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Ideology and Insanity on the New York subway

The first few dozen grownup books I read were an odd selection. As I sampled them almost at random from my parents’ bookshelves, I became dimly aware that my parents were different people from each other, were different from what they had once been, and read books by people with whom they disagreed. Alongside the works by G K Chesterton and C S Lewis one would expect on the shelves of liberal British Catholics of the 1970s, I found such things as a book of essays by the Stalinist physicist J D Bernal – and a copy of Ideology and Insanity by Thomas Szasz. Attracted by the strangeness to my young eyes of the name “Szasz” and the wonderful cover art of the Penguin edition that depicted two men playing chess across a Escher-like dimensional warp, I gave it a go.

Almost a decade before I heard the term “Libertarian”, I thus had my first introduction to an important strand of libertarian thought. Until the copy of that same 1970 Penguin edition I just ordered on eBay arrives, I shall have to go by memory and Szasz’s Wikipedia biography as to exactly what the book said, but I do remember being thrilled to feel my perspective suddenly widen, in a manner akin to what I had felt when I realised that the Earth was but one of an infinite number of possible vantage points in the universe.

Szasz cited drapetomania as an example of a behavior that many in society did not approve of, being labeled and widely cited as a disease. Likewise, women who did not bend to a man’s will were said to have hysteria.

He thought that psychiatry actively obscures the difference between behavior and disease in its quest to help or harm parties in conflicts. He maintained that, by calling people diseased, psychiatry attempts to deny them responsibility as moral agents in order to better control them.

And

Szasz believed that if we accept that “mental illness” is a euphemism for behaviors that are disapproved of, then the state has no right to force psychiatric “treatment” on these individuals

Great stuff. I think Szasz still has much to teach us… but I suppose by now you have all heard of the killing of Jordan Neely on a New York subway train?

I have linked to the Wikipedia account for convenience, but I do not trust Wikipedia. There are very few media outlets I do trust on subjects like this. The magazine USA Today initially called Neely a “beloved subway performer”. USA Today has changed the article since, but I saw it when it still had the original wording. The article was right to say that Jordan Neely was a human being with a tragic past, but he was not beloved by users of the New York subway. Back in 2013, a Reddit post on /r/nyc warned passengers, “Try to stay away from the Michael Jackson impersonator if you see him … Just avoid the guy at all costs, try not to look at him at all. Stay safe.” That was Neely. By the time of his death, he had been arrested more than forty times, including for crimes of violence.

There are thousands of Americans like Neely who still live as he lived, exercising the right Thomas Szasz helped gain them to be mentally ill (or whatever you want to call it) drug addicts living on the subways and roadside verges of America. It is not going well for them or for others. A viral graph shows the declining proportion of Americans held in mental hospitals and the rising proportion of Americans held in prisons forming a neat “X” over the course of the twentieth century. Liberals in the U.S. sense have a prodigious capacity to not see inconvenient facts, but even they are being forced to notice that the presence of the crazies and junkies is causing their beloved public spaces and public facilities to become dirty, frightening places to which much of the public only goes when it must.

There is a libertarian solution of course: fewer public spaces. This would increase, not decrease, the number of places where the public could happily go. Junkies and crazies are much less of a problem in shopping malls, because the owners still retain some power to eject them. I feel no shame in saying that a further benefit would be that said junkies and crazies would be under more pressure to seek treatment if the state no longer facilitated them sleeping on the sidewalks and the subway trains.

Unfortunately for everyone, this solution is politically impossible in the current climate. Even in the miraculous event that the public transport systems and the streets of New York, San Francisco and Chicago were privatised tomorrow, anti-discrimination law would ensure that practically no one could be excluded.

Thomas Szasz had a noble ideal. Sadly, the way it combined with the dominant ideals of our time has produced very bad results. I know what should and could be done to make things better in a sane society, but the US in 2023 is not that society. So what can be done?

A related post I wrote in 2011 also refers to Szasz and the question of whether mentally ill people should be locked up: “Whoever first defines the situation is the victor”. That post in turn links to this post by Brian Micklethwait criticising the ideas of Szasz and R D Laing, which is followed by robust debate in the comments.

47 comments to Ideology and Insanity on the New York subway

  • Michael Taylor

    I think the solution is pretty clear: avoid going to the US wherever possible.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Michael Taylor,
    Assuming you are British, don’t count on that solution. You can avoid going to the US, but wait a year or two and the US has a way of coming to you:

    Man beat London Underground passenger with bike tool after he tried to help him
    A mentally unwell man who attacked a London Underground passenger with a bike tool has been hospitalised. Manray Woolfall, 24, had left his victim with a visible scar during the assault which was witnessed by children in November 2019.

    He later pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm and was hospitalised under Section 37 of the Mental Health Act. The court heard that the victim had boarded the District line train and had noticed Woolfall behaving aggressively by striking the windows with a metal item.

  • William H. Stoddard

    If you don’t have the concept of mental illness, then you can’t have a mental illness defense, or an argument for special compassion for the mentally ill. People who threaten other people are initiating force and can be met with retaliatory force. And the right to self defense (and proper defense of others) is at the core of libertarian thought.

    As for encampments of the honeless, they certainly can be removed from private property. But I think we also need the legal concept of common property, as discussed in Epstein’s Simple Rules for a Complex World: property that everyone has the right to make use of (for example, to pass over), but that no one has the right to occupy in a lasting way. If you block the common road, or make it filthy, you are abusing other people’s right to make use of it, and you can properly be expelled. There is a valid concept of “public nuisance” that can be applied here.

  • Marius

    Szasz believed that if we accept that “mental illness” is a euphemism for behaviors that are disapproved of,

    I certainly wouldn’t accept that.

  • GregWA

    I am hoping it’s not too late to turn this around in the U.S. In my own, small (ish) Eastern Washtington town, the homeless are growing in numbers. I’ve wondered what the police have to say about the legality of what the homeless are doing, “blocking the common road” using Will H Stoddard’s term, fouling the road, panhandling, etc. I have no idea which of these are illegal but the police are enforcing none of it. Our town is small enough that we might be able to do something.

    But what to do? Contrary to the standard mainstream line, the “homeless” are not people who have lost their homes because of bad luck or the predation of the “Patriarchy”. They are (my wild guesses), mentally ill (1/3 of them), drug addicts (1/3 of them), and “bums” as they used to be called: people who just don’t want to work, don’t want to be constrained by anyone. We used to romanticize them, Woodie Guthrie would sing about them!

    So, if you are a good person and want to do something you can’t just “run them out of town” or jail them. They need to be institutionalized (mental or drug treatment) or dis-incentivized (the bums). This takes personal attention by someone. This takes time, interest, and hard work. Much of it by police, but I suspect much by “social workers”. But those in that job are part of the problem, so I think it’s going to take volunteer citizens to step in. And there will be some risk to the person providing help. Drug treatment centers and shelters won’t take someone in unless they are “clean”. A tough Catch 22.

    We can’t start with San Francisco–it’s lost. But we can start with the smaller places, the colder places where these drug crazed, insane people somehow have enough wits about them to realize they can’t live there during Winter!

  • Steven R

    In the states, between the courts saying everyone has a right to be crazy and off their meds and both state and federal legislatures basically eliminating mental health facilities from budgets, a whole lot of people who were in facilities and had no business being on the streets were simply kicked out. Those places weren’t all like One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. My mother worked at a state hospital for the mentally ill when all that was going on and she said they were basically safe communities for people who, when medicated, knew they needed help but couldn’t do it on their own. They were clean, safe, had all kinds of amenities, but were there because at the time we recognized some people are threats to themselves and others when they’re on the streets.

    She said as her facility was being shuttered one patient was told he was being kicked out and just said, “but I have no where to go.”

    I get the argument that it isn’t the state or taxpayers’ job to provide for the mentally ill, let them die, it’s a self-correcting problem, someone else can do it (church, charity, rich benefactor, etc.), but at the end of the day there are people who shouldn’t be on the street because they are threats to themselves and others simply because they are mentally ill (and that includes a large part of the drug problem when you consider people who know they have a problem and are self-medicating to get it to stop because there is no real mental health system in the US).

