For people who support more government control and less freedom, the goal is always to break the connection between effort and reward.
That’s how they justify government redistribution of private property and anything else that one person enjoys but another person doesn’t have.
And that’s how a person who stays in school, doesn’t do drugs, works hard for years and eventually earns a good salary can be taxed to the max to help the “less fortunate,” while a person who makes horrendous life choices acquires a right to receive government checks.
The premise is that people do not deserve either the good or bad circumstances of their lives, so it’s morally right for government to mix it up a little.
One result of this type of thinking is a policy known as “economic integration,” offered as a solution to “economic segregation.” The idea is to have the government encourage “mixed-income” housing developments where people of different income levels all live in the same building. Government officials award the designated “affordable” housing units in the otherwise unaffordable location to a lucky few of “the less fortunate.” That makes the tenants who pay market-rate rents “the more fortunate,” as if they’re getting something they didn’t earn.
That’s how it’s done. Government power breaks the connection between effort and reward. The government’s power is enhanced, and all that’s left to do is hand out the awards for humanitarianism.
One way the government can implement this type of policy is to make housing construction next to impossible and then offer waivers granting permission for projects that meet particular government requirements. This has been the direction of policy in California. But it doesn’t create many units of “affordable housing,” and it raises the price of the market-rate units in the developments in order to cover the cost of the below-market units.
If the only goal was to end the housing crisis in California, there are other policies that would accomplish more. Reforming state laws that were passed to discourage exurban “sprawl” would open up land for new residential communities. Limiting the use of residential housing units for short-term rentals might create an oversupply of apartments overnight.
Of course, these policies would not accomplish the real goal, which is to increase government power. That’s accomplished by breaking the connection between effort and reward.
However, today there is an issue that threatens to end this game.
Throughout history, cities have had laws on the books to maintain the free use of sidewalks and the intended use of public spaces such as parks and plazas. There’s a reason for that, and if you drive around any city in California today, you can see the reason almost everywhere.
In California and elsewhere, laws against sitting, lying or sleeping on the sidewalk have been declared to be a violation of the civil rights of people that officials call, at least in Los Angeles, “our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness.”
City officials have pushed a “housing first” policy. They convinced voters to pass a tax increase that is supposed to build 10,000 units of supportive housing for the homeless with a $1.2 billion bond paid for by property owners. However, there’s something in the way: All the people who have worked hard to buy a house and who want to enjoy the fruits of their efforts in peace and safety.
People rightfully object to having their neighborhood made the site of a homeless housing development, along with the homeless service providers and drop-off sites likely to follow. They don’t want to see the “waiting list” for a homeless housing project spilling out onto the sidewalks that their kids use to walk to school. They don’t want their street turned into another block of Skid Row.
But when the goal is to sever the connection between effort and reward, it makes perfect sense to give away free apartments with no sobriety requirement for tenants, and to insult the tax-paying neighbors if they don’t like it.
The only way to break up this game is to throw the bums out. The politicians, that is.
Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. Susan@SusanShelley.com. Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.
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