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Why the Conservatives are right to ban evictions

Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

June 10, 2020 - 11:00am

The Government has extended the moratorium on evictions by a further two months.

It was brought in at the start of the Covid crisis to protect tenants in the social and private rented sector. With so many people losing their jobs and unable to earn the last thing the country needs is an epidemic of homelessness.

However, there are those who believe that the ban is unjust ‚ÄĒ a very unTory violation of property rights. Among them is Rosalind Beck writing for CapX:

What would people say if I walked into Tesco tomorrow, filled my trolley with food and drink to the value of £200 and at the checkout said I am not paying for it because the Government has said supermarkets have to provide my groceries for the next five months, whether I pay for them or not?
- Rosaline Beck, CapX

Housing is a necessity, but so is food. Why, then, are the supermarkets treated one way and the landlords another?

It’s a seemingly strong argument (and furthermore Beck makes some good points about the details of the policy). However, the analogy ‚ÄĒ that between housing and food ‚ÄĒ is flawed.

For a start, most people have a choice of food suppliers, whereas moving home was banned in the first stage of the lockdown and is still difficult now. Even in ideal conditions, finding a new place to live is a drawn out, expensive and stressful process. Landlords have market power over tenants in a way that shops don’t have over shoppers.

Even more importantly, food is a consumable and housing isn’t. Eat an apple and it’s gone for ever; live in a flat and it’s still there when you move out. This is a fundamental difference ‚ÄĒ and a reason why payment can be reasonably deferred on the latter, but not the former.

Also it’s worth pointing out that, despite lockdown, a food item retains its value ‚ÄĒ an apple contains as many nutrients and as much flavour as it did before the pandemic. That’s not the case with housing whose value is, in large part, determined by location. The reason why the rent on a flat in central London is a multiple of a similar property elsewhere is the difference in access to earning opportunities and amenities. But when that access ‚ÄĒ however good or bad ‚ÄĒ is reduced to lockdown levels, the value of the location is correspondingly reduced.

In normal times we’d expect the property market to adjust to variations in the attractiveness of each location and shift property prices accordingly. In any area where jobs and other opportunities disappeared, rental values would collapse. Just because these are not normal times and the economic shock is too deep, sudden and widespread for the pricing mechanism of the market to process, it doesn’t mean that landlords should expect to make as much money today as they did before the crisis.

Covid is not their fault, but it’s not their tenants’ fault either.


Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.

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S H
S H
4 years ago

Here’s the thing. My tenant just moved out and the flat will not be relet while this policy is in place.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
4 years ago

What a fascinating opinion piece! It struck me that Orthodox Christians who observe the prescribed fast days would already be consuming meat roughly according to John’s recommendations. The fast days would mean no meat would be consumed on Wednesdays and Fridays, or on any day for the great fasts preceding Christmas and Easter. On fast days one can eat crustaceans or shellfish; the prohibition is against meat from animals with backbones. However there are no general prohibitions against eating pork. There is nothing in the religion as far as I know it that would discourage eating lamb or veal, but John makes a good case for avoiding them.

Dave Tagge
Dave Tagge
4 years ago

Perhaps this policy makes some sense. Many places in the U.S. have similar policies, set by state, county, or city governments.

It’s also reasonable to wonder why, however, with various measures taken to support people’s incomes, they also need to be spared paying their rent. The problem with any such large-scale policy, of course, is that there are no doubt some number of people who *could* pay their rent – or at least part of it – but aren’t doing so because they know that they can’t be evicted.

It’s just another policy that highlights why shutdowns need to end at the earliest possible time. We’re creating all sorts of distortions. In the case of this one, we could end up with a full-fledged financial crisis if many landlords aren’t paid and in turn start defaulting on property loans.

JGM
JGM
4 years ago

I have to pay tax on rental income and have done since 2016 despite the mortgage not being covered by the rent and the market is rubbish. Our tenant has not lost income in lockdown but we have. I want to move back into my property but can’t because I can’t get my tenant out despite many properties being available for rent. Its not her fault and its not my fault (we are not in primary school) but in real life blanket policies are usually based on the ‘poor’ tenant and the ‘rich landord’ which is not always the case. When you start making one rule fits all policies then try and use common sense rather than taking a sixth form moral stance – based largely on London scenarios.

Chris Smith
Chris Smith
4 years ago

I disagree fundamentally with the premise of your article. The idea of a “compassionate Medieval carnivore” seems to me – I’m sorry to say this – utter nonsense when it comes from an educated, well-off person in 21st century living in modern Western society.

You begin by suggesting the concept of a compassionate carnivore but then use your counter-arguments against the environmental claims of scientists, vegans, and the IPCC Global Reports on Greenhouse Gas Emissions to back up your argument.

