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In his contribution to this symposium, Edgar Olsen, a leading authority on the economics of rent control in the United States, concisely reviews much of the empirical and theoretical literature on the subject. Olsen's title reveals, however, that his central mission is normative, not positive. His basic conclusions, which square with those of most American economists, are that rent control is inefficient, distributionally capricious, and inferior to other policy instruments that might be employed in behalf of low-income tenants. While remaining comfortably within his profession's mainstream, Olsen does challenge a few orthodoxies, such as the notion that rent control invariably leads to undermaintenance of housing.
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