The Bum Economy

Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does many things. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (early 2021).

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82 Responses

  1. Burt Likko says:

    You’re saying welfare prevents Skinny Walt from becoming an Oompa Loompa? That’s at least partially right.

    I evict “Skinny Walt” dozens of times a month; Skinny Walt has all sorts of reasons why he couldn’t make the rent. I frequently doubt their veracity and suspect that the real reason has to do with the cocaine Skinny Walt sniffed at the garage band performance. (Mutatis mutandis to the particular case, of course.)

    The Protestant Work Ethic is a powerful part of our cultural bedrock. I feel it too. The same sort of moral recoil you describe is at the root of my “Three Classes” post, which I wrote as a guest post here … Oh, quite some time ago now.Report

  2. Damon says:

    I have no problem disdaining those who cheat the system. They are, in part, a reason for why so much of MY money is stolen from me each paycheck. I have no problem helping someone truly in need but those who won’t work or earn their keep are a different breed.Report

  3. David Ryan says:

    “Given that I currently work 60 hours a week at a job that insults my intelligence, body, and humanity at nearly every moment, in exchange for spaghetti, while holding a PhD, it’s hard not to think that the welfare farmers are quite a bit smarter than I am. ”

    It’s a shame writing doesn’t pay anymore.Report

      • North in reply to Glyph says:

        Maybe a bit more than now when you can get it for free though I doubt it ever paid much.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Yeah I just meant that of all professions, “writing” mostly seems like it went from frying pan to fire in the digital age.

        Many of the best and most prolific pre-internet writers of all time still struggled financially.Report

      • Kim in reply to Glyph says:

        people busk online. Hell, even this site fundraises.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

        There’s a memoir by Fred Pohl, called The Way the Future Was, about growing up in New York City as an SF fan, and eventually becoming an SF writer, editor, and agent. Pohl became very successful, as did his friend Isaac Asimov, but the majority of the people he knew managed, if they wrote fast enough and sold enough of the result, to be quite poor rather than wholly destitute.Report

      • North in reply to Glyph says:

        This site fundraises to keep the lights on* Kimmie, not to pay its writers.

        *And to Keep Erik up to his ears in hookers and beer but that doesn’t count.Report

      • Rufus F in reply to Glyph says:

        Well, I’m researching my great-grandfather who made a living writing in Paris for a Brooklyn paper and hanging out with people like Ernest Hemmingway and Henry Miller. Needless to say, I’m a touch envious.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

        Do you know this one?

        Juan Gris, the Spanish cubist, had convinced Alice Toklas to pose for a still life and, with his typical abstract conception of objects, began to break her face and body down to its basic geometrical forms until the police came and pulled him off. Gris was provincially Spanish, and Gertrude Stein used to say that only a true Spaniard could behave as he did; that is, he would speak Spanish and sometimes return to his family in Spain.Report

  4. Glyph says:

    The antipathy is also in part simple jealousy. I have a friend who is roughly my age, who has bounced from job to job (and geographic location to geographic location, moving as a whim hits her) as long as I have known her (there’s always a “problem with the boss”, sooner or later).

    There also have been long stretches of unemployment (she’s in one now).

    She has no substance abuse issues, and is not even scamming the system AFAIK – her parents are wealthy, and though we’ve never talked about it in great detail I assume they basically fund her lifestyle (they have a condo here in town she lives at for free when she’s here).

    She’s a good person, a kind person, and one who has even been able to help me out quite a bit recently when I needed help – since she had no job to otherwise be at.

    And yet…I STILL kinda resent it.

    It seems…lazy.

    And yet, if I were in her position, would I do any different?

    I doubt it.

    Seems like a pretty great, low-stress life with lots of free time.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:

      her parents are wealthy, and though we’ve never talked about it in great detail I assume they basically fund her lifestyle

      I knew the type in grad school. We called them trustafarians. Ironically, most of them were fairly socialist. (That may not hold outside of Oregon.)Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to James Hanley says:

        Ironically, most of them were fairly socialist.

