Let us consider a case.
We humans all live, of course, in and through and for only one goal:
To make things truly better for everyone that is, was, and ever will be
No other goal particularly interests the whole human moment
(from Soullight through vague feelings and notions into more specific feelings and ideas, out into specific words and deeds)
And so no other goal engages the whole human moment
And so to the degree we are distracted from this fundamental goal,
we disappear from ourselves,
allowing random animal hoots and hollers to steer the ship while our essential conscious moment picks lint from bellybuttons its own and not its own, and grows sick and wan and gone
Let us consider a case.
Supposing a landlord was observed performing the following:
1) immediately upon acquiring several rent-stabilized buildings, they send out lease renewals (for those tenants whose leases are up) with the rent moved up to market rate (double or more than what the tenants had been paying); and are only prevented from evicting these tenants when pro-bono lawyers get involved and point out to the city that what they are doing is in violation of rent-stabilization laws.
2) manage, in the building our case studier has intimate knowledge of, within a few years of taking over ownership, to remove half of the original tenants, filling each one-bedroom (at least one now converted into a two bedroom) with pairs of bright, pleasant, trim, well-dressed 30ish professionals.
3) in about the fifth year of their stewardship, post cheery letters about how the city’s “TPU” is now helping them to make sure everyone gets the service they need, and so if they need maintenance assistance, here’s the protocol (What does “TPU” stand for? Well, the letter doesn’t say; but I can tell you: “Tenant Protection Unit”; which intervenes in instances where the city decides tenants are not receiving adequate assistance with maintenance problems in their apartments.)
4) On at least one occasion, try to railroad someone into immediately signing a revised lease shoved (not by a postal worker) into said tenant’s mailbox ten days before the old lease expired, about 70 days after that tenant had sent in the original signed lease and 20 days after the tenant would’ve been handing in the signed lease “late” (with “late” here defined by city regulations, stating that the landlord must give the tenant the lease renewal 90 days before the lease is up, and then then the tenant is to send the signed copy back to the landlord within 60 days).
5) On at least one occasion has been seen employing the following sleight of hand: with the first lease renewal you send a tenant, you leave the bit about Security Deposit blank; after that, you put in “0” for the tenant’s existing Security Deposit, meaning that the lease now states the tenant has paid no Security Deposit whatsoever, and so when they leave, unless they are organized and can prove that the landlord is lying, will be out the equivalent of one month’s rent.
Life is complicated
Sometimes businesses get themselves in binds, and to save the whole thing from falling apart — which would indeed mean the loss of many jobs, a lot of capital, and no little amount of hard-won organization of people, thought, material goods, and etc — they twist the rules and cheat a little, sometimes even harming clients, investors, the wider community, etc.
And to some degree these sins are terrible; and to some degree they are the imperfections that most everyone allows themselves at least a little bit to keep things moving forward without having to lose momentum splitting one’s head to pieces over every little moral dilemma that might register within a human conscious space.
But in the case study we have here, it seems clear that the landlords purchased buildings with the sole intent of evicting a hundred low-to-middle-income tenants, who would then be unable to afford a comparable living arrangement. Some would perhaps move in with relatives; others would find a bunch of roommates; some maybe quit this expensive city; a handful perhaps end up at least for a time in shelters and/or the street.
With such a start, the conclusion becomes inevitable: this company pursues a business strategy founded not on providing the goods and services particular to their industry, but on hurting other human beings for private gain. The other enumerated actions help, to varying degrees, to compound that conclusion. For example this with the TPU: part of what a landlord is there for is to maintain safe and decent living conditions for the tenants; but this task they neglected until legal action was taken. Obviously, one would have to examine the details of the city’s case against this landlord before one could evaluate how justly the city’s decision to put them in the TPU program was. However; well; a picture is forming; and again, action #1 speaks for itself.
Many of us never think to think about the difference between organized crime and organized business. Depending on our environments and moods, we often slip into patriotic defense of business’s great efficient usefulness or of the need to constantly regulate the crooks and/or (depending on how broken one perceives one’s government to be) the hopelessness of the whole affair.
But this case here shows us where to draw the line: is a business focused primarily on providing the goods and services particular to its industry and which (since, after all, protection schemes are a sort of “industry”) we can all agree meet a real need? A protection scheme meets a real need, but only because the businessmen themselves have created the need; and so rather than adding value to the world, they are detracting value from it.
The landlord in this example does perform landlord functions, but the emphasis is on ripping people off for private gain. For this, they need to be carefully watched and kept in check by regulations.
Should they be shut down? After all, the whole problem with bad intent is that it, like rodents in apartment buildings, finds its way through every little crack in decency’s defense. You can’t legislate wisdom and goodness; but you also can’t shut down folly and evil by dissolving every iffy human enterprise. With the correct regulation, business cultures can change. Every individual human mind and every collection of human minds is a constant debate-space between conflicting ideas and feelings. With enough oversight — spiritual/ethical/emotional/mental discipline and community & protocols that prioritize transparency and moral standards over money and ease — the better voices are more likely to win out. For this reason, we should regulate the business community: to reduce the internal victories of those impulses that are more interested in extracting a little more money out of the world than on providing a useful service and meaningful work.
The balance between over- and under-regulation can then be reduced to a simple formula: does creating and enforcing this protocol prevent a given business within a given industry from focusing more on providing useful services than on making money irregardless the cost to other human beings and the community as a whole?
Of course, simple formulas lose their simplicity when we seek to implement them practically. But we can still keep coming back to them and refinding our way.
Author: Walter Welwhatev
Editor: AW, BW