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Thursday, September 12, 2019

On the Supply and Demand in Housing Markets: Rent Control in California

In February, 2019, Oregon’s legislature passed rent-control legislation limiting rent increases to 7% annually plus inflation. New York’s legislature strengthened the existing local rent-control regulations in New York City. Roughly six months later, California’s legislature passed rent-control legislation limiting annual rent increases to 5% after inflation and strengthening other tenant protections.[1] Not even the largest landlord group and the California Business Roundtable had opposed the legislation in spite of the fact that rent-control even as a concept flies in the face of the free-market ideology that has been so popular in America. Indeed, economists “from both the left and the right have a well-established aversion to rent control, arguing that such policies ignore the message of rising prices, which is to build more housing.”[2] Accordingly, only four of the American states (and Washington, D.C.) had some kind of local rent-control. So what accounts for the rent-control fever that had taken hold in 2019? I want to point to the immediate context then in California, and then to a more theoretical explanation that calls for distinguishing shelter from real-estate investing.

The full essay is at "California Rent Control."

1. Conor Dougherty and Luis Ferré-Sadurni, “California Approves Statewide Rent Control to Ease Housing Crisis,” The New York Times, September 12, 2019.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Political Ideology and Religious Doctrine: Pope Francis and His American Critics

Political ideology and religious doctrine are distinct, yet confusion can justifiably exist because ideology can seep into doctrine or be claimed to be such when it is not. This interlarding of political ideology into religious doctrine, or theology, is perhaps best demonstrated in Christian liberation theology, which includes political (e.g., justice) and economic (e.g., equality of income or wealth) prescriptions in the future Kingdom of God manifest on Earth. Generally speaking, political (and economic) ideology can legitimately be viewed as being human, all too human, and thus as fundamentally distinct from religious revelation and even doctrine (though even these may be influenced and even distorted on our end by the taint of human nature). Put another way, the source of revelation and even doctrine comes from “above,” whereas political (and economic) ideology are human artifacts. Therefore to infuse such artifacts into religious doctrine risks polluting it such that the religious or spiritual auspices are impaired. David Hume suggests in his Natural History of Religion that the human mind cannot long hold onto the divine idea manifesting purely as simplicity, so we attach other ideas—anthropomorphic ones—to our conceptions of the divine. Such ideas are of human traits or characteristics, hence “from below.” Sadly, we rarely recognize this human activity; rather, we take God to have such characteristics. The criticism of Pope Francis by “ultraconservative” American Catholics, including some notable clergy, illustrates just how problematic the admixture of political ideology and religious doctrine can be.