Welfare State = No Death On The Streets? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Welfare State = No Death On The Streets?

Writing in National Review Online, George Mason University law professor and AmSpec contributor F. H. Buckley argues that Donald Trump has more in common with old-school Democrats (i.e., those of the pre-Carter era) that do present-day Democrats.  His article is an enjoyable read until you reach the end of the ninth paragraph:

They [Old Democrats] knew, as Trump does, that the welfare state is here to stay and that we don’t want to see sick people die on the streets.

The pretty clear implication is that the welfare state prevents sick people from dying without a roof over their heads.  But is there any evidence of that?  If anyone has researched whether more people died in the streets of America prior to the modern welfare system, I can’t find it.

One notion that is related to this is that America was a largely heartless country until liberals discovered the concept compassion in the 1960s and instituted the Great Society welfare programs.  Okay, I’m overstating here.  A bit.  Anyway, I would encourage anyone who believes that to pick up a copy of Marvin Olasky’s The Tragedy of American Compassion.  (Note: The tragedy takes place post 1960.)

There are no national statistics on the number of people who die on the street.  However, a bit of common sense should tell us that it happens with some frequency.  Here are a few recent photos of the area near the Mitch Snyder Arts and Education Center for the Homeless on D Street NW, between 1st and 2nd Street in Washington, D.C.:




It’s probably a safe bet that some of these people will, tragically, die on the street.

Finally, what if the opposite is true?  That is, what if the welfare state increases the number of sick people who die on the street? One of the biggest contributors to homelessness is alcohol and drug abuse, and there is some evidence of higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse among welfare recipients.  If welfare dependency does lead to higher rates of substance abuse, and the abusers eventually end up on the streets, then the welfare system would be making the problem of death on the streets worse.

Here is one more reason why death on the street would be more prevalent in the welfare state:  The welfare state generally does not stop people who are alcohol and drug abusers from getting a check.  As Olasky points out in his book, private charity in the 19th century would cut people off if they did not quit the bottle, the reason being that alcohol abuse was one of the biggest obstacles to self-sufficiency. Unfortunately, only a few homeless shelters, like Denver’s Step 13, continue to use that approach.

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