    I get the argument that it’s not the state or taxpayers job to provide for them,

  • Snorri Godhi

    Greg:

    “bums” as they used to be called: people who just don’t want to work, don’t want to be constrained by anyone.

    You mean, people like me?

    We can’t start with San Francisco–it’s lost. But we can start with the smaller places, the colder places where these drug crazed, insane people somehow have enough wits about them to realize they can’t live there during Winter!

    Yeah, that’s why i live in the Baltics:
    I have enough wits to realize that, over here, i have to get my act together.
    To some extent: I’ll never be able to do so as well as the natives.

  • Kirk

    The “homeless” exist today because there’s this slack space in the public commons wherein they’re able to take advantage of everyone else having “good times”, and being able to appeal to the essential good nature and consciences of their well-off brethren.

    If you think that this slack space is an infinite resource, incapable of being depleted? Then, you’re an idiot.

    Watch what happens as things tighten up, as resources become more dear, as it becomes impossible to allow these creatures of the night to support themselves off the public’s pity and good will. Time comes, you’ll witness the values and mores of the “bad old days” return, and see some pretty nasty things happening. If you bother to look… Like as not, you’ll be too busy worrying about your own survival to even notice, let alone care.

    The modern sensibility that allows the “homeless” tent encampments on the boulevards and sidewalks of major cities would have seemed incredible to anyone from even recent historical periods. Try to imagine explaining how this happened, why it was allowed, to someone from as recent a period as the 1950s. During the 1890s? LOL… Vagrancy laws would have led to these dysfunctionals being rounded up and put to work, or just gotten rid of. The public would have very forthrightly asserted their rights in regard to not putting up with this sort of BS, and I suspect a lot of the drug users would have been simply allowed to die. When you had worries about feeding your own families, pity and charity have this tendency to go right out the window with the other luxury goods.

    The current situation exists in an interstitial, a luminous space, one which cannot last. And, will not.

    Inside of another generation, attitudes will be different. When someone protests that local productive citizens are burning out another of these two-legged rat’s nests, then they’ll likely be thrown on the fires along with the rest of the dysfunctionals, and nobody will even blink. Nor will they be reporting it to the police, because the cops are likely going to be there right alongside the fed-up normies, manning the fire lines around the pyres.

    Won’t be pretty, and I am far from advocating for it. But, it will come, mostly because of all the delusional numpties and lunatics who’ve been allowed at the levers of power, and who’ve been running things these last many generations since about the time of the Wilson administration. They have been running on a set of theories which are purely delusional, and having torn out entire regions of Chesterton’s Fences, well… The buffalo are coming back, and you’re not gonna like being in the path of the herds.

    For anyone with the perspective, it’ll be a hoot watching the idjit class re-invent the Victorian attitudes and sensibilities that created all this social slack space in the first damn place. They’re gonna reinvent it all, from same-sex schooling to segregation, and it’ll all be new and wonderful.

    Of course, they’ll be operating in utter obliviousness to the sad fact that they’re planting exactly what their great-grandparents and grandparents cultivated, which their parents assidiously ripped out…

    Swear to God, the sheer idiocy and waste of it all. The truths are out there; you just have to read the history books and all the personal papers left, and do so with an eye towards trying to understand the milieu they came from. Do that, and you’ll understand far more about the human condition than you ever will by listening to the current idjit class that thinks they invented everything all anew…

  • Kirk

    GregWA said:

    I am hoping it’s not too late to turn this around in the U.S. In my own, small (ish) Eastern Washtington town, the homeless are growing in numbers. I’ve wondered what the police have to say about the legality of what the homeless are doing, “blocking the common road” using Will H Stoddard’s term, fouling the road, panhandling, etc. I have no idea which of these are illegal but the police are enforcing none of it. Our town is small enough that we might be able to do something.

    But what to do? Contrary to the standard mainstream line, the “homeless” are not people who have lost their homes because of bad luck or the predation of the “Patriarchy”. They are (my wild guesses), mentally ill (1/3 of them), drug addicts (1/3 of them), and “bums” as they used to be called: people who just don’t want to work, don’t want to be constrained by anyone. We used to romanticize them, Woodie Guthrie would sing about them!

    So, if you are a good person and want to do something you can’t just “run them out of town” or jail them. They need to be institutionalized (mental or drug treatment) or dis-incentivized (the bums). This takes personal attention by someone. This takes time, interest, and hard work. Much of it by police, but I suspect much by “social workers”. But those in that job are part of the problem, so I think it’s going to take volunteer citizens to step in. And there will be some risk to the person providing help. Drug treatment centers and shelters won’t take someone in unless they are “clean”. A tough Catch 22.

    We can’t start with San Francisco–it’s lost. But we can start with the smaller places, the colder places where these drug crazed, insane people somehow have enough wits about them to realize they can’t live there during Winter!

    I wonder how far we are from each other, physically. I’m actually up in the mountains somewhat to the east of the Cascade Crest, and see a lot of the same things you describe. Although, our sheriff has been a bit more proactive than many…

    I’m gonna point out a bunch of unfortunate truths here, that any decent person will read and have the urge to vomit. Which, sadly, doesn’t make them any less true or any less likely.

    You point out how the “authorities” have abnegated their responsibilities to the general welfare while simultaneously making it nearly impossible for anyone else to really effectively act with compassion. You can’t forcibly “fix” many of these creatures; that would require institutionalization that we’re unwilling to do, as a society. Well, at least, the people theoretically “running” things, that is.

    All you have to do to understand what is coming is to look at that which they’re making inevitable; you can’t get these deranged loons off the streets, they won’t even get them out of your yard. In Oregon, they’re about to make it illegal to “harass” the homeless, effectively saying that some whacked-out druggie that decides to camp in your yard has more rights than you do as a taxpaying citizen.

    That sh*t won’t fly, and you and I both know it. If the “authorities” won’t act, and indeed, seek to enable and protect these social parasites? What do you suppose happens, next? “Whoops… Backed over that tent!!! So sorry!…” “Oh, I had no idea someone was there…” “Body? What body?”

    Again, not advocating it, but… There are a lot of open mine shafts around. Lots and lots of unfed predators and scavengers, as well. The “authorities” fail to deal with this stuff effectively? There are other… Options. People will take them, and if the law enforcement types know what’s good for them, they’ll mostly ignore the majority of the cases.

    I suspect that some of this is already happening, well below the radar. When it becomes openly done? Well, don’t say I didn’t warn people.

  • bobby b

    There is no real binary distinction of “mentally well/mentally ill.” It’s a continuum, and we all fall somewhere upon it. Some of us fall closer to the bad end than is healthy for us. Some of us are are further away, but still at risk of issues.

    Anything that moves us – one of us, or many – closer to that bad end results in a “mental health crisis” for society.

    Such as we see now.

    Society has always imposed pressures to keep us from behaviors that arguably move us closer to that bad end. Prohibiting certain fun drugs has always been high on that list of prohibitions. (Sorry, bad pun.)

    In my mind, this is one area in which libertarianism does not help a society. If you presuppose that we’re all supermen who can self-regulate, then it’s great.

    But the growing prevalence of drug use – the legalization of that drug use – is causing many people who were borderline at best to decay into that part of the ill/well continuum that leaves one unable to sustain a decent life.

    People have guessed at some mixture of mentally ill and drug-addled populations in places like SF and Portland and Chicago and . . . wherever. But I’m guessing that the proportion of mentally ill people there has been greatly bolstered by the constant drug use that everyone can now experience.

    Combine that with a lowering of standards of living across much of urban America – which leads to more drug use, as it’s much more fun being destitute and high than merely destitute – and you end up with our current mental health crisis.

    (This doesn’t cover the Neely problem. Sounds as if he was simply mentally ill, without the drug component.)

  • Kirk

    @bobby b,

    (This doesn’t cover the Neely problem. Sounds as if he was simply mentally ill, without the drug component.)

    Apparently, you missed the “minor” detail of him usually being high as f*ck on K2:

    His presence on the list meant he was considered to be in urgent need of assistance, the Times reported. He was taken to the hospital on several occasions, both voluntarily and involuntarily, and he used K2, an often-abused strain of synthetic marijuana, outreach workers told the Times.

    https://www.insider.com/jordan-neely-daniel-penny-chokehold-killing-nyc-subway-homeless-2023-5

    There was a drug problem here, all right. Not just “mental health”; drugs. Neely made the “Top 50” list of “nutters needing help” in NYC, which has to be agreed is some sort of world-class achievement.

