Every day, there is some politician – mostly of the leftist persuasion – who convincingly champions education or health care as a human right. Once the populace accepts this premise, the people start believing that a simple wish is now a human right, whether it is a universal basic income, a job, or to be rich and handsome. The US soon loses its identity of respecting individual sovereignty in favor of mandating mob-rule collective. The perceived rights of the majority supersede your autonomy. As a result, demands and desires become rights, meaning that somebody else is entitled to your property, labor, or even money – the antithesis of the 243-year-old American experiment.
The Rent is Too Damn High
Do you remember Jimmy McMillan? He captured national attention nearly a decade ago when he ran for mayor of New York City, as well as governor and senator in The Empire State, for proclaiming throughout debates that “the rent is too damn high.” McMillan retired from politics in 2015, but he will be forever remembered for his entertainment value.
It turns out that someone might be auditioning to be the next head of The Rent is Too Damn High Party.
Speaking to a small crowd of supporters, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) declared that the rent is too high, it is extortion, and it is criminal. What is the freshman congresswoman proposing?
Here is a list of demands:
- Stop commodifying housing.
- Adopt universal rent control.
- Guarantee legal counsel to every tenant who faces eviction.
- Decarbonize the nation’s entire housing supply.
According to Ocasio-Cortez, the US can never claim to be a just and advanced society until it abandons its “barbarism” and makes housing, education, and health care fundamental human rights.
It can be difficult to fault the Congresswoman for believing that everything is a human right. She was born in 1989 to a generation that has had every tantrum satisfied, every whim realized, and every shattered dream covered up by well-intentioned parents. She might be coming from the heart, but this is where her philosophy of being morally right over factually correct is dangerous.
South Africa also had good intentions when it made housing a constitutional right (section 26). However, a quarter of a million residents are homeless and a third of homes maintain inadequate water and sewage infrastructure. Just because the government declares something a right, it does not mean unicorns, lollipops, and rainbows will descend from the sky.
Rent control has proven to be one of the most disastrous interventionist policies employed by the government at any level. While it might make for good politics because the politicians pretend to be benevolent on behalf of the impecunious, rent control makes for horrific economics. The public policy only breeds numerous unintended consequences. Or, as Art Carden put it: “Suppose that you want to destroy a city. Should you bomb it, or would it be sufficient just to impose rent control?”
Under this failed economic endeavor, new rental units are not erected. This is why builders are constructing condominiums at enormous rates across the country. Or, property owners are converting their apartment buildings into condos, transforming each unit into a luxury suite, which leaves current tenants out on their rear ends. Either way, the already tight rental housing supply decreases.
Should a landlord stay in the rental housing market, then you should not expect too much from your unit. Because when the government enforces the price of rent below market-clearing levels, the property owner does not have much of an incentive to offer anything more than the very basics, especially in cities where vacancy rates are in single digits.
When landlords are prevented from seeing a return on their investment or unable to raise rents a little more than the rate of inflation, then they will forego upkeep.
If you were lucky enough to find a one-bedroom apartment for a good deal in New York City, Boston, or Toronto, then why would you ever move? Deceased actress Patricia O’Grady moved into her Greenwich Village apartment in 1955, paying just $16 a month. Until her death in 2018, O’Grady’s rent was just $28.43, which would be enough to cover a trip to the pictures and maybe hydro billing fees.
Now, consider Ocasio-Cortez’s legal counsel guarantee. First, there is already a great deal of hostility between landlords and tenants, especially when the laws are tilted in the renters’ favor. What would she think would happen if every tenant could obtain an attorney from the government for free? Even if there were the slightest blemish on your record, then that landlord will not rent to you, primarily out of fear that if he or she needed to evict you for non-payment that you would contact A.O.C to have her connect you with a lawyer right away.
Like her Green New Deal (GND) that would retrofit every building in America, she suggests decarbonizing these apartment complexes, too. Many of these buildings are 30-, 50-, or 90-years-old, so the price-tag would be astronomical. Besides, who is going to pay for it? It will not be Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Everything is a Human Right
You have a right to your life. You have a right to your property. You have a right to your liberty. But you do not have a right to somebody else’s life, property, or liberty. Why should you be entitled to the fruits of somebody else’s labor? You do not, and these are the principles that laid the foundation for American society. For all the talk of wanting an advanced and just system, Ocasio-Cortez presides under it already. Instead, the system she proposes concedes freedom and breeds authoritarianism where politicians and bureaucrats have control over your life – the basis of central planning.