New York State Wants to Whack Popular Airbnb

Most government regulations are not about protecting the public. In fact, they’re not about protecting anyone — other than threatened competitors.

Big Government’s latest casualty? The popular, innovative guest house service known as Airbnb. (See their website here.)

The New York Times reports:

On June 17, the State Legislature passed what would become one of the most stringent home-sharing laws in the country, if not the world, should Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo approve it. The measure would forbid not only landlords, but also tenants, to list apartments for short-term rental on Airbnb and similar sites, and would impose fines of up to $7,500 on those who flout it. It is already illegal in New York to rent out an unoccupied apartment in a building with three or more units for fewer than 30 days, but Airbnb is full of advertisements for such places regardless; about 55 percent of Airbnb listings violate the law, according to housing activists.

The real question is why it’s illegal to rent an apartment for less than 30 days in New York City. What business does government have setting this limit, in the first place?

Yes, you can argue pro- and con- as to why this law is a good idea. That’s not my question. My question is: By what right does the New York state government prohibit people from renting an apartment for less than 30 days? You cannot answer this question, because there is no good answer.

From the point-of-view of hotels or other competitors who don’t want the competition Airbnb provides, regulating the length of stay in an apartment is a self-evidently good idea. But from the point-of-view of people who wish to rent their apartments or house, the people who run Airbnb, and all their potential or actual customers (I have been one myself), it’s a self-evidently bad idea.

Who wins? The ones with the most political influence. In this case, the ones who gave Governor Andrew Cuomo the most money, so as to preserve his power.

This isn’t right. Mass numbers of people are rising up against this sort of political pull peddling. Witness the nomination of Donald Trump and the recent “Brexit” of Great Britain. Will the same mass numbers of people support deregulating private industry, since the desire to shield oneself from unwarranted regulation creates the need for pull in the first place?

That remains to be seen.

If regulation of private enterprise is not bad enough, now the First Amendment is threatened by such laws:

Christina Sandefur, an attorney and vice president of the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute told Watchdog that the bill might violate the First Amendment by unconstitutionally limiting what New Yorkers can say – or, in this case, write online.

“Prohibiting people from advertising their homes online would appear to be a violation of free speech rights,” Sandefur said in an email. “Of course, the First Amendment protects the free exchange of information, so long as it isn’t fraudulent or misleading.”

The bill is currently on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk, awaiting his decision to sign or veto it.

Once we give the government (state or federal) power over individual rights and private property it does not deserve, then it’s only a matter of time before the government will seize power over everything. It happens in a steady, progressive fashion (pun intended), over time.

If it’s OK for government to regulate how much people get paid at work or how much their apartments will cost, then it logically follows you can regulate whether, or for how long, people may rent out their apartments or houses. If it’s OK for government to regulate commerce, then it’s OK for government to prevent people from advertising or talking about that commerce, even though advertising or spreading the word online (or elsewhere) is a form of speech.

Airbnb has no principled way of defending itself here, other than demanding that all controls on everyone — including their own competitors — are repealed. A free market: There simply is no other solution.

If you want to protect your First Amendment rights, you have to protect everyone’s First Amendment rights. If you want the right to think and speak freely, you have to respect the right of people to do with their private property what they please. Where to sleep or stay when you’re on vacation is just as much your individual right as speaking your mind on Twitter or Facebook.

Freedom or control. It’s your choice, America. Sooner or later, you have to decide. Otherwise, all the corrupt and rotten little people we put in charge will decide everything for us.

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