Quotes in support of Henry George’s ideas

Quotes
Hardly a new idea

Here is a selection of quotes in support of Henry George’s ideas (including some that predate him):

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Albert Einstein (1879-1955):
Men like Henry George are rare unfortunately. One cannot imagine a more beautiful combination of intellectual keenness, artistic form, and fervent love of justice.

Dr Helen Caldicott (Co-Founder, Physicians for Social Responsibility)
We have taken over the planet as if we owned it, and we call it progress because we think we are making it better, but in fact we are regressing. Species are dying in the wake of this ‘progress’, and we seem not to realise that our life depends on theirs … It is clear to me that unless we connect directly with the Earth, we will not have a clue why we should save it.

Richard Cobden (1804-1865):
You who shall liberate the land will do more for your country than we have done in the liberation of its trade.

Look not to the politicians; look to yourselves.

Confucius (551-479 BC):
Once, natural resources were fully used for the benefit of all, and not appropriated for selfish ends. This was the age of the GreatCommonwealth of peace and prosperity.

Clarence Darrow, US lawyer:
Henry George was one of the real prophets of the world; one of the seers of the world….His was a wonderful mind; he saw a question from every side.

The “single tax” is so simple, so fundamental, and so easy to carry into effect that I have no doubt that it will be about the last land reform the world will ever get. People in this world are not often logical.

Professor Mason Gaffney, New Palgrave Dictionary of Economic Thought 1987:
George’s blend of radicalism and conservatism can puzzle one, until it is seen as a reconciliation of the two. The system is internally consistent, but defies conventional stereotypes.

Henry George (1839-1897):
No person, I think, ever saw a herd of buffalo, of which a few were fat and the great majority lean. No person ever saw a flock of birds, of which two or three were swimming in grease, and the others all skin and bone.

It is but a truism that labor is most productive where its wages are largest. Poorly paid labor is inefficient labor, the world over.

For every social wrong there must be a remedy. But the remedy can be nothing less than the abolition of the wrong.

The man who gives me employment, which I must have or suffer, that man is my master, let me call him what I will.

What has destroyed every previous civilization has been the tendency to the unequal distribution of wealth and power.

For justice to be done between men it is not necessary for the State to take the land; it is only necessary to take its rent.

Our primary social adjustment is a denial of justice. In allowing one man to own the land on which and from which other men must live, we have made them his bondsmen in a degree which increases as material progress goes on.

A tax on land values is of all taxes that which best fulfils every requirement of a perfect tax. As land cannot be hidden or carried off, a tax on land values can be assessed with more certainty and can be collected with greater ease and less expense than any other tax, while it does not in the slightest degree check production or lessen its incentive. It is, in fact, a tax only in form, being in nature a rent – a taking for the use of the community of a value that arises not from individual exertion but from the growth of the community. For it is not anything that the individual owner or user does that gives value to land. The value that he creates is a value that attaches to improvements. This, being the the result of individual exertion, properly belongs to the individual, and cannot be taxed without lessening the incentive to production. But the value that attaches to land itself is a value arising from the growth of the community and increasing with social growth. It therefore properly belongs to the community, and can be taken to the last penny without in the slightest degree lessening the incentive to production.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) in foreword to “Brave New World”:
If I were to re-write this book, I would offer a third alternative – the possibility of sanity – Economics would be decentralist and Henry Georgian.

John Dewey (1859-1952):
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.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826):
I set out on this ground which I suppose to be self-evident: ‘That the earth belongs in usufruct to the living’

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865):
The land, the earth that God gave to man for his home, his sustenance and support, should never be the possession of any man, corporation, society or unfriendly government, any more than the air or water – if as much. An individual or enterprise requiring land should hold no more in their own right than is needed for their home and sustenance, and never more than they have in actual use in the prudent management of their legitimate business, and this much should not be permitted when it creates an exclusive monopoly. All that is not so used should be held for the free use of every family to make homesteads, and to hold them so long as they are occupied. A reform like this will be worked out some time in the future.

