Two candidates for mayor are divided on a proposal to give homeless people small plots of land on which they build hovels or shanties, so that they might have a fixed address and a means of securing their property as they slowly come to commit to residing in one place instead of drifting.
Larry Grohn says the free-market proposal is from a libertarian la-la land and impractical because it relies on voluntaryism.
By David Tulis / Noogaradio 1240 AM 101.1 FM
Rival candidate Chris Long, a former builder and architectural consultant, is much more favorable to the idea and has considered already where such a district might be located.
Dave Crockett, familiar with the concept of a favelas from visits to Brazil, hesitates to admit such liberties here, saying “it’s not an abstract concept with me” but that the idea of a housing free trade zone to solve the homeless problem is still bouncing around in his head like a pinball that hasn’t found its proper slot.
In a brief correspondence on “Your shantytown is my housing free trade zone,” Mr. Grohn says that I point out “all the difficulties and barriers which would have to be overcome concerning the type of ‘free space’ you envision.”
But Mr. Grohn goes on to say, and to leave for later articulation, “a much better, more productive and safer way to deal not only with the homeless but the lack of affordable housing in Chattanooga.”
‘Utopian, libertarian approach’
These broader proposals, evidently, will be part of his campaign for mayor, with voters making a final decision at the polls March 7.
“I am not going to get all wrapped up and argue about a utopian libertarian approach to a free society. I have not only this issue, but several others, for which I must develop real-world solutions.
“Years ago when Ron Paul ran for president I researched his platform. His vision, like this ‘code-free zone’ relies on ‘voluntaryism,’ a political and social idealism. In my humble opinion, human nature, and its inherent evil nature, makes this idea an impossibility.
“In my research I found the ‘Statement of Purpose’ in Neither Bullets nor Ballots: Essays on Voluntaryism (1983 – Watner, Smith, and McElroy) where they explained that voluntaryists were advocates of non-political strategies to achieve a free society. All the world had to do was to conform to a ‘kind, orderly, and moral means’ of voluntary society.
“Sorry,” Mr. Grohn says, “it will not work in the real world; and, it has been tried.”
Plea for further consideration
I am not discouraged at the dismissive treatment Mr. Grohn gives my proposal. He is a reasonable man, and the structure of much of his thought makes him generally open to market solutions rather than political ones.
His denial of private solutions rejects, however, what Christianity requires.
The gospel envisions a voluntary society and is working to create one. It does so because God requires godliness of every man and woman and child. Godliness is obedience to the law of God and love for the person of Our Savior, Jesus Christ. If the gospel brings about what it promises, redemption of all mankind and all nations, it will be doing so on the basis of voluntary acts.
The gospel is about submission to God’s law man by man, family by family, block by block, borough by borough, town by town, state-by-state, nation by nation, empire by empire.
Christianity expands by grace and not by force. Kingdoms expand by just the opposite function, by coercion, by force, by legislation, by compunction, by police, by warfare, by embargo, by cartel, by tariff.
In dismissing the voluntary concept of a free-trade zone in housing, Mr. Grohn briefly forgets his own religious conception of man. Man is fallen. Man is a sinner. But by grace God saves men individually and over time, as men in nations. Christendom is the conception of the practical outworkings of the gospel in culture. Though Christian people in the U.S. generally reject Christendom, they are not bound to continue rejecting it if God gives grace to believe in the fruit of conversion culturally.
Intensely personal cultural system
Christianity is intensely personal because God is intensely personal. It works by men surrendering themselves to God and seeking the good of others as Christ sought the salvation of His enemies and his adopted people, first Israel and then the church, all of whose citizens a born into a state of ethical rebellion against God.
Mr. Grohn dismisses the practical implications of his own religious beliefs about God. It’s important to encourage him and all practicing Christians to think in terms of their own presuppositions about how God works among men.
My free trade zone and housing proposal requires people to let drop their disdain of poor people who don’t meet their high standards. The “standards” are largely erected in health, safety and construction rules that prevent the real bottom of the Chattanooga housing market from being created.
Mayor Andy Berke, challengers Crockett, Mr. Grohn and even Chris Long talk about “affordable housing.” But the bottom of the market is well below that lofty level. It’s where the homeless exist, and where the city’s war on blight scrapes away any prospect to their benefit.