Via Cara at Feministe comes Michelle Malkin’s mockery of Henrietta Hughes, the woman who confronted President Obama in a town-hall meeting with her own homelessness. It’s not surprising that Malkin would attack a homeless woman – after all, the worse-off someone is, the more they deserve Republicans’ ire. What is remarkable is Malkin’s lament that she would be criticized for attacking someone for being homeless and asking for help. Malkin said,
…if we conservatives dare to question the circumstances — and the underlying assumption that it is government’s (that is, taxpayers’) role to bail her out — we’ll be lambasted as cruel haters of the downtrodden.
She seems in some way surprised. What we have here is a fundamental conflict of values. On the right, the most important value is property rights. My money is my money and to take it away without just cause is a violation of the value of fairness. Nothing is more unjust that seizing someone’s property. The fact that someone is homeless may not be his or her fault (although conservatives usually figure that it is), but it is not the concern of taxpayers. Often, they figure, homelessness is itself just if it is the consequence of poor decisions. The unfairness of someone going without a home is less unfair than someone going without money that they themselves “earned.”
On the left, we see the idea that a person in the wealthiest country in the history of the World would go without adequate housing as unjust in and of itself. No other information is needed, the injustice is a consequence of the state of affairs. Housing is a basic human right, and for anyone to be deprived of it is wrong. It’s not that we think the government should act in the name of justice and they don’t; we just have different definitions of what is just. Then the question becomes who has a better definition of justice? The fundamental question is where do you place property rights on your hierarchy of values? Above housing for all? Above food for all? Above education? The good news is, when we break it down, I think most people are closer to our side then theirs.
Update: Of course the exception to the conservative rule of facing the consequences of one’s behavior is large banks who ruin our financial system. They should be bailed out by taxpayers and shareholders should hold on to their “property”. In fact, rich people in general shouldn’t have to face consequences for their actions. An important caveat to conservative ideology.