King Rat (gkr) wrote,
King Rat

Eco 200: Right to housing?

(group) The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution of the United States, says nothing about a right to housing. Some have nonetheless argued that housing is a more fundamental right and important right than the rights now protected by the first amendment (freedom of religion, speech, of the press, and of political assembly). Would you be in favor of adding a right to housing to the Bill of Rights? Defend your answer?

The U.S. is a signatory to the U.N. Declaration of Rights, which does guarantee a standard of living enough for adequate housing. Disregarding that for the sake of this question though, I can see both sides of this and I'm not sure which I fall under.

First, adding such a right would not necessarily require that everyone get a house. Were it construed as such, no one need economize for housing. However, if all it did was guarantee a bed in a large dormitory with no storage, there would still be plenty of incentive for people to improve their housing.

On the other hand, it would be fundamentally different than existing rights. None of the current rights give property rights to anyone. By that I mean that all the existing rights enable people to keep property they have acquired (e.g., eminent domain clause preventing government theft of property, or copyright clause allowing someone the economic benefits of their writing). But they do not hand people any good or service (of which housing qualifies). Any time a good or service is handed over without an exchange, it distorts the market and removes the need of people to economize at least to some degree.

I think I'm missing something so far though, as the chapter is all about demand. Yet nothing I can think of so far regarding demand makes this a clear choice. (So I guess the typo in the book leaving the question mark on "Defend you answer?" is appropriate, because my answer to that right now is: no.)


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