        Seems consistent to me. Doesn’t matter where the money comes from as long as it comes from somebody else.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

        Why would you believe in capitalism when you can see that it means “If someone works hard, scrimps and saves, put off getting the things he wants, and enough things go right, he’ll still have less than I had the day I was born.”Report

    • Rufus F in reply to Glyph says:

      Definitely envy. I agree. I don’t like it, but it’s the truth.Report

    • veronica d in reply to Glyph says:

      I don’t envy it. I would quickly become bored out of my mind and desperate for any sort of direction or task.

      I guess maybe I could jump on an open source project or something, or maybe start my ever-pending trans novel, but I have a kind of personality where I do best with a close team and a clear goal. I really need a company around me.

      On the other hand, feed me and give me fun work and I’ll easily clock 60 hours without breaking a sweat.Report

  5. Tod Kelly says:

    Love this, Rufus. Fantastic writing. Totally bumping.Report

  6. Saul Degraw says:

    How does one find used items that are not enfused with sadness?

    Sometime in the past few years, I’ve read a bunch of articles about how Social Security has basically become a secondary form of welfare especially in depressed and formally industrial areas. There was a This American Life/Planet Money special dedicated to this issue.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Children’s’ toys that show sufficient wear are not infused with sadness. Children’s’ clothes that show insufficient wear, on the other hand…Report

      • Glyph in reply to Kolohe says:

        A lot of children’s clothes with insufficient wear, were generally just outgrown before they could ever be worn much. This happens a LOT. The sadness is infused in my bank account instead.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Kolohe says:

        We have sent children’s clothes to goodwill completely unworn. No tragedy is attached to these items; one of two things has happened:

        – Our daughter is a bit particular about the feeling of clothes touching her skin. Particularly with pants, she will basically only wear light cotton leggings, anything heavier or of a significantly different texture must be worn over leggings. We have had pants she wore once and absolutely refused to put on again.

        – Kids grow fast. Sometimes we buy something she’ll grow into, only to discover when we get it out of storage, she’s grown right out of it. Some of this is down to disorganization, but sometimes we know we’re taking a gamble – these are good quality Winter boots at a very good price, I bet they’ll fit come Winter. (time passes) We gambled and lost…Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Kolohe says:

        How would you tell with used records?Report

      • Mo in reply to Kolohe says:

        My son has an outfit that he’s worn twice before he out grew.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kolohe says:


        May I ask how old your daughter is?Report

      • LWA in reply to Kolohe says:

        For Sale
        Baby Shoes
        Never Worn

        Attributed to Ernest Hemingway.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Kolohe says:

        @kazzy – she just turned four.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kolohe says:


        If I may offer some unsolicited advice, I’d keep an eye on that if I were you. Combined with some other tendencies, it could be a real concern. On it’s own, it’ll probably top out at begin mildly annoying (for you and her), though there are some resources you can avail yourself of that will help out with that.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Kolohe says:

        @kazzy are you thinking in terms of her place on the autism spectrum? I’m not too concerned about that, on the basis of how empathetic, caring, and very (very, very) loquacious she is.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kolohe says:


        Something on the ASD would be what I’d be grossly concerned about were it coupled with other things. Which it certainly does not seem to be.

        Otherwise, it sounds like she is on the hypersensitive side of the sensory processing/integration spectrum and probably not enough to really warrant any real concern. If she was ‘particular’ about other things… only eating foods with certain textures, avoiding certain sensory experiences (e.g., mud, finger paint), recoiling at even gentle touch… it might raise an eyebrow. If not — and if whatever particularities she does have does not interfere with day-to-day life — no worries. If she has identified leggings as a way to avoid uncomfortable clothing and you don’t mind her donning them, more power to her for finding a compensation strategy.

        Me? I’m pretty far out on the hypo sensitive side of the spectrum. I routinely burn myself because my pain receptors don’t react quickly enough and multiple people have described my hugs as akin to being squished to death.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Anything donated because their owner has just moved on from them – time to embark on the long-awaited life of travel; don’t need much serious Winter gear these days living in Colombia and all; business is going so well the workshop got upgraded to newer and better tools; gained or lost enough weight that these clothes don’t fit right; changed jobs, no need for these work-specific clothes…Report

  7. zic says:

    Just an in-defense of invisible ailments:

    I am quite disabled (I do not collect any sort of welfare, except a small tax-credit which makes our health insurances affordable via ACA). I have some substantial damage done to my neck, and suffer severe (and often disabling) migraine, back problems, and loss of feeling and motor control in my hands. But I look healthy and normal; you would not guess that I am often borderline-functional. I have built work for myself that lets me work when I am able, rest when I need. I would not make a good employee, I am far too unreliable if regular hours are needed.

