Well-Intentioned Policies That Make Life More Expensive

by Walter Block

Demand curves slope in a downward direction. This means that the higher the price, the less of an item, or good, or service will be sought. The more roadblocks, hurdles, thumbtacks, placed in the way of any given action, the less likely it will occur. Economists do not agree on many things, but on this insight there will be nary a dismal scientist who will not acquiesce.

Yet there are several public policies in place that are incompatible with this commonsense understanding.

Consider first residential rental units. New York City, San Francisco, Cleveland, and another half dozen major cities are now offering free legal advice to tenants threatened by eviction. At present this benefit is afforded mainly to those accused of a crime who cannot afford a lawyer, on the ground that such legal aid is needed to provide equal justice for rich and poor alike. Now it is being extended to renters.

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