guiding light of that comment.
Oh, and also, of course, involving the state in *any* way to ensure the common good, even if it means getting people out of freezing Utah night is a crushing impingement on true Christian charity since any move by the state to ensure the common good renders Christians paralyzed to do their own works of mercy. Bottom line: for a not inconsiderable percentage of commenters, even if it saves the public money, we should still be sure to punish the poor (I’m sorry, “parasites”) with homelessness whenever possible. Besides, the only reason it saves money is that the homeless go to ER with fake medical complaints on freezing nights and ER has to treat them at no cost. Obviously, the real solution is not to make it so they don’t have to lie in order to find a warm bed on a cold night, but to tighten up ER regs so that people have to stay outside and freeze.
Fascinating to watch the Hannitized mind of the Thing that Used to be Conservatism do this kind of stuff and still imagine that God has anointed it to protect the Church from the pope without the slightest notion that it has something to learn from him–or from reality. It really is striking how much like a rigid doctrinaire Marxist the Hannitized mind is.