    I’m lucky, my husband earns enough or us to live on if we live modestly, our house is paid for, and our basic needs are simple; so we’re able to get buy nicely, and while I’m really grateful for insurance that’s actually within our budget now, I’d suffer the $15,000 deductible we had previously if that’s all that was available (it costs us the same as our current silver plan).

    But I can easily see someone who has my level of disability needing to draw on the safety net; and I know that if they did, others would think they were bums for not working, nothing obviously wrong, after all.

    I know there’s a perception of a lot of welfare abuse (which suggests most people don’t know how difficult it is to actually qualify for welfare). It’s more often SSI — disability benefits. From the research I’ve looked at, this happens in a funny way. If there are jobs available in an area that a person is capable of doing, doctors tend to refuse to recommend disability. If the available jobs are beyond what the person can do, the recommend it.

    So the medical community is creating the standard of who qualifies for SSI and who doesn’t based on the type of work in a region. As a result, when jobs dry up, the work that goes most unfilled tends to be the most physical, and the numbers of people who become eligible for SSI increases because there is no work available that is within their physical means.Report

  8. Dennis P Brown says:

    Your terms are maybe confused; I thought welfare benefits are finite – what, a total of five years? So, they could not be using them endlessly. Also, unemployment benefits are earned and are also finite, as well. So, I assume they are “gaming” the system by claiming SS disability benefits for some “false” health reason. So, please, correct your terms so the article is more clear. Thanks.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Dennis P Brown says:

      Rufus is speaking from a Canadian context, if I am not mistaken.Report

      • Jonathan McLeod in reply to Kolohe says:

        Yup. He’s in Ontario.

        Employment Insurance is limited, but I’m not sure about other forms of assistance. However, EI can vary region-to-region and industry-to-industry. Disabilities might also extend it, I don’t know.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Kolohe says:

        Welfare is different from one province to another, but I don’t think any provinces have time limits. The rates are generally very low – enough to keep body and soul together, but not much more.Report

      • North in reply to Kolohe says:

        Even in areas where Welfare is limited the general pattern is to work until you qualify for Welfare, then hop on welfare, then return reluctantly to labor once it’s necessary.

        That said, the actual drain of welfare bums is a pretty small fraction of the overall program and since welfare is itself a very modest fraction of the total national budget the claim that they’re stealing one’s tax money to give it to welfare bums is a bit hyperbolic.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Dennis P Brown says:

      SS Disability benefits are not finite as far as I can tell. This is why there are whole systems and lawyers to get people on Social Security Disability.

  9. LeeEsq says:

    There have always been people who lived like Skinny Walt even in the time before the welfare state. We used to call them hobos and people resented them even when their existence didn’t really get subsidized by the welfare state. I suspect envy is a strong reason for the resentment and the envy is two-fold. One ground of envy is that we hate them for not having to go to work everyday for their living like we do. Even people who really love their jobs have days where they want not to go to work just because. The other reason we resent them is that we know that people like Skinny Walt aren’t really living a middle-class lifestyle and seem quite content with whatever they have. Most people would not like living like a bum or a hobo and thats why we work even at jobs we hate. At least it might give us a somewhat decent standard of living.

    The welfare state and more liberal social mores allow lots of people to live unconventional lives than ever before. More people inclined to the bum lifestyle can afford it these days and your administrative assistant can be an elf princess on the weekends.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I think there might be a very good morale boost to bringing back Saint Monday.Report

    • Damon in reply to LeeEsq says:

      You know, I don’t hate these guys, and I’m not envious of them. If someone wants to not work, or work mimimally, fine. What I object to having my money taken from me to be given to people like this. Why should I be the one paying for their “carefree” lifestyle?Report

      • Kim in reply to Damon says:

        I say the same thing about the President of Verizon.
        He costs me much more than a putz on the street.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Damon says:

        Damon, I was just posting about why people resent Slim Walter and company in general. Plenty of people hated the various variety of bums centuries before the welfare state existed as an idea. Medieval laws against vagrancy and other such laws demonstrated this.