    It becomes increasingly clear that the whole “legalization of drugs” idea is only fit for an unknown fraction of our species; there are enough that simply can’t function in an environment where most intoxicants and psychoactives are freely available.

    I used to be of a mind that making drugs illegal was a bad idea; I’m coming around to the attitude that the dislocations as our species adapts to such an environment are simply too great to be borne. Either that, or we need to get a lot more pro-active about helping evolution along… Maybe make Narcan illegal, and encourage making Fentanyl more generally available?

  • Snorri Godhi

    Not sure that one can make a sharp distinction (or even a fuzzy distinction) between drug problems and mental illness.
    I am inclined to believe that, when people get into a drug problem, they had some sort of mental illness to start with.

    Still, federal, state, and local governments have a responsibility to say:
    Just because it’s legal, it doesn’t mean that you can safely (ab)use it.

  • Paul Marks

    Under the legal system in New York most crimes go unpunished. Law and order has broken down – whilst the “justice” system goes after non criminals on “Equity” (i.e. political) grounds.

    The man who was killed had attacked people in the past and was doing so again. I do not know whether he was mentally ill or not – and it is not really relevant.

    Still at least in this case the man did die of the choke hold (there is some sort of case) – in the case of Mr George Floyd the man died of drugs but a policeman was found guilty of “murdering” him, because the jury did not want to be burned alive by rioters (that trial was in once civilised Minneapolis – which used to be peaceful, just as Malmo in Sweden used to be peaceful.

    Meanwhile in New York, where most real crimes go unpunished, a jury has awarded five million Dollars against Donald John Trump – because they have been brainwashed, by the media, to hate him. They come up with some sort of excuse – but political hatred was the real reason.

    I was once asked if I would like to visit New York City – my reply was “certainly if you have a time machine that can take us back to New York in the late 1940s”, I stand by that.

  • Fraser Orr

    The problem here is that there is a mix of different issues. I think there is a fourth one besides the three listed above: bums, drug addicts, the mentally ill and people who are just in a bad situation. I mainly feel compassion for the latter two. But in regards to their interaction with the non homeless society, I get pretty queasy when people start talking about locking them up pre-emptively. I’m not particularly mainstream myself, and it is a short trip from locking up the guy ranting on the street corner to the guy ranting on samizdata.

    The normal practice we have in society is that the state intervenes when criminal activity takes place. And I think that is the right course here. When people start antisocial practices they usually start small, and so, with the broken windows approach, you can begin to deal with them then. We lock up criminals not just for their actions but to prevent future criminal actions, but we only do so because their previous crime justifies our belief that future crime is a reasonable expectation.

    However, with regards to how to deal with this in a libertarian manner, let me offer a solution, not dissimilar to what could be done with schools. We have decided that educating all young people is a benefit to society so we pay for kids’ schooling. Right now we do a TERRIBLE job generally speaking because we herd them into big institutions run politically by the state. If, instead, the parents could decide how to educate their children and the state’s money followed the child we would have a massively better educated population.

    With the homeless we have a similar situation. We do a horrible job herding people into big state institutions, and there is never enough space, and the conditions are terrible and dangerous. A very cheap alternative for a city would be to have a program where a homeless person can get a bed and a meal in a privately funded shelter, and that money follows the homeless person. $20 a night, and private institutions would be lining up to capture that money. Provide a bonus if the shelter managed to improve the situation for some person like getting them a job or a home. It would be competitive so the homeless would know which shelter offered the best conditions for them. Some would be better food, some better privacy and safety, some with work programs for extra money, some would be only for women or families and so forth. The competitive profit incentive would have shelters driving round begging people to come sleep at their place. If I were running something like that I’d also provide lockers for the people so that they had some permanence for storing their stuff, and by doing so would encourage them to use my place rather than some other guys place. Work out some program with the police to make these environments safe.

    It isn’t perfect, and it wouldn’t completely solve the problem, and you’d need some sort of inspectorate and audit to prevent corruption, but it would a lot better than the insanity we have right now. After all, if California can seriously think they have the money to give a million bucks to every black person for slavery reparations, then there should be plenty of money for a simple program like this.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I was once asked if I would like to visit New York City – my reply was “certainly if you have a time machine that can take us back to New York in the late 1940s”, I stand by that.

    I myself regularly re-visit the New York City of the period from the 1930s to the early 1970s — by re-reading the Nero Wolfe canon.

    (As i remarked previously on this forum:
    I despise snobbery in literature.
    As far as i am concerned, Rex Stout is a much better writer than Shakespeare.)

  • bobby b

    FO:

    “We lock up criminals not just for their actions but to prevent future criminal actions, but we only do so because their previous crime justifies our belief that future crime is a reasonable expectation.”

    I have to say, my inner constitutionalist is screaming at this. As a practical matter, if you assume a benevolent state, it makes sense. But that’s a huge assumption.

    Re: your marketplace solution – there are numerous empty beds open for just such use in most cities, but they go unused because of the (reasonable) prohibition of drug or alcohol use on premise. If your miserable existence is buffered or even improved when you’re high, you don’t trade that for a bed when you can just sleep outside in a nice tent.

  • Kirk

    Fraser Orr said:

    The normal practice we have in society is that the state intervenes when criminal activity takes place. And I think that is the right course here. When people start antisocial practices they usually start small, and so, with the broken windows approach, you can begin to deal with them then. We lock up criminals not just for their actions but to prevent future criminal actions, but we only do so because their previous crime justifies our belief that future crime is a reasonable expectation.

    Yeah. No. Not so much… This paragraph exemplifies what is wrong with the way that the majority of people conceive of the “justice system” as a working component of a society.

    The entirety of it all exists for one reason and one reason only: To enable the functioning of society, through the chastisement and corrective behavioral modification on those participants who do not or cannot “do the right thing” while interacting within society.

    It ain’t “justice”. It ain’t their “actions”, be they criminal or otherwise; it boils down to the necessity for a civil society to have some rules and ensure proper conduct of its members. When a “justice system” ceases doing this, it all begins to break down. Why? Because the whole thing only got started because society managed to get its act together enough to convince the majority to subcontract with society as a whole for their personal redress and prevention of future transgression against them. It’s that damn simple; you don’t want people killing each other for minor things? You have to have rules, and they have to be followed. All members of society have to have the innate understanding that transgressions will have repercussions; absent that? Well… Good luck, because then you’re going to wind up in a state wherein people make their own rules, and that ain’t what I’d term at all “optimal”.

    Illustrative point, over at David Thompson’s blog:

    https://thompsonblog.co.uk/2023/05/a-testing-of-boundaries.html

    This young lady is only able to get away with what she is doing because of the rule system she is actively tearing down. She’s entirely oblivious to the fact that in the world she’s making for us all, she’d either die or have her ass beaten in so badly that she’d likely wind up hospitalized. By doing what she is, and suffering zero repercussions for doing it, she’s actively doing more damage to the fabric of society than she could ever imagine. Those flakes of glitter? Harmless fun, to her; deadly insult to someone else, who heretofore has been restrained by “da rulez”. She destroys the rules; no more restraints. Cue massive violence visited upon little miss sparkly-pants.

    People like her only get away with what they do because of the forebearance from their physical superiors; by tearing down the boundaries of what is acceptable behavior, she is removing the barriers between her and what is coming, red in tooth and claw.

    These assholes collectively have no idea what they are doing, when they tear down all of these Chesterton’s Fences. They think they’re being amusingly transgressive, prodding the bear. What they’re ignoring is that the only thing keeping that bear from killing and eating them is the bear’s sense of self-restraint; aggravate that bear past the point where it no longer cares about consequence, or if said bear realizes that there are none? Well, you’ll likely see that play out in the near- and mid-term future.

    Idiots. The lot of them.

  • Kirk

    Snorri Godhi said:

    Not sure that one can make a sharp distinction (or even a fuzzy distinction) between drug problems and mental illness.
    I am inclined to believe that, when people get into a drug problem, they had some sort of mental illness to start with.

