James Masser is right when he says that, in practice, homeless people have no rights, but when he says the Constitution does not protect the “right to exist,” I would hope he might see it through a different lens. The writers of the Constitution had just fought a revolution summed up in its founding document as being about the “unalienable rights” to “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” If the right to exist is not explicit in the Constitution, it is because no one ever thought it could be challenged. Rather it is implicit, because otherwise, what would be the point of insisting that the government protect even property rights, much less the rights to free speech, religion, the press and more, if the government had no obligation to protect the very right to live?
When one look at it that way, one opens up a new terrain. We really should be confronting conservatives and insisting that they are hypocrites if they do not protect homeless people. They cannot be against the philosophical dangers of big government if, in real life, they support the big government in attacking its own citizens. This is a battle we should fight, and if it also means fighting for the soul of the Constitution, to quote George W. Bush, “bring ’em on.”
Lastly, Masser is right again when he says that no one listens to the homeless. But at the same time, the direction of history is not so predictable as the “scientific” socialists used to say it was. Reality has a way of breaking through. The voices of the poor may yet be heard.
Jeremy Weir Alderson is the director of Homelessness Marathon.