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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Problem Solving

I was reading up on the problem of homelessness. Despite all the concentrated efforts over all the years, it appears that homelessness is not going away. In fact, it's getting worse. Some cities have launched massive 10-year plans to eradicate the problem only to find that there were more homeless when they ended than when they started. So I wondered what the fix was. This is what I found. According to the organizations working full time to fix this problem, the solution to the problem is ... wait for it ... affordable housing. That's right. If you give a homeless person a house, he or she will no longer be homeless and the problem is fixed. So let's get right on that!

Of course, this doesn't take into account the massiveness nor the complexity of the problem. There is certainly a component of the homeless who are mentally ill. Giving them a place to sleep doesn't solve their problem. Others are drug or alcohol-addicted. A house doesn't fix that. There are unexpectedly large numbers of homeless who are homeless by choice. They wouldn't even want your affordable housing. And, of course, a major contributor to homelessness is simply low income -- they can't afford it. A house would solve the "homeless" problem, but not necessarily the lack of income.

Now, look, I'm not saying that affordable housing or assisting the homeless is a bad thing. I'm certainly not saying that there is no problem. My point here is that "provide affordable housing" is a vastly understated, hopelessly myopic remedy for a real issue.

But homelessness is not the only thing here. I had a conversation recently with a friend who was bemoaning the state of public schools. In California recently an elementary school was teaching kids that "there are all kinds of genders". There are boys and there are girls; there are both and there are neither. (You really need to watch the video; it's stunning.) My friend was saying that this is the result of voting Democrat. Now, we had a friendly discussion about that view, but, again, we see a problem and then I have serious doubts about our ability to think through a solution. Just as the solution for homelessness as "affordable housing" is far too shortsighted, "vote Republican" is not going to solve the dissolution of moral values in government, education, or society. The remedy for this kind of insanity is not a political one. But if you talk to a large number of people these days, I'm sure they'd agree that it is.

So, it seems, I've arrived at a new problem. That problem is the inability to solve problems. We have an apparently limitless capacity to see problems and a vast ability to complain about them (as just about any blog will demonstrate), but solving problems is a bit out of our reach, it appears. Take the riots in Greece as an example. The government is trying to cut spending and increase taxes to solve a monumental crisis. The people are rioting in opposition to spending cuts and tax increases, but offer not one single suggestion as to what to do to prevent their country from collapsing. That's not a solution. It seems as if problems are plentiful but solutions are elusive. Hmmm, I wonder how we can solve this problem?


Marshall Art said...

God is always the solution. I believe that even if one chooses not to believe in God, doing things God's way will benefit one nonetheless.

The problem is the in the doing. The path is narrow. Doing the right thing is often difficult and generally requires effort and effort brings about discomforts. Most problems are caused by a great unwillingness to put in the effort to do the right thing.

Stan said...

I had a discussion with a friend a short time ago who assured me that the big problem in America is that too many people vote Democrat. That is not the big problem, nor is the solution "vote Republican". The solution is indeed a narrow one and executing it will be problematic (since it involves changed hearts, not the proper political perspective).

And while I agree that "God is always the solution", I don't know what to do with that. When Al Gore ran for president, he was asked how he would make his decisions. He said, "I'd ask 'What would Jesus do?'" No one batted an eye because, well, no one believed him. But how does one determine "What would Jesus do?" about, say, taxes or intervening in Afghanistan or paying for AIDS research or ... on it goes. Saying that "God is the solution" is fine, but doesn't really answer the question. (I say this as commiseration, not correction.)