The Rich Get Richer and the Public Gets Punished: How Unenforced Regulations Perpetuate Inequality

Journal of Regulatory Compliance, 2019

18 Pages Posted: 26 Nov 2019 Last revised: 5 Dec 2019

See all articles by Justin R. La Mort

Justin R. La Mort

Mobilization for Justice; Brooklyn Law School

Date Written: April 15, 2019


The disparate enforcement of social welfare regulations perpetuate inequality as those with the least receive the least discretion while those with the most are permitted to act with near impunity. The economically disadvantaged face hyperregulatory regimes with strict enforcement while powerful individuals and business are permitted to ignore the law with few meaningful consequences.

The article defines the factors that regulators should consider to avoid institutionalizing racism, sexism, and classism through the administrative state using a purposivist approach. It then compares the actual practice of regulators using privately-owned public spaces, rent stabilization, and public housing. These three case studies of the (un)enforcement of regulations of New York City real estate demonstrate how a party’s power differential directly affect the outcome of regulations through internal biases and external pressures.

The article concludes that regulators need to reorient enforcement to serve as a countervailing force to powerful private actors to promote the public good over private interests.

Keywords: poverty law, housing, real estate, administrative law, regulations, administrative state, critical legal studies, poverty, public space, rent control, rent stabilization, rent regulation, public housing, Intersectionality, incentives, regulatory capture, inequality, privately owned public space

JEL Classification: K11, K23, K2, K42, K4, K40, K20, A14, D63, I3, I38, L51, R38, R52, Z18

Suggested Citation

La Mort, Justin R., The Rich Get Richer and the Public Gets Punished: How Unenforced Regulations Perpetuate Inequality (April 15, 2019). Journal of Regulatory Compliance, 2019, Available at SSRN:

Justin R. La Mort (Contact Author)

Mobilization for Justice ( email )

100 William Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10038
United States

Brooklyn Law School ( email )

250 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
United States

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