Iatrogenic government.

I quote this column on rent control because in it George Will teaches us a new word, one that names a reality we might not have recognized before so as to help us think more clearly:

James and Jeanne Harmon reside in and supposedly own a five-story brownstone on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a building that has been in their family since 1949. But they have, so to speak, houseguests who have overstayed their welcome by, in cumulative years, more than a century. They are the tenants — the same tenants — who have been living in the three of the Harmons’ six apartments that are rent controlled.

The Harmons want the Supreme Court to rule that their home has been effectively, and unconstitutionally, taken from them by notably foolish laws that advance no legitimate state interest. The court should.

This “taking” has been accomplished by rent-control laws that cover almost 1 million — approximately half — of the city’s rental apartments. Such laws have existed, with several intervals of sanity, since the “emergency” declared because returning soldiers faced housing shortages caused by a building slowdown during World War I.

Most tenants in rent-controlled units can renew their leases forever. Tenants can bequeath their rent-controlled apartments — they have, essentially, a property right to their landlord’s property — to their children, or to a friend who lives with them for two years . This is not satire; it is the virtue of caring, as understood by liberal government.

The tenants in the Harmons’ three rent-controlled units are paying an average 59 percent below market rates. The Harmons would like to reclaim one apartment for a grandchild, but because occupants of two of the units are over 62, the Harmons would have to find the displaced tenant a comparable apartment, at the same or lower rent, in the same neighborhood.

In addition to rent control’s random dispersal of benefits — remember, half of the Harmons’ apartments are uncontrolled — rent control is destructive because it discourages construction of new apartments and maintenance of existing ones.

Thus it creates the “emergency” it supposedly cures.

It exemplifies what the late New York senator Pat Moynihan called “iatrogenic government.” In medicine, an iatrogenic illness is induced inadvertently by a physician’s treatment.

via Rent control laws: foolish and unconstitutional – The Washington Post.

Can you think of other examples of iatrogenic government or iatrogenic relationships or iatrogenic something-else, in which trying to solve the problem creates the problem?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • MarkB

    This is just an example of the law of unintended consequences. However, my example would be: Extending unemployment insurance. The longer it is available the less likely it will be for someone to go back to work. It becomes too easy to turn down offers of work, especially if you get almost the same amount of money on unemployment.

    Along with that happening, the longer terms of unemployment help people stay out of work for up to 99 weeks right now. After almost 2 years being unemployed, employers look at these people as being a problem for them and then don’t want to hire the long term unemployed. So it then makes the problem worse.

    BTW, I am really having trouble getting into your blog and when I do get in it is very slow refreshing or changing pages.

  • MarkB

    This is just an example of the law of unintended consequences. However, my example would be: Extending unemployment insurance. The longer it is available the less likely it will be for someone to go back to work. It becomes too easy to turn down offers of work, especially if you get almost the same amount of money on unemployment.

    Along with that happening, the longer terms of unemployment help people stay out of work for up to 99 weeks right now. After almost 2 years being unemployed, employers look at these people as being a problem for them and then don’t want to hire the long term unemployed. So it then makes the problem worse.

    BTW, I am really having trouble getting into your blog and when I do get in it is very slow refreshing or changing pages.

  • Tom Hering

    Financiers rescuing candidates.

    Officeholders rescuing financiers.

    Voters filling government with wreck-the-government types.

    MarkB @ 1, if you’re on unemployment, you’re rquired to look for work (or lose your unemployment) and satisfactorily explain any refusal of employment (or lose your unemployment). Yes, there are ways to game the system, but the answer, then, is tighter enforcement.

    I’ve had access problems with this site for a long time. Many days, I just give up.

  • Tom Hering

    Financiers rescuing candidates.

    Officeholders rescuing financiers.

    Voters filling government with wreck-the-government types.

    MarkB @ 1, if you’re on unemployment, you’re rquired to look for work (or lose your unemployment) and satisfactorily explain any refusal of employment (or lose your unemployment). Yes, there are ways to game the system, but the answer, then, is tighter enforcement.

    I’ve had access problems with this site for a long time. Many days, I just give up.

  • sandi

    where to begin
    my thought are on children
    government required education of young children, many of whom are not ready to sit all day in a chair; thus “need” drugs.
    Working in the ER, I daily see young unwed mothers who are completely funded by the government. Because of this there is very little incentive to stop having more babies. In fact, in California, if these mothers have 3 children, they actually get a tax return . The sweat spot, so to speak, that actually pays them for having more children out of wedlock.
    How about the numerous government agencies that are in place to “help” all sorts of needy. High school drop outs that can turn to alternative education. Most of these agencies require little or nothing from these drop outs. Therefore most drop outs sign up, attend classes, and again-drop out. Meanwhile the gov is funded up front, gets there full dollar figure per student (to fuel their agency) and it doesnt fix anything
    How about standardized testing, which continues to rob children of a good education.
    this topic has no end.

