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The Housing Boom and Bust Hardcover – April 24, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 181 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


American Spectator
“An economic primer on the housing bubble, but more importantly, it is an examination of the ruling class's inability to leave well enough alone.”

“Sowell's account qualifies the standard story that greedy investment bankers and mortgage brokers caused the whole crisis.”

The Washington Times
“For anyone looking for a straightforward and honest discussion of the origins of our current crisis, informed by a deep understanding of both economics and politics, The Housing Boom and Bust is required reading.”

About the Author

Thomas Sowell has taught economics at Cornell, UCLA, Amherst and other academic institutions, and his Basic Economics has been translated into six languages. He is currently a scholar in residence at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has published in both academic journals in such popular media as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes magazine and Fortune, and writes a syndicated column that appears in newspapers across the country.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (April 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465018807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465018802
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #341,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Loyd Eskildson HALL OF FAME on May 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The current housing and economic crises are fertile grounds for slanted and one-sided accounts. Sowell's "The Housing Boom and Bust" has none of that - it's an honest accounting of how we all participated. Lenders, government entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, builders, local government regulations, local homeowners, government regulators (HUD and bank authorities), the Congress, and presidents each played a part. Both parties were involved, though the Democrats involved outnumber the Republicans.

Sowell begins with an accounting of how housing prices across the U.S. diverged from their relatively low prices of the early 1970s, especially along the California coast. The "standard" for housing expenditures used to be about 25% of gross income - this recently grew to as high as 60% in some areas (eg. Salinas, California).

Sowell contends that a major cause for California's rapid rise, beginning in the 1970s, was land restrictions that set aside areas for "open space," "protecting the environment," "historical preservation," etc. (The population increase during that period was almost equal to the national increase rate.) He cites an international study of urban areas around the world that found 23 of 26 areas with the highest land-price increases had strong "smart-growth" policies. Minimum lot-size laws also raise land costs of building a house - here, he points to Houston (incomes rose faster there than in the nation overall, but also lacks zoning laws) and a Coldwell Banker estimate that homes there costing $155,000 would cost over $1 million in San Jose.

Sowell goes on to point out that first-time buyers are limited in their ability to provide a large down-payment - averaging less than $30,000, vs. over $100,000 for repeat buyers.
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Format: Hardcover
A must read to all of us who are interested in the housing boom and bust, which led to the current financial crisis. Thomas Sowell is not taking side in this book, but rather presenting the facts, the cast of characters, and the policies made that had contributed to the collapse of the housing prices and financial institutions. This book contains large quantity of data, which Dr. Sowell had eloquently presented to a lay-person like me. After reading this book, I cannot help but imagine the consequences that would entail if similar cast of characters and policies were to be made on the nation's health care. This book should go hand in hand with Dr. Sowell's "thinking beyond stage one" message presented in his "Applied Economics" book. It is time to get ourselves educated and refute the rhetoric from the media and politicians who are only interested in getting elected into office.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This superb analysis of the causes of the current financial crisis should be required reading for every American who considers himself well informed. In a straightforward style, economist Sowell lays out step by step how we find ourselves in today's economic collapse including, governmental restrictive land use policies which led to skyrocketing prices for houses in certain select areas of the country, political pressure on banks to lend to those who could not normally qualify for mortgages, the press for 'creative' financing in order to ensure a policy of affordable housing for all, real estate speculation, 'creative' accounting practices and the failure of credit rating agencies to assess the risk of subprime backed securities.

The frightening part is that those in government who put the practices into place that led to the economy collapsing like a house of cards are still in power and running things in Congress, and the new administration sees the crisis as an excuse to implement policies that will have far reaching effects on the future of this country.

If there is one flaw in the book I would have liked Sowell to go into detail about the use of subprime backed securities that caused toxic assests to infiltrate every aspect of our economy and the economy of the world.
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Format: Hardcover
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem

Thomas Sowell has done it again. Using his inimitable clarity, he analyzes just went wrong with the housing market, and how it contributed to a cascading, international financial crisis. The short answer? Government attempts to "create affordable housing" for lower income Americans. Who could oppose that goal? Unfortunately, the goal bore no relation to the actual consequences of the policies. A series of decisions over a number of years led to a degrading of eligibility standards on mortgages. This not only created a housing bubble. It filled the financial system with extremely risky, and unsustainable, financing schemes that would never have existed if the federal government had not attempted to manipulate the market in the first place.

The book is remarkably timely. Sowell applies his analysis to the current "stimulus" plan, and suggests that the Obama administration is using the crisis "to fundamentally and enduringly change the institutions of American society." Sound harsh? Here's what President Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said just before the President took office: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.... What I mean by that is that it's an opportunity to do things you could not do before." Indeed.

Jay W. Richards, author of Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and not the Problem
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