That doesn’t clock it.

If you want to propose such a thing as a “Medieval compassionate carnivore”¬Ě in 21st century Western society, you need to explain exactly what is compassionate about killing animals for food in a time when we can get all the nutrients we need from plants – without the risk of cancer (see: https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/1in3cancers/lifestyle-choices-and-cancer/red-meat-processed-meat-and-cancer/).

Especially given that you begin your article with an explanation of the capacity for farm animals to feel emotions, pain, and express their individual characteristics, you needed to go into the ethical aspects of killing for taste, rather than using counter-arguments against environmental claims to justify your ideas.

In my mind, there are only two reasons you’d slaughter and eat an animal:

1. You need to eat the animal to survive
2. You like the taste.

If you live in Sub-Saharan Africa, are an Inuit, a pastoralist, or live in outer rural China, you may have a claim to number 1.

However, if you are reading this article, then in almost all circumstances, point 1 doesn’t apply to you. All the protein you need can be found in plants like beans, lentils, quinoa, and nuts, or modern vegan meats, and they are much healthier than meat, without animal suffering.

Thus, you can only claim point 2. You like the taste.

However you can’t then make the claim of “compassion”¬Ě or “ethics”¬Ě in your slaughter, simply because you like the taste.

By default, you also cannot then make any “ethical”¬Ě claim against anybody who chooses to eat dogs, cats, sharks, dolphins, whales, or any other socially-shunned animal in Western society. After all, they’re doing it for the same reasons as you.

What’s the difference between a dog and a sheep in terms of its capacity for suffering pain or forming emotional bonds?

I choose to not eat animals because I can’t justify killing something that can feel pain, emotions, and has an individual character, simply to satisfy my taste buds. Call me weird.

You do you, but don’t try to pretend that there’s anything compassionate or ethical about it. Simply put, there is no possible way to kill something compassionately if it does not want to die. No matter how ‘nice’ you make the lives of farm animals, they do not want to die. They do not want to watch their family members die.

Many much greater thinkers than yourself or me have spoken of this (the ethics of killing animals) before, so perhaps I can leave some of their words here?

“Nothing will benefit health or increase chances of survival on earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”¬Ě – Einstein (1879-1955 A.D.)

“Alas, what wickedness to swallow flesh into our own flesh, to fatten our greedy bodies by cramming in other bodies, to have one living creature fed by the death of another! “¬¶ As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other.”¬Ě
– Pythagorus (circa 582 – 507 B.C.)

“The highest realms of thought are impossible to reach without first attaining an understanding of compassion.”¬Ě
-SOCRATES (469-399 B.C.)

“The gods created certain kinds of beings to replenish our bodies”¬¶ they are the trees and the plants and the seeds.”¬Ě-PLATO (circa 428-347 B.C.)

“The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men.”¬Ě– Leonardo da Vinci

“If a man earnestly seeks a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from animal food”¬¶”¬Ě- Leo Tolstoy

“Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”¬Ě – Thomas Edison

“On general principles the raising of cattle as a means of providing food is objectionable. It is certainly preferable to raise vegetables, and I think, therefore, that vegetarianism is a commendable departure from the established barbarian habit. That we can subsist on plant food and perform our work even to advantage is not a theory but a well-demonstrated fact. Many races living almost exclusively on vegetables are of superior physique and strength”¬¶.
In view of these facts every effort should be made to stop the wanton, cruel slaughter of animals, which must be destructive to our morals.”¬Ě
– Nicola Tesla

From Plato to Soctates, Einstein, Pythagorus, da Vinci, Tolstoy, Nicola Tesla, Thomas Edison”¬¶ The list goes on and on”¬¶

Perhaps – just perhaps – those crazy 21st century vegans aren’t quite as crazy (or quite as 21st century) as you’d like to make them out to be?

Bring out the steak knives indeed.

edwinmorris
edwinmorris
4 years ago

This is

thomasbcarver
thomasbcarver
4 years ago

What would people say if they had spent √ā¬£200 on food and were then told that they were not allowed to eat it?
The problems faced by commercial tenants are very much worse than private tenants; they have no security and can be evicted immediately their rent is overdue. More importantly, commercial tenants have been prevented, by law, from using their premises, and even when they are finally allowed to open, the amount of business they can expect will be drastically reduced.
Somebody has to take the hit; if it is commercial tenants then we can expect thousands of bankrupt businesses and millions of unemployed people. If it is commercial landlords we can expect what? Reduced dividends, a few properties sold off, maybe an overextended company closing.
The only alternative is for the government to pick up that bill along with all the others; did anyone consider this when they were demanding an extended lockdown?