WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT HENRY GEORGE
These are a few appreciations that people have made about Henry George and his book, which haven't already been mentioned, and which we found intriguing in the beginning and probably helped draw us in more, and then some links that are purely about the life of Henry George, (other links are on other pages.)
We had some quotes from Tolstoy earlier but never mentioned that the author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina wrote what Professor Andelson called an explicitly Georgist novel, Resurrection. To start off quotes, let’s have that one of Tolstoy’s again:
People do not argue with the teachings of Henry George; they simply do not know it. He who becomes acquainted with it cannot but agree.
Then let’s hear from Albert Einstein, usually described as a Socialist:
Men like Henry George are rare unfortunately. One cannot imagine a more beautiful combination of intellectual keenness, artistic form and fervent love of justice. Every line is written as if for our generation. The spreading of these works is a really deserving cause, for our generation especially has many and important things to learn from Henry George.
John Dewey said:
I do not claim that George’s remedy is a panacea that will cure by itself all our ailments. But I do claim that we cannot get rid of our basic troubles without it.
Who’s John Dewey? Reflectiing his immense influence on 20th-century thought, Hilda Neatby, in 1953, wrote:
Dewey has been to our age what Aristotle was to the later Middle Ages, not a philosopher, but the philosopher.
John Dewey also said:
Henry George is one of a small number of definitely original social philosophers that the world has produced," and "It would require less than the fingers of the two hands to enumerate those who, from Plato down, rank with Henry George among the world's social philosophers.
And he said:
… 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.
Alfred Russel Wallace said:
I hold with Henry George, that at the back of every great social evil will be found a great political wrong.
And Mortimer J. Adler who said:
The reading of Progress and Poverty is an unforgettable experience.... It is an incomparable statement of the democratic credo.
There’s some very deep thinkers who think that Henry George had it exactly.
His granddaughter, Agnes de Mille, wrote a stirring piece about her grandfather, Who was Henry George?
She said in this account:
We have reached the deplorable circumstance where in large measure a very powerful few are in possession of the earth's resources, the land and all its riches, and all the franchises and other privileges that yield a return. These monopolistic positions are kept by a handful of men who are maintained virtually without taxation . . . we are yielding up sovereignty.
She mentions a letter from George Bernard Shaw to her mother, and Henry George’s daughter, Anna George, which said:
Your father found me a literary dilettante and militant rationalist in religion, and a barren rascal at that. By turning my mind to economics he made a man of me....
And Shaw’s novel Cashel Byron's Profession was written in 1882 after attending a lecture by Henry George in Britain, expresses Georgist ideas.
Another writer, Ernest Callenbach, having written his 1988 book, Ecotopia, said:
If I'd heard of Georgism before publishing (his classic), I would have incorporated Georgist tax policies into its economic system.
Writers such as this hadn’t heard of Georgism, it had been kept from them. Nobody is told anything about the secret of Henry George, people have to stumble across him, as we did; and when they do find him, everything changes. Brian Czech, author of Shoveling Fuel (2000)is another one:
If I had read Dr Mason Gaffney's Corruption of Economics prior to writing Shoveling Fuel, I also would have had a lot more to say about Henry George …
And when American Heritage published its list of Ten Books that Shaped the American Character (1985), which Jonathan Yardley selected, the list included Progress and Poverty, and also two books which promoted Henry George’s ideas, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and The Shame of Cities by Lincoln Steffens.
Rev. John Haynes Holmes was the co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and he said:
Progress and Poverty was the most closely knit, fascinating and convincing specimen of argumentation that, I believe, ever sprang from the mind of man.
That's quite a testament. And that's what we believe, we will humbly add.
Helen Keller was the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree, going on to be an author and a political activist, which is an achievement that’s difficult to contemplate. She said:
Who reads shall find in Henry George’s philosophy a rare beauty and power of inspiration, and a splendid faith in the essential nobility of human nature.
And then we have some Presidents of the USA, like Woodrow Wilson who said:
The Country needs a new and sincere thought in politics, coherently, distinctly and boldly uttered by men who are sure of their ground. The power of men like Henry George seems to me to mean that.
Woodrow Wilson was the 28th President of the USA (1913-21), and had four Georgists in his cabinet. We’ve discussed WW in our notes, of course.
Rutherford B Hayes (1822-1893), 19th U.S. President, and this is from his personal diary:
In church it occurred to me that it is time for the public to hear that the giant evil and danger in this country, the danger which transcends all others, is the vast wealth owned or controlled by a few persons. Money is power. In Congress, in state legislatures, in city councils, in the courts, in the political conventions, in the press, in the pulpit, in the circles of the educated and the talented, its influence is growing greater and greater. Excessive wealth in the hands of the few means extreme poverty, ignorance, vice, and wretchedness as the lot of the many… Henry George is strong when he portrays the rottenness of the present system. We are, to say the least, not yet ready for his remedy.
