I suppose we are testing the line aren't we? If you own something, or you are giving something you have to someone else, what is the price they need to pay? What is the hurdle they must cross? What are the rules of engagement? Who has the power?

Example one: landlords allegedly asking for your bank account to peer into your expenditure for a rental property.

As far as I can tell from following this story, it still has a hint of urban myth about it. Does it happen all that often? Is it the norm? Just how many people are actually subject to such a practice?


But the principle still applies. The house you have as landlord is yours, the tenant will give you the rent, the rent is the return on your investment.

They are doing you a favour, but is the favour they are doing you larger than the favour you are doing them, in giving them a place to live?

At the present point in time the answer is probably yes. The market in most parts of the country, especially the cities, is tight.

Getting into a rental is hard yards, and so the reality is probably the more you want the house, the more likely you are to have your finances studied.

It's no longer about whether it's fair or invasive, it's about how badly you want the home.

If there was no queue for the house, the landlord would, of course, be happier to see anyone, far less make them jump through hurdles.

Likewise the cutting of benefits for those who fail drug tests as part of their work applications.

The power here is very different. It's virtually one-sided in the state's favour. The state is handing money out for free, therefore they can set any rules they like.

And the irony of the new numbers (about 270 failures, which is a low rate), is those who favour a lax view of drugs leap all over the data and claim we are picking on the vulnerable.

That's extravagant language, of course, no one is picking on anyone.

The person getting the money gets it out of sheer generosity.

The rules of engagement are, they don't break the law in trying to extricate themselves from the predicament in which they find themselves.

In other words the money, although free, is supposed to be temporary.

And the temporary nature is achieved by getting work, and work is not attained by breaking the law. It's not that hard to understand. (Although clearly in several hundred cases too hard to adhere to.)

So the theory is that by having the rule in place, you place an appropriate enough amount of pressure on the others so they acquiesce and follow the rules, thus making it a successful process of engagement.

The reality, and here is the inescapable conclusion, is that those with the greater power, on any given side of an exchange, get to set the rules.