Tyler Oakley, youtuber du jour of 2007, set off a minor twitter fracas over what else-property ownership! 

As a self-admitted landlord during the coronavirus crisis, much of the twitterati were enraged. While many of the Mao Zedung memes were probably in jest, it underlies the radicalization that many young people have shifted towards in light of falling socioeconomic mobility. If even a fraction of young people are really shifting towards a view of complete state ownership of property, I think we should look at what we might be doing wrong. And for those of you who think I am being hyperbolic, I have met multiple people who are plenty educated and still want complete state ownership of land.

While not all landlords are bad, I think even the indignant twitter Marxists are absolutely right to acknowledge that many of the profits wrought from landlords are illegitimate. Landlords are absolutely to blame if they support policies like illiberal zoning regimes, which make housing scarce. If a landlord has high rents only because they make new housing illegal that isn’t a wise investment decision, that is state mandated scarcity. 

Young people facing a seemingly impossible housing market in urban areas have every right to be upset. And we should condemn the self-interested property owners who intentionally retard new housing supply. If we want to have a productive discourse around housing, we should be very precise with who we define as the “bad guys”. 

Landlords at any scale are not bad.

People who make their competition illegal are bad.

 

 

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