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Henry George

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Henry George

Henry George
Henry George
Born (1839-09-02)September 2, 1839
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Died October 29, 1897(1897-10-29) (aged 58)
New York City
Resting place
Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Nationality American
School or tradition
Classical economics
Contributions land as a factor in economic inequality and business cycles; proposed land value tax

Henry George (September 2, 1839 – October 29, 1897) was an American journalist, philosopher and natural resources and common opportunities, most importantly the value of land, belongs equally to each person in a community. His most famous work, Progress and Poverty (1879), sold millions of copies worldwide, probably more than any other American book before that time. It is a treatise on inequality, the cyclic nature of industrialized economies, and the use of the land value tax as a remedy.


  • Biography 1
    • Life and career 1.1
    • Economic and political philosophy 1.2
    • Death and funeral 1.3
  • Policy proposals 2
    • Tax on land and natural resource monopoly 2.1
    • Free trade 2.2
    • Secret ballot 2.3
    • Currency and national debt 2.4
    • Citizen's dividend 2.5
    • Other proposals 2.6
  • Legacy 3
    • Henry George theorem 3.1
  • Economic contributions 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Life and career

Daguerreotype of Henry George aged 26
George was born in
  • The Henry George Foundation (United Kingdom)
  • Robert Schalkenbach Foundation
  • Land Value Taxation Campaign UK
  • The Henry George Foundation of Australia
  • The Life of Henry George, by Henry George Jr, 1904
  • The Center for the Study of Economics
  • The Henry George Institute – Understanding Economics
  • The Henry George School, founded 1932.
  • %48%65%6E%72%79+%47%65%6F%72%67%65"+%4F%52+"%47%65%6F%72%67%65,+%48%65%6E%72%79")+%41%4E%44+%31%38%33%39+) Works by or about Henry George at Internet Archive
  • Works by Henry George at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • Online Works of Henry George
  • Wealth and Want
  • Prosper Australia
  • Henry George at Find a Grave
  • Henry George Foundation OnlyMelbourne
  • The Complete Works of Henry George. Publisher: New York, Doubleday, Page & company, 1904. Description: 10 v. fronts (v. 1–9) ports. 21 cm.. (searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries; DjVu & layered PDF format)
  • by Henry GeorgeThe Crime of Poverty
  • Centro Educativo Internacional Henry George (Managua, Nicaragua), in Spanish
  • The Economics of Henry George's "Progress and Poverty", by Edgar H. Johnson, 1910.