        As to your tax dollars, you and Citizen seem to have rather uniquely anti-social worldviews. Citizen tries to express his or her cosmology in a more idealistic fashion than you do but they seem to be everybody mind their own business type belief system. Most people do not perceive the world in the same way you do. Supporters of the welfare state see the subsidization of people like Slim Walter as perhaps unfortunate but a price worth paying. The number of subsidized bums isn’t really that big and worth the price.Report

      • dragonfrog in reply to Damon says:

        I suspect that in many cases, paying someone welfare is by far the cheapest way to achieve the social good they are doing.

        For instance – paying someone welfare so they can stay home and care for an ailing relative. You could, instead, force them to work a joe job, tax them some very small amount on their small income, and then pay the high price for a home care professional who’s only going to be able to come by the home for a few hours a day.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Damon says:

        There is also million dollar Murray where it might be cheaper to give certain types of people 30000 dollar social workers for constant monitorization

      • LWA in reply to Damon says:

        Since today is Counter-Intuitive Day, I am going to agree with Damon.

        There IS a moral dimension to industriousness, that can be fairly applied, especially towards those who mooch.
        Like my liberal friends, I will point first towards the various plutocrats who mooc more in a day that Skinny Walt can in a lifetime, but still, the mandate to be industriousness is the flip side of the mandate to provide charity.

        If people like me are going to advocate that we are kin and responsible towards those who need help, they also have a responsibility to recipricate.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Damon says:

        If people like me are going to advocate that we are kin and responsible towards those who need help, they also have a responsibility to recipricate.

        LWA, as much as my gut agrees with you (and, boy howdy, does my gut agree with you!), I deeply suspect that that attitude is behind the War On Drugs.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Damon says:

        Jaybird, I think I need an explanation on that. It seems to me the war on drugs never was and currently is not justified as helping people. It’s about punishing people. Its a clear example, in my view, of how brutally punitive Americans are. I mean, I’m not gonna disagree that you can massage something about something to accommodate your view. But in my view what you will have done is merely that.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Damon says:


        By my reading Damon didn’t say there’s a moral dimension to industriousness per se. He said there’s a moral dimension to requiring him to pay for someone’s lack of industriousness.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Damon says:

        I’m in mod. Is that like “time out”?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Damon says:

        Stillwater, it has to do with such things as the timing of the war on drugs with the war on poverty and the attitude that “I don’t mind if I’m paying for you to live in an apartment without having to work, but I’ll be damned if I’ll be paying for you to live in an apartment without having to work *AND* you’re going to be stoned!”

        You see it manifest in such things as “drug testing for welfare recipients” today.

        Why? Because welfare is sold on the attitude that we are all in this together and we have responsibilities to each other.

        When people start to ask “wait… I know what my responsibility is to them… what is their responsibility to me?”, it seems to me that they come up with the answer “at the very least, you could not spend your perpetual unemployment stoned.”

        And, it seems to me, had the war on drugs never encroached into the suburbs, we’d never have heard of things like MMJ or Colorado or Washington’s attempts to legalize pot. Why? Because there’s an attitude out there that says that there’s nothing wrong with pot if you’ve got a job.

        Now you might say that you have no idea what I’m talking about and that I haven’t proven that these attitudes exist in others, etc. Sure. But if you can see how someone might say “If people like me are going to advocate that we are kin and responsible towards those who need help, they also have a responsibility to recipricate.” despite being a fairly staunch liberal, I don’t think it’s that difficult to see how someone might make the jump into resentment towards those who refuse to reciprocate.Report

    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:


      I don’t think it’s only or primarily envy, nor do I think it’s only or primarily concern about tax dollars (just like I don’t think it’s primarily concern about tax dollars when someone urges a seatbelt law because those who don’t wear seatbelts drive up insurance costs marginally for the rest of us).