    Still, federal, state, and local governments have a responsibility to say:
    Just because it’s legal, it doesn’t mean that you can safely (ab)use it.

    I don’t think that it’s the state’s business to tell people how to live, or even warn them. The sad fact is, the state can’t collectively find its ass with both hands and a road map, so assigning that entity responsibility for “warning” people about the negative consequences of their behavior? Smacks of the same thinking that eventually leads to saying “Someone ought to make a law…”, and away we go with the whole “Let’s try Prohibition…”.

    Final analysis, the state can’t do a damn thing very well. Putting responsibility for any of this in its hands is delusional thinking, at best. You won’t get good results; hell, look at the history of Russia vis-a-vis vodka and alcoholism.

    It sucks, but I think the only real solution to this issue is to let nature take its course. Let the “drug-prone” weed themselves out of the gene pool; hell, give them help. At this point, in the modern West, anyone taking up the needle or smoking their dope has zero excuse for not understanding the likely effect of what they’re doing to themselves. Trying to stop the course of their folly is a fool’s game, and I say that as someone with several alcoholics in the family. You can’t stop them; only they can, and once they’ve made the choice to do what they do, it’s over unless they change their minds. Which are generally non-existent by the late stages…

    On the whole, from a perspective of time and distance, the mentally unfit who take drugs to cope with their mental issues are going to weed themselves out. That’s the only real solution; you can’t save people from themselves, as much as you might like to.

    Acquaintance of mine was a drug and alcohol counselor for the Army. Like most such folk, he was a former addict himself, and he’d done just about everything to excess at one point or another. He’d kicked everything, but as he put it to me, that wasn’t something that anyone else could have done or could have imposed on him; he had to make the decision and then follow it. Several people in his life had tried; they all failed. Until he did it for himself. Similarly, he had never, ever seen an outside intervention work in his entire career as a drug and alcohol counselor. Treatment was, in his opinion, a waste of time and resources until the addict themselves came to the decision to stop. He advised that the only way to save someone from drugs and alcohol was to (very counterintuitively…) write them off, push them out of your life, and do nothing to “save” them from themselves. In some cases, that “reality shock” would help them decide to stop; in most, it did nothing, and the only positive effect was that the victims of that addict’s lifestyle got away from it. “The only way to be kind to an addict is to be cruel and heartless to them while they’re addicted…” was the way he put it.

  • Roué le Jour

    The state has done everything in its power to prevent people living a “normal” life, e.g. that of Homer Simpson, work at the plant, pay a mortgage, raise a family, and is dismayed people live instead an abnormal life. Uh huh. Who could have seen that coming?

  • Paul Marks

    I repeat – the man who died had been attacking people for a long time. I do not know if he was mentally ill – it was his attacking people, not any illness or state of homelessness, that was the issue.

    As for homelessness itself – some of it is caused by government policies, the “slum removal” denounced by Martin Anderson as early as 1965 (“The Federal Bulldozer”), but it also the result of the undermining of the vagrancy laws, even for criminals, which started in the 1960s – both Federal (Supreme Court decisions) and local policy.

    Now many of the major American cities are lawless – at least as far as criminals are concerned. There are plenty of “laws” to deal with conservatives. And juries are made up of daytime television watchers – utterly brainwashed (or terrified).

    Not a good situation – and it will have an economic impact.

    Poverty and Crime are linked – but the linkage is the other way round to how the establishment suggests. It is crime that leads to poverty – it drives out business enterprises and honest individuals, leading to grinding poverty.

    America is going to hit very hard times, very hard times indeed.

  • Kirk

    Let’s be honest, here: Ain’t none of these “homeless” types out there on the streets because they had “bad luck” one day, and lost their homes. They’ll all tell you sob stories about how they got kicked out of their parents house, or whatever other line of BS they think you’ll buy. The reality? They’re simply f*cked-up people who can’t or won’t function in a modern society. The only reason they do what they do, living that way, is because the idiot bleeding-heart types feel sorry for them, and rob the rest of us at gunpoint to pay for the “programs” that enable all of this BS.

    That’s the brutal truth. Absent the enablers, none of this would be going on. The only reason that they do what they do is because the parasite class robs the rest of us to pay for it. When the general public gets tired of it? The gravy train will come to a screeching halt.

    There is no reason to live the way they do, in this country during this era. The support they’re offered? The opportunities to help themselves? They’re there; they just don’t want to pay the price in terms of giving up their drugs and drink habits, or take up some sort of productive occupation.

    When the slack comes out of the system, watch what happens. Most of these creatures are going to have to come to terms with the fact that they aren’t going to have their drug habits and lifestyle of dysfunctional sloth subsidized by productive people. The normies are going to revolt, rather than continue to be enslaved by the parasite class in order to support these slackers.

    I would highly recommend that you remove yourself from the impact area, when the time comes. It’s going to look pretty goddamn apocalyptic when it all goes down, and you will not like the brutal ugliness of what is inevitably coming. The Neely types are going to suffer a short, sharp shock as the general populace decides to deal with them appropriately, without filters or pity.

    An awful lot of the parasite class will be going with them, as well.

  • llamas

    What Kirk said.

    It’s quite fascinating, when reading the in-depth coverage of this case, just how many resources and services this man received over the past few years. There were agencies, and task forces, and teams, and committees, until Hell wouldn’t have it. Each and every one of them knew full-well that he was a dangerous schizophrenic and drug abuser with a long history of violence and other criminal behaviour. The caring and compassion must have run to thousands of pages and thousands of person-hours of effort, no doubt all compelled by the most earnest and fiery imperative to Do Good. And none of it made the slightest difference – he was a dangerous schizophrenic when all this ‘help’ started, and he was every bit as much a dangerous schizophrenic on the day he died.

    I think many people in the US have an entirely inverted idea about mental health treatment, mostly informed by the movie ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’. That movie has a lot to answer for. The general idea is that mental institutions are grim places of repression where every spark of human sentiment is ruthlessly crushed, and if the poor, benighted, innocent victims could just make it out into the sunshine, they would all magically transform into happy, harmless eccentrics. The truth is the exact opposite – let out into the sunshine, 99% of these people are completely unable to function and quickly collapse into a drug- and alcohol-fuelled hellscape – and all assisted in their collapse by an army of do-gooders who are ever-eager to enable and support their decline, but who never, ever do anything to try and stop it. For most of these poor folks, intitutionalization would be much the least-worst outcome, and certainly better for them – and for us – that the drug-soaked depravity, danger and mental illness that they subsist in now.

    No-one on Skid Row is missing any meals. They all seems to have a plethora of possessions. An endless supply of drugs seems to be available, with large agencies dedicated to making sure they can take them safely and bringing them back from the brink of death when they take too much. There’s apparently a virtually limitless stream of public resources dedicated to maintaining them in the way of life they have chosen, and virtually no resources available to do the sometimes hard and unpleasant things required to lift them out of the abyss. Eventually, the thinking person can only conclude that this is what those who manage this whole sorru mess actually want to have happen. Unfortunately, as Kirk alludes to, the time will come when less-thinking people will reach their limits and the results will not be pretty. It’s certainly not what I want, but I fear it cannot now be avoided.

    llater,

    llamas

  • JJM

    What annoys me is the immediate tendency of the commentariat and politicos these days to offer what I’d call second-order solutions to criminal acts.

    I’m thinking of the uptick in violence on the TTC (Toronto) subway/underground. After each incident, you get a barrage of noisemaking about the need for more help with the homeless, dealing with mental illness and drug abuse etc., etc.

    But you can argue the merits of all that later. In the meantime, the first-order solution is to make the subway safe for its passengers i.e., through more visible and responsive policing.

  • Kirk

    @JJM,

    What annoys me is the immediate tendency of the commentariat and politicos these days to offer what I’d call second-order solutions to criminal acts.

    I’m thinking of the uptick in violence on the TTC (Toronto) subway/underground. After each incident, you get a barrage of noisemaking about the need for more help with the homeless, dealing with mental illness and drug abuse etc., etc.

    But you can argue the merits of all that later. In the meantime, the first-order solution is to make the subway safe for its passengers i.e., through more visible and responsive policing.

