Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

18 May, 2010

Stop Being So Blinking Bourgousie!

Two activist groups held a rally yesterday looking to gain support for their drive to move people into homes that have been foreclosed upon. The first attempt at publicity involved actual squatting but that incident ended only a few days later. I found it odd that the police just watched as people essentially held a press conference saying, "Hey, here we are breaking the law!" But no complaints had been made.

South District police Capt. Joe Balles and several other officers stood across the street and watched the press conference. He said the department enforces trespassing laws when complaints are made.

One issue here is whether housing is a human right. Let's say for the sake of argument that it is. But that doesn't mean that just anyone has a right to the duplex at 2918-2920 Turbot Drive. You may have a right to housing generally but not to any house you choose specifically.

So is housing a human right? Is health care? One thing these rights imply that other rights such as freedom of speech, the right to vote, the right to profess whatever religion you want, etc. don't is, in the words of Prof. Lester Hunt, the right to the fruits of the labor of others. I think this is why such rhetoric rubs a lot of people the wrong way. When Emily Mills takes to her blog and exercises her right to free speech by proclaiming that health care is a human right, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. But if universal health care were to be enacted here, it would assuredly do the former. It's funny how when the smoking ban was being debated, many liberals said, "Your freedom ends where my nose begins" but, when it comes to health care and, for some, housing, their freedom unsurprisingly does not end where the wallets of others begin.

Aside from the issue of rights, I have to wonder if squatting is the best way to draw attention to the problem of homelessness. Are people who might be willing to donate money and/or time flocking to the cause or do quotes like the following from Z! Haukeness of Operation Welcome Home turn people off?

"To have a fundamental transformations of land relationships, so the land is actually owned by the community, all of the land, and not owned by corporations and not owned by banks and, possibly, not owned by individuals," Haukeness said.

I picture Rik from The Young Ones here telling Vyvyan, "All property is theft!"
|| Palmer, 2:36 PM


I'll bet the police would do something if this were happening in the Monroe Street area.
Blogger Atom Kid, at 4:47 PM  
No doubt.
Blogger Palmer, at 6:37 PM  
My belief that health care (and housing) is a human right doesn't mean that I think everyone should get it for nothing.

I'd love to see a sort of sliding scale applied to the problem, where you pay what you can afford for the necessary services, and also pay a small amount into a state/nation-wide pool to help those who can't afford the full cost. I don't believe affordable access to health care should be dependent on your current employer, nor do I think health insurance companies should be able to get away with half the crap they pull now.

But, you say, what about people who are habitually unemployed and not paying anything into the system? Why should I help pay for their care?

Call it the right thing to do. It benefits the larger community to see that all of its members are taken care of, so no one is driven to desperation. But we could also have checks in place to help ensure that no one is abusing the system.

There are ways to make a thing like this work. We've got plenty of smart people in this country/world to work on creating a better system (and it wouldn't take much to make improvements on the disaster we have now). The real trick is conjuring up the will to do so.
Blogger Emily, at 10:16 AM  
I did not say that you or anyone else thought that housing and health care as rights mean people should get it for nothing. The point was that by deeming them rights means that other people get something taken away from them by the coercive power of the state against their will.

Your bank account and mine are zero sum things. The more the government takes out, the less we have - the less we have to donate to charitable causes that we choose, for instance. In my case, the less I have to give to my stepchildren for their education.

Honestly, a lot of this post, though not all, is Devil's Advocacy. Having said that, I am very weary about this trend of what is essentially creating rights ex nihilo. It's not long before hordes of Baby Boomers start receiving Social Security and, at the moment, I'm not confident that the fund is going to be solvent for much longer. Hell, milk and honey may just be around the corner and we may soon all be as rich as Croesus, I don't know. But, considering our deficit, considering some fragile economies in the EU (will Germany bail out Spain and Portugal as well?), etc., I'm not holding out that there's going to be any Social Security around when I get to retirement age.

Am I doing the right thing to save for my stepkids' futures? Or would it be right for me to give them less and pay more for the "rights" of others to have housing and health care? Or is there a satisfactory middle ground?
Blogger Palmer, at 11:09 AM  

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