Thursday, 4 September 2008

Those arresting vagrants

"Homeless" is one of those marshmallow modern euphemisms people use these days to avoid saying something real -- a bit like saying "wetlands" when what you're talking about is a swamp; or "investment" when what you're talking about is government spending; or that you "need resources" when what you're after is a handout.

We didn't used to describe people who sleep on the street as "homeless" -- we'd call them what they were: bums and tramps and vagrants.  "Homeless" suggests that fate has swooped down and overnight swept away home, fortune and sacred honour from those unfortunate few who just wake up one morning and find themselves "sleeping rough."  It takes away responsibility from the "homeless" for their own choices that saw them end up on the street.

That said, it's not right at all to arrest people for something as essentially harmless as putting a sleeping bag on a footpath, as Auckland City Council Community Services Committee chairman Paul Goldsmith would like to do.  Goldsmith (who to fit on his full job title must have a business card bigger than a vagrant's backpack) says that mattresses on footpaths, puddles of urine and people behaving offensively, especially near Aotea Square in the central city is "unacceptable."  To him.

    He said it was frustrating the council could order people around in all sorts of ways, but could not do anything about the people sleeping on footpaths.
    "At the moment the approach seems to be that we can't do anything.
    "You can't just stick a cafe on the footpath, but it seems you can stick a mattress on the footpath and leave it there until 9.30 in the morning and make the place look a mess."

Notes Radio NZ: He says "council is determined to improve the situation," and "is not ruling out the possibility of arresting vagrants."

Well, yes, it is "frustrating," but this is not Singapore or China.  This is Aotea Square, not Tiananmen Square. Some of us think it's enormously immoral, not to say frustrating, that small-arsed sawdust caesars like Mr Bloody Goldsmith and his committee have the power to "order people around in all sorts of ways."  Some of think that a few mattresses would be a small price to pay for getting rid of a few jobsworths as offensive to freedom as he and his ilk.

As long as the bums neither neither break my leg nor pick my pocket, then the long arm of the law (and of Mr Goldsmith's proto-fascist committee) should leave them the hell alone.

In any case, perhaps Mr Goldsmith might reflect (if he ever does such a thing) that he is looking at this backwards.  Perhaps his little committee could take up their own beds and get the hell out of the way so people could stick a cafe on the footpath -- giving cafe and shop owners an interest and some power in keeping their frontage clean and secure. 

Perhaps he could realise that this problem always existed, but only became evident when the City Mission moved its soup kitchen to its latest location, almost on Aotea Square, and since the council started spending its valuable time harassing shop owners (whose footpaths these should be) instead of working on their behalf. 

Perhaps he could recognise too that arresting people simply because "the authorities" don't like them is not the free society some of us would like to inhabit -- there's nothing wrong with beggars on the street (and it's true that many of them like the life), but there's a lot wrong with arresting beggars for being there, and with the buggers who'd like to lock them up. 

Perhaps Mr Goldsmith might understand that in places like London, for example, where the problem is much greater, shop owners and small businesses frequently "adopt" their vagrants, giving them a cup of tea and a sandwich in the morning when opening up for business before shooing them off for the day.  There was one such tramp who in winter used to sleep at the front door of our construction company in Shepherd's Bush, and on some mornings when our building sites were short-handed, all he had to do quite literally was stand up to get a job. But he couldn't do it.  The very idea of work repelled him.  Arresting him for his choice would have helped nobody, but a cuppa and a sandwich and a small broom made "our" tramp just another part of life in the big city.

Auckland is a big city, Mr Goldsmith, not your feudal fiefdom.  Perhaps you should remember that.

Here's Christy Moore, with 'Go, Move, Shift.'


  1. It's sad that people who devote their life to protesting against the injustice of it all, are not allowed to maintain a 24/7 protest effort.

    And I'm sure their expressing total apathy and incomprehension over the reasons for their protest is really just an advanced form of performance art.

    Although, the protest should be mounted in the comfort of the council chambers. That gets people off the street and in a location that has the most effect.

    Either way, the socialist-liberals who have voted in a long list of United Nations sanctioned unalienable rights, have absolutely guaranteed these people's rights to protest.

    They just have to say "I protest".

    But as a backup plan, they could rip their shirts off and stage a topless parade. That then brings in the really deep and meaningful aspects of freedom of assembly in a public place.

  2. richard mcgrath4 Sep 2008, 14:19:00

    The presence of smelly, unsightly vagrants is a good reason to sell off the streets and footpaths. I'm afraid that someone as work-averse as the person PC described would be very likely to get the bum's rush from most footpath owners.

