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Friday, June 27, 2014

Homelessness and Freedom of the Will

One of the reasons why the freedom of the will is a manifest observation is that although the will is determined to the good, it is not always possible to know what the good it, and therefore not always possible to know what means are best to achieve it.

Consider the recent events in NYC in which a flamboyant Chinese philanthropist proposed to give a free luncheon to a passel of homeless people and give each one $300.
He [Chen] had announced the event in a full-page advertisement in The New York Times on June 16. “Leading Chinese philanthropist teams up with famous American charities to host charity luncheon for 1,000 poor and destitute Americans,” the ad said. “Each will receive 300 dollars.”
***
On Sunday he met with officials from the New York City Rescue Mission and asked them to supply the homeless people as guests. They said they would participate in the event as long as he did not hand out any cash, said Craig Mayes, the group’s executive director. Mr. Mayes said he was concerned that some of the clients might use the cash to buy alcohol and drugs. In return, Mr. Chen agreed to donate $90,000 to the organization, and the two parties signed a contract.
***
Mr. Chen addressed the audience and then uncorked the news the crowd had been waiting for: “I will give $300 for every participant today.”

The homeless men and women shot to their feet, whooping and applauding.

“No he won’t,” Michelle Tolson, the mission’s director of public relations, said. “The police will shut him down.”

Officials from the Rescue Mission quickly brokered a deal with Mr. Chen’s assistants, allowing him to hand $300 to several chosen homeless clients in a symbolic gesture. The clients, however, would have to return the money.              -- New York Times
So, it's not easy to give money to poor people, at least in NYC, although it is easy to give money to organizations that provide services to the poor.  TOF is unclear on the benefits to be gotten by giving "several chosen" homeless $300 if they have to immediately return it. They will remain agreeably dependent on the Mission for their well-being.

P.J. O'Rourke once pointed out that if you took all government spending on poverty programs and divided that by the total number of poor people, it would be enough to give everyone a handsome salary. Mathematically, there are no poor people. The problem is that most of that money goes to mid-level bureaucrats and to subcontractor NGOs.  Bad? 

But now the flip-side, as it were. Would it indeed be a good thing to hand them the $300?  On the face of it, obviously so. But the Mission people, who work every day with the homeless and perhaps know something of the reasons for their homelessness, may well be right. Most of the homeless are in that state because of mental illness and/or drug/alcohol addiction. That would be $300 of booze and crack.  The homeless individuals would be no better off -- indeed, in many cases, worse off -- whereas the Mission would spend the money on food, clothing, and such. So which course of action is for the good?


17 comments:

  1. Is it illegal to give cash to the homeless in NYC? Because police enforcement of a private "contract" without a judicial review looks really sketchy to me, unless there's an immediate threat to public order & safety....

    Looking forward to the eventual arrival of Brennan's "Thomist Psychology" via Interlibrary Loan. Mr. Chen looks like he'd be someone's entertaining case study.

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    1. Chen served as a prop in a piece of paedagogy.

      You know thestory when a widow asked Buddha to raise her son? He did no miracle. He asked her to find something from a house where nobody had died and bring it back to him. She found no such house and got the point: everyone is missing someone, request impossible.

      Chen very possibly wanted to do an offer that he knew and had arranged in advance it should be impossible.

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  2. Newt Gingrich used to tell the story of how the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program of the Social Security Administration used to -- quite literally -- kill people.

    The problem was that it could take years for the Social Security bureaucracy to process a claim for SSI. If the claim was allowed, the claimant would immediately get a lump-sum payment of benefits, back to the date of the claim.

    Drunks were taking those big SSI checks to liquor stores, cashing them and immediately buying enough booze to drink themselves to death.

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  3. Whether is it "good" to give money directly or indirectly, it is definitely wrong to lie about who you are giving money for a publicity stunt. Either give money directly to a charity or give money directly to the homeless, but don't stage a dog an pony show. The homeless are not props for a philanthropic dinner.

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    1. It wasn't a lie when he said it. He was made a liar by those who wouldn't let him do what he said he would. It may not have been a good idea, but it was not a lie until he was prevented from acting on his promise.

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    2. If you "broker a deal" to hand out money and then take it back, it is not the law forcing you to do this. If the charity org is not letting him do it, say... oh well, I can't do it, legally i need to do X. But he brokered a deal to allow him to "symbolically" give away money and get cheers but take it back. Nobody is going to stop him from privately going up to panhandlers and giving them 300$ each.