  • sandi

    where to begin
    my thought are on children
    government required education of young children, many of whom are not ready to sit all day in a chair; thus “need” drugs.
    Working in the ER, I daily see young unwed mothers who are completely funded by the government. Because of this there is very little incentive to stop having more babies. In fact, in California, if these mothers have 3 children, they actually get a tax return . The sweat spot, so to speak, that actually pays them for having more children out of wedlock.
    How about the numerous government agencies that are in place to “help” all sorts of needy. High school drop outs that can turn to alternative education. Most of these agencies require little or nothing from these drop outs. Therefore most drop outs sign up, attend classes, and again-drop out. Meanwhile the gov is funded up front, gets there full dollar figure per student (to fuel their agency) and it doesnt fix anything
    How about standardized testing, which continues to rob children of a good education.
    this topic has no end.

  • kenneth

    Hey, I posted here. Did I get droped for some reason?

  • kenneth

    Hey, I posted here. Did I get droped for some reason?

  • JH

    Minimum wage laws create unemployment.

    welfare creates poverty.

    licensure laws lower quality of service.

    so sad.

  • JH

    Minimum wage laws create unemployment.

    welfare creates poverty.

    licensure laws lower quality of service.

    so sad.

  • Bob

    Rent control?

    Hey, why don’t we just talk about Slinkys while we’re at it?
    :)

  • Bob

    Rent control?

    Hey, why don’t we just talk about Slinkys while we’re at it?
    :)

  • Bob

    Ynemployment creates minimum wage laws.

    Poverty creates welfare.

    Lower quality of service leads to licensure laws.

    That’s how it’s been, and how it is…in the real world.

  • Bob

    Ynemployment creates minimum wage laws.

    Poverty creates welfare.

    Lower quality of service leads to licensure laws.

    That’s how it’s been, and how it is…in the real world.

  • Bryan S.

    No child left behind seems to result in no child gets ahead.

    Easy credit (to improve your lifestyle or education) turns in to low quality of life when can’t pay the debt.

  • Bryan S.

    No child left behind seems to result in no child gets ahead.

    Easy credit (to improve your lifestyle or education) turns in to low quality of life when can’t pay the debt.

  • JH

    @Bob.

    …nevermind.

  • JH

    @Bob.

    …nevermind.

  • JH

    ok, can’t resist:

    Congress raises minimum wage. Not economical for Joe to continue employing his 3 high school kids at the hardware store if he has to pay them more money. So he lays them off.

    Welfare creates a dependency on gov’t assistance. People have a disincentive to be productive, for fear of losing welfare. So they stay on the roles when they would normally be gaining skills and being productive. this leads to long-term poverty.

    Licensure laws lessen competition in specific sectors. if you have thousands of massage therapists (because there’s no license law) then you will have strong competition for customers. Individual providers will strive to out-compete by increasing quality and lowering price. Adding licensure laws effectively lowers competition by fencing the industry to certain people who have access to more startup capital and free time to go through the beauricratic process. This allows prices to come up and quality to come down. This applies to Dr’s as well.

  • JH

    ok, can’t resist:

    Congress raises minimum wage. Not economical for Joe to continue employing his 3 high school kids at the hardware store if he has to pay them more money. So he lays them off.

    Welfare creates a dependency on gov’t assistance. People have a disincentive to be productive, for fear of losing welfare. So they stay on the roles when they would normally be gaining skills and being productive. this leads to long-term poverty.

    Licensure laws lessen competition in specific sectors. if you have thousands of massage therapists (because there’s no license law) then you will have strong competition for customers. Individual providers will strive to out-compete by increasing quality and lowering price. Adding licensure laws effectively lowers competition by fencing the industry to certain people who have access to more startup capital and free time to go through the beauricratic process. This allows prices to come up and quality to come down. This applies to Dr’s as well.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Bigger government…less freedom.

    It’s as simple as that.

    Do they even teach U.S. history anymore in the public schools?

    (I know, they do…the twisted version)

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Bigger government…less freedom.

    It’s as simple as that.

    Do they even teach U.S. history anymore in the public schools?

    (I know, they do…the twisted version)

  • Michael B.

    Rent control is the classic example of failed liberal government intervention. In medicine, an iatrogenic illness is induced inadvertently by a physician’s treatment. However, it’s not like the patient (housing in this case) was healthy to begin with. Ordinary middle-class people’s rents were skyrocketing. Wages would eventually catch up, but it was a major problem until that happened. How much worse when a “doctor” operates on someone who is perfectly healthy? How often do religious folks say natural sexual desires are evil and lustful?

  • Michael B.

    Rent control is the classic example of failed liberal government intervention. In medicine, an iatrogenic illness is induced inadvertently by a physician’s treatment. However, it’s not like the patient (housing in this case) was healthy to begin with. Ordinary middle-class people’s rents were skyrocketing. Wages would eventually catch up, but it was a major problem until that happened. How much worse when a “doctor” operates on someone who is perfectly healthy? How often do religious folks say natural sexual desires are evil and lustful?

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Iatrogenic contemporary praise music.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Iatrogenic contemporary praise music.

  • Pingback: PropertyRentalsBlog.Net ‘The Ontario Experiment….Rent Controls’ | PropertyRentalsBlog.Net

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