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This paper focuses on the nature of the landlord/tenant relationship in uncontrolled rental housing markets. I argue that relational egalitarianism--the view that our social and political relations to one another ought not involve arbitrary power asymmetries--gives us moral reasons to criticize this relationship. In particular, I try to show that landlord/tenant relationships involve objectionable forms of economic subordination--more specifically, relations that involve exploitation and marginalization--as well as political inequality. I conclude the paper with some reflections on policy solutions to the problems I identify. Contrary to the consensus among most economists and government officials at least, not to mention landlords, I maintain that rent control should be seen a legitimate and effective tool--among others--for curbing the power of landlords and thereby protecting tenants.


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Public Affairs Quarterly