The Rentier Society

Rentier 1. a person whose income consists primarily of fixed unearned amounts, such as rent or bond interests : the rentier class

The reason for Thatcher’s sell-off of council housing stock, was pure and simple. People who own houses, with a mortgage around their neck, are less likely to go on strike. Labour is no different. When banks get involved with buying and selling of public property, the rich get richer, and the poor pay more rent. Fear of eviction is a powerful tool for social control and needs to be maintained. The shackles of a mortgage make this task easier.

The weird thing about it is the kids watch television,too. If Margaret Thatcher had suggested, when she launched her sell-off of council housing, that she could possibly launch a series of programs on television that would encourage the worship of property and would be watched by both young and old, she would have thought she was dreaming. How proud she must be that her legacy lives on today to an even greater success than she could have imagined. Yes, I am talking about propaganda television. The drip feed of indoctrination that even the young find so entertaining. Do-it-yourself capitalism – an introduction to the rentier society. Buying houses, selling houses, converting houses, decorating houses, renting houses. Almost everything, that has nothing to do with living in houses.

It could have all changed with New Labour?

The Guardian February 9, 2000: “Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott revealed at the end of January that the Department of the Environment is preparing to hive off all remaining council (public) housing within 10 years. Plans are now being drawn up to sell off the estates to non-profit making companies and housing associations.”(1.)

“Non-profit making companies”? Now there’s a first. Below is a quote from the “Hands of our Homes Campaign”, which is nearer what labour would have been saying during Thatcher’s reign:

“We oppose New Labour’s drive to privatise council housing. Decent affordable housing is an essential component of a comprehensive welfare state. Privatisation (stock transfer, PFI schemes, etc) reduces accountability, leads to increased rents, more public money being siphoned off into consultant and management fees, telephone number salaries and profits for the, so called, ‘partners’ and is ‘Bad Value’.(2.)

The reason for Thatcher’s sell-off of council housing stock, was pure and simple. People who own houses, with a mortgage around their neck, are less likely to go on strike. Labour is no different. When banks get involved with buying and selling of public property, the rich get richer – and the poor pay more rent. Fear of eviction is a powerful tool of social control, and needs to be maintained. The shackles of a mortgage make this task easier.

TV propaganda

In the new TV propaganda programming of ownership, available on all channels, every evening, none of this is mentioned. Whole families and as I’ve said, even the children sit and watch; hour upon hour of toilets being ripped out; bedrooms being decorated, bank-loans and profit margins being discussed. Get on the property ladder, don’t be left out! And when you have bought up all you can afford here, get a property in Spain – somewhere to go in the summer. Kids going to college this year? buy them a flat – have them rent rooms to their friends – it will pay for their keep through college, with a tidy profit at the end. Have you considered investing in property for the renting sector?

Nothing is ever mentioned of the homeless on these programs, or what a “roof over your head” means. Or the misery for a large majority of the population, who put all of their working effort into paying rent, or the mortgage. In some cases a mortgage is cheaper than paying rent.

Rent as lever of fear

Thatcher, knew what she was doing when she instigated the Council house sell off. She was not, however, original. Rent, since its invention, has always been a major lever of fear and conditioning in the capitalist system; even Stalinist Russians would have found it difficult to maintain the level of worry and concern that rent and mortgage payments enforce in the population today.

People can do without most things. Even if you are hungry, someone will throw you a scrap. There are bits and pieces lying around everywhere. With some effort and imagination, it would not be difficult to furnish a room, flat, or even a house for free – well not impossible. There is much, even under adverse conditions, that can be achieved, with some effort and imagination. But fall behind in your rent doesn’t bear thinking about. What shame. Homelessness, to a rentier society, is the lowest a person can drop.

But before homelessness, even if it never happens, there is all the worry and frustration of maintaining an existence in the rentier society. Being sacked from your job, falling ill, looking after dependents – kids at school, college, financial demands from all directions. All of this is enough to be going on with, but, lying in wait, like a praying mantis in the background – ever increasing, never ceasing, gaining interest, feeding debt collectors, and suppressing freedom and security, is – the rent! the mortgage!

