Saturday, 3 December 2016

The Battle of the Rent Collectors

Much press coverage has been given to Uber lately. Uber positions itself as a revolutionary way for people to get rides, but it is little different from the existing taxi service. The real difference, is that those benefiting from the work of the drivers will not be the existing taxi services, but the Uber investors.

There are two types of people in society. The rent collectors (the rentier class), and the workers, who generate and pay the rents to the rentiers. Many people are a mixture of both, rent collector and worker, for example someone who rents out their basement but works full time for a company not owned by themselves. Rents can come in the form of rental fees, taxes, royalty payments, and several other forms.

In the case of the taxi service, the taxi companies consist of the rentier owners, who collect a portion of the fares in licensing and franchise fees, and the taxi drivers, who are the workers. From the position of Uber, they saw the rents being paid to the rentier taxi company owners, and thought "Hey, how can we cut in on their action? How can we collect those rents instead? " The answer: the Uber car service, which collects 20% of the fare paid as rent.

The desire of the rentier class to increase the amount of rent they are paid (or the desire of more and more workers to leave the working class and enter the rentier class), is a major cause of increasing wealth inequality in society. As the working class must pay more rents, it gets poorer, and the rentier class gets wealthier. This is exacerbated by the fact that the more money one has the more rent one can collect (by acquiring more properties or investments). Thus, the flow of money cycling up the rentier class will only accelerate over time.

One way to break or slow the cycle is for the government to tax the rentiers at much higher (more progressive) rate than the workers. However, the rentiers are experts at putting aside a portion of their money into a pool to form think tanks and lobby groups to influence the politicians to not increase taxes on them. The rentiers also have excellent techniques for protecting their money from government taxation, through offshore accounts, and tax-code loopholes.

Another way to break the cycle of wealth inequality is the get rid of the rentier class completely. I do not advocate the Bolshevik method of 'eliminating' of the rentier class, but rather by appropriating their wealth and distributing it equally. For example, if a rentier owns 6 homes in a city, 5 they do not live in could be taken and assigned to families needing housing (see note 1). Excess of two cars, and excess of other possessions would be redistributed.

In the case of companies (such as factories) owned by the rentiers, they could be converted to worker-owned co-operatives. There hasn't been a lot of research done on the subject, but I believe that worker-owned co-ops would be less likely to produce poisonous or toxic substances, or to excessively pollute the planet in manufacturing their goods.

As the rent collectors battle it out amongst themselves to see who can collect the most rents, they may soon find the whole rent collection system flying out the window.

1. As for how to distribute the appropriated homes, the best way is that (in the case the home was being rented out) would be to give the home to the current tenants. The currents tenants would then become owners, and the money they previously paid as rent would go straight to property taxes and repairs, rather than through the landlord who was really just an unnecessary intermediary. Entire apartment buildings would be divided up into individual family owned units. As for the special case of people who live in the only home they own or have a mortgage on, but rent out their basement to help pay that mortgage, those owners would be given full title to their home from the bank. As all banks would be left without any mortgage payments coming in (the banks are completely in on the rentier game), the inflated bubble economy would be collapsing around this time, and people would likely need their basements as places to do handicraft work and would be free to have their tenants move out if they so decided. The tenants who had to leave the basement suites would be given priority on the unoccupied homes appropriated from the owners of multiple homes who were not renting out the extra homes they owned.

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