Henry George’s Thought

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A wonderful sampling of writings by 19th-century economist and social philosopher, Henry George.Contents:Chapter 1: An Introductory Essay on George’s PhilosophyChapter 2: Exhortative WorksChapter 3: A Clarification of the Single Tax and PropertyChapter 4: On Government, Politics, and the WorldChapter 5: Georgism versus SocialismChapter 6: On Sundry Important MattersChapter 7: Views on Religion and Personal CorrespondenceSome favorite quotes:”We start out with these two principles, which I think are clear and self-evident: that which a man makes belongs to him, and can by him be given or sold to anyone that he pleases. But that which existed before man came upon the earth, that which was not produced by man, but which was created by God — that belongs equally to all men” (p. 61).”Do we not all want more wealth? Why, then, should we tax and fine the production of wealth?” (p. 54).”Land is not wealth or capital, but is, on the contrary, that original factor of production from which labor produces wealth and capital” (p. 147).’Consider the difference between the value of a building and the value of land. The value of a building, like the value of goods, or of anything properly styled wealth, is produced by individual exertion, and therefore properly belongs to the individual; but the value of land only arises with the growth and improvement of the community, and therefore properly belongs to the community. It is not because of what its owners have done, but because of the presence of the whole great population, that land in New York is worth millions an acre. This value therefore is the proper fund for defraying the common expenses of the whole population; and it must be taken for public use, under penalty of generating land speculation and monopoly which will bring about artificial scarcity where the Creator has provided in abundance for all whom His providence has called into existence. It is thus a violation of justice to tax labor, or the things produced by labor, and it is also a violation of justice not to tax land values” (p. 68).”There is one tax by means of which all the revenues needed for our federal, state, county, and municipal governments could be raised without any of these disadvantages – a tax that instead of repressing industry and promoting inequality in the distribution of wealth, would foster industry and promote natural equality – a tax that is only a tax in form, and that in essence is not a tax, but a taking by the community of values arising not from individual effort, but from social growth, and therefore belonging to the whole community. That is a tax on land values. A tax not on land, be it remembered, but a tax upon land values, irrespective of improvements. That is the tax in favor of which we single tax men would abolish all other taxes” (pp. 123-4).”The sure foundation of the right of ownership is in the right of each individual to himself, the right to use his own powers and to enjoy what he can obtain fairly by them” (p. 51).”The proper business of banking is the receiving, the keeping and the loaning out of money, and the facilitation of exchanges by the extension, interchange, and cancellation of private credits. With the issuance of money the paper business of banking has nothing whatever to do. It is one of the proper functions of the general government to issue money. But with the proper business of banking the government has rightly nothing whatever to do” (p. 208).”Marx’s economics, as stated by Hyndman and all his other supporters I have read will not stand any critical examination” (p. 177).”As for Karl Marx, he is the prince of muddleheads” (p. 78).”What we want today to bring us all together is, not union under one government that shall assume to govern, but that absolute freedom of intercourse that shall entwine all interests, that absolute freedom of intercourse that shall establish a daily ferry from this side of Atlantic to the other side of the Atlantic, that shall make everyone belonging to any of these nations, wherever he may be on the territory of another, feel as though he were at home. That is what we strive for – for the freedom of all, for self-government to all – and for as little government as possible. We don’t believe that tyranny is a thing alone of kings and monarchs; we know well that majorities can be as tyrannous as aristocracies; we know that mobs can persecute as well as crowned heads. What we ask for is freedom – that in each locality, large or small, the people of that locality shall be free to manage the affairs that pertain only to that locality; that each individual shall be free to manage the affairs that relate to him; that governments shall not presume to say of whom he shall buy or to whom he shall sell, shall not attempt to dictate to him in any way, but shall confine itself to its proper function of preserving the public peace, of preventing the strong from oppressing the weak, of utilizing the public good all the revenues that belong of right to the public, and of managing those affairs that are best managed by the whole. Our doctrine is the doctrine of freedom, our gospel is the gospel of liberty…” (p. 41). – Todd Altman
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