By Randall Holcombe • Monday September 7, 2009 11:50 AM PST •
If you got to the Blog page by passing through the Independent Institute’s home page, I hope you noticed the announcement of the publication of Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis, which I co-edited with Benjamin Powell. Ben and I have been working on this project for years, so it is nice to see the final product.
I joke with people that the reason we put together an edited volume rather than just writing the book ourselves is that we wanted to do a book on housing, but we don’t know very much about it so we got some real experts to write the book for us. Despite the fact that we did author a few chapters, there is some truth to this, and we were fortunate to get some really good authors on board for the project. I will speak for myself and say the chapters we got are much better than what I could have written.
While I would like to go through and tell you what makes each of the book’s 15 chapters special, I will limit my comments here to three chapters that are noteworthy because of the timing. We started working on this book in 2005, and most of the chapters were complete in 2006, when the housing bubble was hitting its peak.
Mark Thornton’s chapter on the housing bubble is noteworthy because when he completed it, the conventional wisdom was that housing prices would keep rising for the foreseeable future. Now, Mark’s chapter might read like a good case of Monday morning quarterbacking, but when he wrote it most analysts didn’t see the collapse coming, even though it was right around the corner. Similarly, Lawrence White’s chapter on Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac was written when their promoters in Congress were touting them as a government success story.
Finally, on a sad note, Bernard Siegan’s chapter on the benefits of nonzoning is the last of a long series of works he did on the subject. Professor Siegan passed away in March 2006, after delivering the draft of his chapter to us. Professor Siegan had written extensively on the way that market forces efficiently allocate land uses, and more broadly, was a consistent champion of liberty. I am honored that we were able to include his chapter in our book.