Part II: The Mechanics of Homelessness
Dissecting how Homelessness Originates
In order for any event to occur, that event requires the availability of access to time, space, matter, and energy (I call the four classes of the commons). This is a direct consequence of the physical laws of the universe. If any of the four are unavailable, then it becomes impossible for any events can to occur.
When we consider the economic options available to the homeless for creating exchangeable value, it becomes apparent that the unavailability of time, space, matter, and energy significantly constrains their ability to earn any kind of living. In order to understand how the homeless are constrained, we will need to understand how the four classes of the commons show up in our lives, and why universal access to them is essential.
Time is all about emancipation, or ability to control how one utilizes their time. With it, one gains the freedom to both explore, create, and utilize all manner of opportunities. For example, businesses use wages and salaries to compensate employees for their productive time.
Slavery, or the co-opting of others’ emancipation, is all about directly controlling others’ time. Without that control over time, accessing space, matter, and energy becomes impossible. As a result, universal emancipation (or control over one’s time) serves as the most fundamental of four classes of the commons.
When we consider the homeless in the United States, they are clearly in control of their time. Thus, they are absolutely legally emancipated, which means that it is not what constrains them. As such, there has to be something else besides emancipation that serves as the underlying constraint.
Space represents places to live, work, play, or even merely to exist. In order to do any of those things requires access to places and locations that best serve each of those actions. When access to space becomes unavailable, the ability to live, work, play, or exist in any desirable way becomes impossible. That completely describes the everyday condition of the homeless.
Furthermore, in any advancing society, access to space really means access to land. Access to land, in turn, requires money, which the homeless do not have much of. Nor are they able to acquire enough of it. As a result, they are unable to access land and, thus, cannot access space. This inaccessibility of space via land serves as they very mechanism by which the homeless (as well as the poor) are ultimately disempowered.
Any remedy that serves to reduce or even eliminate homelessness must first ensure access to land in order to space for the purpose of earning a living (or creating exchangeable value). Unfortunately, access to space is not enough as there also needs to be access to matter and energy.
Matter and Energy
Matter represents both raw materials, in the form of natural resources, as well as the products crafted from them. Access to matter enables one to create and provide desirable goods.
Energy is defined as the ability to do work. To my reckoning, I see energy as the ability to effect change in one’s environment. No change is possible without the expending of energy in order to facilitate that change. Energy comes in many forms, including renewable (solar, wind, hydroelectric and biomass) and non-renewable sources (fossil fuels, and nuclear fuels like uranium and plutonium). The change that energy facilitates comes in many forms, from altering to transporting raw materials and created goods.
Land serves as the source of both matter and energy. This means that enabling universal access to land would also permit universal access to matter and energy. Just as with space, any remedy that serves to provide the homeless with access to matter and space must also ensure universal access to land
In part III of this series, we’ll cover how to facilitate the access to land that serves to undo poverty and homelessness.
Featured photo credit: Dr John2005 Shoreditch Bridge Portraits 294, Shoreditch High Street, London, 16 February 2017 via photopin (license)