    You can infer several things from this information presented to us: One, and most importantly, the will to actually address the “problem direct” is simply not there. The powers-that-be are unwilling, and you can only guess at why.

    The secondary issue, the one I think might be the more important one? That is the fact that the people in charge of society at this juncture are demonstrably unfit for purpose. For whatever reason, they show this time and time again; they cannot do.

    How they got this way is unimportant, really. What is important is that we’ve elevated them to power, and then failed to hold them accountable for performance in any way. Why are the people in charge of security on the Toronto subway still employed? Why are the people in charge of public order in Toronto in general still in charge of anything at all?

    My “theory of failure” here is this: Our entire system of governance is effectively dysfunctional, beginning with how we source these manifest idjit “educated yet idiot” types who we blindly put in charge of everything.

    I continue to hold that it begins in early education. The testing we all worship? Those tests measure some aspects of what constitutes our ideas about “intelligence”, but they all miss key elements of what the real world requires for success. Because these imperfect tests are seen as the be-all and end-all of that which is “intelligence”, the kids who “do well on the tests” wind up tracked into more of the same sort of warped “education”, tested some more, and then placed in more schooling, finally culminating in departure from the education system and on into public life as “managers” and “leaders” in our supposedly “meritocratic” institutions.

    I would submit that the actual demonstrated work product we’re getting out of these assclowns isn’t even dysfunctional; it’s something far worse–Actively functional in a destructive sense. It’s not just sub-optimal, it is actively destructive of society and civilization.

    The root problem is that we’re raising up these functional autists such that they live entirely in their own heads; they think that what they will in their thoughts automatically becomes real in the physical world around them. When it doesn’t? Because they’ve never experienced failure or any sort of opposition, they close their eyes to the reality and usually double-down on their initial thought processes. Our educational systems are set up to create this mindset and behavioral pattern; those who are in opposition to that generally wind up sidelined at best, or destroyed by it at worst.

    IQ testing is a self-referential circle of inimical anti-virtue; people point to the “success” of those who do well on the tests, but they fail to note that the system is set up to reward those people in the first damn place. “Oh, look… Longitudinal studies show…” Yeah. Sure they do–Because the dolts you found who “did well on the tests” all had the credentials you require to get the jobs that signal success, and which reward them.

    There’s never any assessment of whether or not those “successful” people actually added value or solved problems effectively, now is there? Nobody looks at whether or not they were enhancing operations at their companies or agencies, they just look at whether or not they made money because “credentials”.

    I used to work with a bunch of these types, all commissioned officers in the United States military. All exquisitely credentialed; all “successful” by any normal measure. Yet, I didn’t really work with them; I mostly had to work around them, because anything they touched turned to shiite. The majority of them were just there because a block had to be ticked, in terms of “Is there an officer in charge…?” They didn’t actually contribute anything to the effort, aside from generating a lot of paperwork and holding meetings where more got talked about than actually done. These types took over after the computer “revolution”, and ever after, more got talked about than done when it came to anything in terms of training or mission.

    When it comes to “elite generation”, we’re doing it wrong. That’s why all of this “stuff” is going wrong all around us; were you to put “Joe the Plumber” in charge of the homeless problem, I guarantee you that you’d see an end to it all very quickly, because Joe the Plumber has the common sense, wit, and wisdom to see that you don’t get less of something by subsidizing it. He’d also see no point in rewarding the behaviors of the homeless, and would be utterly ruthless in scraping these failures off the street and into some sort of custodial arrangement where they could quietly expire without turning our cities into open-air cesspools.

    Only college-graduate “social workers” are stupid enough to believe the theories, and enable these things with all of their false “compassion”, which really amount to self-interest in perpetuating the problems so that their worthless degrees are going to get them some return.

    I value education and scholarship. I really do… What I don’t value is what we’ve turned them into, in our oh-so-sensitive modern age. The average degree holder I’ve had to deal with is generally a credentialed dolt without the sense of a rabid sh*thouse rat. Look around at the world they’ve produced, and then try to argue differently, is all I’ve got to say.

    We’re doing it wrong. If you can’t admit that, then you’re part of the problem. None of these issues are insoluble, or intractable. Our uneducated ancestors had solutions, implemented them, and that’s how we are able to look back at their imperfect age and say “Wow, those were the good old days…”

    Which is, admittedly, a bit on the rose-colored side.

    But, I will point out to you… They didn’t have human feces all over their sidewalks, either.

  • Tim Worstall

    “Alongside the works by G K Chesterton and C S Lewis one would expect on the shelves of liberal British Catholics of the 1970s,”

    Ditto. I’m currently going through, slowly, my (late – hey, it happens) father’s bookshelves. Really going through, reading. The variety is impressive. Some of it changed his views, others of it seem to have damage on the spines from being thrown against the wall. But that the attempt to understand was so encompassing was impressive. Another one of those ways I am not as impressive as my father (but of course that’s common) and will try harder to be (as also that is common).

    But then the Benedictines had more influence on the both of us than the Catholics. One of those comments that only Catholics will grasp.

  • Fraser Orr

    @bobby b
    I have to say, my inner constitutionalist is screaming at this. As a practical matter, if you assume a benevolent state, it makes sense. But that’s a huge assumption.

    I’m not talking about what is but what ought to be. Is the criminal law broken as is? Yeah, of course. But nonetheless, it isn’t right to lock people up because they might do something wrong. We tried it with the Japanese back in World War II and it was wrong then just as it is wrong now.

    Re: your marketplace solution – there are numerous empty beds open for just such use in most cities

    I don’t know about most cities, but I do know about Chicago, and that is absolutely not true here. I used to walk to work from the train station to one of the skyscrapers past a lot of homeless people and occasionally I’d buy a few of them breakfast and chat with them a bit. They are a mix of different people for sure but there are a lot of people who are in a bad way because they made a few dumb decisions and simply don’t have access to such facilities. Ironically it is single men who do worst. I suppose understandably shelters give preference to women and especially women with children, and the men are often left with very few options. Again understandably, but if you are a dude who just made a few bad mistakes and end up on the street it is a bad situation.

    And I think it is worth pointing out, and something I think about often when I see people in this situation, there but by the grace of God go I. It doesn’t take too many bad decisions combined with bad luck to ruin a middle class family and reduce them to the worst of situations. I think about this a LOT when making financial decisions.

    Some people get themselves in that situation by very bad choices, especially drug and alcohol addiction, some because of mental illness (but even they, only when they lose the support system that they frequently have.) One of my kids in middle school created a big advocacy program for the homeless and helped in a small way as limited as a middle schooler can be. One of the things he did is showed the great movie that Will Smith starred in “The Pursuit of Happyness”. It is an excellent movie (and for what its worth shows that Will Smith is a pretty serious and capable actor, not just a goofball that he is in most of his work.) I recommend watching it if you haven’t seen it.

    It is also worth pointing out that it isn’t a life sentence. A very dear friend of mine found herself in that situation with her son when an abusive husband went too far and tried to kill her. She ran out the house with nowhere to go, no support system, no job, and scared he’d chase here down. The cops were, as you’d expect, completely useless. However, she was lucky to find a shelter, a pretty scary place, but somewhere, and through a lot of challenges managed to pull herself up and make a life for herself. Something she told me that I didn’t know was that when she was in the shelter she had a 12 year old son. However, as he grew older and got to be 14 they kicked him out because he was considered a threat. It is a scary lifestyle that most of us can’t even imagine enduring. However, she gives me hope that many of these people are not just at the end, but that there can be a good outcome as long as they can find short term help. I saw that 12 year old boy later on graduate college.

    but they go unused because of the (reasonable) prohibition of drug or alcohol use on premise. If your miserable existence is buffered or even improved when you’re high, you don’t trade that for a bed when you can just sleep outside in a nice tent.

    I certainly understand the prohibition, but honestly, is it a good thing? Like I say my sympathy is not reserved for the bums and the drug addicted, rather for the mentally ill and those who are like Will Smith in that movie. But why not provide shelter for those druggies? In my model I am sure many shelters would prohibit it, but vive la difference, if it is a free market. What if there was a shelter that allowed drug and alcohol use, in a clean safe environment? Of course many shelters would prohibit it and you’d have to manage bad behavior, but better to manage it in such a confined setting rather than having them molesting people on the street, bugging little old ladies or kids? It isn’t ideal, but if these people are going to destroy their lives with drugs maybe it is better that they do it in a place where they can get clean needles, a decent meal, and have access to people who will help them if they want to try to turn their lives around?

