#183 Who Should Care for the Homeless

"The Christian Economist" with logo and a closeup of a dollar bill in the background

“Supply causes demand” was the summary statement by the French economist Jean Baptiste Say.  The Biden administration has supplied more than $500 million to alleviate homelessness, and demand for it went up 11%.  The allotment will be quickly consumed by the Homeless Industrial Complex, who will be back at the Government feeding trough for more, faster than you can say “Dwight Eisenhower.”  Why “Dwight Eisenhower?”  He invented the term Military Industrial Complex, from which the term Homeless Industrial Complex gets its name.  The concept of the Homeless Industrial Complex is real. As far as I can tell, the term was first used by Joel John Roberts, who authored the cheeky-titled book How to Increase Homelessness in 2004.  It sprang up to monetize homeless “services” nationally and their continued funding depends on sustaining the homeless population.  They are not so much interested in solutions — there’s too much money in the problem.


Nothing About Supply and Demand

The Wall Street Journal is trying to blame the homeless problem on economics, “This year’s surge reflects a host of pressures around the U.S. such as rising housing costs, and lack of affordable rental units.”  Oh, that’s why crackheads consume cocaine, opioids, and Mogen David by the gallon?

Homelessness is the result, not the cause.  Homelessness is largely caused by drug addiction and mental illness.

It’s not an economic problem, it’s a moral violation for the homeless who make choices to fry their brains, and for the self-interested governmental bureaucrats who make a pretty nice living in the Homeless Industrial Complex that maintains the street carnival.  Somewhere around 90% of homeless people have drug and alcohol addictions, and some degree of mental illness.

In their book Extreme Leadership former Navy Seals Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, state the rather obvious, “You get the behavior you tolerate.”  New York City has something called “A legal right to shelter,” which has caused its homeless population to explode.

“The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, a federal agency, also blamed growing homeless counts on housing costs and shortages.”  The government is wrong again.  Look, homelessness is NOT an economic problem.  We can do ZERO to address the homeless problem until we stop claiming an association between homelessness and lack of affordable housing.  They are unrelated.  Homelessness has nothing to do with the availability of affordable housing.

When shelter is supplied for many homeless people, they turn it down.  Many homeless people are homeless because they don’t want to follow the rules that would be required to live in a house.  If you’re thinking “that’s kinda crazy,” you would be correct.  As I’ve stated, the majority of the homeless population have some kind of drug or alcohol dependence or mental illness.

Noting that the unemployment rate is at 3.6%, well below what economists call the natural rate of 5%, we should notice that jobs are plentiful in this country for anyone who shows up on time and isn’t stoned.


The Capitalist Good Samaritan

Finding a man injured on the road, the Good Samaritan, as described in Luke chapter 10 uses his own oil, wine, and bandages.  He puts the man on his own donkey and pays the innkeeper with his own denarii.

Socialists read the story to say: finding the man injured on the road, the Samaritan rushed into town and rounded up some Roman soldiers who went door-to-door, forcefully extracting taxes to buy public oil, wine, and bandages.  They bought public donkeys and public inns.  That’s not how Jesus told the story, and it’s not how we are commanded to care for the homeless.  There is no room in the Good Samaritan story for the government.


Defined by What They’re NOT

Notice the title “homeless.”  Interesting that these folks are identified by what they don’t have, instead of what they do have.  Maybe I should start referring to the students in my class at Dallas Baptist University as “non-degree holders.”  And I guess Ginger and I would be “non-Rolls Royce drivers,” or “non-private jet owners.”  Labeling people by what they don’t have could quickly get out of hand.  We have a very good baseball team at DBU, and our semi-famous coach, Dan Heefner tells his athletes, “Don’t let what you can’t do, keep you from doing what you can do.”  That’s pretty good advice.

Calling a person “homeless” immediately puts them in a somewhat helpless category, doesn’t it?  And lots of people who write and research on the topic are careful not to demean homeless people.  They continue to remind us that they are humans made in the image of God, just as we are.  They are very capable.  Then why do we call them a name that indicates what they can’t do?

Widows & Orphans

In James 1:27, we are commanded to care for widows and orphans.  And, in the Psalms 146:9 version, it includes immigrants.  The reason we are commanded to care for these three groups is that, in the agrarian economy of Biblical times, if you didn’t own land, you couldn’t produce value.

Today’s equivalent of widows, orphans, and immigrants, are those who can’t care for themselves.  Jesus said, “The poor, you will always have with you.”   I comment on that in more detail in podcast #9 titled The Poor Will Not Always be With You.

Every reasonable person agrees that those who can’t take care of themselves should be cared for by others.  The only question is: Who should do the caring?  According to the aforementioned citation from the Psalms, which is repeated in James, the church is commanded to do it.

Not only are they commanded to do it, they can do it better.  The government has no money.  It has to take before it can give.  The church can give without taking.

Second, the church can be more specific in caring for various needs.  Most homeless people have multiple needs: Physical, spiritual, emotional, financial, and relational.  The local church can more specifically identify what made the person homeless, and more accurately care for the person in need.

The church has an interest in successfully curing the homeless person, so they can stop spending money.  The government has the opposite economic motivation: They want to continue the Homeless Industrial Complex.


Economic Incentives for Homelessness

The Homeless Czar in Los Angeles is paid $430,000.  Do you think she’s incentivized to cure the problem?  Has anyone thought about an inventive plan, where she would be paid more, as the homeless rate went down?  That’s what a for-profit entity would do: Incentivize what you want.  But governments don’t do that: They incentivize more homelessness.  It’s pretty clear to anyone who has worked a summer in the governmental machine.

It’s my very subjective opinion that our greatest living economist is Thomas Sowell.  As a college student, he was a full-blown Marxist, until he interned one summer in a federal agency.  He saw that self-interested bureaucrats were rewarded for how much money they spent, not how many results they produced.  And, if they didn’t spend it all, the gravy train dried up.

You get the behavior you tolerate, and as long as homeless people are rewarded for living outside, the Homeless Industrial Complex is happy to keep them there.


Fear God
Tell the Truth
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