      I think it’s also something different, in addition to envy and policy concerns. I’m not sure I’d call it fear, because that’d be pathologizing it more than I want to. I think it’s a sense of disgust or hatred that exists in its own right and not as a manifestation of some ulterior vice. As someone who despite my better judgment indulges a similar attitude toward the homeless–even though I know better–I suspect I’m at least partially right here.Report

      • Now that I re-read your comment, I see that you said “a reason” and not “the reason,” so I retract the imputation that you did.

        Also, and while I continue to believe that something more base than envy is at stake, I would say that “welfare state subsidization” could be at the root of the official hostility to hobos, etc. Before federal aid, a lot of aid was–and perhaps still is–county relief, and more people moving in can put a strain on that relief if they establish residency. In that sense, the harassment of hobos is reminiscent of the English practice of “warning out.”

        Still, I believe that goes a ways toward explaining official hostility. I really do think there’s something baser at play too.Report

      • Maribou in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        In the case of the homeless, I often think it is the repulsion/blame complex at work. “That awful person did something to land themselves in this situation” (almost never consciously stated as such, merely implied) is a very useful way to reassure oneself that oneself will never, NO NEVER, end up in such a state. That the edge is safely over THERE and one shall never cross it.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @gabriel-conroy, roughly speaking there is something that you can call a conventional life. Your born, you get educated in some way, get some form of employment, get married, have kids, and die. The conventional life exists in all sorts of societies including the free and the unfree. There have always been people that were unable to or unwilling to live the conventional life in one way or another. Most people have really hated those unable to live conventional life.

        Authoritarian societies have an ideology and tools that allow them to deal with people unable to live the conventional life. Free societies have always struggled with unconventional people though. Most people find bums, hobos, and other unconventional people really upsetting for a variety of reasons. Yet, what is freedom for if not for generally living the life the way you please. Thats why people like Slim Walter pose a problem for conventional societies. Lots of people can’t stand the unconventional but in a free society what can you do about it?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Envy is also an emotional that I and many other people are well-acquinted with. Its a very base emotion.Report

      • @maribou

        I think you’re on to something, but I also recall until very recently having a nagging fear that if I suffered a few reversals, I could very well be homeless, too. In fact, that was one of my great fears, albeit exaggerated. Of course, that’s true of me even now, but I have more resources by virtue of having a full-time job (albeit a temporary one) and a spouse who also has a full-time job and some savings. The reversals would have to be greater in number and/or more unforgiving than they needed to be, say, five or six years ago.


        I see your point, and I can confess to similar feelings about the unconventional–and I often feel a mixture of envy and perhaps righteous indignation at some “unconventional” people who aren’t hurting anyone but still make me angry for some reason. But I can’t really ascribe my feelings about the homeless in the same light. That could be a quirk of my own personality or it could be me not being fully honest with myself about my own feelings or it could be me taking my own feelings and generalizing them out to others. But there it is.Report

      • And to be clear, on an intellectual and in my better moments emotional level, I do try to approach the issue of homelessness with as much empathy as I can muster. I sincerely believe that homeless people usually aren’t homeless simply “because they want to be.” Not that will doesn’t play a part, but that it’s mixed in with a variety of motivations and limitations and constraints and utility calculuses. Also, if I see a panhandler, for example, I do try (and sometimes fail) to remind myself that if someone finds asking strangers for money, then they’re probably in a bad place or not where they want to be. I’m sure there are exceptions and it’s more complicated, but in my better moments, that’s what I try to think.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @gabriel-conroy, I feel sympathy for the homeless but admit that even though I try to be a good liberal, the more bohemian type of unconventional people strike me as kind of to very immoral. I can’t really bring myself to approve of life as a pleasure crawl or an exercise in what seems like pure hedonism. My bourgeoisie nature finds these things as unhelpful for a healthy society.Report

      • Maribou in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @gabriel-conroy I almost said “defense mechanism” rather than “complex” – your subconscious (in my view) seeking to shore you up would tend to increase this tendency toward repulsion/alienation the more you were afraid, rather than decreasing it? i am of course not a psychologist.Report

      • @maribou

        That’s very possible….and obviously, this thread has better things to do than to discuss Gabriel Conroy’s inner feelings, which has already been done.Report

      • zic in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        @gabriel-conroy here in New England, almost every town has a road called “Town Farm Road,” typically named after a farm (often a property the town acquired for non-payment of taxes,) where the town’s poor were sent to live, in the pre-welfare days.