    None of that solves the problem, but it would help a lot. You can’t solve the problem, because the problem is “human nature”. All you can do is manage it as best we can while looking out for the civil rights of both the problematic people and the regular citizens, and perhaps give space to allow people in a bad place perhaps have a path to get back on a better track.

  • Steven R

    Once upon a time I had a job that had me working with people on the street, so this isn’t really theoretical to me.

    There are three kinds of people on the street:
    1) The mentally ill who have no support system. The courts have decided everyone has a right to be crazy, even though no one who is sane would want to be crazy. The legislatures don’t want to fund programs. This just means those residential or long-term in-patient programs are almost non-existent. The mentally ill end up on the streets, frequently because the one place they could turn to, family, have said no because of past behaviors which are normally because of the mental illness. They know there is a problem but due to lack of systemic support (and even outpatient programs are very limited) they end up self-medicating with street drugs. Subsets of this group include veterans with severe PTSD that the VA says is overblown and junkies. They don’t intend to end up as junkies but they keep needing a bigger high and end up in that trap.

    2) Normal people who end up in a bad way. These are the people who have done nothing wrong, made the right choices, but life has dealt them a bad hand. Got the education, didn’t have kids, avoided crime and drugs, but still end up living paycheck to paycheck and then lose your job? You might very well end up living in your car or a shelter. And the trap here is once you’re on the streets it is very difficult to get off the streets. People don’t want to hire the homeless or rent to someone who hasn’t had a permanent address in some time or even get drivers licenses renewed without an address.

    3) This is the hard one for normal people to understand: there are a whole lot of people who choose to live on the streets. They are free in every sense of the word. They know they can find three hots and a cot in soup kitchens and homeless shelters and spend all day hanging out in parks and libraries because they can’t legally be turned away. I’m not discussing the homeless camps (aka open air drug markets) like are popping up in SF and LA and Portland and Seattle, but some of these people do live in tents on public property or hidden on large expanses of private property. And here’s the thing, just like hobos of old, they communicate. Now they use websites to tell each other which cities and towns are more lenient, which states throw money at them, which places will end up with them catching a charge and a police beating, how to use and abuse the system, etc.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but I don’t think the solution is to simply say “not my problem” “die in the streets” “self-correcting problem” or the like. I do believe the US desperately needs to rethink the mental health system in the US. Drugs and violent crime has skyrocketed since we started closing down asylums in the 70s, both from the mentally ill and against the mentally ill, and we definitely need to come up with a long term solution for their housing and care. Like I mentioned above, when my mom worked in a state hospital and it closed the one patient said he had no where to go where he can be safe. We have to come up with a solution.

  • bobby b

    FO:

    “I don’t know about most cities, but I do know about Chicago, and that is absolutely not true here.”

    There are not enough shelters that offer a secure and quiet environment in Chicago for, say, a woman with a kid or two, certainly. Something with separate rooms. Most are essentially flophouses – a bed in a large room with many other beds. They are scary places for near-normal people, because they’re not filled with near-normal people.

    But there are openings most nights in Chicago. They go unused because the non-crazy don’t like them, because it’s hard to feel safe surrounded by the crazies, and the druggies and drinkers don’t like them because they do sort of half-heartedly enforce their non-use rules. And so, especially in the non-freezing months, tent cities are regarded as safer and/or more fun.

    (When I was doing contract public defender work, I’d meet some of my non-custody clients in a couple of the local shelters for case prep. The big place, run by the strict Catholic nun, was the best – she enforced the rules. The others, where the rules weren’t strictly enforced, were hellholes. Always fun to run into drugged-out past clients who thought they got a raw deal the last time.)

    “I certainly understand the prohibition, but honestly, is it a good thing?”

    Oh, god, yes, yes, yes. I’ve been in enough of them with wigged out druggies to know that they are just miserable places for everyone else. It would be like housing your woman friend with her kid next to the Michael Jackson nut in the subway, but with him on lots of meth.

    But many people are on the streets as a direct consequence of not being able to live among rules, and so the best shelters are the ones who know which people those are, and keep them out. Some people just need jail, or a tent down by the river. There’s no socialization of them – it’s all “how to keep a rabid dog” philosophies.

    Mostly, all of the amphetamine class of homeless I would count as lost. No rescue possible, no housing will do, unless they on their own clean up, but they never do. They just die.

    (If the shelters do not post and make a stab at enforcing no-use rules, their liability insurance goes away, and then they’re shut down. Nothing functions without liability insurance these days.)

  • Steven R

    There are also a class of the “homeless” who know exactly how to game the system. They have access to various benefits like food stamps, cash for their drug addiction disability, cash for other stuff. They know if they walk into any ER and say they are thinking of harming themselves they will get at least 72 hours indoors in a psych unit where they get fed, housed, are off the streets, and know the date they will be discharged. Run out of cash on Thursday but the state benefits don’t show up until Monday? Say you’ve had thoughts of harming yourself and your weekend is covered. Then couch surf or unofficially stay with your old lady and kids, the one you never married but who gets all kinds of benefits herself as a single mother, for the rest of the month. Repeat as necessary.

    The sad thing is the people who need help can’t get it while the people who play the system for a free ride know exactly how to make it work for them.

  • bobby b

    “There are also a class of the “homeless” who know exactly how to game the system.”

    I knew quite a few people who got good at gaming the system. They knew when benefits were coming out, they knew where to go to sell a few pints of blood plasma, if they were young they knew where to go to make some quick sex-bucks, they knew where to get the free meal – they got good at the logistics of homeless life.

    But I never knew even one who did all of that while still having a viable chance of living a normie life. They couldn’t hold jobs or maintain relationships or even live within clean rules. They were either drugged or drunk or mentally ill, or all three.

    They were all maladjusteds, and some of them knew it and made the best of it, but that was the best they could hope for. Unless they could quit the addictions or become mentally well, which they couldn’t.

  • GregWA

    At the risk of going way off topic, Kirk at 10:18pm linked to thompsonblog. There was a link there (must be a rule about degrees of separation being kept less-than-or-equal to two?) to something about the difference between men and women … which reminded me of a great movie line.

    Jack Nicholson in “As Good as it Gets”, is a semi-famous writer of romance novels. He responds to a starry-eyed secretary’s question about how he “gets” women with “I think of a man. Then I take away reason and accountability.”

    I’d say that’s a better definition of a Leftist, not most women.

  • GregWA

    Kirk, p.s., I’m not far from you…you know, the “not King County” part of the state!

  • llamas

    Regarding Steven R’s ‘normal.people who end up in a bad way’, maybe I’m a cold-hearted bugger who’s been incredibly fortunate in life, but I think that if your world falls apart to the extent of immediately becoming homeless if you lose your job, you haven’t planned your life too well. Especially in today’s labour market. For a different take, suggest a book called ‘Scratch Beginnings’, by Adam Shepard.

    One other point which I missed above – I think much of the reason that government agencies simply cannot effectively deal with the homeless is their near-religious insistence that substance abuse (of all kinds) is a ‘disease’, and not a personal choice and/or a moral failing. They waste endless effort and resources trying to ‘treat’ this non-existant ‘disease’, instead of facing up to the stark reality, which another commenter has already noted – drug and alcohol addicts are addicts by choice, not by compulsion, and will only cease to be addicts when they choose to cease to be addicts. You can’t ‘treat’ them or ‘cure’ them. only wait them out and minimise their harms to themselves and others.

    llater,

    llamas

  • bobby b

    llamas: I’ve known several hundreds of the addict/alcoholic variety.

    The impulse to try, and then use, drugs and alc is certainly one of choice. I doubt there is such a thing as an intrinsic push in any personality to do such a thing.

    But once you’ve used them past a certain point – once you’ve chosen to use them past a certain point – the chemical/psychological factors take over, and I think it does become a disease. Not a disease attributable to a pathogen, a bacteria, a virus, but one more akin to a mental disease.

