In San Fransicko, Berkeley author Michael Shellenberger takes a chainsaw to many of the foundational ideas of progressive politics, arguing among other things that an attachment to economic inequality as the main cause of social ills like homelessness is delusional. Rather, he says, a progressive view rooted in the idea that homeless people are "victims" by definition has prevented San Francisco from confronting the harsh realities of drug addiction and mental illness.
Many locals have dismissed the book as little more than red meat for Republicans who hate true-blue San Francisco. But with hard-drug markets operating freely in the city, thousands of people—many mentally ill—living on the streets, and a feeling among many residents that the city is slipping out of control, it's hard to argue that current policies are working.
We think Shellenberger's critique is worth discussing, so we commissioned two pieces about the book from people with very different perspectives. Tim Redmond, long-time editor of the Bay Guardian and now running the online site 48Hills, has been an influential force in SF progressive politics for decades. Scott James, an accomplished author and former columnist at the Bay Citizen, has long taken a critical eye to the city's accepted nostrums.
San Francisco is a wealthy city full of brilliant people, but we are failing on so many levels. Are lefties to blame?
Written by Scott James
Progressives aren't in charge in SF. It's the economic policies of Ronald Reagan and mainstream liberals that have produced the crisis in the streets.
Written by Tim Redmond
Questions, comments or concerns about this article may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org