I’m a real estate valuer and research associate of the Land Values Research Group. I began working in the Australian Taxation Office in Melbourne in 1971 and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in 1989 before co-founding a private valuation practice (in 1997) from which I retired in 2013.
As far back as 1973 I noted an analytical disconnect between the economy and what occurs within the real estate market.
A large part of the Australian Taxation Office, including the valuation section in which I was employed had, in fact, moved into the WH Holmes Building, a new building at 270 King Street, Melbourne, just as the builder Mainline Corporation went broke in 1974. It became generally accepted that the collapse of Mainline Corporation and Cambridge Credit, the finance arm of the National Bank of Australia, were the harbingers of the Australian recession of 1974-75.
I wondered why federal Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Australia had done nothing to curb the real estate bubble that had spawned the bust, and concluded that while they and the Australian Bureau of Statistics obviously had figures on the level of borrowing and debt, they had little data on Australia’s aggregate real estate sales.
This was confirmed years later in 1988 when I inquired with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Reserve Bank of Australia and federal Treasury. They didn’t collect real estate sales data from the Australian States and Territories and collate them into a national total for analysis, I was informed. So, shortly afterwards I undertook the task under the aegis of the Land Values Research Group of which I became the director following the death of the late great Allan Hutchinson.
After estimating the Australian real estate market back to 1972, I noted that real estate bubbles develop when total real estate sales rise beyond a certain ratio as against national GDP. I nominated a chart of Australia’s total real estate sales divided by GDP as the ‘Barometer of the Economy’, and consider it offers a valid scientific explanation, insofar as it enables prediction of economic recession. This suggests the real estate market leads and directs the economy.
The current director of the Land Values Research Group, Dr Gavin Putland, has improved the ‘Barometer’ by adding to it the annual rate of change, thereby creating the Kavanagh-Putland Index.
“WE’LL ALL BE ROONED”, SAID HANRAHAN: A JEREMIAD?
Clearly, the study of economics is hamstrung by its failure to incorporate considerations of the national real estate markets and the full quantum of land and natural resource rents (about 25% of the economy) into its analyses. It follows, therefore, that media commentary on business and economics has remained superficial because, although some commentators have made the real estate connection they’ve been unable to develop it further, nor take it to its logical conclusion. Maybe they don’t want to sound like doomsayers?
Nor do I! But if you jump off a tall building, you’re going to go splat at the bottom. I figure that pointing to certain economic verities and proposing the only way we can eliminate these repetitive boom-crash cycles certainly aint doomsaying. Does it not offer a solution?
Defenders of the status quo are therefore not defenders of capitalism but of rentierism, which is destroying capitalism as we have known it, via the Great Recession (US) or Global Financial Crisis (Australia).
Analyses of the Great Recession/GFC are all over the ship, because people don’t see the fundamental problem: the private capture of publicly-generated land rents. Therefore, I’ve come to the conclusion that it might be cathartic to do a commentary from my point of view as this depression unfolds. (Although my blogsite was launched on 26 August 2009, you’ll see I’ve also included earlier items I’d been sending to federal parliamentarians.)
“The Depression” blog might help to fill the void about the incredible extent to which maladjusted real estate ‘markets’ control and direct economies. I hope so – because they cannot be real markets until we capture a far greater part of their economic rents.
We’re experiencing rampant rentierism, not capitalism.
A promise: you’ll find no terribly sophisticated ‘safety belt’ prose here – “On the one hand, on the other ….”.
ps. I tweet @bryankav123