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    3. Given the ad appeared on Monday, it is quite likely it was placed before the final negotiations had been conducted on Sunday. If he "brokered the deal" after the initial promise was made, then, I reiterate, the promise was not a lie, at the time he made it. To qualify as a lie, a statement must be known to be untrue, at the time it is made. You must prove that, at the time the initial promise of $300 was made—in an ad that, again, was probably placed before the negotiations were concluded—he knew he wouldn't be allowed to act on it.

      You are making an accusation based on assumptions RE: "facts not in evidence". (Also, I wouldn't be so sure New York City wouldn't stop someone from going up to panhandlers and giving them large amounts of money, if they were doing it systematically rather than sporadically. That might be the kind of thing many cities not run by psychotic totalitarians like De Blasio or Bloomberg would prefer you didn't do, it being likely to cause a riot if anything goes even slightly wrong.)

      Also, we put currency symbols before numbers, in English.

      Delete
  4. But the Mission people, who work every day with the homeless and perhaps know something of the reasons for their homelessness, may well be right.

    They may well be wrong and God damned Calvinistic heretics too.

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  5. Most of the homeless are in that state because of mental illness and/or drug/alcohol addiction.

    Homelessness is not a state, it is a situation.

    It is a situation which is not only dependent on the homeless persons' own efforts to improve his situation to remedy (insofar as it is felt as a burden), but also on the perception other people have of that homeless person.

    Now, if it were admitted that most homeless are neitehr addicts nor insane, then it would follow one had a certain problem about people getting the opportunities they deserve.

    Some people do not like that conclusion being even possible. Some of such people have donated very heavily to medical and academic institutions.

    Some such institutions and some such people themselves have a very great influence over the volunteers, at least on the level of their leadership. The ones enjoy that influence as benefactors and therefore obviously honest and well meaning people, the others as medical and psychological expertise.

    Therefore such volunteers are very likely to give the account that "most" homeless are either addicts of mad. My own experience among homeless is that the least part are so. But some are heavily Stockholmised by psychiatry and perceive themselves as insane, though in fact they are not. Or as addicts, when in fact their consumption is normal.

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  6. That would be $300 of booze and crack. The homeless individuals would be no better off -- indeed, in many cases, worse off -- whereas the Mission would spend the money on food, clothing, and such.

    300 dollars on booze and crack?

    Not my experience even with those who are in fact addicts (though, to be fair, I have not yet seen them handle 300 dollars, and known they were doing so).

    Still less with those who are stamped as mad without being so, or even with those who are in fact mad. There are a few, not very many of those too.

    Regard a bit this piece of information from an anonymous commenter:

    Newt Gingrich used to tell the story of how the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program of the Social Security Administration used to -- quite literally -- kill people.

    The problem was that it could take years for the Social Security bureaucracy to process a claim for SSI. If the claim was allowed, the claimant would immediately get a lump-sum payment of benefits, back to the date of the claim.

    Drunks were taking those big SSI checks to liquor stores, cashing them and immediately buying enough booze to drink themselves to death.


    Since he is anonymous, we cannot be sure it was in fact Newt Gingrich who told such a story. Or, if it was, we cannot be sure he is not Newt Gingrich or a very good friend of his himself.

    But supposing Newt Gingrich had told such a story - would you take Newt Gingrich's authority for it?

    And supposing this were true. The story does not tell how many of the drunks who would do this, and how many of them who would in fact die when having done it.

    If a few did, is that a reason to cut the freedoms of the many to save a few who would otherwise ruin themselves?

    As if people were not equally ruined by such as try to save them from themselves without any real warrant this is needed!

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  7. One of the reasons why the freedom of the will is a manifest observation is that although the will is determined to the good, it is not always possible to know what the good it, and therefore not always possible to know what means are best to achieve it.

    a) it is usually well knowable what is good either in the realm of reason (like good behaviour) or in the realm of the flesh (like gratification); BUT man is not predetermined to prefer one of the goods over the other so as not to be able to do the opposite (what St Thomas means on a similar note, verbally, is that it is not always immediately easy to know where the TRUE good is);
    b) given what kind of good one decides for - grace, flesh, or flesh insofar as one can also have grace (the choice of most married Christians who bear thirtyfold fruit), it is not always but most often obvious what leads to it: obvious how to please God, obvious what one wants for one's flesh, obvious what kind of compromise between grace and flesh one can go for;
    c) and there are also a few cases where there is reasonable doubt of what is the best means.

    When one knows how one's chances have been circumscribed by people judging one as charitably as NYPD (New York Police Department or perhaps Nouveau-York Pé-Dés) judged their city's homeless, it can however be a question of what means is least unlikely to take one out of trouble.