John Locke (1632-1704) “Some Considerations of the Lowering of Interest”:
It is in vain in a country whose great fund is land to hope to lay the public charge on anything else; there at last it will terminate. The merchant (do what you can) will not bear it, the laborer cannot, and therefore the landholder must: and whether he were best to do it by laying it directly where it will at last settle, or by letting it come to him by the sinking of his rents, which when they are fallen, everyone knows they are not easily raised again, let him consider.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873):
Landlords grow richer in their sleep without working, risking or economizing. The increase in the value of land, arising as it does from the efforts of an entire community, should belong to the community and not to the individual who might hold title.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809):
Men did not make the earth…. It is the value of the improvements only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property…. Every proprietor owes to the community a ground rent for the land which he holds.

1st Viscount Philip Snowden (1864-1937), UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, in connection with the 1930s depression:
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 world … Permanent peace can only be established when men and nations have realised that natural resources should be a common heritage.

Dr Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925):
The land tax as the only means of supporting the government is an infinitely just, reasonable, and equitably-distributed tax, and on it we will found our new system.

Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910):
People do not argue with the teachings of George, they simply do not know it…. He who becomes acquainted with it cannot but agree.

Of all indispensable alterations of the forms of social life there is in the life of the world one which is most ripe…. The method of solving the land problem has been elaborated by Henry George to a degree of perfection that under the existing state organisation and compulsory taxation, it is impossible to invent any better, more just, practical and peaceful solution.

Quite difficult matters can be explained even to a slow-witted man, if only he has not already adopted a wrong opinion about them; but the simplest things cannot be made clear even to a very intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he already knows, and knows indubitably, the truth of the matter under consideration.

The only thing that would pacify the people now is the introduction of the Land Value Taxation system of Henry George. The land is common to all; all have the same right to it.

Solving the land question means the solving of all social questions…. Possession of land by people who do not use it is immoral – just like the possession of slaves.

The earth cannot be anyone’s property.

I sit on a man’s back choking him and making him carry me and assure myself and others that I am sorry for him and wish to lighten his load by all possible means – except by getting off his back.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
When the missionaries first came, they had the bible and we had the land. Now we have the bible and they have the land.

Brand Whitlock:
Henry George’s proposition, the single tax, will wait, I fancy, for years, since it is so fundamental, and mankind never attacks fundamental problems until it has exhausted all the superficial ones.

English folk poem, ca. 1764:
They hang the man and flog the woman
That steal the goose from off the common,
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose.

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Capitalism for the poor, Socialism for the rich

Re-post from: Ethical Economics 

In an article in tImagehe Guardian George Monbiot posed the question: ‘Why do we ignore the most blatant transfer of money from the poor to the rich?’

He explained that on the very same day that the Chancellor announced cuts in benefits for the very poor in Parliament, another minister in Luxemburg thwarted an EU attempt to cut benefits for the very rich through the Common Agriculture Policy. The Government justifies the latter, saying ‘we must help the farmers’, but it is in fact the big landowners who benefit as the main subsidy is paid on a per hectare basis as Duncan Pickard documents in Lie of the Land.

But it is not only in the agricultural sector that the poor taxpayer subsidises the rich. As Fred Harrison points out in Ricardo’s Law wealthier property owners in the South-East enjoy far more benefits from taxpayer funded infrastructure and amenities than those in the North, the unrecognised cause of the ‘north-south divide’.

It is the silence about this that puzzles Monbiot. He suggests three possible reasons, the third of which is that ‘after being brutally evicted from the land through centuries of enclosure, we have learnt not to go there, even in our minds’. This is the trauma to which Fred Harrison refers in the title of The Traumatised Society. He goes on: ‘Whatever the reason may be, it’s time we overcame these inhibitions and confronted this unembarrassed robbery of the poor by the rich.’ It is this rent-seeking Harrison advocates we outlaw. To read full article click here.

