Canceling Rent is Canceling America
Long after Twitter decided to censor the leader of the free world for suggesting dangerous ideas, such as his suggestion that the American people should have absolute assurances about the integrity of presidential elections, it struck me that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her cadre have been free as birds to use the platform to loudly crow about the need to “cancel rent.”
This is the most dangerous idea to have been peddled by Democrats in recent years, which, if you’ve happened to notice the Party’s hard pitch leftward, is really saying something.
The danger here isn’t difficult to discern.
Say I own a piece of property, and like millions of Americans, I fashioned it for use as a rental property to earn income from tenants for its use. The government decreeing that I can’t legally and freely negotiate rent for the use of that property, or evict a tenant for refusal to pay, is the absolute nullification of my liberty and right to ownership of that property.
That’s it. Full stop.
After all, if I had liberty, I would certainly choose to do something with the property other than rent it to tenants who don’t pay. Any law keeping the tenants there without payment would amount to a government gun to my head. Of course, the government could pay me to house the tenants, but the government has no money at all lest it first takes it from others. This makes the latter alternative little more than full-on communism, complete with a government boot on the collective throat in demanding redistribution of resources to manage the individual requirements of daily living.
And despite what entire generations must’ve learned in college for decades, nothing about any of that is good, and nothing about that is American.
American Founder John Adams observed the following in his A Defence of the Constitutions of Government in the United States of America:
Property is surely a right of mankind as really as liberty… The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If “Thou Shalt Not Covet” and “Thou Shalt Not Steal” were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free.
This is the Founders’ moral argument for the legal protection of property owners’ rights, but in a society that is seemingly more God-less by the minute, we should be thankful that the practical argument is pretty compelling, too.
“Rent” is among the three fundamental components of the price mechanism of a free market, as Adam Smith discusses this in his seminal Wealth of Nations:
In the price of corn, for example, one part pays the rent of the landlord, another pays the wages or maintenance of labourers and labouring cattle employed in producing it, and the third pays the profit of the farmer… the whole price still resolves itself either immediately or ultimately into the same three parts of rent, labour, and profit.
Smith continually returns to this basic formulation on market prices, and neither time nor technological innovation has made his observations any less enduring.
For example, my wife’s friend has recently created a local market on social media, designing artistic charcuterie boards for social events. She is now looking to open a storefront in West Texas to sell her merchandise. Given that she doesn’t own a storefront property in a busy area where shoppers may find her product (and thereby increase her sales), price considerations will break down precisely as some function of Smith’s calculation of her rent, her own labor, and that of the costs of the workers she employs, and the potential profit to be made on her produced stock.
The price of her product must necessarily include the cost of the labor and the rent of the storefront, or there would be no profit. If there were no potential profit on her stock of wares, there would have never been an incentive to open a store to begin with, and thus, the store would have never existed in the first place. This might be terrible news for each party that would freely participate in all this commerce, from the shoppers to the landlord to the entrepreneur and laborers.
Note that caveat, free participation by all in a free market.
Karl Marx, and his prominent acronymous followers like AOC and BLM, however, prefer to condense Smith’s equation to include only labor and profit. Laborers tend to earn less than those who earn a profit on existing and future stock, and without the consideration of rent or property ownership, this appears to be a zero-sum equation where laborers lose absolutely.
What escapes their limited imaginations, of course, is who, exactly, might own the property in the place of all those vicious and capitalist landlords. Somewhere out there, they presume, must be a cryptid among humans who actively desires to lose money on his property rather than earning the price for its use.
In reality, property will always have a real-world price associated with it, because it carries a definite value among those who would pay, fight, or die for it. Any sort of communal ownership which is disinterested in that value is a fantasy that ignores human nature. What invariably happens is that people politically mobilize to act upon the same ambitions as individuals -- only it’s far more dangerous for the citizenry to have government officials decide what to do with any property, given the implied political power that comes with acting on behalf of the “greater good” of the collective. There are over a hundred million corpses, interred in the last century alone under communist rule, who were murdered by their own government as a result of their nations’ inability to recognize that fact before it was too late.
But in spite of the absolute danger in the idea to “cancel rent,” it’s moved beyond dim former bartenders and the unemployed liberal arts majors who love her. The abolition of private property rights was just codified into interim law by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
What constitutional authority does the CDC have to take a sledgehammer to the very foundation of the American idea, you ask? Well, none. And we all know it, including the president and the CDC.
Graphic credit: Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images
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