Restoring Anatole France

Tesco has agreed to remove the anti-homeless spikes from outside one of its central London shops after days of protest.

The inch-high steel studs provoked outrage when they were spotted outside the supermarket’s Regent Street branch and in the doorway of a block of luxury flats near London Bridge.

As protests against the spikes gathered pace this week, managers at Tesco insisted that they were designed to prevent antisocial behaviour rather than to deter homeless people from sleeping nearby.

Homelessness charities described the studs as inhumane. Jacqui McCluskey, director of policy at Homeless Link, said: “It’s shocking to see the use of metal spikes to discourage rough sleeping and hardly helps to deal with the rising number of people who are forced to sleep on our streets.

The full story is here, the France reference is here.

In general, I do not think that the answer to the problem of homelessness involves raising the costs of being homeless.  But if that ever were to be the case, even one percent of the time, who would be willing to do it?  Furthermore, if we regard the current homeless as “low-elasticity” (e.g., raising the costs of being homeless will not much lower the number of homeless), is that a compliment to them or an insult?  Does citing “bad luck” automatically connect one to the low-elasticity view, or can bad luck and high elasticity coexist in the same explanation of homelessness?  It seems to me that the exonerative bad luck explanation and the low-elasticity view are packaged together in discourse, although not necessarily for any strong analytical reason.  For instance, it is bad luck if my car breaks down, but if that cost me my life I would buy a more reliable car or maybe cease driving altogether.


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