I mean, where to start?
Richard Boyd Barrett says if landlords do leave the market as a result of the eviction ban the State should buy the homes and keep the tenants in situ pic.twitter.com/zmbd0nZhWe
— Seán Defoe (@SeanDefoe) October 18, 2022
Let us assume, for the moment, that the Government takes Boyd-Barrett’s advice here – and why wouldn’t they, since they’ve been enacting some version of his housing policy now for half a decade? If you are a landlord, and this latest lunacy convinces you to sell up, there is of course absolutely nothing at all in law or the constitution compelling you to accept an offer from the state, even if one is made. If some German pension fund offers you more – as they likely will – then you are free to accept it. Boyd Barrett’s policy here is a fancy way of saying that the state should get into a bidding war with private billionaires for 2-bed apartments in Dundrum.
And that’s the problem, in a nutshell: You go down the road of this left-wing policy on housing, you will keep running into the same problem, which is that people have choices.
You do not have to be a landlord, because you can sell. You do not have to build houses if the regulations and costs are too high. You do not have to take on new tenants if the risk is that you might not get rid of them. And you do not have to sell to the state, if a “cuckoo fund”, whatever that is, makes you a better offer. At each stage, people can choose not to do things that they otherwise might have done, if the Government’s offer is not attractive.
Eventually you reach the end point of the whole thing, which is that for Government to make this work, it must take away all choices and rights in the matter entirely. The state can only control housing if it owns and builds every house, and allocates them fairly, each according to his need, as Marx might have said. That, my friends, is why each and every state that has ever tried communism has ended up in the same mess. It doesn’t work any other way, and it doesn’t work when you reach the expropriation of property stage, either, because nobody is going to build what might not be theirs.
Really, though, with respect to Sean Defoe, who’s a good chap and presumably wasn’t the only one at RBB’s press conference, where’s the basic journalism here?
No party is consistently allowed to advocate more illiterate nonsense without as much as a whit of scrutiny as People before Profit are. There are a few reasons for this: The first being that they’re never going to be in Government. Everyone knows that were they offered it, they would decline, because the over-riding PBP principle that nobody can ever be allowed to get to their left. Since they will never be in Government, they avoid even the very mild scrutiny that’s applied to politicians who might one day actually have to implement their ideas.
The difficulty with this, of course, is that those ideas are being implemented, in Ireland, just by Government. Rent caps? That’s an idea that originated with PBP. Restrictions on landlords? The same. Eviction bans? The whole reason the press event above happened is because this is a PBP idea.
The second reason, being honest, is that the Irish media has an entire blind spot about the far left. The far right, as we all know, are history’s greatest villains and our era’s most potent threat – hiding somewhere, in plain sight, just waiting for their moment to start rounding up the gays and the migrants and the, I guess, newspaper columnists. We must be eternally vigilant. The far left, though? Well, their heart is in the right place. Journalists can deny this till the cows come home, if they wish, but there’s a reason why most of them don’t bother. The average DCU clown school graduate of journalism is much closer on the ideological spectrum, these days, to RBB than she or he is to, say, Michael McDowell or (god forbid, now) Ronán Mullen.
And so that’s how we reach this spectacle: A politician saying that of course his policy might drive landlords from the market, but sure, so what? The Government can just buy their properties.
There’s a reason why those of us on the so-called “right” don’t much like the idea of the state getting involved in things: It’s because when that happens, services and systems that were once working reasonably well are suddenly under the influence of people like Richard, here. And putting Richard Boyd Barrett’s ideas about the housing market into practice is a lot like putting an eight year old at the wheel of a formula one car. It’s a very quick way to create a massive crash.
No sensible person would do it – but that’s what Fine Gael have just done.
Ultimately, Ireland needs to have a gut check: Who is likely to deliver more housing? Is it Richard Boyd Barrett, or is it some unlikeable rich fellow like Johnny Ronan? You might not like Ronan, but I’ll tell you one thing: We’d have more housing, and fewer homeless people, if Government were not so insistent on constantly making the likes of him the villain.