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John T. Reed’s review of the book San Fransicko by Michael Shellenberger.

Posted by John Reed on

The subtitle is “Why progressives ruin cities.” That is a better description of the contents than the title.
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I like to reduce it to basic principles.
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• Liberals are process oriented.
• Conservatives are results oriented.
• Liberals see good intentions as a 100% substitute for results.
• Liberals glom onto theories which are called ideologies.
• In the scientific method, theory is an early step. In subsequent steps, the theory is proven or disproven by testing and empirical evidence. Liberals reject empirical evidence or anything else that would disprove the theory. The theory or ideology is king. Disproving or even testing it is heresy.
• Everyone has the same values but liberals have a different hierarchy than conservatives. They rank several values higher than conservatives do and vice versa.
The book seems to reference every pertinent sociological study ever done. It has 86 pages of footnotes in a 395-page book. Author Shellenberger seems anxious to prove his bonafides with academics. I take sociology academics far less seriously. To me, STEM is the real academia. Sociology seems more like a liberal religion than a true academic discipline.
Occasionally, the author provides a succinct big picture explanation.
One of the main things he does is identify the players in the so-called “homeless” debate and the structure and incentives of what comedian Bill Maher “the homeless industrial complex.”
“Homeless” is a euphemism. I figured that out years ago. They are, in fact, loners, unmarried, criminals, sick, drug addicts, unemployed.
Calling them “homeless” and believing that is what they are causes such believers to conclude that the solution to the homeless is simply homes.
Not even close.
“Homeless” and law enforcement policy in is run by liberal activists and non-profits. They prohibit any punishment for crime or drug use or forcing the mentally ill to behave or have a mandatory conservator or being put into any sort of incarceration medical or otherwise. One SF psychiatrist said, “Civil rights lawyers [ACLU] are more interested in people’s civil rights than their lives.” An unhappy SF homeless advocate said, “I don’t want people to die with their rights on.”
Obviously, “homeless” addicts and mentally-ill people need intervention.
The liberals in charge are unalterably opposed to any intervention whatsoever. Many of the parents of the “homeless” addicts and mentally ill call the police to get their sons or daughters arrested because the do-gooders and medical people refuse to intervene. The liberals despise all interaction between police and addicts/mentally-ill, which means it almost never happens no matter how much it is needed.
Have the liberals gotten these policies into law? Somewhat, but they do not need to. Dem politicians in most cities are intimidated by the “homeless” industrial complex, George Soros DAs, and activists into behaving as if leftist ideology were law.
Essentially, one needs carrots and sticks to get people to behave. Liberals like carrots and are unalterably opposed to any sticks whatsoever. I have managed people as a parent, upperclass West Point cadet, Army officer, landlord, and coach. Carrots only simply does not work. The general name for what works is “tough love.” Liberals are unalterably opposed to tough. They HATE the “War on Drugs” and any policy that bears even the slightest resemblance to the “War on Drugs.”
This whole mess is part of the switch from tough love child raising that was universal in the pre-industrial age to the lenient, Dr. Spock, participation trophies, fewer childhood chores, letting kids develop at their own initiative, self-esteem stroking without earning it era.
One of the most successful homeless/drug/shoplifting municipal policies on earth is that of Amsterdam. I was there in 2018 for the first time. I made the comment that it felt like the best-run city I have ever been in, and that was not based on any trying to evaluate homeless or anything. I was just a relaxed tourist but the feeling was so powerful you did not need to be looking for it.
What is the difference between Amsterdam, which famously allowed drugs and prostitution openly for decades, and San Francisco? Amsterdam tried the all carrots stuff. It did not work. So they adopted a combination of carrots and sticks. Amsterdam and San Francisco have almost the same population.
Their bottom line in Amsterdam is you cannot misbehave in certain ways that adversely affect others or yourself. They will help you get off drugs and find a place to sleep and such, but you have to meet them half way. You have to do things that are known to get you off drugs and you have to comply with shelter and public housing rules. And if you don’t, you go to jail.
They also outlaw and enforce the law against outdoor drug selling. It must be indoors. That may sound meaningless, but not so. Forcing it indoors makes it feasible to regulate such sales.
In SF, you do not have to do anything or comply with anything to get a bottomless bushel of carrots. The drug market is outdoors facilitating lookouts and discarding incriminating drugs and all that.
The position of the liberals who run the “Homeless” Industrial Complex is that every single addict/criminal is a victim and therefore has no responsibility whatsoever for anti-social behavior.
The book repeatedly describes ruined liberal cities like San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle as the fictional “Pleasure Island” in “Pinnochio.” It is a horrible prison but seems to bad boys to be paradise before they get there and when they first get there. They turn into donkeys the longer they stay there.
The city ruining activists say “homeless,” etc. is caused solely by racism and poverty and the only way to fix it is to end poverty and racism. That, of course, guarantees lifetime employment and non-profit “surpluses” until the end of time. Those who work full-time on solving the homeless problem would be unemployed if the problem were solved.
Netherlands may have a more unified federal drug treatment program. In the US, medical drug treatment is handled by the VA, federal law, state law, private for-profit hospitals, private non-profit hospitals, government hospitals, Medicaid, and many non-profit activist organizations. When everyone is in charge, no one is in charge.
The lack of unity causes cities like SF to have far more than its share of homeless drug addicts. Many of the “homeless” in SF and similar cities became “homeless” in other cities around the US then moved to SF because it caters to drug addicts more than other cities. One metric is SF spends more per homeless addict than other cities with bigger populations.
No one is accountable for the “homeless” addict/mentally ill problem. Politicians say “Elect me and I will fix it.” But when they don’t, the politicians point to all the taxpayers’ money they gave to the non-government organizations and refer you to them. But the NGOs are not accountable for any results. Similar to Biden registering illegal immigrants then turning them over by the million to Catholic and other charities who ship them around the US in the middle of the night.
The book attributes much of the current problems of SF today to seeds planted in the 1970s by Mayor Moscone, Supervisor Harvey Milk, People’s Temple leader Jim Jones, Moscone/Milk assassin Dan White, acting mayor Dianne Feinstein. That all happened in 1978.
We have lived in the Bay Area for most of our lives—since June 1977. But we lived IN San Francisco at 1000 Chestnut Street (corner of Hyde) from June 1977 until the Fall of 1980. That is Russian Hill, on the Hyde Street cable car line, one block from the top of the Crookedest Street in the World, six blocks from Fisherman’s Wharf.
When we moved out in 1980, Dick Van Dyke was living in the building while starring in the Music Man in SF. Liberace spent the night down the hall from us once. We ran into actor David Janssen in the lobby just before they said “Action” in a scene in the made-for-TV movie Blackjack Hijack. Many TV shows, commercials, and movies were filming in or around the building while we lived there.
So all that Moscone/Milk/Jones/White/Feinstein drama took place while we were residents of the City. I got into a fight with Feinstein once.
I wrote a letter to the editor that they published criticizing Feinstein in the rent-control battle. She demanded I provide a fast-acting solution to high rents. My answer was allow anyone who wants to build apartments to get the permits and said how long it took was up to the mayor and board of supervisors. Don’t hold your breath.

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