(by Outright Florida organizer Rick Molek, in response to this article regarding a camping ordinance in Pensacola that criminalizes homelessness)

Because government is essentially force – a tool used by those who wield it to achieve their own (or their benefactors’) selfish goals – it is not the proper source of addressing what some people commonly refer to as social problems or social injustice. A good example of this can be found in the area of homelessness. While many well-meaning people are sensitive to the plight and quality of life of homeless people, they often fail to see how governments not only contribute to and perpetuate homelessness, but often stand in opposition to those attempting to help in any meaningful way.

Look, for example, at: wars that leave service members psychologically unstable, destroy their families, and render them unfit to restore any kind of “normal” life; overzealous, and often self-serving regulations that create barriers to entry in the marketplace; an education system geared more to creating obedient citizens than developing educated, independent people; and then attempting to “fix” these problems by the creation of government programs that serve to only further establish and perpetuate the victimization of the people hurt by these policies.

More than serving as just another example of government ineptitude, this subject also highlights a real challenge in communicating principles of libertarianism. Not because the principles are incompatible with effectively dealing with social issues, but because the issues are far more complex than we’re accustomed to believing, and because if we are only focusing on the emotional side of things, we inevitably fall into the trap of looking to the creators of the problem for the solution. This does nothing but guarantee that the problems continue, and become part of the way our society functions, making it increasingly difficult to break free. To solve the problems that face individuals, we need to harness the power that only individuals possess – compassion, imagination, ingenuity, ambition, self-preservation, and so on.

Sadly, governments aren’t the only ones to blame, making the complexity even worse. Sometimes, other institutions (family, religious, educational, and social) assist in the creation of social problems, including homelessness. When a young person is struggling with homosexuality, for example, that person may not be connected to safe and supporting sources of help and understanding. In fact, the natural places from which most people find their support may be the very ones driving them away. This helps to explain why some calculate the percentage of LGBT youth as being 40% of the homeless youth population. Unfortunately, when the more organic social structures fail these people, they often find themselves stuck battling another set of problems created by governments. Florida is home to several well-known examples of this scenario. From feeding bans in Orlando to “camping” bans in Pensacola, governments have proven themselves to be incapable of not only providing help, but of providing at the very least, equal protection under the law. Instead, those claiming power over others’ lives, all too often make things even more difficult for the suffering among us.

(Secretary’s note: Outright Arizona is currently involved in a ballot initiative campaign to repeal a similar ordinance in Phoenix. Learn more about it here.)

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