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  • ISBN: 9780856832543
  • Pages: 288pp
  • Size: 234mm x 156mm

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Author Details:

Fred Harrison is a Director of Economic Indicator Services (UK) and Executive Director for the Land Research Trust. After a career as an investigative journalist, he was advisor to a number of Russian academic and political bodies, including the Duma (parliament), in their efforts to implement a more equitable transition to a market economy. Recently he has turned his attention to the failure of economic analysis and public policies in the market economies.

When the 1st edition appeared in 2005, the consensus among forecasters was that the boom in house prices would cool to an annual 2 or 3% rise over the following years. The author, however, predicted that prices would continue to rise by more than 10% till the end of 2007, followed by a severe recession that would bottom in 2010.

Book Reviews:

‘The need to re-explore the ideas of Henry George today are only too apparent to anyone who has been reading the headlines over the past year or so. Fred Harrison, one of the few people to warn of the impending crisis, argues here that, though eliminating the damaging swings of the business cycle has been the dream of finance ministers for the last sixty years, they have failed and will continue to fail because they ignore the importance of land in a market economy. . The book suggests that taxes on income should be abolished and replaced with a land tax, as this prevents speculation on the easy profits of owning land (which causes a boom)’
John Pitt, Editor New Classics

‘Fred Harrison’s book is nothing short of excellent. Until we realize that land is a national rather than a purely private asset, we are likely to continue the current application of taxation and thus follow the ‘boom bust’ path.’
The Professional Insurance Broker

‘In 2005 Harrison published Boom Bust, warning that the property market is subject to a sharp downturn at the end of a regular 18-year cycle, based on his study of UK property markets over the last 200 years. The UK housing market started collapsing in November 2007, followed by the recession Harrison had forecast.’
Michael Hudson, Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri.

‘Fred Harrison’s ‘Boom Bust’ would be on my list of ‘must read’ books.’
Irish Mortgage Brokers Blog, June 2009

‘Boom Bust should be compulsory reading for all those in the Treasury and particularly Gordon Brown.’
Mark Dampier, The Independent

‘The man who predicted the property crash’

‘…those warnings were not of the “boy who cried wolf” variety, but well thought out and calculated’

‘[Harrison] does make a case for the existence of an 18-year business cycle, which he links to speculation in the property market’

‘…there are some fascinating insights into cycles, property and rents’

‘…for anyone seeking to understand the vagaries of the housing market, this is a fascinating read’

‘The man who predicted today’s housing woes – ten years ago … does Harrison really know something we don’t?’

The 2nd edition retains the original forecast but includes a new preface and two additional chapters.

Drawing on 250 years’ worth of evidence, Harrison warns of the danger to banks, businesses and jobs of ignoring a remarkably regular 18-year property cycle that prevails in the global economy. He argues that granting the Bank of England independence cannot neutralise this cycle, as recent events have shown. On the contrary, the belief in the efficacy of monetary policy creates a false sense of security, evidenced by Gordon Brown’s oft repeated claim that ‘we will never return to the old boom and bust’. Alan Greenspan in the US encouraged a similar belief which led to the risky sub-prime mortgage spree.

This instability is not the result of market failure, as many argue, but a failure of governance. It is the conditions under which the markets operate that are at fault. The boom-bust can only be neutralised by a change in the tax system.

The reason for the instability, Harrison explains, is not the housing market itself but the land market on which all buildings stand. Land is in fixed supply – as Mark Twain noted: ‘They’re not making any more of it’. Therefore, as the demand for land for new homes and offices rises with population growth and economic expansion, market forces, which normally increase supply to reduce prices, have the reverse effect: prices rise. This encourages speculation, with banks lending more against escalating asset values and reinforcing the upward spiral. Under existing government policies, the only way land prices can be brought back to affordable levels is a slump, undermining the banking system and causing widespread unemployment and repossessions. This is exactly what is happening in America with the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market. The run on Northern Rock shows the UK economy is not immune.

The author reveals that the government’s monetary policy only has a marginal impact on land speculation, but as the Bank of England raises interest rates to curb house price inflation, the main victim is the first-time buyer and the productive economy, especially small businesses. The only way to neutralise the boom bust cycle is through a reform of taxation, he claims.

Martin Ricketts, Chairman of the Academic Advisory Council of the Institute of Economic Affairs and Professor of Economic Organisation, University of Buckingham, states that ‘…this book is an important contribution to an overdue debate.’ Endorsing the thrust of Harrison’s argument, Prof. Ricketts goes on to acknowledge ‘that insufficient attention has been given by policymakers to the rent of land as socially the most efficient source of public revenue’ and that that will ‘have important practical consequences … for the stability of the economic system’.

Economic stability is the objective of governments around the world. Harrison explains how this may be achieved.