The Cautionary Tale of San Francisco


Over the last year or so, I'm sure you have read (as I have) about San Francisco's homeless problem. Many folks have camped on the street, and it has been a nightmare scenario of drugs, crime, open defecation, etc. So San Francisco has tried to fix this problem.

So city officials have set up 6 "safe sleeping village encampments." The "sites provide tents for the homeless as well as three meals a day, around-the-clock security and bathrooms and showers." Each tent has its own demarcated square in a parking lot. There are currently 260 tents being funded at $60,000 per tent site. This amounts to almost $20 million per year. Here's a photo:


After getting that bill, San Francisco has decided that they need to ramp down the program, with the hope of shutting it down as soon as alternatives are developed. Next year there will be fewer sites. But so far they have not identified what the alternatives might realistically be.

For my part, I'd like to know how the astronomical price of housing in San Francisco has played into this crisis. Those who are rich have housing, and those who are not rich cannot possibly afford it. Not only is home ownership completely out of reach, but even rents are too high to afford for many people. Will we reach the stage where a few have homes, almost all the rest rent, and some live in subsidized tent cities?

The income inequality of our country is spiralling, and the housing crisis is a big part of that. We are re-entering a feudal period, where there are a few fabulously wealthy individuals, such as Jeff Bezos, and the rest of our citizenry are what can only be called serfs. It calls to mind the devastating critique of the predispositions of capitalism by Karl Marx in Das Kapital. Wages and living conditions for workers tend towards bare subsistence levels in societies that tolerate unrestricted capitalism. While Marx never had any good solutions to this problem, his analysis was and remains spot-on. We are creating an unlivable society. What is happening in San Francisco is a harbinger of his slide.