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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5132/john-tierney-on-the-rentocracy/

John Tierney on the Rentocracy

June 3, 2006 by

Choice phrases from NY Times op-ed columnist John Tierney on Nora Ephron and the rent-control crowd: “Like European nobles in crumbling castles, rentocrats are above money grubbing. They deserve their homes because of their longevity and their virtues. They compare rent control to Fulbright scholarships — a stipend wisely provided to worthy intellectuals and artists. They will announce, with a straight face, that they’re entitled to keep their apartments because of the extensive “emotional investment” they have made in the buildings.”

And: “No matter how much you love your rent-stabilized apartment, no matter how smug you feel bragging to your friends about your deal, in your heart you know it’s not fair you’re paying so little. It’s like buying stolen goods: you can revel in the low price, but you know it comes at someone else’s expense.” More here. Unfortunately, it requires a Times Select subscription to read the whole column.

{ 10 comments }

edhopper June 3, 2006 at 10:07 am

Spoken like a man who has never talked to a teacher or office worker whose wages barely keep up with inflation.
Here’s a clue, most rent stabilized apartments are not occupied by high profile writers. They are occupied by working stiffs.

tarran June 3, 2006 at 1:01 pm

hey ed,

Did you ever consider that without rent control, perhaps landowners would have an incentive to build more rental units thereby increasing the supply thereby making it easier for everyone to find affordable shelter?

Price ceilings cause shortages. This has held true since the beginning of recorded history. Yet for some reason, people keep convincing themselves its a neat way to make scarce resources more cheaply available.

Oh incidentally, rent control laws generally tend to prohibit taking rental units off the market, so — when the demand for housing soars, and a landowner has an opportunity to make more money buy tearing down an existing building and putting up a higher capacity building in its place, the local government makes his or her life a bureaucratic nightmare.

So with the pincer attack of both curtailing profits and discouraging investment, rent control has the great effect of making it harder for “working stiffs” to find affordable shelter. The economist Walter Block, who has some nice lectures on this website you might listen to, described rent control as being right behind carpet bombing as the best way to destroy a city.

Of course most advocates of rent control I’ve spoken to claim these inconvenient consequences are really the greedy landowners’ fault and not the inevitable result of their policies.

Here’s a clue for you :); why not take a look at some of the economics textbooks made available free of charge by the owners of this website? I particularly recommend Rothbard’s Man Economy and State. You might learn a few things, and at least attack us free-market fans with something other than cliched and laughably false economic fallacies.

Dain June 3, 2006 at 1:07 pm

“The economist Walter Block, who has some nice lectures on this website you might listen to, described rent control as being right behind carpet bombing as the best way to destroy a city.”

That wasn’t actually Block. It was some Swedish economist I belive. But Block referred to the statement in one of his writings.

But yea you’re spot on. “Working stiffs” as a class – try defining it, but nonetheless – are not helped by rent control, only certain priveleged working stiffs.

cynical June 3, 2006 at 1:38 pm

Hahahaha Ed…

Apartment owners / landlords aren’t the ones that should be stiffed by “workers” then, huh?

cynical June 3, 2006 at 1:39 pm

Hahahaha Ed…

Apartment owners / landlords aren’t “working stiffs”? So they are the ones that should be stiffed by “workers” then, huh?

Spoken like a Token.

Failed to Educate the Masses June 3, 2006 at 7:04 pm

You know it’s really quite remarkable how dense most people are when it comes to economics, take something like this, try arguing it with nearly anyone, you just can’t get through to them. I’ve debated the effects of minimum wage with a social democrat (read: ‘mixed economist’) for months, and they’re just not amenable to reason, logic, or whatever (I chose minimum wage because it seemed like the easiest of the obvious leftist targets). I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a willful blindness, and that there is no educating them.

Curt Howland June 3, 2006 at 7:55 pm

Failed, you’ve run into one of the most pervasive of negative human traits: ego. Since they believe people deserve a minimum wage, or cheap apartment, or whatever, there is no logic that can sway them.

It’s exactly like trying to convince a “person of faith” that there is no god. No matter how carefully you back them into the corner where they finally admit they “take on faith” something crucial, that’s it. No further. They do not question their own assumptions, because something they hold dear rests on those assumptions.

There are lots of people who describe themselves as “libertarian” who are convinced that something, be it roads, national defense, clean water, drug testing, police, _violates_ the rule that bureaucratic management is less efficient than entrepreneurial management.

One of the primary reasons that the “freedom” movement is fragmented is that different people think different government programs should remain, so they all remain.

And you’re absolutely correct, there is no educating them.

The closest I’ve come to a formula is to find something the individual believe to be beyond the reach of government. Usually it’s religion, sometimes “the family”, etc. Then show them how enforcing those things the person likes government to do actually violates the very thing that they hold dear. It doesn’t work, but it comes closest to working.

Mark June 5, 2006 at 1:12 pm

One only needs to compare the rental housing markets in Chicago and San Francisco to see the problems of rent control. The lowest priced livable studio apartments on the market go for about $850 a month in San Francisco, and they would be in not very desirable neighborhoods. A more typical price would be $1100 or so. In Chicago, you would have a wide selection of nice small apartments in good neighborhoods for less than $850 a month.

Mark June 5, 2006 at 1:13 pm

I forgot to mention that San Francisco has rent control and Chicago does not.

cg May 7, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Assar Lindbeck first equated rent control to carpet bombing. He sits on the board that selects recipients of the Nobel Prize for economics.

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