As I walk through the city I encounter homeless people begging for money. Although tempted to give them some, I rarely do because I don't want to support their tobacco, alcohol, and drug dependencies. Instead, I send money to various Catholic charity organizations which I feel will do a better job helping people than I can. With perhaps a billion people in the world suffering from hunger, abuse, disease, war, persecution, and other severe trouble I feel I have the right to choose which few to help since I can't help them all.

But shouldn't society be structured so that no one has these troubles in the first place? I wish it could be. The following article is my vision of such a society.

Problem Statement

Some people desperately need help from others but they do not get the help they need. This is a tragedy.

What if we had a compassionate society which really cared for all its members. But how to do this without creating an environment in which slothful people become wards of the state?

This "utopian" society would of necessity need to enforce its values through laws and social programs. It is not necessary for the state to manage operations of the programs — this could be done by contracts to private companies.

The Laws

In urban and high-population areas the following activities should be illegal:

Offenders would be picked-up by law enforcement agents and tried in the court of law. They would be given room and board while waiting for the trial.

We should not be too shocked by this. The colonies of the pre-revolutionary United States of America had such laws.

A benefit of these laws is that cities would become nicer and safer places to live.

The Punishment

The punishment is intended to help the person by giving them care and the possibility of integrating into society in the future. Naturally, some will object to being forcibly "helped" in this manner. People are locked-up for the good of society as a whole and for their own good (but they may not agree with this assessment).

The idea is that their basic needs would be taken care of:

In a sense these facilities are prisons but they are radically different in their goals and living conditions than standard prisons. Some (many?) of the inmates will be happy to be imprisoned in this way.

I envision several levels of these "social service" facilities.


Wilful Incarceration

It should not be necessary for people to be arrested in order to enter level 1 facilities and receive care. But it should not be a "free ride" for anyone. These facilities will demand effort and motivation on the part of their members.

Members who willfully join level 1 facilities and who don't cooperate or participate will be released to the location of their choice (after they work to pay for the transportation costs).

There should be no stigma attached to people who have been or who are a member of a level 1 facility.

These level 1 facilities will provide education and job training. There may be large numbers of people who feel that these facilities provide the best way for them to integrate with society. Disadvantaged members of society should feel welcome to these services.

The Cost

Naturally, these facilities will be very expensive. Everyone should be required to contribute to the funding.

Causes of the Problem

Not all members of society have the necessary life skills and experience to integrate into society. Also, there may be various psychological or medical factors.

A compassionate society should take care of everyone. Currently-tried schemes have not achieved this goal. The welfare state doesn't provide services for everyone according to their need. Communism artificially makes everyone equal (in theory) but the goal should be that all have fair chance to integrate with society, not that all are equal.

Some have made bad life choices and need a way to get a second (or third, or fourth) chance.


Moral Implications

I doubt there are many who think that, in principle, having prisons is immoral. I believe we do not do a good enough job ensuring that prisons are safe for the prisoners, the guards, and other support staff.

Certainly there is much abuse in legal systems and prison facilities, but that is not the topic of this section.

While it is morally acceptable to incarcerate someone for the safety of society at large, the goal should be rehabilitation when this is possible.

Some might object that sending someone to a level 1 facility to help them integrate into society is immoral or violates their freedom. But consider the cost to society from having people who have no food wandering the cities. They will be tempted to steal in order to meet their needs.

Some homeless people may make enough money by panhandling to meet their basic needs. But is it really immoral to insist people must have a home if they reside in a city or urban area? These areas have a high-population density and the activities of others affects all those around them. It seems reasonable to me that those who spoil the quality of life of others should be relocated.

People who are arrested and found guilty and who qualify for level 1 care can choose whether to be sent to a level 1 or a level 2 facility. Thus, many people who are arrested are not locked-up against their will at all; they are sent to a non-lockdown facility.

You might object that homelessness should even be a crime at all. But consider: We require children to attend school against their will and we sometimes require people to enter the armed services against their will. If someone falls down in the street from a debilitating medical condition they are rushed to the hospital even if they demand to be left in the street. All members of society are required to pay taxes which most would rather not have to pay and many don't agree or approve of what the money is used for.

Potential for Abuse

Kinds of abuse:

Freedom from Exploitative Careers

I just read a series of articles about prostitution; about how the women involved were victims of exploitation and about how they could not escape from this lifestyle. Various solutions were offered but none seemed to work.

My scheme would help people trapped in any kind of exploitative lifestyle or any kind of life difficulty. If you need a new start, the state provides a free ticket to a place where you can start over in safety and with the necessary resources to succeed.

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