There’s This Bridge Near My House

That I call the longest bridge in the world. This bridge goes all the way from North Dallas to, oh hell, take your pick: Somalia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe… Just about any hell hole on the planet you can name.

Yeah, it’s an old joke. Some crank like me has said the same thing about a bridge in his city many times before.

But my claim is true. Shit like this happens with great frequency on the other end of this bridge: Dallas Woman Accused of Attempting to Sell Baby.

Property values on my side of the bridge would rise dramatically if that bridge were not in place.

It was not always thus. Many years ago, I had two girlfriends that lived on the very same block as the woman in the story linked above. I also lived in the neighborhood over on the other side of the bridge back then. I used to run through the neighborhood all the time. I felt safe there (Back then, no one would have been able to catch me). The neighborhood on the other side of the bridge used to be an area full of young professionals. Now it’s all Section 8 housing and all sorts of unsavory characters. I don’t like it when my wife and daughter drive through there in the daytime, let alone at night.

I have this vaguely formed idea about the changes that have been wrought in that neighborhood over the last 25 years as being an unholy result of do-gooders, government regulations, and tax law. The Democrats and Republicans are both members of this Satanic alliance too.

My story, completely made up, I have done no research, on how the neighborhood on the other end of the bridge declined goes like this: Long ago, a person of good intentions discovers what she believes to be a market failure. She may not use the term market failure, as she’s not up to speed on the jargon of economics, but that is what she believes she has discovered. She has come to the determination that the market does not provide enough housing for people of modest means in, or near, the center of large cities. The person proposed the government get involved since we all know, and all agree, that the only way to solve a perceived market imperfection is to use the heavy cudgel of government intervention.

At first this person’s plan to use government money to help poor people get better housing goes nowhere. No politician is actually interested in helping poor people. All politicians are only interested in getting re-elected. So screw the poor people.

But the woman is very persistent and keeps hammering away at the politicians. She sees the plight of the poor people that have sub-standard housing as a personal crusade. She does not give up.

Eventually, due to the persistence of the woman who cares very deeply for the poor, various people start whispering in the ears of politicians of all stripes, patterns, and colors. Some guy whispers in the ear of one politician, “Hey, if you do this housing for the poor thing right, there will be the need for more fire stations, more firefighters, more police, and more social workers. You can get all of this, and remember these people will vote for you, by claiming you are helping the poor get better housing.”

Into the ear of another politician, someone whispers, “Hey! If you structure this thing just right, I can make a pile of money on building crappy apartments to rent to these shiftless bums. I can get some awesome depreciation on these crappy apartments, saving me money on my tax bills. Also, these apartment complexes will need some road construction too. Just think of all the campaign contributions you can get from the property developers and the heavy construction dudes! Just think of how rich we’re all going to get! And, best of all, we can go to our country club parties and tell people how we’re helping the poor!”

The housing program to help the poor gets passed. The original advocate of the program is happy beyond measure.

Over the next few decades, the interested parties manage to make little changes to the program every year until the thing is not even recognizable by the original do-gooder that wanted to help the poor. Hell, she’s probably dead by now, so no one really gives a shit about what she might think. We now have a whole wide array of government agencies and private companies, part of the un-holy alliance, lined up to receive funds from the housing program to help the poor. The politicians, the balance of the un-holy alliance, still claim to be helping the poor and downtrodden.

We can now observe the results of the housing program: The poor are still poor. They still live in crappy housing. But now they have been herded, through the miracle of incentives embedded in badly designed government programs, into crappy neighborhoods where they are victimized by the sorts of thugs that can only survive in these very same government created crappy neighborhoods. So the poor are worse off than before because they are concentrated in these neighborhoods where the social pathologies of the poor are amplified in a weird feedback loop. The woman in the article linked above probably doesn’t know it’s wrong to try and sell her baby. She just needs the money. There is no one in the neighborhood willing to tell her what she planned was a bad idea.

But the people that are really screwed by this government policy are those of us that are not quite rich enough to escape living near these crappy neighborhoods. We pay the taxes that support these awful programs. But we incur the additional burden of private school tuition, as it would be parental malpractice to send your kids to the government run neighborhood schools. We suffer from higher crime rates as the idiots in the neighborhood across the bridge can walk over here as opposed to having to ford the little creek at the bottom of the ditch the bridge spans.

So the result of a government program designed to help the poor, doesn’t. It just fucks the poor. But it really fucks over those that happen to live near these wonderful neighborhoods. And I firmly believe this to be the result of most government programs: they don’t accomplish what they were designed to accomplish and they do more damage to the people than was being done before the program started.

My opinion is one that is held by a very small minority. But I am not alone in holding unpopular positions.

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