Not So Common

One of my favorite professors in graduate school used to say, “Sometimes common sense is not so common.” We all see abundant examples of that on a regular basis, I know, but one example I read about recently seems to be crying out for a comment…and I feel I simply must oblige.

If you have ever lived in or visited a large city you have likely seen homeless individuals. I am not suggesting that homeless individuals reside only in large cities; I am well aware that that is not true. However, they do seem to be more evident in large cities, and there are often sizable efforts and ministries in place in those cities that seek to help meet the needs of the homeless.

I am not interested here in exploring the reasons why someone may become homeless. I am well aware that some are homeless by choice and some are homeless through no fault of their own, and some are somewhere in the middle. Regardless of the reasons, the fact is that if someone is homeless there is no reason why in the United States of America such individuals should not be able to obtain shelter, clothing and food, at least temporarily.

In New York City, however, there is an egregious example of a lack of common sense. (Not that that in and of itself is much of a surprise, I suppose. After all, NYC, if you recall from a not-too-long ago post, has also banned churches from meeting in public schools out of fear that the students will be unable to discern between the doctrines/positions of the church and the secular nature of the school). The example to which I am referring now pertains to feeding the homeless. The powers that be in NYC have passed, and are enforcing, a regulation that bans homeless shelters in the city from accepting donated food because there is no way for the shelters to determine if the donated food meets the standards established by NYC for fat, salt and fiber content.

Milne wrote that Winne the Pooh was a bear “of very little brain,” and yet I bet even Pooh could figure out that when the choice is between no food and food that might not be as nutritious or as healthy as the NYC politicians/bureaucrats think it should be, the choice should be obvious.

The irony of all this is that the very same people who would claim to be “bleeding heart liberals” and would under most circumstances bend over backwards to protect rights and provide services for the homeless are the very same ones who promulgate such idiotic regulations. And the truth is, such regulation is one more example of the absence of a true market-driven economy in the United States.

I read an editorial recently–I cannot remember where, but I am thinking it may have been in WORLD Magazine–discussing the fact that there are so many regulations, limitations, subsidies, and other artificial influences on the economy and every industry in the U.S. that we cannot truly claim to have a free market economy. And that’s sad, because as we stray from free market principles we necessarily find ourselves wandering closer and closer to government control.

Is it a good idea for government, at any level, to regulate the amount of fat, salt or fiber in food that is served, whether in restaurants, food stands, or homeless shelters? That’s a lengthy debate that should probably wait for another day, since it goes far beyond the realm of restricting food access for homeless individuals in NYC. For now, I just have to echo Dr. Jones…”Sometimes, common sense is not so common.”

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