henry george - may 2011

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The Life and Legacy of the 19 th Century’s Foremost Political Economist Henry George (1839-1897) Written by Edward J. Dodson, M.L.A. Revised May 2011

Who was Henry George?:

Who was Henry George?

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“One feature which is peculiar to Calcutta was the number of dead bodies floating down in all stages of decomposition, covered by crows who were actively engaged in picking them to pieces. The first one I saw filled me with horror and disgust, but like the natives, you soon cease to pay any attention to them.”

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“Over and over again I have heard all questions of slavery silenced by the declaration that the negroes were the property of their masters, and that to take away a man’s slave without payment was as much a crime as to take away his horse without payment.”

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San Francisco - 1855 “After being deprived of reading for such a time, it is quite delightful to be able to read as much as I wish. In the house in which I am stopping there is a good library, which to me is one of its prominent attractions.”

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Henry George, Jr.

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“I came near starving to death, and at one time I was so close to it that I think I should have done so but for the job of printing a few cards which enabled us to buy a little corn meal.”

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“If what he said was true, it seemed to me that the country that was hardest to get at must be the best country to live in; and that, instead of merely putting duties on things brought from abroad, we ought to put them on things brought from anywhere, and that fires and wars and impediments to trade and navigation were the very best things to levy on commerce.”

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“For years the high rate of interest and the high rate of wages prevailing in California have been special subjects for the lamentations of a certain school of local political economists, who could not see that high wages and high interest were indications that the natural wealth of the country was not yet monopolised, that great opportunities were open to all .. .”

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John Stuart Mill

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“Concerning the purely economic view of the subject, I entirely agree with you; and it could be hardly better stated and argued than it is in your article in the New York Tribune. That the Chinese immigration, if it attains great dimensions, must be economically injurious to the mass of the present population; that it must diminish their wages, and reduce them to a lower stage of physical comfort and well-being, I have no manner of doubt.”

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“… to abolish land monopoly will be to make short work of the Chinese question. …Root the white race in the soil, and all the millions of Asia cannot dispossess it.”

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Henry H. Haight

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“Like a flash it came upon 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.”

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“… with but 600,000 inhabitants, free land should be plentiful; yet the notorious fact is that so reckless has been the land policy that the immigrant in 1871, has, as a general thing, to pay a charge to middlemen before he can begin to cultivate the soil. Already individuals hold thousands and hundreds of thousands of acres apiece.”

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“Why should we not go back to the old system, and charge the expense of government upon our lands?”

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“Land taxation does not bear at all upon production; it adds nothing to prices, and does not affect the cost of living. As it does not add to prices, it costs the people nothing in addition to what it yields the Government; while as land cannot be hid or moved, this tax can be collected with more ease and certainty, and with less expense than any other tax; and the land-owner cannot shift it to any one else.”

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“ A tax upon the value of land is the most equal of all taxes, because the value of land is something that belongs to all, and in taxing land values we are merely taking for the use of the community something which belongs to the community. …”

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“ I forget many things, but the place where I heard this, and the tone and attitude of the man who told me of it, are photographed on my memory. For, when you have seen a truth that those around you do not see, it is one of the deepest of pleasures to hear of others who have seen it .”

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William Irwin, Governor of California from 1871-1880 “ to give me a place where there was little to do and something to get, so that I might devote myself to some important writing .”

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“Fellow-citizens, negro slavery is dead! But cast your eyes over the North to-day and see a worse than negro slavery taking root under the pressure of the policy you are asked … to support by your votes. See seventy thousand men out of work in the Pennsylvania coal-fields; fifty thousand labourers asking for bread in the city of New York; … ”

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University of California, Berkeley, California

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“… the very importance of the subjects with which political economy deals raises obstacles in its way. The discoveries of other sciences may challenge pernicious ideas, but the conclusions of political economy involve pecuniary interests, and thus thrill directly the sensitive pocket-nerve .”

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“ For the study of political economy you need no special knowledge, no extensive library, no costly laboratory. You do not even need text-books nor teachers, if you will but think for yourselves. All you need is care in reducing complex phenomena to their elements, in distinguishing the essential from the accidental, and in applying the simple laws of human action with which you are familiar .”

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“There is very little to encourage the publication of any such work at this time and we feel we must decline it.”

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“ to those who, seeing the vice and misery that spring from the unequal distribution of wealth and privilege, feel the possibility of a higher social state and would strive for its attainment .”

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“ It is not merely a despotism; it is a despotism sustained by alien force, and wielded in the interests of a privileged class, who look upon the great masses of the people as intended but to be hewers of their wood and drawers of their water. …”

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Thomas Spence Henry M. Hyndman

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Herbert Spencer

Enemy of the State:

Enemy of the State

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“To come to Ireland only to be mistaken for an emissary of sedition, a wood-be assassin of landlords, or maimer of cattle, was something that had not entered into [my companion’s] calculations.”