External links

  • Barker, Charles Albro Henry George. Oxford University Press 1955 and Greenwood Press 1974. ISBN 0-8371-7775-8
  • George, Henry. (1881). Progress and Poverty: An Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth; The Remedy. Kegan Paul (reissued by Cambridge University Press, 2009; ISBN 978-1-108-00361-2)
Further reading
  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Nearing, The Making of a Radical, pg. 29.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Dictionary of American Biography, 1st. ed., s.v. "George, Henry," edited by Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, Vol. VII (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1931), pp. 211–212.
  8. ^ David Montgomery, American National Biography Online, s.v. "George, Henry," Feb. 2000, Accessed September 3, 2011
  9. ^ a b "American National Biography Online."
  10. ^ Obituary, New York Times
  11. ^ Richard F. George The Artist at Work
  12. ^ "SINGLE TAXERS DINE JOHNSON; Medallion Made by Son of Henry George Presented to Cleveland's Former Mayor", The New York Times – May 31, 1910
  13. ^
  14. ^ Henry, George, JR. "The Life of Henry George," chap. 11.
  15. ^
  16. ^ Charles A. Barker, "Henry George and the California Background of Progress and Poverty," California Historical Society Quartery 24, no. 2 (Jun. 1945), 103–104.
  17. ^ Dictionary of American Biography, s.v. "George, Henry," pp. 211–212.
  18. ^ a b c Montgomery, American National Biography Online, s.v. "George, Henry," Accessed September 3, 2011.
  19. ^ , May 4, 1897The New York TimesObituary –
  20. ^ Agnes de Mille – Biography
  21. ^ Peggy George (I) – Biography
  22. ^ Agnes de Mille Papers, 1980–1993 : Biographical and Historical Note
  23. ^ a b Henry George, "What the Railroad Will Bring Us," Overland Monthly 1, no. 4 (Oct. 1868), Accessed September 3, 2011.
  24. ^ Dictionary of American Biography, s.v. "George, Henry," 213.
  25. ^ Nock, Albert Jay. Henry George: Unorthodox American, Part IV.
  26. ^ Jurgen G. Backhaus, "Henry George's Ingenious Tax: A Contemporary Restatement," American Journal of Economics and Sociology 56, no. 4 (Oct. 1997), 453–458
  27. ^ Henry George, Progress and Poverty, (1879; reprinted, London: Kegan Paul, Tench & Co., 1886), 283–284.
  28. ^ Charles A. Barker, "Henry George and the California Background of Progress and Poverty," California Historical Society Quartery 24, no. 2 (Jun. 1945), 97–115.
  29. ^ According to his granddaughter Mark Twain and Thomas Edison. [1]
  30. ^ Dictionary of American Biography, s.v. "George, Henry," 214–215.
  31. ^ Robert E. Weir, "A Fragile Alliance: Henry George and the Knights of Labor," American Journal of Economics and Sociology 56, no. 4 (Oct. 1997), 423–426.
  32. ^ Dictionary of American Biography, s. V. "George, Henry," 215.
  33. ^ Montgomery, American National Biography, s.v. "George, Henry,"
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ University of Chicago. Office of the President. Harper, Judson and Burton Administrations. Records, [Box 37, Folder 3], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library
  37. ^
  38. ^ a b
  39. ^
  40. ^ Backhaus, "Henry George's Ingenious Tax," 453–458.
  41. ^ The Green Party 2010 Platform : Economic Justice & Sustainability
  42. ^ Weir, "A Fragile Alliance," 425–425
  43. ^ Henry George, Protection or Free Trade: An Examination of the Tariff Question, with Especial Regard to the Interests of Labor(New York: 1887).
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^ "To illustrate: It is not the business of government to interfere with the views which any one may hold of the Creator or with the worship he may choose to pay him, so long as the exercise of these individual rights does not conflict with the equal liberty of others; and the result of governmental interference in this domain has been hypocrisy, corruption, persecution and religious war. It is not the business of government to direct the employment of labor and capital, and to foster certain industries at the expense of other industries; and the attempt to do so leads to all the waste, loss and corruption due to protective tariffs." "On the other hand it is the business of government to issue money. This is perceived as soon as the great labor saving invention of money supplants barter. To leave it to every one who chose to do so to issue money would be to entail general inconvenience and loss, to offer many temptations to roguery, and to put the poorer classes of society at a great disadvantage. These obvious considerations have everywhere, as society became well organized, led to the recognition of the coinage of money as an exclusive function of government. When in the progress of society, a further labor-saving improvement becomes possible by the substitution of paper for the precious metals as the material for money, the reasons why the issuance of this money should be made a government function become still stronger. The evils entailed by wildcat banking in the United States are too well remembered to need reference. The loss and inconvenience, the swindling and corruption that flowed from the assumption by each State of the Union of the power to license banks of issue ended with the war, and no -one would now go back to them. Yet instead of doing what every public consideration impels us to, and assuming wholly and fully as the exclusive function of the General Government the power to issue money, the private interests of bankers have, up to this, compelled us to the use of a hybrid currency, of which a large part, though guaranteed by the General Government, is issued and made profitable to corporations. The legitimate business of banking – the safekeeping and loaning of money, and the making and exchange of credits, is properly left to individuals and associations; but by leaving to them, even in part and under restrictions and guarantees, the issuance of money, the people of the United States suffer an annual loss of millions of dollars, and sensibly increase the influences which exert a corrupting effect upon their government." The Complete Works of Henry George. "Social Problems", p. 178, Doubleday Page & Co, New York, 1904
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^ The Single Tax Review Volume 15. New York: Publ. Off., 1915
  51. ^
  52. ^
  53. ^ Fox, Stephen R. "The Amateur Tradition: People and Politics." The American Conservation Movement: John Muir and His Legacy. Madison, WI: U of Wisconsin, 1985. 353.
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^ Buder, Stanley. Visionaries and Planners: The Garden City Movement and the Modern Community. New York: Oxford UP, 1990.
  57. ^
  58. ^ A sermon that first appeared as No. VIII, Series 1944-45 of the Community Pulpit, published by The Community Church, New York, New York. Reprinted as a pamphlet by the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation
  59. ^
  60. ^
  61. ^ Henderson, Archibald. George Bernard Shaw, His Life and Works. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1911.
  62. ^
  63. ^ "Progress & Poverty". Robert Schalkenbach Fdn..
  64. ^
  65. ^
  66. ^ Karl Marx – Letter to Friedrich Adolph Sorge in Hoboken
  67. ^ Henry George's Thought
  68. ^ L. Tolstoï. Où est l'issu? (1899) In Les Rayons de l’aube (Dernières études philosophiques). (Tr. J-W Bienstock) Paris; P.-V. Stock Éditeur, 1901, chap. xxiii, pp. 393-411.
  69. ^ Wikisource:Letter on Henry George (I)
  70. ^ Wikisource:Letter on Henry George (II)
  71. ^ Wikisource:The Slavery of Our Times
  72. ^
  73. ^
  74. ^ Gaffney, Mason and Harrison, Fred. The Corruption of Economics. (London: Shepheard-Walwyn (Publishers) Ltd., 1994) ISBN 978-0-85683-244-4 (paperback).
  75. ^
  76. ^
  77. ^
  78. ^ Frédéric Bastiat, That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen," 1850.
  79. ^ Henry George, Progress and Poverty,, 161.
  80. ^ Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Capital and Interest: A Critical History of Economic Theory transl. William Smart (London: Macmillan and Co., 1890), 417.
  81. ^ Henry George, The Science of Political Economy (New York: Doubleday & McClure Co., 1898), 369–370.
  82. ^ Johannsen, Oscar B. Henry George and the Austrian economists. The American Journal of Economics and Sociology (Am. j. econ. sociol.) ISSN 0002-9246. Abstract.
  83. ^ T.H. Huxley, "Capital – the Mother of Labour: An Economical Problem Discussed from a Physiological Point of View," The Nineteenth Century (Mar. 1890).


