A Bollix of Good Intentions
The millionaire virtue-signaler in our city — every city has one — has a plan to save those stuck in the poorer part of town. He is going to do this, as close as the uninitiated can tell, by making it look pretty much like the better part of town.
I hope it works — I just have questions, that’s all.
To evaluate the $15-million project — a virtual campus of compassion in the inner city — you must wade through a bushel full of social-justice catch words and concepts: “chronic” poverty, housing as a “tool,” “resource barriers,” “low-risk incubator spaces,” “care givers,” child-care providers,” “sustainability” and of course “social equity.”
There will be a building complex housing an early child care development center. There will be a comprehensive health clinic, project offices and a community workspace. There will be experts on call in the fields of mental health and physical care. There will be a pavilion with restrooms (and drinking fountains) where the city can distribute meals.
Finally, there will be something called “permanently affordable” housing.
So this will be a magical place indeed, a model not only for how to save our city but any city — the world even.
There is, however, a premise built into the plan that some would challenge. It is that opportunity is “deserved,” that there is a new social crisis called an “opportunity gap.”
It is mentioned by both the head of the project’s fundraising arm and the chief economic officer: “Our community deserves a solution to looming opportunity gaps,” says the one. “We envision a supported neighborhood where residents flourish because they have access to resources they need and opportunities they deserve,” says the other.
I have known of opportunities that are earned, opportunities that are taken and opportunities that are missed. And I have learned at some cost that although my own opportunities may be blessedly constant my ability to meet them has varied greatly.
But I have never heard of opportunities that are deserved.
A “deserved opportunity” would seem an oxymoron. Its use here implies that those outside this particular community might have undeserved opportunities. And in that there is a whiff of envy, an attitude that has meant ruin for many human endeavors throughout history.
You should hope I’m wrong. You could feel more assured, however, if the organizers had included in their plans a commitment — even a sentence or two — regarding public safety, a willingness to hold all individuals in these neighborhoods to the rule of law, especially those who endanger life and property. You will need that if you hope to be prosperous.
Also, you could feel more assured if the organizers, some with political influence, would have thrown their weight into removing tax and regulatory burdens borne inordinately by the struggling inner city residents whom they would champion. Dr. Eric Schansberg, an adjunct of our foundation, has written a book on the subject.
For example, a task force could be formed that would include the community’s representatives on city council, plus an architect and engineer or two, to make up a list of government regulations that could be waived in the defined area.
The codes and “safety” regulations typical found in outlying counties are magnitudes more relaxed than those in our city, where costly regulations are kept on the books despite having no demonstrable benefit. A heap of wealth — of opportunity — could be created by simply getting senseless government out of the way, perhaps $15 million worth.
Those who doubt that should read the history of Sir. John Cowperthwaite and Hong Kong, where in 40 years using just such a strategy real wages increased by 50 percent and that supposedly “chronic” poverty dropped to 15 percent.
If only our local virtue-signaler could be as visionary, if only such a defunding of bureaucracy could be affected, if only for this particular corner of our city. What if as a result better jobs there allowed residents to upgrade and purchase housing and to attract the kind of resources that all neighborhoods need, and to do so dependent solely on their own abilities, hard work and talents?
Wouldn’t that be a great opportunity? — tcl