How Cities Like San Francisco Enable Drug Addicts
The “Harm Reduction” disaster.
In America, when it comes to a wide variety of self-defeating behavior that leads to bad outcomes, we tend to take one of two different approaches to deal with it. Either…
1) We focus on strongly discouraging people from engaging in problematic behavior.
2) We focus on trying to help people engaged in problematic behavior and reduce the harm it causes in their lives.
Debates about issues like homelessness, single mothers, trans issues, and divorce all tend to revolve, at least in part, around these two approaches to the problem. Both approaches have different strengths and weaknesses.
The first approach is usually much cheaper and tends to dramatically reduce the scope of the problem at the price of being indifferent at best or perhaps even slightly cruel to the people suffering it at worst. Philosophically, Ben Franklin’s approach to poverty falls into this camp:
The second approach is usually very expensive and does much more to alleviate the suffering of the people afflicted with the problem, although it often does little to reduce the number of people with the problem. In fact, these sorts of policies can end up enabling the problem and leading to significantly larger numbers of people having the problem than we would have seen had NOTHING been done.
If you want to see an example of the second approach in action, read this thread by Michelle Tandler discussing the broken way that San Francisco “helps” drug addicts:
First of all, if you’re a junkie, San Francisco is a paradise. It’s a rich city with a comfortable climate year-round. The government and liberal do-gooders will provide you with food, shelter, and needles. Drug use is essentially legal, the police are going to turn a blind eye and because there are so many junkies around, the drugs are cheap and easy to acquire.
The article Michelle Tandler mentioned early on goes into quite a bit of detail about the case of Ben Campofreda. Here are some excerpts that give you an idea of what this approach looks like in practice. Suffice it to say, it’s not pretty:
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