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Abolish Landlordism


"No person (or social role, rather) exemplifies this eating in the "sweat of another's face" as unambiguously as the institution, or arrangement, of the Landlord - the rentier, in general, who simply sits back and lives off of the rents, "the sweat" of others' labor. Some, no doubt, will contend that because the Landlord provides a much needed service (housing, among other things), the Landlord is rightfully entitled to collect this sweat. It takes little scrutiny, though, to see that this claim is hardly more than an unsupported assertion. For what is the service that the Landlord provides? When it comes to housing, the Landlord merely pays other people, plumbers, for instance, to provide services - a payment, by the way, that is always less than the amount of rent the Landlord obtains. Were this not the case, the Landlord would suffer a loss, and would have no incentive to maintain the relation at all. In other words, if the "duties" of the Landlord outweighed the Landlord's "rights," if the Landlord derived no profit, it would be in his or her interest to simply surrender the property, or to evict everyone. The landlord, however, very rarely does this. And this is so because, supported by the police, the courts, and other apparatuses of the state, the landlord is always deriving a profit from this business relationship. That is, the Landlord is always eating from the "sweat" of his or her tenants - in violation of what Bacon referred to as "the first law." Another argument that people may raise in favor of the Landlord is that, because the Landlord owns the land, the Landlord has a right to collect rent, or sweat, from his or her tenants. Aside from the circularity of this reasoning, however, one should ask how this landlord came into possession of this property in the first place. One person, no doubt, purchased land from another. But how did a piece of land become a piece of property? No one built land. As George Orwell reminds us, the original owners "simply seized it [the land] by force, afterwards hiring lawyers to supply them with title-deeds." And it hardly takes an expert in the intricacies of US History to see that, in the context of the United States (though not only in the United States), all of the land now owned as property was taken by just such force from the continent's indigenous people. As such, property owners do not provide a service so much as profit from a harm. Or, rather, they profit from two harms: the harm of the seizure of the land, and the harm of the ongoing consumption of their tenants' "sweat." Those who regard the nullification of title to excessive real property as a harm simply confuse a harm for a harm's correction.

This argument, however, should not be construed to mean that people should not have the right to be secure in their homes. As George Orwell phrased it in his As I See It column of August 18, 1944, "It is desirable that people should own their own dwelling houses, and it is probably desirable that a farmer should own as much land as he [sic] can actually farm. But the ground-landlord in a town area has no function and no excuse for existence. He is merely a person who has found out a way of milking the public while giving nothing in return. He causes rents to be higher, he makes town planning more difficult, and he excludes children from green spaces: that is literally all that he does, except to draw his in-come."

As more and more people spend ever larger portions of their incomes on rent, and as more and more homes are being foreclosed upon and acquired by hedge funds and banks (which now comprise society's largest class of landlords), and as society continues to polarize into the extremes of rich and poor, it may be time to consider adopting Bacon's "first law." Insofar as this relates to property ownership, by nationalizing, for instance, and then internationalizing real property, land and the resources derived therefrom can be shared among the people of the world - as opposed to being hoarded by the few, as they are today.

Among its other benefits, the elimination of Landlordism (which is nothing short of the legalization of Warlordism) would alleviate up to half, and often more, of people's financial burdens; in so doing, this would free people from unnecessary work - an unburdening that would allow for not only a resurgence of community, but a democratization of society. Additionally, the elimination of excessive work would result in the lessening of the pollution that such work produces - leading to a far healthier environment. That is, in addition to ameliorating social harms, the elimination of Landlordism could also contribute to the correction of climate change.

In light of people's tendency to resort to violence, it must be stressed that the Landlord, as a human being, is not exclusively responsible for the harms reproduced by contemporary socio-economic relations. Though the Landlord profits from exploitation, insofar as this particular political-economic system reproduces myriad social, ecological, and other harms, it is this system that needs to be changed - and such a change is negated to the extent that it involves harm to any person, including the Landlord. Rather than harming the Landlord, the elimination of Landlordism entails simply the vaporization of the excessive advantages the Landlord enjoys, and the concomitant restitution of the land s/he hoards to the community. In other words, a necessary though not necessarily sufficient pre-condition for advancing toward an actually just, actually democratic, actually egalitarian political-economic system requires, among other steps, that we strip the Landlord of the right to gross excess - that we Kill the Landlord, and Save the Man." (