Flemming: Visions of ideal government color rental registry debate

By David Flemming

In testimony favoring S.210’s passage which seeks to register all rental housing in Vermont, Sen. Michael Sirotkin, D-Chittenden, was quite insightful: “I think what this really comes down to is a philosophy issue. One person thinks that government can do good, and in some cases it needs to do good. And other people feel like when there’s government involvement it can’t do any good. I think there lies the crux of the difference of opinion. We have a rental housing inspection system that does not work — it hasn’t worked for 30 years now. We have a big problem and it’s time for us to step up and fix it.”

Sirotkin finds himself in partial agreement with political philosopher and economist Thomas Sowell:

“A vision is a sense of causation. It is more like a hunch or a “gut feeling” than it is like an exercise in logic or factual verification. These things come later, and feed on the raw material provided by the vision. If causation proceeds as our vision conceives it to, then certain other consequences follow, and theory is the working out of what those consequences are. Evidence is fact that discriminates between one theory and another. Facts do not “speak for themselves.” They speak for or against competing theories.” (p.4 from Sowell’s book A Conflict of Visions).

While Sirotkin appears earnest in his efforts to charitably characterize an opposing viewpoint, he doesn’t entirely succeed, as is often the case when we are trying to publicly convince others of the righteousness of our cause and to dismiss opposing viewpoints. Politics in a nutshell.

He makes his own view sound reasonable. Only an anarchist would disagree with Sirotkin’s assertion that “in some cases (government) needs to do good.” Conversely, he characterizes those voting against S.210 as those who believe when “there’s government involvement it can’t do any good.” Quite the rhetorical flourish, which when taken at face value, suggests Vermont’s seven Senate Republicans and one moderate Democrat who voted against S.210 are the out-of-touch libertarians of a bygone era.

So then, if we follow Siroktin’s line of reasoning:

  1. Areas of Vermont’s economy/society with minimal government involvement often have problems, because they regularly resist attempts by legislators/economic managers to share their expertise on pressing concerns. In this case, Vermont’s rental market which hasn’t worked for “30 years.”
  2. Rather than merely in “some cases,” government steering of the economy needs to be the default in most all cases. Sirotkin’s roll call profile reveals few votes in which he turned down a more active government management of any part of Vermont’s economy
  3. The only limit to the good government can do is the funding it has at its disposal. With competent managers (legislators) at the helm, the more money government spends to fix a problem, the less of a problem there will be.

To watch the Sirotkin’s testimony, click here.

To see the S.210 roll call, click here.

David Flemming is a policy analyst for the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Public domain
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4 thoughts on “Flemming: Visions of ideal government color rental registry debate

  1. Yes, let’s sink more ” Government Control” into the rental debate, as we all know Government
    can fix any problem, sure they can, Oh wait,”Siroktin ” states, Vermont’s rental market which
    hasn’t worked for “30 years.”, so what in the hell have these legislators been doing ??

    S.210’s passage which seeks to ” register ” all rental housing in Vermont, isn’t rental property
    already under government domain with its local ” certificate of occupancy ” and I thought
    properties were already being inspected, so what’s the issue ” inept ” people in charge ??

    If I look at who’s promoting this boondoggle and the majority ” Chittenden County ” voting yes,
    it sounds like a Chittenden County issue, not the state or the majority of properties.

    But then again ” It’s been broke for 30 years ” and now it’s going to be fixed with this bill, now
    that’s funny……………It just needs more dollars.

    I don’t own any rental properties, and I assume there are ” S-holes ” and should be addressed
    but why would any property owner sink money, when it can not recoup damages caused by its
    renters, now that’s the snag !!!

    • I know someone who had quite a few rental properties. He decided to sell them all off because the system is rigged against landlords. He had to pay a non-paying tenant to leave and the day he was supposed to be out, he went there and saw the tenant was still there. The guy said he didn’t have money for a rental truck so he had to pay for that as well. Final straw after plenty of others.

      • Yes…lets blame the poor for being unemployed for two years, losing the car, home, and in many cases family members, and divorces, drug overdoses, and suicides.
        But by all means, blame those in poverty for being in poverty and having no options.
        Yeah, that’s the winnah!

  2. Yep…that’s about it and I suspect Mr. Sirotkin’s logic has become the standard. How did we ever vote for these folks to represent us?

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