Popular news site lies to young readers about rent control

August 4, 2023

By Tim Worstall

Vice tells us that “experts”  and some economists support rent control.  However, what is actually happening is that a small minority of economists think that rent control is a good idea. There’s always disagreement in everything. But that’s whom Vice chooses to quote in a piece headlined, Economists Support Nationwide Rent Control in Letter to Biden Admin.”

“‘All the empirical literature suggests that the basic economic story does not hold” when it comes to anti-rent control arguments,’ said one economist.”

It’s not even a letter to the Biden administration. It’s an entry in a Federal Housing Finance Agency call for comments. That is, it’s a letter from political activists as an entry into the political process.  Exactly where we would expect to get an unbiased discussion of the science, right?

Generally, for economists as a whole, rent control is the one subject where there is the greatest agreement. As Greg Mankiw notes, 93% of economists agree with the statement “A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available.”

One Swedish socialist economist, Assar Lindbeck, once said: “In many cases, rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city—except for bombing.“ Yet, Sweden has rent control. Even the official (yes, official) time to get an apartment in Stockholm is between 7 and 11 years.

Back to Vice:

“The letter from economists is part of a larger campaign initiated by the People’s Action’s Homes Guarantee campaign, which has been advocating for federal renter protections and met with the Biden administration last year. Earlier this week, the campaign also released a letter signed by 143 academics supporting rent regulations. 17 U.S. Senators and more than 70 climate researchers also submitted comments in support of rent regulations in rental housing with government-backed loans.”

That shows what’s really going on here. This is a political campaign, not an analysis of the economics. Climate researchers are telling us about rent control now? So what’s a media outlet doing backing a political campaign rather than just reporting the news? Well, they’re not doing journalism, are they?

And, just to prove that rent control is a bad idea, New York City has had rent control for three generations. We all know how easy it is to rent an apartment in New York, right?



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