        At our local historical society some years back, our local historian gave a talk about town farms, and what they meant. First, going to live there produced a miasma of shame that stuck with you the rest of your life. This is where the insane went, if they weren’t quite insane enough (or had nobody who ‘loved’ them enough) to land them in a mental institution. And the chronic drunks. Widows with children, too. Those widows often ended up providing all sorts of social services for those people, while also living with a horrendous amount of abuse. Living on the town farm, as a child, meant you were probably witness to all sorts of horrid stuff, and likely victim of it. It limited your future opportunities, because, you know, you grew up on the town farm.

        Every time I hear discussions about eliminating welfare, and returning to ‘charity,’ I remember that talk, remember how the most vulnerable — single mothers with young children, those with severe mental illness, and the most horrific — pedophiles, and the violent — were thrown together, shamed, and looked down upon. Charity, without dignity, is pretty horrid.

        Welfare may well create a small moocher class, lazy people who prefer to make their careers out of how to game the system instead of working.

        But what we did before? It was not pretty.

        /and the hobo phenomena really blossomed in the 1930’s, when men lost their jobs and took to the road looking for work, which was not to be had. The shame kept them on the road, and from returning to their homes and families. I recommend reading Bill Peet’s autobiography, an illustrator for Disney in the early days, his father became a hobo.

        Or if you ever chance across one of the books by a man named A#1, (Leon Ray Livingston) who was a hobo from age 11, one of his books is about his travels with Jack London; the market for his books were mothers of teenage boys, hoping to keep the boys from running off.Report

    • ScarletNumbers in reply to LeeEsq says:

      This reminds me of why fat people are resented.

      An in-shape person sees themselves as morally superior to a fat person; after all, all the fat person has to do is live is virtuous lifestyle, and he too can be in shape.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I suspect envy is a strong reason for the resentment

      I dunno about that, tho if we think the negative attitudes are a form of resentment, then maybe you’re right. Personally, I think the animosity directed at folks like Skinny Walt has more to do with a failure to understand how an individual can go thru life without ever doing anything productive or useful. It’s the same sort of animosity directed against trust-funders who never do anything but *spend*.

      Maybe I’m projecting here, but that’s certainly the beef I have with such folks. I just can’t imagine living a life devoid of being productive in anyway whatsoever.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Stillwater says:

        That could be it but whether somebody is doing something productive with their life is often a subjective rather than objective judgment. A trust funder might not be working in the traditional sense but they could be patronizing many artists and charities. Thats certainly productive. Slim Walter is apparently a musician of some sort and even though me might not be making a living at it, being a musician is certainly productive. In the larger scheme of things, most people aren’t that productive with their lives.Report

      • Saul DeGraw in reply to Stillwater says:

        Lee wins the super-liberal award tonight.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Stillwater says:

        I’d prefer a Marvel No Prize but could live with the Super Liberal Reward. Super Liberal would probably be the worst superhero ever though because he or she would be completely indecisive and constantly see the super villain’s point of view.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

        And how could Super Liberal ever punish anyone? It’d be non-stop attempts at group therapy.

        Worst. Superhero. Movie. Ever.


      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        A trust funder might not be working in the traditional sense but they could be patronizing many artists and charities. Thats certainly productive.


      • LeeEsq in reply to Stillwater says:

        In all seriousness, the real liberal Superhero is Spider-Man.Report

  10. James K says:

    I think there are justifications for disliking welfare farmers other than resentment of the Protestant Work Ethic. Welfare farming violates the Categorical Imperative – if we all did the system would collapse.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to James K says:

      The maxim could be, “If you’re cool with only getting welfare plus what you can hide from welfare, or just taking what you can get from it regardless of work, go for it,” then you can will that to be everyone’s maxim and the system would be unlikely to collapse, since very very many people have both the ability and inclination to produce & earn significantly more than that.

