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Right a wrong, support Prop. 98

May 14, 2008

Re "No bait-and-switch," editorial, May 12

The Times opposes Proposition 98 because it would phase out rent control in California. However, there are serious problems with this argument.

The "serious debate" about rent control that must supposedly come first is long since over. The adverse social consequences it produces -- including reduced apartment construction, deteriorating housing, shortages, increased discrimination and landlord-tenant hostility -- are among the most universally accepted propositions among economists. And they exist because rent control is theft.

Rent control is theft because it removes landlords' rights to accept better rental offers, taking a large portion of their property values (shown in plummeting market values when it is enacted) and giving it to current tenants (which is why those tenants almost never leave).

That is also why rent control issues are not best decided by voters. When a majority of voters in a jurisdiction (current renters) take the property of a minority (landlords), it is no different than if they held up those landlords at gunpoint each month -- except that would land them in jail.

Some may call them "democracy in action," but majority votes do not legitimize theft, which is why many states ban rent control.

Gary M. Galles

Professor of Economics

Pepperdine University

Malibu

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