George first published Progress and Poverty, subtitled "an inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase of want with increase of wealth... The Remedy," in 1879.
Wikipedia's article on George starts:
Henry George (September 2, 1839 – October 29, 1897) was an American writer, politician and political economist, who was the most influential proponent of the land value tax, also known as the "single tax" on land. He inspired the economic philosophy known as Georgism, whose main tenet is that people should own what they create, but that everything found in nature, most importantly the value of land, belongs equally to all humanity. His most famous work, Progress and Poverty (1879), is a treatise on inequality, the cyclic nature of industrialized economies, and the use of the land value tax as a remedy.Albert Einstein is quoted (on the back cover of my copy of Progress and Poverty) as saying:
Men like Henry George are rare, unfortunately. One cannot imagine a more beautiful combination of intellectual keenness, artistic form, and fervent love of justice.American philosopher and education reform advocate John Dewey is quoted (also on the back cover):
No man, no graduate of a higher educational institution, has a right to regard himself as an educated man in social thought unless he has some first-hand acquaintance with the theoretical contribution of this great American thinker.So, WHY have we never heard of Henry George until now?
Perhaps what Leo Tolstoy had to say is instructive:
People do not argue with the teaching of George, the simply do not know it. And it is impossible to do otherwise with his teaching, for he who becomes acquainted with it cannot but agree.People will freak out in fear of Marxism and many WILL argue against it. We know the pitfalls of communism and that as a system of government and economics, it is not sustainable. But the best they can do with Georgism is to ignore it and hope it will go away.
Georgism does NOT advocate government ownership of the means of production. It does not disavow capitalism. But it DOES revolve around concepts that, when enacted in a community, an economy, a government, naturally remedies the now grossly widening gap between the .001 percent and the rest of us.
George's granddaughter, Agnes George de Mille wrote in a preface to the Centennial edition of Progress and Poverty (1979):
Inevitably he was reviled as well as idolized. The men who believed in what he advocated called themselves disciples, and they were in fact nothing less: working to the death, proclaiming, advocating, haranguing, and proselytizing the idea, and even, when lacking inspired leadership, becoming fanatically foolish so that the movement which touched greatness began to founder. It was not implemented by blood, as was communism, and so was not forced on people's attention. Shortly after George's death, it dropped out of the political field. Once a badge of honor, the title, "Single Taxer," came into general disuse. Except in Alberta (the richest and most prosperous province of Canada) and in Australia and New Zealand, his plan of social action has been neglected while those of Marx, Keynes, Galbraith and Friedman have won great attention, and Marx's has been given partial implementation, for a time, at least, in large areas of the globe.
But nothing that has been tried satisfies. We, the people, the whole people, are locked in a death grapple and nothing our leaders offer, or are willing to offer, mitigates our troubles. George said, "The people must think because the people alone can act."We should note that Milton Friedman was the architect of the structural economic changes ushered in at the beginning of Ronald Reagan's first administration, notably deregulation and the doctrine that all government services should be privatized. We know with tremendous certainty that it was Friedman's ideas that widened the gulf between the haves and the have-nots to the obscene proportions we have now.
In Arizona, going back almost 25 years now, state government has decreased its reliance on a state property tax. Without knowing anything about Georgist economic theory, even I could see that what replaced it -- reliance on sales taxes -- put undue burden on lower income families. It was and is incredibly regressive.
So, really, what needs to happen now? Well, Progress and Poverty is 565 pages long, so there's obviously quite a bit of insight to be gleaned and it will take more than a couple of hours reading to get there. It seems reasonable, at this stage of the game, that reinstituting a statewide property tax is probably something that should be put on the drawing board. But to develop a platform that can sway the electorate to put lawmakers in office who will be willing to move in that direction will take some time and a good bit of effort. It can be done in time to begin defining the issue for the 2014 election season.
American journalist and author John Kieran said,
No one should be allowed to speak above a whisper or write more than ten words on the general subject (economics) unless he has read and digested Progress and Poverty.As difficult as this last week was for America and Americans, the power of social media was on display in a big way, in identifying and ultimately locating the Boston Marathon bombers. But more than that, activism via social media has pretty much become a force of nature, as demonstrated by outrage regarding the US Senate vote on closing the gun show loophole for background checks, and about the President Obama's budget proposal including Social Security cuts in the name of Chained-CPI.
The fact of the matter is that Georgist economic theory has not really gone away. There are Henry George Schools of Social Sciences in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago and maybe elsewhere.
At the Henry George School you will discover the true cause of problems such as low incomes, poverty and unemployment. You will understand why so few are so wealthy, while others go without basic necessities.
Discover How the Economy Really works by participating in our tuition-free courses and seminars.But it is unclear whether or to what extent, Henry George Schools of Social Sciences have grasped or are planning to implement online courses and seminars (webinars).
And as bloggers and Occupy activists learn about George's remedies, those bloggers and activists will obviously be able to help spread the vision of what CAN be done to level the playing field so that the promise of a job providing a living wage can reach every American family.
Let's make it so.
WE are the leaders we've been waiting for!