People at the bottom-end of the consumer society, know exactly what I have described above; but more and more, these conditions are affecting the middle class; increasing the rush to property ownership, not to live in, but as a form of security. An American to whom I spoke, who run’s projects for homeless people, told me the thing that usually swung it, when talking to business people in the effort to raise funds, was suggesting to them that “we are all only a few pay cheques away from being in the same condition (homelessness)” – It almost always works, he said.

Slavery to the master – rent.

Proudhon says: ‘ “If I were asked to answer the following question: ‘What is slavery?’ and I should answer in one word, ‘It is murder’, my meaning would be understood at once. No extended argument would be required to show that the power to take from a man his thought, his will, his personality, is a power of life and death, and that to enslave a man is to kill him. Why, then, to this other question: ‘What is property?’ may I not likewise answer, ‘It is robbery, without the certainty of being misunderstood; the second proposition being no other than a transformation of the first?'” (3.)


David Ricardo, British economist (1772-1823) who made his fortune on the stock Ricardo exchange, had a theory of rent as referred to in Toynbee’s “Industrial Revolution”, p126:

“Rent is that portion of the produce of the earth, which is paid to the landlord for the use of the original and indestructible powers of the soil.” Ricardo


“Now what is this deductive method which Ricardo employed ? It consists of reasoning from one or two extremely simple propositions, down to a series of new laws. He always employed this method, taking as his great postulate, that all men will, on all matters, follow their own interests. The defect of the assumption lies in its too great simplicity as a theory of human nature. Men do not always know their own interest. Bagehot points out that the £10 householders, who were enfranchised by the first Reform Bill, were, after 1832, the most heavily taxed class in the community, though the remedy was in their own hands, because they were ignorant and apathetic. And even when men know their interests, they will not always follow them. Other influences intervene – custom, prejudice, even fear. Cairnes frankly admits these defects in Ricardo’s method, but it took economists some thirty or forty years to learn the necessity of testing their conclusions by facts and observation. Since 1848 their attitude has improved – it is now seen that we must insist upon the verification of our premises, and examine our deductions by the light of history.”

Note- Glasgow tenants, staying in public housing, were given the choice of keeping council housing in control of the council, or putting it in the hands of, non-profit making companies and housing associations. The vote went in favour of what will eventually become privitisation. ( non-profit making companies) There was much money, fanfare, publicity and  debate dedicated to the sell-off of council property. No council money was given or spent on the other side of the debate; to keep in council control. This exhausting work was left to the pressure groups with minuscule budgets.

Lessons will be learned

Maybe a lesson here from Prescott’s sell-off bill: Because, “Men do not always know their own interest”. Eventually the banks  who are bank-rolling the “non-profit making” companies profit-margins will kick-in and rents go through the roof. (Has involvement of banks in ” the light of history” ever brought any  different results? ) –  When the “not for profit companies” eventually decide to be , need to make profit companies, as is usual, the council tenants of Glasgow and cities like it, will have learned another bitter lesson to late, concerning the signing away of public property to the private sector.

Rent, is, and was conceived as, a tool of power. Those who own the property own us. The burden of rent replaces the burden of slavery. Why, therefore, does society increasingly see property ownership as the root of security, when it only pushes us further down the road to dependence and slavery to the benefit of the powerful – who, will always ensure they have more, in order to maintain the disparity of control that they have over our lives? The only way to fight such a disparity is not to challenge it on its own terms of competition and greed. The powerful will always win when they are allowed to use their own choice of weapons. The only way to challenge such an overpowering force is to reject its values, and put in their place values based on principles about the enjoyment of life, without the slave-making burden of home ownership and expensive rent.

Cheap rent, frees people from the shackles of the mortgage and allows them to use and pursuit more enjoyable things with their time. It is difficult to find many who disagree with this. So why are we being diverted to trying to buy up and redecorate the world?