We wonder why not - (or did he mean here that we are ready?) - and when would ever be a better time than now, whenever now is. It's clear how ever-present Henry George's ideas were in the American mind of those days. Yet another American President, Grover Cleveland, (1837-1908), 22nd and 24th President of the USA, and actually worked with Henry George on trade matters. He said:
I have always regarded Henry George as a man of honest and sincere convictions and ever held a high opinion of him.
The 32nd President of the USA, Franklin D Roosevelt, who served four presidential terms, through the 30s New Deal programmes and through World War II, said:
I believe that Henry George was one of the really great thinkers produced by our country. I wish his writings were better known and more clearly understood.
And other things that Roosevelt said at times hint that he really did get it. It’s strange, several Presidents, including this central figure in world history, all seem to get Henry George.
Charles McNamara said, in 1967:
The chairman of President Johnson's Council of Economic Advisers told me he had always thought Henry George was right about property taxation, and the chairman of President Eisenhower's Council of Economic Advisers told me almost exactly the same thing in almost the same words.
But we’re sorry to say, we have no idea who Charles McNamara was, but he seems to have been at the centre of things. George’s ideas were right there with those at the centre of economic policy, throughout time.
Raymond Moley was one of three economists in Roosevelt’s brains trust, and he said:
The basic assumptions of Henry George are sound. Nothing could be more useful than to bring these fundamentals to the attention of perplexed Americans.
Milton Friedman was a Nobel Prize winning Economist in 1976, so, a central figure of those who prevailed in the modern arguments about economics (as noted) and he says:
The least bad tax is the property tax on the unimproved value of land,, the Henry George argument of many years ago.
The Economist described Milton Friedman as the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century…possibly of all of it, in which case, it’s rather a shame he didn’t talk a lot more about Henry George!
John Kieran (1892-1981) was American writer and radio and television personality in the 50s, and says of economics:
No one should be allowed to speak above a whisper or write more than ten words on the general subject unless he has read and digested Progress and Poverty.
The historian, EF Goldman said:
For some years prior to 1952 I was working on a history of American reform and over and over again my research ran into this fact: an enormous number of men and women, strikingly different people, men and women who were to lead 20th century America in a dozen fields of humane activity, wrote or told someone that their whole thinking had been redirected by reading Progress and Poverty in their formative years. In this respect no other book came anywhere near comparable influence, and I would like to add this word of tribute to a volume which magically catalyzed the best yearnings of our fathers and grandfathers.
Again, as this is so, we can’t help but imagine that things might have plausibly have turned out quite different.
We’re not going to include any more quotes from Professors Gaffney and Andelson here. And we’ve already quoted Elbert Hubbard a fair bit, but one more time to finish the page:
Of all modern prophets and reformers, Henry George is the only one whose arguments are absolutely unanswerable and whose forecast was sure.
There’s a lot more quotes here at Earthrights
This link is for Henry George Historical Society
A really strong writer is Albert Nock, and this is his account, Henry George: Unorthodox American which is a wonderful piece of writing with some interesting angles.
And this is Elbert Hubbard’s account, which is also a lively piece of writing.
First Viscount Philip Snowden, British Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:
There never was a time when the need was greater than it is today for the application of the philosophy and principles of Henry George to the economic and political conditions which are scourging the whole world. The root cause of the world's economic distress is surely obvious to every man who has eyes to see and a brain to understand. So long as land is a monopoly, and men are denied free access to it to apply their labor to its uses, poverty and unemployment will exist. Permanent peace can only be established when men and nations have realized that natural resource should be a common heritage, and used for the good of all mankind... I am of the opinion that rent belongs to society and that no single person has the right to appropriate and enjoy what belongs to society.
James Howard Kunstler former Rolling Stone editor and contributor to New York Times Magazine, in his Home From Nowhere (1996) said:
Reform of our property tax system along the lines advocated by Henry George is a straightforward means for restoring the economic health of our ailing towns and cities - no smoke, no mirrors, no voodoo.
Jonathan Porritt, Co-founder of the British Green Party said in his book, Seeing Green (1984):
The Liberals have given up trying to get across the ideas of Henry George. And that's a pity ... the only way to break the monopoly of landownership (is) some form of land tax.
José Marti, Cuban patriot, freedom fighter and poet, said:
[Henry George was] one of the most cogent and audacious thinkers.... George's book was a revelation not only for the workers, but also for the intellectuals. Only Darwin, in the natural sciences, left an impression comparable to that of George in the social sciences.... His devotion can be compared to the love of the Nazarene, expressed in the language of our times.
And prolific American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, in The Disappearing City, 1932
Why not make more free to “the poor” the land they were born to inherit as they inherit the air to breathe and daylight to see by and water to drink?
I am aware of the academic economist’s reaction to any land question. Nevertheless, Henry George clearly enough showed us the simple basis of poverty in human society. And some organic solution of this land problem is not only needed, it is imperative.
What hope for stimulating a great architecture while land holds the improvements instead of the improvements holding the land? For an organic economic structure this is wrong end around, and all architecture is only for the landlord.