The Killing Fields (Documentary – Land Value Tax)

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The Killing Feilds is a documentary highlighting the importance that economics and taxation plays in wildlife conservation. The Film, Directed by Carlo Nero and produced in conjunction with the Team behind Geophilos. The Film explores the relationship between Wildlife, Land, taxation and Law. The film Documents how the introduction of Land Value Tax would give Value to Wildlife and ensure Its protection. The film is presented by Economist Fred Harrison and features Peter Smith CEO and Founder of the Wildwood Trust, Dr Duncan Pickard, Landowner and Farmer, and Polly Higgins, Environmental barrister, author & campaigner.

Who Was Henry George?

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by Agnes George de Mille
A hundred years ago a young unknown printer in San Francisco wrote a book he called Progress and Poverty. He wrote after his daily working hours, in the only leisure open to him for writing. He had no real training in political economy. Indeed he had stopped schooling in the seventh grade in his native Philadelphia, and shipped before the mast as a cabin boy, making a complete voyage around the world. Three years later, he was halfway through a second voyage as able seaman when he left the ship in San Francisco and went to work as a journeyman printer. After that he took whatever honest job came to hand. All he knew of economics were the basic rules of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and other economists, and the new philosophies of Herbert Spencer and John Stuart Mill, much of which he gleaned from reading in public libraries and from his own painstakingly amassed library. Marx was yet to be translated into English.

George was endowed for his job. He was curious and he was alertly attentive to all that went on around him. He had that rarest of all attributes in the scholar and historian that gift without which all education is useless. He had mother wit. He read what he needed to read, and he understood what he read. And he was fortunate; he lived and worked in a rapidly developing society. George had the unique opportunity of studying the formation of a civilization — the change of an encampment into a thriving metropolis. He saw a city of tents and mud change into a fine town of paved streets and decent housing, with tramways and buses. And as he saw the beginning of wealth, he noted the first appearance of pauperism. He saw degradation forming as he saw the advent of leisure and affluence, and he felt compelled to discover why they arose concurrently.

The result of his inquiry, Progress and Poverty, is written simply, but so beautifully that it has been compared to the very greatest works of the English language. But George was totally unknown, and so no one would print his book. He and his friends, also printers, set the type themselves and ran off an author’s edition which eventually found its way into the hands of a New York publisher, D. Appleton & Co. An English edition soon followed which aroused enormous interest. Alfred Russel Wallace, the English scientist and writer, pronounced it “the most remarkable and important book of the present century.” It was not long before George was known internationally.
During his lifetime, he became the third most famous man in the United States, only surpassed in public acclaim by Thomas Edison and Mark Twain. George was translated into almost every language that knew print, and some of the greatest, most influential thinkers of his time paid tribute. Leo Tolstoy’s appreciation stressed the logic of George’s exposition: “The chief weapon against the teaching of Henry George was that which is always used against irrefutable and self-evident truths. This method, which is still being applied in relation to George, was that of hushing up …. People do not argue with the teaching of George, they simply do not know it.” John Dewey fervently stressed the originality of George’s work, stating that, “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 Bernard Shaw, in a letter to my mother, Anna George, years later wrote, “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….”
Inevitably he was reviled as well as idolized. The men who believed in what he advocated called themselves disciples, and they were in fact nothing less: working to the death, proclaiming, advocating, haranguing, and proselytizing the idea. But it was not implemented by blood, as was communism, and so was not forced on people’s attention. Shortly after George’s death, it dropped out of the political field. Once a badge of honor, the title, “Single Taxer,” came into general disuse. Except in Australia and New Zealand, Taiwan and Hong Kong and scattered cities around the world, his plan of social action has been neglected while those of Marx, Keynes, Galbraith and Friedman have won great attention, and Marx’s has been given partial implementation, for a time, at least, in large areas of the globe.

But nothing that has been tried satisfies. We, the people, are locked in a death grapple and nothing our leaders offer, or are willing to offer, mitigates our troubles. George said, “The people must think because the people alone can act.”

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 its riches and all the franchises and other privileges that yield a return. These positions are maintained virtually without taxation; they are immune to the demands made on others. The very poor, who have nothing, are the object of compulsory charity. And the rest — the workers, the middle-class, the backbone of the country — are made to support the lot by their labor.