    As for those guys, I am so sadly reminded of the story of one Christmas enemy, that NYC police corps was originally founded to deal with Christmas rioting.

    And I suppose the Christmas rioting originally arose out of Calvinists protesting against Catholic Christmas festivities (sometimes taken too far) in ways reminiscent of Belfast Catholics protesting against Orangist Battle of The Boyne Memories. I e by interrupting the feasting. Then a Catholic would hit back ... you get the picture?

    And the Calvinist would have been thinking he was doing a work pleasing to God while in fact they were killing the Catholics' and their own freedoms, hear the video associated with my comment:

    Assorted retorts from yahoo boards and elsewhere : ... against Yet Another Puritan as in Stupid Attack on Christmas
    http://assortedretorts.blogspot.com/2014/07/against-yet-another-puritan-as-in.html


    As for yourself, you started out your article nominally as a defense of the dogma of free will. You ended it with an attack on the freewill of the homeless. You are saying they are mostly anyway slaves to their flesh and therefore no worse off if also treated as slaves.

    How can any Irishman not be ashamed of you? Ulster Scots excepted, if you call them Irish, and even CSL (though rather Anglo-Irish than Ulster Scots) was hardly as uncharitable to the poor as you.

    Recall the occasion when Tolkien had asked him why he gave a pound or five pounds or whatever to a homeless? "He is going to spend it all on booze" said JRRT (with some shade of his Methodist stepfamily). "So? That is what I was going to spend it on," answered CSL.

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  8. I wonder how many times that I have asked people at homeless missions to find musicians for my compositions and once or twice I specifically offered what is anyway included in my general licence - they could keep money raised on a concert for them. In that specific case, the money they would have kept would have been kind of a payment for the coffee I had had there.

    musicalia : What's the deal? C'est quoi ce truc?
    http://hglundahlsmusik.blogspot.fr/2008/11/whats-deal-cest-quoi-ce-truc.html


    Or when I gave the blog to a young female unmarried volunteer. Instead of this starting a relation and giving her some money for playing piano and me some for composing for it - here are the piano pieces, btw:

    musicalia : Guitar, Piano, Lute, Bouzouki
    http://hglundahlsmusik.blogspot.fr/2008/11/guitar-piano-lute-bouzouki.html


    ... or most of them, as well as earlier half or so of guitar compositions - she was sent away or it was at least somehow arranged that she left the day shelter where I was having breakfasts.

    As a result my homelessness and obscurity and poverty has continued a few years more.

    PROBABLY because there were jerks among those leading that day shelter (including a Novus Ordo parish priest or two, and the black one - whether he led or only attended "my" breakfasts - probably considering me an anti-black racist, though I am not) who thought this solution would be as useless to me as 300 dollars were deemed by those other jerks according to story for the homeless who might otherwise have had some days better off thanks to Chen.

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    1. Hans, you're spamming a post again.

      Delete
    2. I am refuting in detail.

      Thereby adding value to your original post.

      If you are too cowardly an intellectual to take debate with people who REALLY disagree with some of your principles, why have a blog at all?

      I am debating with Modernist "Catholics" like you, with Atheists, with Protestants (both on minor details of Creationism, such as if - ok that is not so minor - Geocentrism solves the Distant Starlight Problem, and on real hard and tragic issues, as which of e-LL-en go-VLD VV-h-I-te and Vicarius Christi adds up to the number of the Beast).

      I have never ever called any commenter a spammer simply because he contradicted me, nor for such a matter as if his comments in answer to my post were longer than my post itself.

      What a sad state of affairs when a man like you can pass for representing Catholicism in the Intellectual world!

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    3. Besides, you might want to look up what the word spam means.

      SPAM used to be portmanteau for SPI-ced h-AM.

      Hence, spam for ubiquitous, unwelcome and obviously irrelevant to watched programme or movie, commercial.

      If under a post on Heliocentrism I state Geocentrism is true, I am not spamming. If under this post I say there is superstition against freewill and Communism against the freedom of alms going on in New York and that you are Calvinist for supporting it, I am not spamming either.

      I would be spamming if, under either of the posts, I posted links to "payday loans", "grow your virility", "UGG boots" or diverse medications, to name things I have come across.

      I suppose what you mean is filibustering. But that word has less sense on the internet, where the debates are not limited in time beforehand, and where therefore using much time oneself is not stealing time from another.

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  9. By the way, since you did after all use the word "spam" about my action under this post, might you perhaps know of others who consider my commenting as such?

    And who might just possibly, theoretically, be prepared to "spam me back" (but with things that are really spam!) for my so-called spamming?

    I mentioned the guestbook spamming, it is not the only type I have to live with.

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