No More Sidewalk Sex in Berkeley?

The Berkeley, California, City Council has passed a new ordinance -- called the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative -- that "cracks down on yelling, littering, camping, drunkenness, smoking, urinating and sex on sidewalks and in parks," according to the San Francisco Chronicle

Why am I not surprised that the measure is described by the Chronicle as "controversial"?  To the leftist mindset, anything that interferes with a person's "freedom" to act out all of his or her most base, self-indulgent, and destructive urges is deemed a "human rights" violation.  For leftists, crudeness and depravity, not decency or excellence or heroism, represents the "true" nature of human beings.   

This measure, which aims to restore cleanliness, order, security, and enjoyment to the city's business district and public spaces, also includes a slew of new services for the city's homeless population, including housing, counseling, and public toilets (admittedly, a good idea).  This is not surprising either.

I am not a resident of Berkeley, but it appears that the grandly named initiative is a compromise measure that seeks to address the legitimate interests of the city's upper-middle-class residents, taxpayers, and businesses, while appeasing the liberal advocacy groups that claim to speak on behalf of the city's homeless people -- who, according to the article, only number in the hundreds, out of a total city population of more than 100,000.

Frankly, I would have thought the number of homeless people in Berkeley would be much larger, due to the city's "plethora of social programs, good weather, progressive history and generally tolerant attitude," as described in the article.  So it turns out that an entire community is being held hostage by a tiny number of people, who either refuse or are not able to adhere to reasonable standards of public behavior.  (Reminds me of the lone bums who often make New York City subway cars unusable.)   Why?  It can only be because the governing majority of the city themselves do not respect these standards or lack the moral courage to enforce them against others.  Such is contemporary liberalism.

But what caught my eye above all in this article was the following statement by City Councilman (?) Laurie Capitelli, who obviously falls into the camp of the homeless advocates: 
"There are people on the streets that we as a society are collectively responsible for.  I think sometimes people need help fixing their lives, and we collectively have to help people do that."
"Collectively responsible for"?  "Have to help"?  What does this mean?  On what intellectual or moral grounds can it be said that every resident of Berkelely is "responsible" for the well being of the city's homeless people, many of whom likely drifted into the city from other parts of the state and country?  And who decides what this "well being" requires, how many resources to spend, and what each person's share should be?  There are no principled answers to these questions, once the move is made from voluntary charitable efforts to mandatory government tax-and-spend programs.

What Councilman Capitelli's statement ultimately means, then, is that those who control the powers of government, including the police power, will use their authority -- augmented by the sheepish acquiesence of most citizens -- to require the city's residents to fork over their hard-earned money to fund the schemes and dreams of politicians and ideologues.  Such is the nature of government, whether democratic or dictatorial.

This is why conservatives believe that one of the vital preconditions of a free society is limited, constitutional government.  It is a lesson we can never stop learning.

Contact Steven M. Warshawsky
The Berkeley, California, City Council has passed a new ordinance -- called the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative -- that "cracks down on yelling, littering, camping, drunkenness, smoking, urinating and sex on sidewalks and in parks," according to the San Francisco Chronicle

Why am I not surprised that the measure is described by the Chronicle as "controversial"?  To the leftist mindset, anything that interferes with a person's "freedom" to act out all of his or her most base, self-indulgent, and destructive urges is deemed a "human rights" violation.  For leftists, crudeness and depravity, not decency or excellence or heroism, represents the "true" nature of human beings.   

This measure, which aims to restore cleanliness, order, security, and enjoyment to the city's business district and public spaces, also includes a slew of new services for the city's homeless population, including housing, counseling, and public toilets (admittedly, a good idea).  This is not surprising either.

I am not a resident of Berkeley, but it appears that the grandly named initiative is a compromise measure that seeks to address the legitimate interests of the city's upper-middle-class residents, taxpayers, and businesses, while appeasing the liberal advocacy groups that claim to speak on behalf of the city's homeless people -- who, according to the article, only number in the hundreds, out of a total city population of more than 100,000.

Frankly, I would have thought the number of homeless people in Berkeley would be much larger, due to the city's "plethora of social programs, good weather, progressive history and generally tolerant attitude," as described in the article.  So it turns out that an entire community is being held hostage by a tiny number of people, who either refuse or are not able to adhere to reasonable standards of public behavior.  (Reminds me of the lone bums who often make New York City subway cars unusable.)   Why?  It can only be because the governing majority of the city themselves do not respect these standards or lack the moral courage to enforce them against others.  Such is contemporary liberalism.

But what caught my eye above all in this article was the following statement by City Councilman (?) Laurie Capitelli, who obviously falls into the camp of the homeless advocates: 
"There are people on the streets that we as a society are collectively responsible for.  I think sometimes people need help fixing their lives, and we collectively have to help people do that."
"Collectively responsible for"?  "Have to help"?  What does this mean?  On what intellectual or moral grounds can it be said that every resident of Berkelely is "responsible" for the well being of the city's homeless people, many of whom likely drifted into the city from other parts of the state and country?  And who decides what this "well being" requires, how many resources to spend, and what each person's share should be?  There are no principled answers to these questions, once the move is made from voluntary charitable efforts to mandatory government tax-and-spend programs.

What Councilman Capitelli's statement ultimately means, then, is that those who control the powers of government, including the police power, will use their authority -- augmented by the sheepish acquiesence of most citizens -- to require the city's residents to fork over their hard-earned money to fund the schemes and dreams of politicians and ideologues.  Such is the nature of government, whether democratic or dictatorial.

This is why conservatives believe that one of the vital preconditions of a free society is limited, constitutional government.  It is a lesson we can never stop learning.

Contact Steven M. Warshawsky