Aug. 15th, 2013

pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
My municipality has public (government funded) assistance programs to help people make the balloon payment required to rent an apartment (security deposit/first + last month's rent, etc). As assistance programs go, I'm pretty okay with this one: it's a one time investment that helps people get into long term better, more stable, cheaper living arrangements. It increases mobility and threat of exist from bad situations. I like all those things.

But why is it necessary? At least part of the reason is the insane tenants' rights laws. If it takes three months from missed payment to eviction, landlords will demand three months rent up front. A friend of my is being evicted because he missed a payment. The landlord isn't out any money yet because my friend paid last month's rent when he moved in, but he doesn't want to risk a repeat next month. If they could evict on two day's notice, the economically optimal thing would be to take a more wait and see attitude.

Except those rules didn't come about for no reason. I couldn't move on two days notice, and allowing my landlord to force me to do so would give him an extraordinary amount of power. It becomes trivial to extort people, and it's most effective against the most vulnerable, which is the opposite of how I like my extortion to go.

Full disclosure: I already dislike laws that give tenants substantial lead time before eviction, because 1. they're unfair and 2. they push us towards more professional landlords and fewer individuals renting out spaces, and thus hurt both small time capitalists and renters, to the benefit of large capitalists.

This is a thing I've been thinking about a lot since I read Debt. It makes the point that medieval European peasants tended to be heavily involved on both sides of the free market. A household was extended credit by the miller, but they were themselves extending credit to the cobbler. It kept the system from spiralling into wage slavery* or debt peonage, while still giving useful signals about what things were and weren't wanted. It bears a striking resemblance to the ghetto economics described by Sudhir Venkatesh in Off the Books. I'm hoping that things like lyft and airbnb will move more of us back to that, but as they grow they're running into tax and regulatory obstacles.

And we have those regulations on hotels, and taxis, and restaurants for reasons too. Food poisoning, bed bugs, and kidnappings are real things that I think the government should work against. Regulatory capture makes it worse, but that's a distraction from the fact that every safety regulation disproportionately discourages new and small entrepreneurs.

Third, initially unrelated thing: I've been thinking a lot about parenting lately, and how we tend to emphasize protecting children from dangerous things, or teaching them to protect themselves. Avoiding dangerous situations costs them a lot, both in good things they miss out on, and bad things they would have learned from. If I have kids**, I want to emphasize resilience and recovery from trauma, not avoidance out of fear.

This is relevant because the government's current tact is a lot more like wrapping your kid in bubble wrap, and a lot less like teaching them to stand up and brush themselves off. Speculatively, what if we lessened food safety restrictions but provided free treatment for food poisoning? What if anyone could run a cab but everyone had a panic button that could summon the police immediately? I already think the government should spend infinite money in the War on Bed Bugs because fuck bed bugs it's a public safety issue. New reputation mechanisms are arising that could substitute for the closeness of a medieval village.

Once again I have no closing paragraph, just a bunch of thoughts.

*A phrase I still find ludicrous and diminishing to the horror of genuine slavery, but am now beginning to see what it's getting at.

**A thing I have been feeling more positive about since the hypochlorhydria was treated.


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