See also

  • Our Land and Land Policy" 1871
  • s:Progress and Poverty 1879
  • Progress and Poverty (1912, first published 1879. Definitive, free, searchable on Econlib.)
  • The Land Question 1881 (The Irish Land Question)
  • Social Problems 1883
  • Protection or Free Trade 1886
  • Protection or Free Trade (1905, first published 1886. Definitive, free, searchable on Econlib.)
  • The Condition of Labor" 1891
  • A Perplexed Philosopher 1892
  • The Science of Political Economy 1898


[83] Another spirited response came from British biologist

According to Oscar B. Johannsen, "Since the very basis of the Austrian concept of value is subjective, it is apparent that George's understanding of value paralleled theirs. However, he either did not understand or did not appreciate the importance of marginal utility."[82]

[I]f I go to a builder and say to him, "In what time and at what price will you build me such and such a house?" he would, after thinking, name a time, and a price based on it. This specification of time would be essential.... This I would soon find if, not quarreling with the price, I ask him largely to lessen the time.... I might get the builder somewhat to lessen the time... ; but only by greatly increasing the price, until finally a point would be reached where he would not consent to build the house in less time no matter at what price. He would say [that the house just could not be built any faster].... The importance ... of this principle – that all production of wealth requires time as well as labor – we shall see later on; but the principle that time is a necessary element in all production we must take into account from the very first.[81]

Later, George argued that the role of time in production is pervasive. In The Science of Political Economy, he writes:

[80] (T)he separation of production into two groups, in one of which the vital forces of nature form a distinct element in addition to labour, while in the other they do not, is entirely untenable[...] The natural sciences have long ago told us that the cooperation of nature is universal. [...] The muscular movement of the man who planes would be of very little use, if the natural powers and properties of the steel edge of the plane did not come to his assistance. George's theory had its share of critiques.

George did not accept this explanation. He wrote, "I am inclined to think that if all wealth consisted of such things as planes, and all production was such as that of carpenters – that is to say, if wealth consisted but of the inert matter of the universe, and production of working up this inert matter into different shapes – that interest would be but the robbery of industry, and could not long exist."[79] But some wealth is inherently fruitful, like a pair of breeding cattle, or a vat of grape juice soon to ferment into wine. Planes and other sorts of inert matter (and the most lent item of all – money itself) earn interest indirectly, by being part of the same "circle of exchange" with fruitful forms of wealth such as those, so that tying up these forms of wealth over time incurs an opportunity cost.

