SAN FRANCISCO – Passing the bustle and grime of Fifth street with its soot wafting down on the dingy Hall of Justice and its asbestos-ridden caves of crooks and cutthroats and where idling autos queue to sail past a plaque marking the end of the Eisenhower Interstate and Defense Highway System, one turns past a sketchy former SRO now unoccupied by residents but having something-to-do with a Carlisle Group affiliate called the Community Housing Partnership. I peered inside and did not see much housing, let alone community, so unfearingly I turned onto Clara street – more of a slot than a street by San Francisco standards. After all, before it was “South of Market,” it was “South of the Slot,” but it retained the Bay Windows characteristic of Oz.
The philosopher Confucius was reportedly once asked what he would do if he were a governor. He responded that he would first "rectify the names" to make words correspond to reality, for "If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish."
I'm not precisely sure what the ancient Chinese sage meant by that, or what examples he may have had in mind, but I've thought one possible interpretation of this quote is that language must not be allowed to be abused in such ways that speech grows full of dishonesty and contradictions, or else there won't be a basis for efficient human action. Perhaps a kind of social equivalent to how free market economists talk about State central planners not being able to efficiently run an economy because they do not have access to accurate price signals.
These thoughts were provoked by an ad for Sprint cellphone service that I heard earlier this evening. In the ad, a man comes on and says something along the lines of, "Oh great, another wireless ad. You're probably sick of all these phone ads with all their confusing terms about their networks and offers and blah blah blah. But Sprint is going to do something different." Then he quotes a monthly price and basically says if you don't like it after a month you can have 100% of your money back, guaranteed. A few more details are conveyed in a similarly reassuring tone.
Free speech is crucial and must be defended.
The founding fathers recognized this and gave us the first amendment as a guard against tyrannical government, so that we are free to spread ideas even when those ideas are not popular with those in power.
It's common knowledge that San Francisco has thousands of homeless people living on the streets and a shortage of not just housing, but even temporary shelter space. San Francisco also has a government-run school system that includes over a hundred schools occupying public space, each with multiple buildings that are vacant and unused at night.