    It’s stupid to start, but I do pity those who are addicted. At that point, stopping involves rather huge physical changes, and pain beyond a mere absence of fun.

  • Kirk

    @bobby b,

    I think a huge part of the problem is that when we discuss drug addiction and all the attendant issues surrounding it, we’re always ascribing virtues that just don’t matter to anything at all when talking about the question.

    OK, great… I get it: You’re an addict. That’s unfortunate, and you got there because you made some damned foolish choices. There’s no particular virtue to being an addict or not being an addict; the issue is the impact you’re having on everything and everyone else around you. If you can manage your addiction such that you’re not actively harming others and being a drag on society? Great; I don’t care about your addiction. Neither should anyone else.

    If you can’t manage your addiction such that you don’t impinge upon others or the public commons? Then, my friend, we have a problem. It’s not a question of you possessing some form of “virtue pass” because you’re an addict; you’re still sh*tting on my sidewalk and trying to live in my sideyard. That’s the problem; the drugs and alcohol are entirely extraneous. You don’t get a free pass because you’re mentally ill or addicted; your misconduct and deranged behavior would be the actual problem. It just doesn’t matter that you’re some poor unfortunate object deserving of pity; you’re still crapping on my sidewalk. You don’t get a free pass to do that “just because”.

    Too many of the people surrounding this issue are incapable of recognizing the fact that virtue and merit are meaningless, here: It’s the conduct, the act itself. You’d be in the wrong if you were stone-cold sober and crapping on my sidewalk in broad daylight as much as you are if you’re mentally deranged or drugged out of your mind. It isn’t your state of mind that’s the problem; it’s the act itself. I hear this time and time again from the people enabling the problems, here: “Oh, Timmy means well… It’s the drugs talking… It’s not him that stole, it was his habit that made him do it…”

    None of this matters; what does matter is that we’ve ceded our streets to the dysfunctionals. I don’t care that these people are poor unfortunates that are deserving of pity; I care that they’re sh*tting on the sidewalk and robbing my local supermarket. I don’t judge them; I just want them to stop doing things that impact my life negatively. I can’t help them, nor can I end their chemical addiction. I’m not a monster for recognizing that, either.

    I think that as a society, we need to come to some decision about the matter, and either let nature take its course, or bite the bullet and recognize that a lot of the homeless really belong in some state institution, where they can be safely encouraged to follow their life-shortening vices away from the public commons.

    I honestly don’t see how you’re going to fix any of these people, not as an individual, not as a society. They’re simply unable to cope, and how the hell do you fix that? I’m not responsible for the fact that someone molested Janet when she was a little girl; I had nothing to do with that, and if she’s a drugged-out zombie at 45, what the hell am I supposed to do about that? I can’t fix her; I can’t undo the damage someone else did, and compassion doesn’t include saying “Go ahead, Janet… Live on my loading dock and crap on my sidewalk so that I get fined by the Health Department, and wind up going out of business…”

    Sadly, you have to triage these situations. I don’t see how you fix all of this, and about all I can conclude from looking at things around me is that what we’ve been doing isn’t working. At. All.

  • bobby b

    “It’s not a question of you possessing some form of “virtue pass” because you’re an addict; you’re still sh*tting on my sidewalk and trying to live in my sideyard.”

    Couldn’t agree more. We ought not be allowing the tent cities and the squatting and whatnot in our cities. It’s my sidewalk too.

    I just think we need to have an accurate view of what and who these people are as we work to figure out a fix. The current situation can’t stand, but it’s too easy to dehumanize and then come up with an inhuman fix.

    And I still pity them.

  • Roué le Jour

    The state’s attitude to the homeless can be easily understood if you assume the state’s priority is to be a big as possible. The poor, the unemployed, the homeless and the criminal are a valuable resource for generating ever more government jobs. The last thing the state wants is for these client groups to become productive citizens.

    The poor, as the bishop said, are a gold mine.

  • Paul Marks

    New York City is one of the major centres of the Credit Money bubble – indeed, perhaps, it is the most important centre of the Credit Money bubble in the entire world.

    So get away from it – get as far away from New York City as you can.

    And get away from the other big Democrat controlled cities as well – where the left and the Credit Money Corporations (who are now openly in alliance) rule.

    I remind readers that the Mayor of New York City is a “moderate” in modern terms – compared to, for example, the Mayor of Chicago.

    The Democrat Party is holding their Presidential Convention in Chicago next year.

    The people who wrote “The Red Flag” (Chicago is the only American city mentioned in the Communist anthem) would be delighted about how America is going – although they would be astonished that Big Business supports the destructive “agenda” and has done for years now.

    The managers of these vast Corporations are “educated” people (that is not a compliment – remember even back in the days of Woodrow Wilson the goal of “education” was to “make the sons as UNLIKE their fathers as possible”) and the vast Corporations are propped up by endless Credit Money-From-Nothing, rather than Rea Savings and honest manufacturing.

  • llamas

    @ bobby b. – I have also dealt with my share of drug and alcohol users, although, in fairness, now decades ago.

    You wrote:

    ‘At that point, stopping involves rather huge physical changes, and pain beyond a mere absence of fun.’

    I shall now beg to (partly) differ, and I base what I say on what I learned, not from the users, but from the people who know what is actually involved in ‘stopping’ – the staff at the jail, where ‘stopping’ is not a choice, or at least, it was not, back in the day.

    There’s no question that long-term, serious alcoholics are at severe physical risk when forced to suddenly stop using alcohol. Delirium tremens is real, it’s serious (can be fatal) and requires serious medical attention. Note that this does not apply to the average mope who shows up at the jail every Friday night drunk on his ass, who requires to be dried out. The problem children are those with a ten-year, bottle-a-day dependence. A surprising percentage of these were (are?) women.

    Almost-all drugs of abuse, and specifically, the family of opiates, are a completely-different matter. Despite the horrific descriptions of the terrors of withdrawal, from De Quincey to Burroughs to Thompson, most cases of withdrawal from these drugs are no worse than a case of the flu, requiring no more than OTC medications and basic nursing attendance, over in 3 or 4 days. Unpleasant? No doubt. So’s a colonoscopy. Or a case of the flu.

    Drug users through the centuries have hyped up the horrors of withdrawal (and remember, De Quincey was using opium far, far stronger than what’s generally available on the streets these days) to provide them with a plausible excuse – to keep using. Oh, it’s so horrible, you can’t possibly imagine! So horrible, anything is preferable to going through it – even something so horrible as taking more heroin!

    I no longer believe in using the term ‘addict’ for users of most drugs of abuse, as they are not seriously, physically ‘addicted’ to these drugs – no more than say, users of nicotine are. ‘Addiction’ has now been ginned-up as a catch-all term for ‘ongoing poor life choice’. People claim to be ‘addicted’ to sex, or stealing cars, or bungee-jumping, when what they really mean is they like to do these things more than they like doing most other things in life, and they are willing to cast off most aspects of a normal life, and damage the lives of everyone around them, in order to keep doing what they like most in life to do. Same with most users of most drugs of abuse. These are personal choices – it’s a branch of sociopathy. These folks know full-well the damage their choices cause to themselves, and others, and that ceasing their behaviours would be relatively-easy to do, and to the great advantage of themselves and everyone around them. It’s just that they like how these drugs make them feel more than they care about those benefits.

    In the interest of accuracy, I will freely admit that I know very little of the situation when it comes to the amphetamines – that was mostly after my time – and it may be that the situation is very different in that regard. But somehow I doubt it. As you say, hard-core amphetamine users tend to be on a very short run down a very steep cliff, and in any case, all the drug problems that pervade places like SF seem to revolve around opiates.

    Your mileage most-certainly varies 🙂

    llater,

    llamas

  • Deep Lurker

    They know there is a problem but due to lack of systemic support (and even outpatient programs are very limited) they end up self-medicating with street drugs.

    One thing that’s long been a puzzle to me: The homeless mentally-ill (and the mentally-ill in general) are notorious for self-medicating with tobacco, alcohol, and street drugs, but I’ve never heard of them self-medicating with black-market anti-psychotics. Instead I hear about them going “off their meds” and refusing to take such anti-psychotics as they are provided with.

