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There oughta be a law; then again, maybe not!

For years, the government has regulated the. rents charged in multi-family properties in the name of the people. Our politicians never say it is because they are pandering for votes. No, it is always for the good of society. Unfortunately, there is nothing new with the government holding this view.

President Nixon said it was for the greater good when he invoked wage and price controls, bringing on a decade of economic inflation. The government did it again with trying to regulate petroleum, and for the next decade we ended up with high oil prices and shortages. Politicians have been telling us since the early '70's that oil prices were too high. Last week, a report was released saying that a gallon of gas today is cheaper after inflation than it was 80 years ago.

The government is supposed to act in the name of the people. Too often we forget that the government is made up of people like us. People who want to keep their jobs and have a paycheck coming in for as long as possible. People like Linda Tripp, who hold grudges and tape conversations "for the common good." People like Kenneth Starr, who will spare no one and no expense in his quest for "justice."

When confronted by what we believe to be injustice, each and every one of us has probably intoned the old adage, "There should be a law against this." If enough people think that, then indeed a law may be passed outlawing or curtailing some aspect of life. The majority of the governed have had their wishes actualized. That is the way democracy is supposed to work.

Then again... is it?

If it is, then we get things such as rent regulation. Any of you readers want to defend rent regulation? When the citizens of a democratic state cede too many of their rights to the government, that nation replaces the democracy with totalitarianism. Whether it is rent control or RICO, fundamental liberties are surrendered to a nebulous creature called "the state."

Many people believe that they will be protected when these laws are enacted. The greedy landlord will no longer be able to gouge the poor tenant. The government will give the tenant rights to the apartment which are not economically justified, but are politically expedient. New York City is now so protected that each year we have less and less housing units available.

RICO was initially intended to apply only to "Organized Crime." With some creative thinking by our government, it now can apply it to anything or anyone - from the corporate office to the church basement. Two real estate brokers get together and they can be charged with RICO and antitrust violations if the Justice Department wants.

It probably is poetic justice that Bill Clinton finds himself accused of sexual harassment. Wasn't it he who believed that the women of this country needed to he protected - from not only losing their jobs - but also from anything remotely bothersome in the workplace? Passes, compliments and flirting may result in huge damages. Bosses of the nation, including presidents, beware!

When and if you are sued for such an offense, people may be deposed and asked about their sex life. Imagine a situation where five or six years ago you were crudely propositioned by your boss. However, being a grown-up, you gracefully declined his or her advances and continued to work for them. You may even have admired the individual as brilliant in their field. Then a subpoena arrives one day and you are ordered to testify in a civil law suit which is completely unrelated to you. No matter what, your life becomes an open book. Ms. Willey meet Mr. Starr.

The government is a necessary evil. Throughout history, when the populace allows those who govern too much power, the governors will oppress the governed. It is nearly inevitable that once human beings assume authority unchecked, they become despots. Remember, Julius Ceaser and Napoleon were supposed to save their republics from despotic rulers. They were the champions of the people - then become the oppressors.

I know of only two men in history who, when offered unlimited power and authority by their people, declined it. Cincinnatus returned to his farm after saving the Roman Republic in the Fifth Century B.C.; George Washington guided us to nationhood, established the limited presidency and retired to Mount Vernon instead of forming an American royal dynasty.

The next time you catch yourself thinking "there ought to be a law...," remember just who will enforce it. We have enough petty clerks. Do we need more?

(Thomas F. Campenni is a real estate consultant advising owners. condominiums and co-ops. He welcomes written responses at P.O. Box 724, OM Greenwich, CT 06870 or calling 203-637-5621).
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Title Annotation:apartment rental
Author:Campenni, Thomas F.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Column
Date:Apr 1, 1998
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