George developed what he saw as a crucial feature of his own theory of economics in a critique of an illustration used by Frédéric Bastiat in order to explain the nature of interest and profit. Bastiat had asked his readers to consider James and William, both carpenters. James has built himself a plane, and has lent it to William for a year. Would James be satisfied with the return of an equally good plane a year later? Surely not! He'd expect a board along with it, as interest. The basic idea of a theory of interest is to understand why. Bastiat said that James had given William over that year "the power, inherent in the instrument, to increase the productivity of his labor," and wants compensation for that increased productivity.[78]

George reconciled the issues of efficiency and equity, showing that both could be satisfied under a system in harmony with natural law.[77] He showed that Ricardo's Law of Rent applied not just to an agricultural economy, but even more so to urban economics. And he showed that there is no inherent conflict between labor and capital provided one maintained a clear distinction between classical factors of production, capital and land.

Economic contributions

In 1977, [76]

Henry George theorem

The Robert Schalkenbach Foundation publishes copies of George's works and related texts on economic reform and sponsors academic research into his policy proposals. The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy was founded to promote the ideas of Henry George but now focuses more generally on land economics and policy. The Henry George School of Social Science of New York and its satellite schools teach classes and conduct outreach.


Henry George's popularity waned gradually during the 20th century. However, there are still [73]

[71].”Slavery of Our Times and that it could help do away with what he called the [70][69] and as a "contribution to the enlightenment of the consciousness of mankind, placed on a practical footing,”[68] Although both advocated worker's rights, Henry George and

Before reading [65]

Landlords Game board, based on Magie's 1924 US patent (no. 1,509,312).
. Monopoly in 1904 to demonstrate his theories, which later turned into the popular board game The Landlord's Game, created a board game called Lizzie MagieNon-political means have also been attempted to further the cause. A number of "Single Tax Colonies" were started, such as

Many others agree with Hobson. Danmarks Retsforbund (known in English as the Justice Party or Single-Tax Party) was founded in 1919. The party's platform is based upon the land tax principles of Henry George. The party was elected to parliament for the first time in 1926, and they were moderately successful in the post-war period and managed to join a governing coalition with the Social Democrats and the Social Liberal Party from the years 1957–60, with diminishing success afterwards.

The social scientist and economist [60]


In 1892, [56]

John Dewey wrote, "It would require less than the fingers of the two hands to enumerate those who from Plato down rank with him," and that "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."[55]


[52] A large number of famous individuals, particularly

Henry George's idea known as [50]


  • to end or restrict the use of intellectual property,
  • to have government own and manage all right-of-way and "natural" monopolies, such as utility companies and mass transportation,
  • to dramatically reduce the size of the military,
  • to replace contract patronage with the direct employment of government workers, with civil-service protections,
  • to build and maintain free mass transportation and libraries,[48]
  • to extend suffrage to women,[49] and even to have one house of Congress entirely male and the other entirely female,
  • to implement campaign finance reform and political spending restrictions.

Henry George also proposed the following reforms:

Other proposals

George proposed to create a pension and disability system, and that excess public revenues from land rents could be distributed to residents "as a right" instead of as charity. Georgists often refer to this policy as a Citizen's dividend in reference to a similar proposal by Thomas Paine.

Citizen's dividend

George supported the use of government issued paper currency such as the greenback. He opposed the use of metallic currency (such as gold or silver) and money issued by private commercial banks.[47]

Currency and national debt

George was one of the earliest, strongest and most prominent advocates for adoption of the Overland Review of December 1871. His second article was "Money in Elections," published in the North American Review of March 1883. The first state to adopt the secret ballot, also called The Australian Ballot, was Massachusetts in 1888 under the leadership of Richard Henry Dana III. By 1891, more than half the states had adopted it too. For a more complete discussion of the adoption of the Australian Ballot, see Saltman, Roy G., (2006), The History and Politics of Voting Technology, Palgrave Macmillan, NY, pp. 96–103.