We are taxed at every point of our lives, on everything we earn, on everything we save, on much that we inherit, on much that we buy at every stage of the manufacture and on the final purchase. The taxes are punishing, crippling, demoralizing. Also they are, to a great extent, unnecessary.

But our system, in which state and federal taxes are interlocked, is deeply entrenched and hard to correct. Moreover, it survives because it is based on bewilderment; it is maintained in a manner so bizarre and intricate that it is impossible for the ordinary citizen to know what he owes his government except with highly paid help. We support a large section of our government (the Internal Revenue Service) to prove that we are breaking our own laws. And we support a large profession (tax lawyers) to protect us from our own employees. College courses are given to explain the tax forms which would otherwise be quite unintelligible.

All this is galling and destructive, but it is still, in a measure, superficial. The great sinister fact, the one that we must live with, is that we are yielding up sovereignty. The nation is no longer comprised of the thirteen original states, nor of the thirty-seven younger sister states, but of the real powers: the cartels, the corporations. Owning the bulk of our productive resources, they are the issue of that concentration of ownership that George saw evolving, and warned against.

These multinationals are not American any more. Transcending nations, they serve not their country’s interests, but their own. They manipulate our tax policies to help themselves. They determine our statecraft. They are autonomous. They do not need to coin money or raise armies. They use ours.

And in opposition rise up the great labor unions. In the meantime, the bureaucracy, both federal and local, supported by the deadly opposing factions, legislate themselves mounting power never originally intended for our government and exert a ubiquitous influence which can be, and often is, corrupt.

I do not wish to be misunderstood as falling into the trap of the socialists and communists who condemn all privately owned business, all factories, all machinery and organizations for producing wealth. There is nothing wrong with private corporations owning the means of producing wealth. Georgists believe in private enterprise, and in its virtues and incentives to produce at maximum efficiency. It is the insidious linking together of special privilege, the unjust outright private ownership of natural or public resources, monopolies, franchises, that produce unfair domination and autocracy.

The means of producing wealth differ at the root: some is thieved from the people and some is honestly earned. George differentiated; Marx did not. The consequences of our failure to discern lie at the heart of our trouble.

This clown civilization is ours. We chose this of our own free will, in our own free democracy, with all the means to legislate intelligently readily at hand. We chose this because it suited a few people to have us do so. They counted on our mental indolence and we freely and obediently conformed. We chose not to think.

Henry George was a lucid voice, direct and bold, that pointed out basic truths, that cut through the confusion which developed like rot. Each age has known such diseases and each age has gone down for lack of understanding. It is not valid to say that our times are more complex than ages past and therefore the solution must be more complex. The problems are, on the whole, the same. The fact that we now have electricity and computers does not in any way controvert the fact that we can succumb to the injustices that toppled Rome.

To avert such a calamity, to eliminate involuntary poverty and unemployment, and to enable each individual to attain his maximum potential, George wrote his extraordinary treatise a hundred years ago. His ideas stand: he who makes should have; he who saves should enjoy; what the community produces belongs to the community for communal uses; and God’s earth, all of it, is the right of the people who inhabit the earth. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “The earth belongs in usufruct to the living.”

This is simple and this is unanswerable. The ramifications may not be simple but they do not alter the fundamental logic.

There never has been a time in our history when we have needed so sorely to hear good sense, to learn to define terms exactly, to draw reasonable conclusions. As George said, “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.”

We are on the brink. It is possible to have another Dark Ages. But in George there is a voice of hope.

The Henry George Society of Kent

This site aims to draw together supporters of Henry George, Earthsahring and promote the concepts of economic and environmental justice. If you would like to join other like minded people to promote the concepts of Henry George or find out more about it come along to one of our Quarterly meetings.

Please e-mail the societies secretary a henrygeorgekent@gmail.com

We offer range a of services for free:

  • Free talks and lectures on the concepts of Henry George, Land Economics and the concepts of earth sharing.
  • Support policy makers, politicians and professionals in how to implement Georgist economics into society

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