posted 11-12-2001 05:03 AM PT (US)
Someone on another board complained that she had acquaintances with children, only one of the couple who was working, who applied to rent an apartment, but that the owner chose to rent to another couple who were both working and who didn't have children. She expressed anger at the owner and claimed that he acted illegally and that he violated her acquaintances moral rights. This was my response (referring to the acquaintances and John and Jane):
What is the moral basis of your saying that?
Children destroy things. Children are a financial burden on their parents. Both of these things have an influence on how desirable a tenant may be. A law that forces a property owner to ignore something that has a very real and direct impact on her property and her livelihood is an immoral law.
Nevertheless, the argument that I just made should never have to be made at all. The only argument that needs to be made is this: Ownership is the right of use and disposal. That means that the person who owns property has the right to determine how it's going to be used and disposed of(providing that her use does not interfere with anyone else's moral rights). That property belongs to that landlord - it does NOT belong to the STATE. Hence, the State has no right to determine how it will be used. The State's moral obligation is to protect the rights of all its citizens - including that property owner's right to determine, at her sole discretion, how her property is going to be used (that is the basic fundamental property right).
Now what of the prospective tenant's rights with regard to that property? They don't own it - so they don't have any rights whatsoever with regard to that property. Do they have a right to have a place to live? Do they have a right to food? Do they have a right to clothing? Medical attention? How about vacations? If you answered "yes" to any of those, ask yourself: At who's expense? IT DOES NOT TAKE A VILLAGE. When you (the government) force a property owner to accept a hardship by preventing her, under law, from taking into consideration things that WILL (on average) have an effect on her property and her pocketbook in order to enrich the lives of others (these prospective tenants with children), then you are unsurping her private property rights and effectively stealing from her.
Just try to explain how it's morally wrong to deny renting to tenants with children - just try. What specific moral right did that landlord violate? A property right? He took no property from anyone. Did he interfere with John and Jane's right to vote? I really want to find out the answer to this, because I'm just not getting it: what moral right did she violate of theirs?
There's a manner of dealing with others that is very moral and very honorable; it goes like this: Win/Win or No Deal. That property owner decided that, for her, given the alternatives, renting to a couple with children was not a win. So, there was no deal. Now, I don't know how John and Jane are handling this - perhaps they're taking the mature route and are saying, "Well, if it's not a win for her then I don't want the deal either. I want everyone to be happy with the agreement when it happens." Unfortunately, you aren't being quite so grown up about it - you're wanting to create a Win/Lose deal, where John and Jane get a win and the landlord is forced, by law, to take a lose (loss). (By the way, suppose that they were to get the apartment against the landlord's wishes and they were to pay their rent on time, every time, and they were to leave the property better than they found it; does that mean that it was a "win" for the landlord? NO, it's still a lose - because the landlord was still denied his right to make his own decision about how to use his own property.)
I understand that you wanted them to have the apartment. But becoming angry and using your anger to justify violating the rights of others - and worse: using the courts to violate the rights of others - is not the way to handle the situation. The way to handle it is to be grown up, call the landlord and say, "OK, I understand your position and I'm sorry we couldn't make something happen. If something falls through with the other party, please call back - we'd still love the place." John and Jane's rights have not been violated; they still have the right to go into the marketplace to attempt to find a win/win deal with another property owner.