    Why is this? Why isn’t there a big black market in anti-psychotics? Or if there is, why is it such a deep secret?

    My tentative theory (guess) comes from my old day job in Big Pharma, where at one point a project was announced to look at possible treatments for ahedonia, as this was seen as an unmet need, in particular for the mentally ill. So my guess is that ahedonia is the part of being crazy that bothers them and that they want to self-medicate for. Per my guess, their delusions, paranoia, violent outbursts, etc. don’t bother them, but do bother the rest of us, and that’s what the rest of us want to medicate them for. If so, then Szasz had a point.

  • Kirk

    bobby b said:

    I just think we need to have an accurate view of what and who these people are as we work to figure out a fix. The current situation can’t stand, but it’s too easy to dehumanize and then come up with an inhuman fix.

    When someone renders themselves into the state of a beast, what are you to do with them?

    That’s the question, I’m afraid. Where does society draw the line for “human”, worthy of consideration and treatment as a human being? We don’t suffer beasts with rabies running the streets, do we? Shall we treat the formerly human differently, when they manifest similar behaviors?

    I’d submit that there comes a point wherein you cross that line in between that which is, and that which isn’t, and that there comes a further point where society is forced to cease treating you as a fellow human being. We do that with the criminally inclined, those who commit acts of violence upon other human beings. Why do we allow the Bedlamites to infest the public commons with their behaviors?

    Ever wonder why zombie movies are so popular? Ever note the similarities between some of our urban streets and the conditions in those movies? The entertainers are speaking a truth we don’t want to acknowledge, I fear.

    Roué le Jour said:

    The state’s attitude to the homeless can be easily understood if you assume the state’s priority is to be a big as possible. The poor, the unemployed, the homeless and the criminal are a valuable resource for generating ever more government jobs. The last thing the state wants is for these client groups to become productive citizens.

    Sadly perceptive and pithy description of what’s going on. We’ve turned homelessness into an industry, and it is being weaponized against the well-meaning normies that have to deal with the consequences. Where it is going to end, however, isn’t likely to be the state of affairs imagined by the people running the homeless industrial complex; it will be far more likely to end in a state of “compassion exhaustion” wherein Joe and Jill Normie just demand that all of these creatures of the night be put down, along with most of their enablers. Watch what happens when that tipping point is reached in places like Portland, Oregon.

    No doubt, a lot of people will decry the sheer inhumanity and cruelty of it all, but… Ya reap what you sow. And, the idjit class has been steadily sowing the wind…

  • Steven R

    So there’s no difference between someone who is a criminal and preys upon the innocent for fun and profit and someone who is mentally incapable of controlling their acts? Just lock both of them up and throw away the key? Would it not simply be better for everyone, the individual and society as a whole, and cheaper in the long run, to still have the long term inpatient facilities we had before judges and legislatures decided they were to be done away with?

    There are some men who should not be on the streets and in society because they are mentally ill.* We’ve spent the last 50 years saying “not our problem” and letting them roam freely. It clearly hasn’t worked. What is the solution? We don’t want the state to do it, private organizations like churches or charities only have so many resources and in any event running a soup kitchen or homeless shelter is not the same as being in charge of someone who has been diagnosed by a psychiatrist or adjudicated by a judge as being mentally incompetent of making the rational decisions the sane can make.

    So what is the solution to that particular problem?

    *I’m not talking about men who have no desire to be socially accepted or behaved or integrated into polite society, or even about the drug addicts. I’m talking about the schizophrenic, the untreated bipolar disorder, the psychotic, the sociopaths, etc.

  • Kirk

    Steven R said:

    So there’s no difference between someone who is a criminal and preys upon the innocent for fun and profit and someone who is mentally incapable of controlling their acts?

    I dunno, never having been murdered, raped, or robbed by enough of a selection of criminals or random psychos… Is there a qualitative difference? Is the experience of being murdered or raped any different when it’s someone that’s mentally ill, or someone that’s entirely sane? Is the effect on my next-of-kin any different, because it was Psycho Joe vs. Robert the Sane?

    I think that reasoning is specious twaddle, to be quite honest. You do the crime? It’s immaterial to the victim whether or not you were “sane” at the time. It’s also immaterial to me, in that I happen to think that it’s a generally good policy to put down dangerous animals with a track record of attacking people. I really don’t give a flying f*ck what is going on inside their heads; I just need to know the facts of their attack, and if it’s entirely unjustified? Put ’em down. Period.

    I’d honestly be up for a hard-line approach: Offer violence unprovoked? Cull. Period. I don’t care if you’re “just beating someone up”, you get put down. Because, you’re an animal. Do that consistently enough, and watch society change to become one hell of a lot more safe and sane.

  • Steven R

    I think the big difference is mens rea (or lack thereof). A criminal is a criminal. A crazy person doesn’t have the intent to commit a crime any more than a child does. Even in the Middle Ages and Renaissance they knew there was a difference between a criminal and a lunatic and set aside places for those people and Innocents (as the developmentally challenged were called) so they would at least be off the streets.

    Obviously, one has the right to defend oneself if attacked, but would it not be better to prevent an attack by taking someone incapable of knowing right from wrong because of a mental defect or illness and putting them in a facility where both they and society at large would be safe?

  • Kirk

    Steven R,

    OK, great… They’re “innocent of intent”. So. What?

    I happen to love dogs. I’m also not a damn fool, either, and when someone’s heretofore “safe” Golden Retriever chews a toddler’s face off, I know what has to be done.

    And, I do it. I see no reason to treat humans any differently than I do dogs. What on earth would the point be, pray tell? Is restraining them for life any better a fate? Are you willing to condemn the poor bastards entrusted with their incarceration at risk, and in continual fear of what their charges might do to them? Or, what they’d do if they were to escape?

    I don’t see too many crimes committed by the dead. Recidivism amongst those executed for criminal acts is pretty damn low. You also, despite many movie maker’s views to the contrary, don’t have to worry about them escaping the graveyard.

    It never ceases to amaze me when I observe the Venn diagram of those who are for abortion, yet against capital punishment. Damn near a perfect circle, usually… Which is odd, because the embryo/fetus has yet to generate a performance record, and we know that the criminal up on capital charges has a record of anti-social behavior, in that they murdered or raped someone. Somehow, the sanctimonious are all up in arms about the latter, and could care less about the former.

    Bit of a piece of cognitive dissonance, you would think…

  • bobby b

    “I see no reason to treat humans any differently than I do dogs.”

    Impasse.

  • Kirk

    @bobby b,

    See, this is where I part ways with a lot of people. I suffered a huge amount of abuse, growing up. From people. Dogs? Never once. I’ve been betrayed by people who claimed they were friends, family members, and the full range of human relationships. I’ve never once been betrayed by a dog.

    So, I don’t place “human” on some pedestal, worshipping at the altar of perpetual virtue. People are bastards, with bastard-flavored fillings. You trust them as far as you can, and then if they prove to be untrustworthy, well… I see no reason not to treat them the way I do a mad dog. There’s no inherent natural nobility or virtue in man. You are what you are, and what you demonstrate. You demonstrate “current and ongoing threat” the same way a mad dog does, well… Do the math.

    Frankly, I think you lot which unquestioningly worship at the altar of human virtue are quite mad. All of the true monsters I’ve ever encountered have been other human beings; beasts merely do as their biology bids them, with no cruelty or animosity involved. People, on the other hand? They do actual evil with malice aforethought, because they can and because they have made a choice to do it. A dog doesn’t do evil, yet we put them down for being threats all the time. Why not treat a beast that walks on two legs the same way?

    Overall, I don’t draw the line for “fellow human” at appearance only; I know lots of things on two legs that look human, yet have demonstrated very, very clearly that they are not, never will be, and only regard me and mine as their prey. I don’t have a problem with treating them the way I would our hypothetical mad dog.

    This, I am afraid, is society’s problem these days: Low standards for what constitutes “human” and an utter disregard for the consequences of those low standards.

    And, I will again point out: The same people that object to capital punishment are almost always the same ones who happily demand the right to abort embryonic human beings right up until they manage to get fully out of the birth canal… Something I find really hypocritical.

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