Nineteenth century American self-taught economist, author of Progress and Poverty
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  • Henry George

    Henry George (2 September 1839 - 29 October 1897) was an American political economist, journalist, and philosopher. George is famous for popularizing the idea that land/resource rents be captured for public use or shared, in lieu of harmful taxes on labor and productive investment. The philosophy and reform movement were known in George's time as 'Single-Tax'.

    Reference

    Henry George (1839-1897), by Charles L. Hooper, The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics
    Includes picture and list of selected works with links to those hosted by the Library of Economics and Liberty
    "Henry George is best remembered as a proponent of the 'single tax' on land. The government should finance all of its projects, he argued, with proceeds from only one tax. This single tax would be on the unimproved value of land—the value that the land would have if it were in its natural state with no buildings, no landscaping, and so on. George's idea was not new; it was largely borrowed from David Ricardo, James Mill, and John Stuart Mill."

    Born

    2 Sep 1839, in Philadelphia

    Died

    29 Oct 1897, in New York City

    Web Pages

    Henry George - Online Library of Liberty
    Includes picture, short profile and links to some of George's writings and notable quotations
    "A prolific author who was a strong defender of free trade and an advocate of the idea of a single tax on land. George believed that a single tax on land would be sufficient to fund government activities. It would be based upon the unimproved value of the land."

    Articles

    NewThe Singular Henry George: Insights and Influence, by David S. D'Amato, 22 Oct 2014
    Discusses George's early life, the main arguments made in his writings and the influence and disagreements he had with contemporary and later radicals
    "George radically championed the individual and her rights while calling for the abolition of private property in land, crafting a governmental system through which he claimed 'to unite the truth perceived by the school of Smith and Ricardo to the truth perceived by the school of Proudhon and Lasalle.' Through his masterwork Progress and Poverty, George undertook 'to show that laissez faire (in its full true meaning) opens the way to a realization of the noble dreams of socialism.' We may therefore regard George as a unique kind of limited government socialist, his system submitting a minarchist state funded by only one tax (on the land) ..."
    Albert Jay Nock: A Gifted Pen for Radical Individualism, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Mar 1997
    Biographical essay, including his early life, editorship of The Freeman, and notable books and essays
    "Nock embraced ideas of crusading economic reformer Henry George. 'As a social philosopher, George interested me profoundly,' Nock recalled, 'as a reformer and publicist, he did not interest me. ... George's philosophy was the philosophy of human freedom ... he believed that all mankind are indefinitely improvable, and that the freer they are, the more they will improve. He saw also that they can never become politically or socially free until they have become economically free.'"
    America as Utopia, by Robert Nisbet, Reason, Mar 1987
    Historical survey of the "American Religion" (America as "the city upon a hill") from the Pilgrims to the present and questions whether it will progress further in the near future
    "It is sometimes forgotten that Henry George's classic Progress and Poverty, justly famous for its brilliantly conceived single tax, on land, had its origins, by the author's own acknowledgement, not in musings upon poverty but upon progress. Everything, with but one exception, he believed, bespoke the fulfilled progress of mankind in his day. This one exception was the persistence of poverty. To repair poverty—and the single tax would effect this—was to add the final step to a then-complete stairway to perfection, to utopia."
    A Tax Even Libertarians Could Love?, by Matt Zwolinski, 4 Mar 2016
    Discusses Henry George's proposal for a Single Tax and his moral and economic arguments in favor of the tax
    "In 1879, an American social theorist named Henry George wrote a book entitled Progress and Poverty in which he proposed an intriguing answer to this question: government financing should be derived from one 'Single Tax.' And that tax should be not on income, or on consumption, but on land. By 'land,' George meant ... all natural resources. ... Anything that exists independently of human activity but which can nevertheless be appropriated and used for human purposes is a natural resource, and the unimproved value of such resources is a legitimate object of George's Single Tax."
    Benjamin Tucker, Individualism, & Liberty: Not the Daughter but the Mother of Order, by Wendy McElroy, Literature of Liberty, 1981
    Bibliographical essay covering the people and radical movements that influenced Tucker in his founding and publishing of Liberty, its major themes and contributors
    "Another class of labor periodical, which, however, Liberty generally viewed with hostility, was single tax journals. Tucker severely criticized Henry George, the founder of the single-tax movement, and he devoted considerable space in Liberty to refuting George, only once quoting him with favor in regard to patents. The two single-tax papers significantly mentioned in Liberty were the Philadelphia Justice and Henry George's The Standard."
    Blockading with Trade Restrictions, by Jim Powell, 27 Oct 2010
    Explores the writings of Henry George in his book Protection or Free Trade offering advice to current waves of protectionism
    "The late Milton Friedman believed that the rhetorically most effective critique of trade restrictions was Henry George's book Protection or Free Trade (1879). ... He realized that if tariffs were really good, then civilization would have begun where people were cut off from the outside world by mountains, oceans, deserts and other natural barriers. But, he explained, 'it is where trade could best be carried on that we find wealth first accumulating and civilization beginning. It is on accessible harbors, navigable rivers and highways that we find cities arising and the arts and sciences developing.'"
    Related Topics: Free Trade, Monopoly, War
    Henry George and the Tariff Question, by Karen DeCoster, Mises Daily, 19 Apr 2006
    After some introductory remarks and a biographical section on Henry George, examines the protective tariff arguments posed by George in Protection or Free Trade
    "Henry George (1839-1897) was a journalist and American political economist who was born in Philadelphia, but settled in California in his teens. After failed attempts at gold mining, he ended up in the newspaper industry, where he developed his exceptional talents for writing and analyzing political economy. He had no formal training in economics, in spite of his many superb books on the topic."
    Related Topic: Free Trade
    Murray Rothbard's Philosophy of Freedom, by David Gordon, The Freeman, Nov 2007
    Examines the arguments made by Rothbard from the premise that slavery is wrong, self-ownership, private property rights and a free market without government interventions follows
    "Parcels of land do not come into the world with persons' names attached; and Rothbard firmly rejects the Georgist contention that everyone owns all land collectively. 'Some critics,' he writes in his great treatise Man, Economy, and State, 'especially the Henry Georgists, assert that, while a man or his assigns may be entitled to the produce of his own labor or anything exchanged for it, he is not entitled to an original, nature-given factor, a "gift of nature." ... This is a self-contradictory position, however. ...'"
    Revisiting a Libertarian Classic: Nock's Our Enemy, the State, by Sheldon Richman, Future of Freedom, Mar 2006
    Examines some of the major themes of Nock's Our Enemy, the State
    "Part of Nock's view is colored by his position on land ownership. Nock was a follower of Henry George, who held that no individual has the right to the value of land per se because that value is created not by the putative owner, but by the community. Thus that value should be taxed for the benefit of the community the famous single tax. (The individual user of land, however, did have the right to the fruits of his labor.) For George and Nock, a host of evils grow out of a Lockean notion of property ownership, including land speculation and scarcity."

    Books Authored

    Progress and Poverty: An Inquiry in the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth...The Remedy, 1879
    Partial contents: Wages and Capital - Population and Subsistence - The Laws of Distribution - Effect of Material Progress Upon the Distribution of Wealth - The Problem Solved - The Remedy - Justice of the Remedy - Application of the Remedy

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