  3. Now that is an excellent idea, Richard!

    Let's just sell them off and eliminate the problem that way with property owners doing it.

  4. I say we slaughter all the socialists in their beds! Leave the vagrants alone


  5. lgm - you may jest

    but ultimately that will be the only solution if NZ ever wants to become a free country

  6. This is Aotea Square, not Tiananmen Square.

    I was quite disappointed to discover many vagrants with dirty mattresses in Tiananmen Square. I got hassled by them as I made my way from the square to the Heavenly Gate - I kid you not. I thought, this is Tiananmen Square not Aotea Square, you expect better from a communist police state!

  7. Leave the vagrants alone

    No, no, no, LGM, your Libz buddy Elijah doesn't agree. His view on this matter is here:

    Vagrants on our streets...

  8. richard mcgrath5 Sep 2008, 08:35:00

    Yes Ariel, you might be surprised to learn that libertarians have different opinions on certain issues, and exercise their freedom of speech in expressing these opinions. But what makes one a 'libertarian' is adherence to the principle that it is wrong to initiate force against another person or their property.

    A vagrant that trespasses on your property is initiating force and warrants the use of retaliatory force appropriate to the situation, e.g. a good tasering rather than a blast with an M1 carbine.

  9. Richard : But what makes one a 'libertarian' is adherence to the principle that it is wrong to initiate force against another person or their property.

    Yes, Richard, but the road/public place is unowned according to PC and LGM. Check out their views on PC's post here sometime ago regarding the disputes between a homeowner in Manukau and the Manukau City Council who prosecuted the owner for digging/excavating a pathway to the beach from his beach property. They said in that blog post that the council had no right to prohibit this guy from doing so.

  10. Ariel, it's the "public" ownership of roads and footpaths and public squares that causes part of the problem, just as it did with the arguments a fortnight ago over what sort of march should be allowed on "our" roads.

    By the way, that post you mention is here, and it differs slightly from your account -- largely because the reporting didn't cover the most relevant points.

    You might also find the comments on this post relevant, where we discuss the problem of prostitutes and low lifes on Papatoetoe's footpaths.

  11. As Richard said, "Yes Ariel, you might be surprised to learn that libertarians have different opinions on certain issues."

    I'm always surprised that people are surprised about that.So many people seem to think every libertarian and every Objectivist must think the same about everything.

    What rot.

    Perhaps they could ask themselves, for a start, why some are a hand-wringing girl's blouses, whereas others of us are charismatic hard-arses, who are good looking to boot. (I leave it as an exercise for the reader to spot the use of dangerous hyperbole.)

    And as you've noticed, you might contemplate the two different views on Auckland's vagrants expressed by myself and Elijah, on which he's quite clearly wrong.

    Perhaps you will enjoy Harry Binswanger's little joke, that when you get three Objectivists in a room you're likely to get five different opinions. [:-)

  12. you might contemplate the two different views on Auckland's vagrants expressed by myself and Elijah, on which he's quite clearly wrong...

    Ha ha! oh Peter, gosh...I notice no one is putting their hand up to adopt one of these chaps; yet expect rich people to have to walk past and smell them on Queen Street.

  13. If the roads/footpaths were privately owned, then it would be up the the owners to determine whether vagrants would be allowed access or not. Simple issue, easily dealt with.

    The problem, Ariel, lies in the fact that said roads/footpaths etc. are not privately owned.

    Now while I may not like vagrants, they have done nothing to harm me. They initiate no force against me. Therefore I leave them completely alone. You should consider that approach as well.

    Elijah may or may not agree with me on some matters and he may or may not on others- so what? He has never initiated force against me. I have never initiated force against him. I reckon that we would agree on certain important key principles. Perhaps you might like to do a little background research about the key premise and principles of the Libertarianz. If you did you'd be in a stronger position to discuss these matters sensibly and seriously.


  14. Objectivism is quite clear: vagrants are not "people".

    Them coming onto my property is a crime, an initiation of force against me. I certainly have the option (and morally must be encouraged to) respond with all possible force, including lethal force.

    As the Libz website says, Objectivism strongly supports preventative and preemptive strikes. If I see a vagrant on some other property, they may come onto mine, so I may (and ideally would) preempty with lethal force.

  15. "Anonymous," Objectivism says nothing of the sort.

    It does however, say a lot about standing behind what you say.

    Your comment is just more evidence of the cowardliness of anonymous trolls.


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.