BY RICK MILLER
I gave a ride home a few nights ago to one of my fellow tennis players who works at the New York Times. He talked approvingly about an editorial advocating taxing storefront landlords if they keep their storefronts vacant for too long. Allegedly, there are too many vacant storefronts in New York City.
The theme is that landlords keep their storefronts vacant hoping for a tenant who is willing to pay a high rent, and then the landlord “gouges” (my friend’s word) the tenant and rents go higher and higher, thus driving out the kinds of business the Times presumably likes, such as small businesses.
I have not read the editorial and don’t plan to because reading this paper gets me upset with its ignorance of basic economics.
Some of the flaws in this proposal:
Do tenants get ‘gouged’ by landlords? I dare say many tenants have more bargaining power than landlords. Why are landlords the bad guys and tenants the good guys? Why not punish tenants for not renting vacant stores?
The morality of imposing burdens upon other people’s private property is something that doesn’t seem to bother the Times and most of its readers.
The mentality of many of my liberal friends is that they are free to criticize the profit motive when pursued by persons or businesses they don’t like, but act in their own self-interest without hesitation. They would take a different tune if they owned commercial space. The Times certainly pursues the profit motive and one way it did so was to get City tax subsidies when it moved its offices to a new building in Times Square in 2007. Yet the Times regularly lambasts corporate recipients of government largesse.
Rick Miller is a retired attorney living in New York City. He has written for various libertarian websites.