Henry George

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Henry George

Henry George (September 2, 1839October 29, 1897) was an American political economist.


A Perplexed Philosopher

  • In truth the right to the use of land is not a joint or common right, but an equal right; the joint or common right is to rent, in the economic sense of the term.
  • Men must have rights before they can have equal rights. Each man has a right to use the world....The equality of this right is merely a limitation arising from the presence of others with like rights. Society, in other words, does not grant, and cannot equitably withhold from any individual, the right to the use of land. That right exists before society and independently of society, belonging at birth to each individual, and ceasing only with his death. Society itself has no original right to the use of land….The function of society with regard to the use of land only begins where individual rights clash, and is to secure equality between these clashing rights of individuals.
Let no man imagine that he has no influence. Whoever he may be, and wherever he may be placed, the man who thinks becomes a light and a power.

Progress and Poverty

  • It is as to whether its services or uses are to be exchanged or not which makes a tool an article of capital or merely an article of wealth. Thus, the lathe of a manufacturer used in making things which are to be exchanged is capital, while the lathe kept by a gentleman for his own amusement is not.
  • It is too narrow an understanding of production which confines it merely to the making of things. Production includes not merely the making of things, but the bringing of them to the consumer. The merchant or storekeeper is thus as truly a producer as is the manufacturer, or farmer, and his stock or capital is as much devoted to production as is theirs.
  • The tax upon land values is, therefore, the most just and equal of all taxes. It falls only upon those who receive from society a peculiar and valuable benefit, and upon them in proportion to the benefit they receive. It is the taking by the community, for the use of the community, of that value which is the creation of the community. It is the application of the common property to common uses. When all rent is taken by taxation for the needs of the community, then will the equality ordained by Nature be attained. No citizen will have an advantage over any other citizen save as is given by his industry, skill, and intelligence; and each will obtain what he fairly earns. Then, but not till then, will labor get its full reward, and capital its natural return.
  • To admit that labor needs protection is to acknowledge its inferiority; it is to acquiesce in an assumption that degrades the workman to the position of a dependent, and leads logically to the claim that the employee is bound to vote in the interest of the employer who provides him with work.

Social Problems

  • To prevent government from becoming corrupt and tyrannous, its organization and methods should be as simple as possible, its functions be restricted to those necessary to the common welfare, and in all its parts it should be kept as close to the people and as directly within their control as may be.
  • Let no man imagine that he has no influence. Whoever he may be, and wherever he may be placed, the man who thinks becomes a light and a power.

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