      Any guaranteed basic income should indeed be basic. How basic can be worked out, but it should be basic enough that lots of people will still want a lot more. It shouldn’t be hard to arrive at a number that ensures lots of people will be uninterested in either welfare or in “welfare farming,” because the opportunity cost of taking it – even taking welfare plus what they can earn under the table – will be too large. Some will be interested in that, and that’s fine. Incidentally, the advantage of the basic income approach versus means-tested welfare is that there’s no need to hide anything. You get the payment, then you go out and earn whatever you want to/can on top of it. That’ll be a lot for lots of people.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        …Sorry, second sentence second graf was still thinking in terms of means-testing rather than GBI. Under either system, the point is that a guaranteed *basic* income won’t blunt the interest of very many of the most productive people in producing and earning. And if you get the maxim by which people who choose to live on the GBI/welfare right, universal adoption of the maxim would be unlikely to collapse the system.Report

      • James K in reply to Michael Drew says:


        I endorse a minimum-income approach to welfare, in part because I agree the fraction of welfare farmers will be acceptably small. I just wanted to point out there was a legitimate Kantian case for resenting welfare farmers – they are free-riding off a public good.Report

      • I’m not really clear on the definitions here. Who on welfare would there not be such a case against? (Again, I maintain that if we correctly identify the maxim by which they act, there may not be any such case, at least as you made it, where the system collapses. There might be – it depends on the maxim and on how it all shook out. But there’s no certainty. OTOH, perhaps the case you have in mind is just one where you see welfare recipients as treating others as the means to their living rather than as ends in themselves, but that’s not the one you stated. )Report

  11. Jim Heffman says:

    I’ll just cite the Tennessee Taxonomy like I always do in this sort of discussion.Report

  12. Michael M. says:

    My own experience of homelessness was anything but “life as a pleasure crawl or an exercise in what seems like pure hedonism” @leeesq . It was miserable, most of the time spent standing in lines to meet basic needs. What time I didn’t spend standing in line I mostly spent at the library. Carrying what belongings I had around with me was no fun either, though they were pretty meager. Since I had no valid ID, I couldn’t get a library card, nor could I get a locker to store my bag, nor could I secure a shelter bed for more than a few days at a time. So I was dependent on free or cast-off reading material when the library was closed, and a lot of the time was “bored out of my mind” @veronica-d . What helped alleviate the boredom was pneumocystis pneumonia, so I had fevers throughout the day and night and usually woke up at 3:30 or 4 every morning hacking my lungs out, and esophageal thrush, so I was throwing up my one-meal-a-day a couple of times a week. (Both were undiagnosed, as was the root cause of these things, AIDS, at the time.) But even if my experience of homelessness was heavily colored by illness, I can’t say I recall meeting anyone who was on some pleasure crawl.

    Currently, I’m an organizer and supporter of a self-managed encampment for unhoused people in downtown Portland. We fundraise for the rather meager expenses it takes to keep the place going (about $1,800/month), and we get no tax dollars. People who stay there become members and they all manage the day-to-day operations, including maintaining safety and security, doing perimeter checks, checking people in, processing and distributing in-kind donations, cooking and cleaning, etc. There are around 24-28 members at any given time. The rest of the people who sleep there come in nightly (or daily in some cases, some folks work nights and need a place to sleep during the day) and are on a 12-hour in, 12-hour out shifts. We sleep about 70-80 folks a night in total, prioritizing unhoused women when conditions are tight, and usually turn away a few dozen every night for lack of capacity. We make allowances for people with outside jobs and one way or another, the members manage to work out how to get all the things done that need doing while accommodating those who are working elsewhere.

    There is not a single member on a pleasure crawl, nor living “carefree” @damon , nor failing to “reciprocate” @lwa , nor “perpetually stoned” @jaybird , nor “living a life devoid of being productive or useful” @stillwater , and so on. In a city like Portland, which is shaped by and run on white supremacy, it is the most diverse and welcoming community I’ve been able to find here — we have a little bit of everything, including the whole of L, G, B and T. On a personal note, it’s a profound source of comfort to me that this place exists should I ever find myself needing something like it. I only wish something like it had existed when I had no housing.

    I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever seen a comment thread at this site that I’ve felt was so off-the-mark and uninformed. I don’t know what else to think except that most of you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.Report