Via Economic Policy Journal

This is the most promising editorial I believe I have ever seen from a powerful mainstream newspaper.

The Washington Post writes:

RENT CONTROL is back. Economists have long criticized government price controls on apartments, a concept that had its first moment in the 1920s and that some cities reintroduced in a modified form in the 1970s. Now, decades later, California and Oregon are moving forward with statewide rent-control laws. Meanwhile, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has made a national rent-control standard the centerpiece of his sprawling new housing plan.

The economists are right, and the populists are wrong. Rent-control laws can be good for some privileged beneficiaries, who are often not the people who really need help. But they are bad for many others.

As a sidebar, I must add that Bernie’s high school classmate, the economist Walter Block, has been one of the strongest voices opposing rent control. He wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on the damage that rent control does.

In a 1998 paper, Rent Control: An Economic Abomination, he also wrote:

[Rent control]  leads to incfficiency, deterioration of rental housing. reduces incentives for upkeep and maintenance. reduces labor mobility, exacerbates landlord tenant relations. promotes housing abandonment and homelessness, and misallocates resources away from residential rental units. This sovietization of housing has effects similar to the sovietization of anything else: fnrininz. factories, industry, forestry, whatever.

Dr. Block also contributed the essay on rent control in The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, where he wrote:

Economists are virtually unanimous in the conclusion that rent controls are destructive. In a late-seventies poll of 211 economists published in the May 1979 issue of American Economic Review, slightly more than 98 percent of U.S. respondents agreed that “a ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available.” Similarly, the June 1988 issue of Canadian Public Policy reported that over 95 percent of the Canadian economists polled agreed with the statement. The agreement cuts across the usual political spectrum, ranging all the way from Nobel Prize winners Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek on the “right” to their fellow Nobel Laureate Gunnar Myrdal, an important architect of the Swedish Labor Party’s welfare state, on the “left.” Myrdal stated, “Rent control has in certain Western countries constituted, maybe, the worst example of poor planning by governments lacking courage and vision.” Fellow Swedish economist (and socialist) Assar Lindbeck, asserted, “In many cases rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city—except for bombing.”

It is wonderful to see The Washington Post siding with the rent control views of the right James Madison High school graduate on the issue, Walter Block.

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