The New Thing: San Francisco Reality, 6/18
Nellie Bowles on San Francisco
In The Atlantic, Nellie Bowles writes,
This approach to drug use and homelessness is distinctly San Franciscan, blending empathy-driven progressivism with California libertarianism. The roots of this belief system reach back to the ’60s, when hippies filled the streets with tents and weed. The city has always had a soft spot for vagabonds, and an admirable focus on care over punishment. Policy makers and residents largely embraced the exciting idea that people should be able to do whatever they want to do, including live in tent cities and have fun with drugs and make their own medical decisions, even if they are out of their mind sometimes. But then fentanyl arrived, and more and more people started dying in those tents. When the pandemic began, the drug crisis got worse.
. . .these are parables of a sort of progressive-libertarian nihilism, of the belief that any intervention that has to be imposed on a vulnerable person is so fundamentally flawed and problematic that the best thing to do is nothing at all. Anyone offended by the sight of the suffering is just judging someone who’s having a mental-health episode, and any liberal who argues that the state can and should take control of someone in the throes of drugs and psychosis is basically a Republican. If and when the vulnerable person dies, that was his choice, and in San Francisco we congratulate ourselves on being very accepting of that choice.
Bowles describes the mood as changing. She points to the recall of three school board members as well as the recall of progressive District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
Whatever mood the country is in, the sport of tossing libertarians under the bus is always in season. Among the few wins that libertarians like to point to this century have been marijuana decriminalization and efforts to reduce incarceration rates. I am afraid that the results are not so great as to justify such pride in the political victories.
On pocketbook issues, libertarian ideas are much better than they are perceived to be. Markets may not be perfect, but they beat the alternative. But on economic issues, we have been mostly losing since 2008.
Bowles quotes the mother of a drug addict.
Berlinn has five children, and is also raising Sylvester’s daughter. Since she posted that comment, she’s become an activist, calling on the city to crack down on drug sales, put dealers in jail, and arrest her son so he’s forced to become sober in jail, which she sees as the only way to save his life.
In the WSJ, Peggy Noonan writes,
Progressive politicians have been around long enough running cities that some distinguishing characteristics can be noted. One is they don’t listen to anybody. To stop them you have to fire them. They’re not like normal politicians who have some give, who tack this way and that. Progressive politicians have no doubt, no self-correcting mechanism.
Another characteristic: They are more loyal to theory than to people. If the people don’t like the theories the progressives impose, that’s too bad; the theory is pre-eminent.
The hard-core religious believers are not going to change. Their beliefs will only get stronger. But elsewhere, as Andrew Sullivan put it, the vibe is changing.
My sense is that there is now a strong longing for order. People are fed up with the excesses of progressives: inflationary spending, cities in decay, schools prioritizing race and gender, and the trans movement. On campus, woke progressives may still be able to intimidate their opponents. But elsewhere, their power may be waning.
Reality is sinking in. When food prices are soaring and stock prices are falling, people don’t have as much energy to spare engaging in symbolic fights over systemic racism and pronouns. When things got really bad under President Carter, he turned (too late) to deregulation, and the country turned to Ronald Reagan, who also embraced deregulation. I don’t know that we will be as fortunate today.
Libertarianism is a good bias, but a terrible ideology. Civil society requires laws, judgment and punishment. Doing away with judgment and punishment will lead to societal decline. Doing away with laws in order to avoid having to judge is a fool's plan. It is moral and intellectual laziness.
The epitome of Modern politics is to claim credit for giving a minority of society a benefit while dismissing concerns of the societal costs as bigotry / racism. But there is always a cost! Wokeism is the taking of minority rights to the extreme - that anything that benefits even just one person is worth doing no matter the cost to the larger population.
What are the costs of extreme individual accommodation? Read the Nellie Bowles article. It is a story of massive failure. The politicians are at fault but the citizens deserve blame - they elected the politicians who junked principles of civil society. Good for the citizens of San Francisco for trying to correct their mistake. I wish the citizens of Baltimore would show similar wisdom.
Nellie, wife of Bari Weiss, writes (so well):
"San Franciscans are now saying:
We can want a fairer justice system and also want to keep our car windows from getting smashed. And: It’s not white supremacy to hope that the schools stay open, that teachers teach children, and, yes, that they test to see what those kids have learned."
Seems like preparation for a huge electoral wipeout of Democrats coming in Nov. Which I hope for, so want to hear more about why it might not happen.
When voters stop voting Democrat, we'll see in the vote count that they're learning.
Too bad she didn't find any folk also saying: "wanting Voter ID laws, like virtually all other global democracies, to avoid real and imagined voter fraud, is not voter suppression."
She didn't mention Biden's many many actual failures (gas prices, Afghanistan, Covid lockdown, huge inflation), but was able to bad mouth Trump in an offhand way:
"Trump’s shadow seemed to loom over even the smallest local office. "
Trump was demonized so much by so many Dems, that anybody anti-Trump was considered good. I note that Arnold, too, still demonizes Trump more than honestly criticizing Biden's policies & results in comparison.
Trump's "mean tweets" are gone - also many of his policies that were producing GREAT results.
Trump was doing more deregulation than anybody since Reagan; not mentioned, possibly not thought of, by Arnold.
I was NeverHillary in 2016; then became against the anti-Trump criticism not based on results. That's not "moral ire", it's more an attempt at intellectual honesty. Which so many anti-Trump intellectuals seem to avoid actually noting.