Secret ballot

Furthermore, on a visit to New York City, he was struck by the apparent paradox that the poor in that long-established city were much worse off than the poor in less developed California. These observations supplied the theme and title for his 1879 book slavery – a concept somewhat similar to wage slavery. This is also the work in which he made the case for a land value tax in which governments would tax the value of the land itself, thus preventing private interests from profiting upon its mere possession, but allowing the value of all improvements made to that land to remain with investors.[26][27]

George was in a position to discover this pattern, having experienced poverty himself, knowing many different societies from his travels, and living in California at a time of rapid growth. In particular he had noticed that the construction of railroads in California was increasing land values and rents as fast as or faster than wages were rising.[23][28]

In 1880, now a popular writer and speaker,[29] George moved to New York City, becoming closely allied with the Protection or Free Trade

George was opposed to tariffs, which were at the time both the major method of protectionist trade policy and an important source of federal revenue (the federal income tax having not yet been introduced). He believed that tariffs kept prices high for consumers, while failing to produce any increase in wages. He also thought that tariffs protected monopolistic companies from competition, thus augmenting their power. Later in his life, free trade became a major issue in federal politics and his book Protection or Free Trade was read into the Congressional Record by five Democratic congressmen.[42][43]

Free trade

Henry George is best known for his argument that the environmentalists, such as Bolton Hall and Ralph Borsodi, have agreed with the idea of the Earth as the common property of humanity. The US Green Party platform has endorsed the idea of ecological tax reform, including land value taxation and substantial taxes or fees on pollution as a replacement for "command and control" regulation.[41]

Tax on land and natural resource monopoly

Policy proposals

The New York Times reported that later in the evening, an organized funeral procession of about 2,000 people left from the Grand Central Palace and made its way through Manhattan to the Brooklyn Bridge. This procession was all the way "thronged on either side by crowds of silent watchers." The procession then went on to Brooklyn, where the crowd at Brooklyn City Hall "was the densest ever seen there." There were "thousands on thousands" at City Hall who were so far back that they could not see the funeral procession pass. It was impossible to move on any of the nearby streets. The Times wrote, "Rarely has such an enormous crowd turned out in Brooklyn on any occasion," but that nonetheless, "[t]he slow tolling of the City Hall bell and the regular beating of drums were the only sounds the broke the stillness. . . . Anything more impressive . . . could not be imagined."[37] At Court Street, the casket was transferred to a hearse and taken to a private funeral at Fort Hamilton. Commentators disagreed on whether it was the largest funeral in New York history or the largest since the death of Abraham Lincoln. The New York Times reported, "Not even Lincoln had a more glorious death."[38]

An estimated 100,000 people visited Lyman Abbott, father Edward McGlynn, rabbi Gustav Gottheil, R. Heber Newton (Episcopalian), and John Sherwin Crosby delivered addresses.[35] Separate memorial services were held elsewhere. In Chicago, five thousand people waited in line to hear memorial addresses by the former governor of Illinois, John Peter Altgeld, and John Lancaster Spalding.[36]

George's first stroke occurred in 1890, after a global speaking tour concerning land rights and the relationship between rent and poverty. This stroke greatly weakened him, and he never truly recovered. Despite this, George tried to remain active in politics. Against the advice of his doctors, George campaigned for New York City mayor again in 1897, this time as an Independent Democrat. The strain of the campaign precipitated a second stroke, leading to his death four days before the election.[32][33][34]

Death and funeral

[31] "remains perhaps the best-argued tract on free trade to this day."[45]

I asked a passing teamster, for want of something better to say, what land was worth there. He pointed to some cows grazing so far off that they looked like mice, and said, 'I don't know exactly, but there is a man over there who will sell some land for a thousand dollars an acre.' Like a flash it came over me that there was the reason of advancing poverty with advancing wealth. With the growth of population, land grows in value, and the men who work it must pay more for the privilege.[25]

One day in 1871 George went for a horseback ride and stopped to rest while overlooking San Francisco Bay. He later wrote of the revelation that he had:

George began as a [18][23][24]

Economic and political philosophy

[22][21] George's other daughter was [19] After deciding against

the family was near starvation. [12][11][10] In California George fell in love with Annie Corsina Fox, an eighteen-year-old girl from Sydney who had been orphaned and was living with an uncle. The uncle, a prosperous, strong-minded man, was opposed to his niece's impoverished suitor. But the couple, defying him, eloped and married in late 1861, with Henry dressed in a borrowed suit and Annie bringing only a packet of books. The marriage was a happy one and four children were born to them. Fox's mother was

Birthplace in Philadelphia
[9]. He ended up in the West in 1858 and briefly considered prospecting for gold but instead started work the same year in San Francisco as a type setter.Calcutta and Melbourne, bound for Hindoo His formal education ended at age 14 and he went to sea as a foremast boy at age 15 in April 1855 on the [9] Instead he convinced his father to hire a tutor and supplemented this with avid reading and attending lectures at the Franklin institute.[8][7]
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