The Great American Land Bubble

The Great American Land Bubble
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Those who lived through the huge speculative real estate bubble of the 1990s through 2008 might have imagined that it was unprecedented. Not so. Far from it!

This definitive history of land speculation provides a well-documented but hugely entertaining look at bubbles, bailouts, and land rackets from the Colonial Age through 1932, which is the date when this wonderful book by A.M. Sakolski (Professor of Finance, City College of New York) was first published. It is republished here because it presents a history that hardly anyone would otherwise know, and Sakolski’s treatment has never been surpassed.

The pattern has always been the same. The legislature assumes control over a parcel of land. They work with the executive to auction it off to political favorites. Banking interests get involved to float the loans. Expectations spin out of control, and the boom turns to bust. The banks get in trouble and they turn to the legislature and the executive, which then try to finagle some bailout deal that requires debt and floating more bonds that then have to find a market.