11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2007
If you have a disquieting feeling that something has gone radically awry with the governance of modern western society but can't quite put your finger on it, let me recommend this new book by Fred Harrison who emerges from its pages as a 21st century seer to fill a vast void in economic analysis.
Harrison's magnificent "Ricardo's Law, House Prices and the Great Tax Clawback Scam" pieces the evidence together to show how Tony Blair's Prime Ministership of the UK has failed the spatial dimension of good government. He takes us on an extraordinary journey from the centre of London northwards up the ancient Roman road through Lincoln and onwards to Hadrian's Wall. Amongst other compelling analyses along the route, he demonstrates how, in keeping with Ricardo's Law, wealth, house prices and the very length of life itself all decline through England's nine statistical divisions as we proceed northwards towards Hadrian's Wall and beyond, into Scotland.
Harrison demonstrates that although the real estate industry acknowledges "location, location, location", the failure of the Blair and other western governments to do so acts to handicap wealth creation and to marginalise those outside our major cities, and indeed, many people within them.
Harrison's case is incontrovertible. The book is a political breakthrough insofar as it shows that any politician claiming to represent the people simply cannot do so without an understanding of Ricardo's Law.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2010
Excellent. A must read for all intelligent people.
The words "Why Tony Blair's Projects Failed" and "SCAM" are tabloid to get you to take notice of a book written during an economic boom. Forget Blair, as Harrison highlights the "system" all governments work under criticising past regimes. Harrison proves there is a "systemic crisis", as whatever governments have done, economic injustice is still as rife as ever. He calls it "the hidden flaw of the market economy" - he believes all governments will keep making the same mistakes until rectified and history proves him right. Ricardo's Law tells us all, and it has been proven over a few centuries to be correct. Harrison stresses that the free market is not primarily to blame for boom and bust and the uneven distribution of wealth. The real problem is appropriation of commonly created wealth by private individuals and organisations.
Fred explains how the economic growth of a community soaks into the ground and crystallizes as "land values". This is community created wealth and belongs to the community - socialized wealth. This wealth is pocketed by private individuals - tax free. Private wealth is socialized by taxation - income tax. Fred say it should be the other way around. Socialized wealth socialized and private wealth says private.
Fred simply proves that unless there is a taxation on the values of land to reclaim publicly created wealth, and eliminate income tax, we are destined to keep on the same treadmill making the same mistakes - governments continually firefight and do not tackle the root cause with many unable to identify. If the root cause is rectified, which is speculation in land that created two world-wide crashes in 1929 and 2008, then the system runs itself to a large degree.
I like the section on rich and poor taxation. On the surface it appears the rich are subsiding the poor, when realistically he proves it is the reverse. The tax relief on mortgages and the increased untaxed home values, means the state is funding them. Harrison identifies this as a scam, which few realise is.
Taxpayers money, extracted from private wealth, has paid for infrastructure (a lot is transport like rail networks, metro, etc) that has put billions onto values of the surrounding land. He points out, none of the beneficiaries of these windfalls and permanent increased values, did nothing to create this wealth, or were made to contribute to the cost of the infrastructure. The book has startling examples of landowners walking off with millions because of investment by taxpayers money. Harrison gives the example of Sydney using land value taxation to fund the 2000 Olympics, reducing the taxpayers contribution significantly. London ignored it for 2012 Olympics.
This book simply and nicely explains the need for Geonomics, reclaiming commonly created wealth to pay for common services, giving examples that we are familiar with. Great read.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 June 2010
If you'd told me before I'd read this that it would have me, as a lefty, convinced that the best thing we could do for the poor would be to abolish income tax and start to dismantle the welfare state I would have said it'd have to be a bloody good book. It is.
If you're a lefty who has ever quietly thought "you've got a point" when the Right claims that high taxes act as a disincentive to entrepreneurship, or a rightist who has ever quietly thought "you've got a point" when the left moans that the poor seem to be permanently shafted by the housing market, this book should give you some common ground to gang up on the rentier classes, who are the true parasites.
It offers some fascinating insights that explain many facets of modern society that seemed wrong (and unnecessarily wrong) to me but where I could never put my finger on exactly what was wrong. Why can't the poor help themselves more (answer: they are locked out of the nation's natural assets - it's land - and have to hand over a disproportionate amount of their wealth as rent to the asset-rich)? Do poor areas receive more government money than rich ones? (Yes, but the rich ones primarily receive money as investment in infrastructure which helps create wealth. The poor ones just get subsistence money as a poor compensation for not getting any growth-enabling infrastructure investment) Do the middle classes pay more in tax than the poor? (Yes, but they have earned more in capital gains from their houses than they have paid in tax)
The book's central thesis is that government investment is reflected in increased land value. However, the landowners (and speculators) do not pay taxes proportionate to the benefits they receive, which are paid for by everyone's income tax. The poor thus are doubly hit - they have to pay alongisde everyone else by their income tax and VAT, but having no land assets do not get the benefits the rentiers do.
If I have a criticism, it is that the book gets a bit repetitive pointing out how others have missed this crucial argument; I would like it to have produced more in the way of figures showing how wealth would shift if its recommendations were adopted.
Nonetheless, briliant. And devastating.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 14 February 2007
Occasionally you come across a book that shows you how to look at familiar things in a new way. The blurry confusion of some aspects of modern life suddenly come into a clear focus. Ricardo's Law is such a book. It explains why the gap between rich and poor does not seem to shrink despite a booming economy and high tax bills to pay for welfare. It shows why certain parts of the UK have always been poorer and gives an historical understanding of why this has happened and what needs to be done to change it. It uses international research, it is right up to date in terms of government policy and it uses established economic ideas. It is easily understandable and very readable, but having said that your presuppositions will probably be challenged throughout. If you understand what it is saying, you will read the news and current affairs in a quite different way from then on.
Will we leave a much fairer society to our children and grandchildren? Having read this book you will see how it might be done.
Reviewed by Charles Bazlinton author: The Free Lunch - Fairness with Freedom
5 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 1 September 2009
I have awarded three stars for both the effort and the interesting historical economic research. If I were to award stars for the author's conclusions and recommendation for a new tax regime then the award of one star would be generous. Mr Harrison's analysis is that the poor are losers twice over under the current tax system. Not only is the progressive tax system now utilized unfair to them he says but that the rich are able to enjoy the unearned benefits of the inflation in land values.
These benefits belong to the community says Mr Harrison. He argues that if the land value was taxed it would bring billions of pounds into the exchequer annually and relieve everyone of a sizeable liability to the progressive income tax.
The faults with this reasoning are manifold. Firstly a purchaser of a desirable house will already pay heavy stamp duty and council tax so the community will have the benefit of this windfall. Death duties will also account for another slice of the house value for the benefit of the Government. The benefits of inflationary land values are somewhat illusory anyway as the cost of buying another house at inflationary prices will be equally high. House purchase is not always a one way street to amassing a fortune as those in negative equity will attest.
The final irony is that the scarcity of the desirable properties will ensure that it will still only be the rich who will be able to afford the plum Chelsea houses not the poor even if the latter are relieved from paying income tax.
In any event given any government's preponderance to waste money, I for one am not inclined to put more money their way. Bernard Shaw once said that if all the money in the world was shared out tomorrow it would be back in the same pockets in five years time that it was before the share out. Yes there are injustices under capitalism but the alternatives are almost always disastrous for everyone. This is just another false dawn.