The Limited Role of Government — Help People Help Themselves
The problem is, Mr. Hillman didn’t need a new pair of shoes. He needs a new set of decision-making abilities, something all the charity in the world and social engineering isn’t going to solve.
After 50 years of extensive social programs and government engineering, it is still unfathomable to most people how a person could still be living homeless on the street with no shoes. New York State and City have some of the highest taxes in the world, and the most extensive social programs to go with it. The problem is not money, nor access to free clothing and food. Mr. Hillman had both, including his own Section 8 paid for apartment, food stamps and access to shelters and clothing.
The problem is Mr. Hillman himself, who may or may not be mentally ill, but definitely has an issue with his decision-making ability like many in his situation. In fact, many Americans in his situation are in the same boat — unable to cope with society and decidedly living in poverty and homelessness out of an inability to make rational decisions that most in society do. Either because of drugs, alcohol or just bad wiring, many on the street just can’t understand how to make proper decisions to live from day-to-day.
The problem is much deeper than anyone who only takes a superficial interest in human nature can understand. We often see people living in trailer park level conditions that win big in national lotteries then become bankrupt and are in even worse situations shortly thereafter. The stories of these sorts of situations are more than anecdotal; more than 90 percent of lottery winners go bankrupt within ten years of winning. The reason is simple, but hard to understand—people’s fates are the results of poor decision-making, by and large, and are the net result of those decisions, not luck as many on the left would argue. Similarly, those that succeed in life are not ‘lucky’ or crooks, they are the end result of good decision-making, and hard work.
Thus, the widespread problems of poverty, homelessness and other social ills will not be solved through the application of government charity or money. Good arguments can be made for a better mental health system, but ultimately Americans must come to grips with the reality that bad things happen to good people, and the best way to make society better is to encourage good decision-making — not reward or rescue people from their bad ones.
A good start would be to limit charitable government aid to time-period specific and intense aid, rather than prolonging their agony through unlimited help. If you become homeless, sick, or otherwise down on your luck, the government could provide you with that place to live, a hot meal and some clean clothes—but only for a short time period and in conjunction with retraining and job placement services (for example, up to one year). Then you would be on your own. It would work much like unemployment insurance used to work — six months, and you’re out.
It would encourage people to get up off the ground on their own two feet, and give them what they really need: a sense of pride in accomplishment of doing for themselves. If you talk to many of these homeless, they don’t want charity — they want a job and some dignity.
Should the wretched masses choose to live on the streets, and derelict themselves to oblivion, they may still do so. Government, however, should not be subsidizing it with years of food stamps and housing benefits. Imagine the high quality of mental health system we could have if we could divert the spending on these things into quality care for those who really cannot ever help themselves.
Government must focus its efforts on helping people help to help themselves, rather than subsidizing failure. Teach men to fish rather than live off the scraps of others.
- Barefoot Homeless Man Not Actually Homeless (nydailynews.com)
- Update on Jeffrey Hillman – Recipient of Boots From Officer Lawrence DePrimo… (darkactsbible.wordpress.com)
- The homeless man, the boots and the complex story behind the viral photo (thestar.com)
- Report: ‘Homeless’ man who received boots from NYPD officer has apartment (kmov.com)
- That Barefoot Homeless Man Has an Apartment, Might Live in It (nymag.com)