Fred Harrison (author)
|Born||1944 (age 74–75)|
Fred Harrison (born 1944) is a British author, economic commentator and corporate policy advisor, notable for his stances on land reform and belief that an over reliance on land, property and mortgage weakens economic structures and makes companies vulnerable to economic collapse. He is acknowledged as having predicted the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, laying it out in his books as early as 1997.
He was born in British Cyprus and educated in England, Germany and Singapore. After studying at Ruskin College, Oxford he graduated from University College Oxford with a BA (Hons) and read for his MSc at University of London. Harrison lives in London with his wife, Rita. They have one daughter, Nina Harrison.
Career in journalism
Fred Harrison's first career was in newspaper journalism, working at papers such as the Wellington Journal and Shrewsbury News, in Shropshire. After a stint in news agencies, he moved to The Camberley News as sub-editor, working there for a year before moving to The People newspaper, where he became chief reporter.
Most of his stories involved investigating criminal and anti-social behaviour, such as stories about speedway riders buying championship titles, but his most famous and intricate assignment was a long campaign of reports, interviews and interaction with police to convince them to reopen the case on the serial child killings that were called the Moors murders. Due to his efforts, and the cooperation of one of the perpetrators, he was successful in having other disappearances checked which led to the recovery of an additional body.
Beginnings in economics
Harrison was appointed Director of a London think-tank, the Centre for Incentive Taxation, in 1987, as his theories on economic incentives and their relationship to the economy as a whole developed. He also wrote a series of books at this time covering economic theory.
Economic advisor to Russia
With the fall of the USSR, Fred Harrison took an opportunity to work with the Russian government in developing economic policy. He spent 10 years in Russia advising their Federal Parliament (Duma) and local authorities on property tax reform and establishment of land markets. He conducted long-range economic studies, attempting to steer economic policy towards investment in schools, science and healthcare. He was the organizer of the Duma's Land Policy Congress and conducted several hearings and studies commissioned by a wide range of Russian authorities. In 2002 he ended his work in Russia when it became apparent that the trend of investment from resource rents was not into the ventures he had recommended but instead into what he termed conspicuous consumption, such as buying western real estate and football clubs. He wrote "The Silver Bullet" as a response to his disaffection for the choices of the Russian Duma on these and other issues.
After his sojourn in Russia, he returned to his work in England. He had already become the Research Director of the Land Research Trust, London, in 1998 and worked as a corporate business advisor, as well as giving lectures on property and tax policy. He has been widely acclaimed as the only commentator to get the timing of the 2007 recession correct. Notably, he warned Gordon Brown as far back as 1997 that the UK economy would hit the peak of the cycle in 2007 – and turn down into a depression in 2010. Since then, his main focus in both writing and lecturing has been to warn of what he considers to be the dangers of using land and real estate as the primary drivers of economic growth. His work links economic policy to social reform. Harrison's macro-economic analysis is based on the theory that business conforms to a pattern of 18-year cycles, determined by the unique characteristics of the land market. According to Harrison, economists erroneously "assume that the health of the property market depends upon the condition of the rest of the economy. In fact ... property is the key factor that shapes the business cycle, not the other way around."
In 2009, Dirk Bezemer, a Professor of Economics at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, pointed out that Fred Harrison was the first and earliest economist to have predicted the global financial crisis, as far back as 1997, well before other economists such as Steve Keen, Robert Shiller, Peter Schiff, or Nouriel Roubini.
In the media
Harrison has been very active in the UK media, with dozens of newspaper and magazine articles, and many TV and radio interviews. Since 2005, several commentators have agreed that his predictions have consistently proved correct. As an example, in 2005 there was an almost unanimous view that the rise in house prices would moderate and that any talk of a "housing bubble" was both premature and indicated a false understanding of debt economics. Harrison warned that there would be a two-year explosive growth in prices and property speculation before the market imploded in the winter of 2007/08 with heavy damage to the financial markets. As shown by the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, he was essentially correct on all points. His prediction that the problems with debt economics and scaling would contribute to a worldwide economic depression has been borne out. There has been a major recession as a result of the mortgage crisis. The UK took 7 years for the growth rate in gross domestic product per head to recover to the pre-2008 peak. However, GDP remained nearly a fifth smaller than if long-term pre-crisis growth trends had continued. The costs of the depression included the rise in public debt across the western world which, in the UK case, was close to 50 per cent of GDP. Other economies recovered earlier than the UK, but they remained dependent on the drip feed of QE (quantitative easing) and near-zero interest rates; implying that self-sustaining growth had not yet returned to the advanced market economies (as at July 2015).