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Louis F. Post

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“ My endeavor has been to present the momentous social problems of our time, unencumbered by technicalities and without the abstract reasoning which some of the principles of political economy require for thorough explanation .”

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Arnold Toynbee

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Joseph Chamberlain

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“If something is not done quickly to meet the growing necessities of the case, we may live to see theories as wild and methods as unjust as those suggested by the American economist adopted as the creed of no inconsiderable portion of the electorate.”

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St. Jame’s Hall, London

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“is perfectly simple and straightforward; a man with a mission; born to set right in a single generation the errors of six thousand years.”

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Alfred Marshal

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Marshall observed that not a single economic doctrine advanced in Progress and Poverty was … “ both new and true, since what was new was not true, and what was true was not new .”

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Michael Davitt

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Tom L. Johnson

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“ I went to talk to Mr. George about his cause; and I wanted in some way to all it my cause, too. But he stretched out on a lounge and I sat in a chair and I found myself telling him the story of my life .”

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“ You tell me I cannot possibly get the office. Why, if I cannot possibly get the office, do you want me to withdraw ? His reply was:

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“ You cannot be elected, but your running will raise hell !” Henry came back with:

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“You have relieved me of embarrassment. I do not want the responsibility and the work of the office of the Mayor of New York, but I do want to raise hell! I am decided and will run.”

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Abram Hewitt Theodore Roosevelt

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“What Dr. McGlynn is punished for is for taking the side of the working men against the system of injustice and spoliation and the rotten rings which have made the government in New York a by-word of corruption.”

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“ In thirty years private property in land will be as much a thing of the past as now is serfdom. …Henry George had formulated the next article in the programme of the progressist Liberals of the world .”

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“The reading of every one of your books makes clear to me more and more the truth and practicality of your system .”

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“Life, long life is not the best thing to wish for those you love. Not too long; but that in my day, whether it be long or short, I may do my duty, and do my best.”

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“ Those who contend that the state is the source of all rights may indeed object to any proposed state action that it would be inexpedient, but they cannot object that it would be wrong .”

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Tom L. Johnson

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James G. Maguire

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“ I have not sought this nomination directly or indirectly. It has been repugnant to me. My line lay in a different path, and I hoped to tread it; but I hope with Thomas Jefferson that while a citizen who can afford to should not seek office, no man can ignore the will of those with whom he stands when they have asked him to come to the front and represent a principle .”

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“ I have never claimed to be a special friend of labour. Let us have done with this call for special privileges for labour. Labour does not want special privileges. I have never advocated nor asked for special privileges or special sympathy for working men! What I stand for is the equal rights of all men !”

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“ He died a hero’s death. He died as he would have wished to die – on the battlefield, spending his last strength in a blow at the enemies of the people .”



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“ The truth that I have tried to make clear will not find easy acceptance. If that could be, it would have been accepted long ago. If that could be, it would never have been obscured. But it will find friends – those who will toil for it; suffer for it; if need be, die for it. This is the power of Truth .”

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“ Aside from the filling in of summaries …, the addition of an index, and the correction of a few obvious clerical errors, the work is here presented exactly as it was left by the author …”

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Tom L. Johnson

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Lawson Purdy

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Joseph Fels

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Lloyd George

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Robert C. Macauley Carrie Chapman Catt

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An image of William J. Wallace is not available John C. Lincoln

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Henry George School of Social Science today in New York Headquarters from 1938 to 1981

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John Dewey

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Winston Churchill

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“ It is quite true that the land monopoly is not the only monopoly which exists, but it is by far the greatest of monopolies -- is a perpetual monopoly, and it is the mother of all other forms of monopoly. It is quite true that unearned increments in land are not the only form of unearned or undeserved profit which individuals are able to secure; but it is the principal form of unearned increment which is derived from processes which are not merely not beneficial, but which are positively detrimental to the general public. .. .”

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“Land, which is a necessity of human existence, which is the original source of all wealth, which is strictly limited in extent, which is fixed in geographical position -- land, I say, differs from all other forms of property in these primary and fundamental conditions .”

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Sun Yat-sen

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" China's agrarian problems were not the consequence of overpopulation or of the insufficiency of arable land ," but rather of inadequate transport, internal trade barriers, and unfair import competition.”

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" We propose that the government shall levy a tax proportionate to the price of the land, and if necessary buy back the land according to its price ."

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Albert Einstein

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“I have read for most parts Henry George’s book with extraordinary interest and I believe, that its main outline represents an indisputable point of view, particularly with regard to the cause of poverty.”

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“Men who worked the hardest and who had often the greatest ability received the smallest returns. Those who contributed most to the community by building up industry, producing useful things, for some reason or other did not rise. But year after year the other group grew richer and acquired social and political power.”

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Albert Jay Nock

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