henry george on the poverty in new york city (2015) - narrated

Category: Education

Presentation Description

An analysis of conditions in late 19th century New York City by Henry George, author of "Progress and Poverty" and twice a candidate for the Office of Mayor of New York.


Presentation Transcript


Privilege and Poverty: Side by Side in America’s Greatest City


Written and Narrated by Edward J. Dodson


“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.”


“The upper part of New York is a beautiful place – the streets wide, clear and regular; the houses all a brown stone and standing ten or twenty feet from the pavement, with gardens in front.”


“I told them that I had heard of a high-tariff Democrat, though I could not conceive how there could be such a thing; and I knew there were men who called themselves revenue-tariff Democrats; but there was also another kind of Democrat, and that was a no-tariff Democrat; and that what was wanted was to sweep away the custom houses and custom house officers and have free trade.”


“My wife thinks she can get along cheaper at boarding than keeping house, so I have told her to sell out. …So life goes. My pleasant little home – that I was so comfortable in – is gone, and I am afloat at 42, poorer than at 21. I do not complain; but there is some bitterness in it.”


“Those early New York days were of extreme and honourable poverty. …It was a daring experiment – this unknown gentlemen, with no aid but his own high spirit, nothing in his carpet-bag but one book of gospel, coming at 42 to make his way into the heart of mighty Babylon.”


“What is the terrible thing I want to do? I want in the first place to remove all restrictions upon production of wealth and in doing this I want to secure that fair distribution of wealth which will give every man that which he has fairly earned. …”


“I propose to abolish all taxation which falls upon the exertion of labor or the use of capital or the accumulation of wealth, and to meet all public expenses out of that fund which arises, not from the exertion of any individual, but from the growth of the whole community. …”


“Consider, Gentlemen, how this city would grow, how enormously wealth would increase, if all taxes were abolished which now bear on the production and accumulation and exchange of wealth. …”


“Consider how quickly the vacant spaces on the island would fill up could land not improved be had by him who wanted to improve it, without the payment of prices now demanded.”


“We should be glad to have a statement from you in your own way of any facts that may be within your knowledge in regard to the condition of labor in its relations to capital, and any suggestions of remedies which you think would bring about an improved condition of things.”


“The fact that in new countries wages, generally speaking, are higher than they are in old countries, is simply because in those new countries, as we call them, the soil has not yet passed fully into private hands. As access to the land is closed, the competition between laborers for employment from a master becomes more intense, and wages are steadily forced down to the lowest amount on which the laborer can live.”


“In my opinion the main, all absorbing question of the hour is the land question. …The eight-hour law, the prohibition of child labor and the currency question are all of weighty moment to the toiler. But high above them all stands the land question.”


“In this great city, the metropolis of the Western Hemisphere, municipal government has reached a pitch of corruption that, the world over, throws a slur and a doubt upon free institutions.”


“You tell me that I cannot possibly be elected Mayor of New York. Why, if I cannot possibly get the office, do you want me to withdraw?”


“You cannot be elected, but your running will raise hell.”


“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.”


“Look over our vast city, and what do we see? On one side a very few men richer by far than it is good for men to be, and on the other side a great mass of men and women struggling to get a most pitiful living. …”


“Years ago I came to this city from the West, unknown, knowing nobody, and I saw and recognized for the first time the shocking contrast between monstrous wealth and debasing want. …”


“And here I made a vow, from which I have never faltered, to seek out and remedy, if I could, the cause that condemned little children to lead such lives as you know them to lead in the squalid districts.”


“When … I went across the continent, before the railway was completed, and in the streets of New York for the first time realized the contrasts of wealth and want that are to be found in a great city; saw those sights that, to the man who comes from the West, affright and appall, the problem grew upon me.”


357 East 19 th Street


“How do you explain the Savior’s declaration that ‘The poor ye have always with you’?”


“Because he was talking to the scribes and Pharisees and hypocrites!”


“Of the 21 recommendations in the report, some are good and some are bad. …Some are indifferent but all are alike in that they go nowhere toward the settlement of the question the committee has brought up. …”


“You can turn the East Side with its tenements into the most beautiful part of the city and the results will be that our millionaires will soon be living there. …”


“You want to tear down those tenements and let no one live there unless he has 600 feet of cubic air. Where are the people turned out from those houses to go? Into the streets, into the police stations, that this very night are crowded, or into the almshouses? …”


“It seems to me that when we talk of quackery, the greatest quack of all is he who tells you to go slow; is the quack who would substitute charity for justice; is the quack who tells you that in instituting reform no one need be hurt.”



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