Most mainstream commentators are convinced that the solution to the "housing crisis" is to build more properties. Harrison has shown in his various publications that this is not the solution because speculative demand will always outstrip supply in the winner's curse stage of the cycle: "In the land market, a rise in demand cannot result in an offsetting increase in supply in places where people want to live and work. So prices are driven to dizzying heights by speculators, who outbid each other with offers for tracts that cannot yield an economic return. The market stalls and the house of cards comes crashing down." Source - https://www.theguardian.com/business/2005/mar/27/theobserver.observerbusiness5
Both in the UK and worldwide, until 2008 most media commentators and economic theorists dubbed him the 'Prophet of Doom' and his pragmatic approach was rebuffed in favour of mainstream assertions that the "new economy" was destined to sustain growth. Some niche media outlets agreed with his thesis and continued to publish his work. His books are widely distributed. With the collapse of the US and UK banks in 2008, some elements of the media began to reconsider his ideas, and he is now engaged primarily in making documentaries to explain and quantify his theories. Harrison founded and runs the YouTube Channel 'Geophilos' to host many of his documentaries.
In 2015, Harrison published the first of a trilogy of Handbooks on Humanity. He integrated cultural studies with economic theory to test hypotheses that seek to explain why governments persist with sub-optimal fiscal policies. Harrison concludes that western ("neo-liberal") culture has been shaped by rent-seeking to deliver sub-optimum outcomes through tax policies that have the permanent effect of mal-distributing income and retarding economic growth.
- Rent Unmasked, published by Shepheard-Walwyn, ISBN 9780856835117, July 2016.
- As Evil Does: Anatomy of a Killing Cult, London: Geophilos, 2015. ISBN 978-0993339806
- The Traumatised Society: How to Outlaw Cheating and Save our Civilisation, London: Shepheard-Walwyn. ISBN 978-0-85683-287-1
- The Inquest (2010)
- The Silver Bullet
- Ricardo’s Law: House Prices & the Great Tax Clawback Scam, London: Shepheard-Walwyn. ISBN 978-0-85683-241-3
- Wheels of Fortune: Self-funding Infrastructure and the Free Market Case for a Land Tax
- Boom Bust: House Prices, Banking and the Depression of 2010, London: Shepheard-Walwyn. ISBN 978-0-85683-254-3
- The Losses of Nations
- Metaman & the Sacred Money Scam
- The Chaos Makers (with Prof. F.J. Jones)
- Land-rent Dynamics and the Sustainable Society (with Galina Titova), Cambridge, MA: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy Working Paper
- Land & Taxation (with Dr. N. Tideman et al.) London: Shepheard-Walwyn. ISBN 978-0-85683-153-9
- The Corruption of Economics (with Dr. M. Gaffney and Dr. K. Feder) London: Shepheard-Walwyn. ISBN 978-0-85683-244-4
- A Philosophy for a Fair Society (with Dr. M. Hudson et al.) London: Shepheard-Walwyn. ISBN 978-0-85683-159-1
- The Power in the Land, New York: Universe Books/Canada: Prentice Hall, London: Shepheard-Walwyn. ISBN 978-0-85683-109-6
- The Predator Culture, London: Shepheard-Walwyn. ISBN 978-0-85683-273-4
- Brady & Hindley: Genesis of the Moors Murders, Bath: Ashgrove Press
- Critics of Henry George, Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson UP
- Howell, Jeff (14 October 2008), "On the level : a few home truths", Telegraph
- Clark, Ross (20 January 2008), "The man who predicted today's housing woes – ten years ago", The Mail on Sunday
- O'hara, Phillip (2006), Encyclopedia of Political Economy, England: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-18717-6
- Harrison, Fred (1986), Brady and Hindley: Genesis of the Moors Murders, Ashgrove Press, ISBN 0-906798-70-1
- Heath, Allister (12 February 2006), "Real cost of taxes now more than half UK GDP", Sunday Business
- Harrison, Fred (24 October 2007), "Bust will follow boom - but when?", MoneyWeek
- "6. (2013 October) Announcements: Fred Harrison's New Website and Homage to Henry George". Georgist News.
- Quoted in Bezemer, Dirk (16 June 2009). ""No One Saw This Coming": Understanding Financial Crisis Through Accounting Models" (PDF). uni-muenchen.de. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 September 2015. Abstracted at https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/15892/.
- Seager, Ashley (8 January 2007), "A land tax is 200 years overdue", Guardian
- Wolf, Martin (26 June 2015), "Indispensable banks need a sturdy ringfence", Financial Times
- Bexel, Thomas (14 October 2008), "Acceptance of the Prophet of Doom?", Yorkshire Post
- Harrison, Fred (2015), As Evil Does, Geophilos, ISBN 978-0-993339-80-6