If you think economics is boring, you haven’t met the real pirates of the Caribbean yet. Phil Anderson’s recently published book The Secret Life of Real Estate is both exciting and timely. It provides detailed insight on how the addiction to land speculation became the foundation of the United States of America, as we know it today, the only country in the world where land title is not exclusively ‘owned’ by the government or crown – except in Australia, where Aboriginal people can have “native” title to their traditional lands. It is an excellent follow up to Kevin Cahill’s monumental book Who Owns The World
Phil is brilliant at connecting the dots, telling the story and making it real. I majored in American history, but we never saw how the “New World” was settled, especially from the point of view of the speculators in land – the enclosure of the North American commons.
Today, we’re still practicing a kind of economic self-flagellation. The mad dependence on making profits from the sale of land, our common habitat, is entrenched deep in our psyche, to our shame. And we should be ashamed because this arcane process only serves to privatize profits and socialize debt, and cause chaos in the process.
We simply have got to get over greed ‘addiction’. We can be inspired and energized by the fact that there is much more elegant way to move forward. Phil’s book provides the context for understanding how a major part of classical political economic theorem has come to be.
Review by Maireid Sullivan.