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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Henry George and human rights


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons


Henry George (1839-1897) is a famous economist best known for his analysis of human rights and analysis of land. George is also known from supporting a tax on land. Albert Einstein said,


"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." (Letter to Anna George De Mille, 1934)


Dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille said,


"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." (Afterword for editions of Progress and Poverty)


This post is a collection of quotes from George regarding his recommendations on how we can improve the living standards of society.


Living standards


"It is true that disappointment has followed disappointment, and that discovery upon discovery, and invention after invention, have neither lessened the toil of those who most need respite, nor brought plenty to the poor." (Progress and Poverty, 1879)


"There is, and always has been, a widespread belief among the more comfortable classes that the poverty and suffering of the masses are due to their lack of industry, frugality, and intelligence. This belief, which at once soothes the sense of responsibility and flatters by its suggestion of superiority, is probably even more prevalent in countries like the United States..." (Progress and Poverty, 1879)




"Though custom has dulled us to it, it is a strange and unnatural thing that men who wish to labor, in order to satisfy their wants, cannot find the opportunity... The real trouble must be that supply is somehow prevented from satisfying demand, that somewhere there is an obstacle which prevents labor from producing the things that laborers want." (Progress and Poverty, 1879)


"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." (Protection or Free Trade? 1886)




"Why should charity be offered the unemployed? It is not alms they ask. They are insulted and embittered and degraded by being forced to accept as paupers what they would gladly earn as workers. What they ask is not charity, but the opportunity to use their own labor in satisfying their own wants. Why can they not have that? It is their natural right." (How to Help the Unemployed, 1894)


"For charity cannot right a wrong; only justice can do that. Charity is false, futile, and poisonous when offered as a substitute for justice." (How to Help the Unemployed, 1894)




"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." (Progress and Poverty, 1879)


"When land is all monopolized, as it is everywhere except in the newest communities, rent must drive wages down to the point at which the poorest paid class will he just able to live and reproduce, and thus wages are forced to a minimum fixed by what is called the standard of comfort." (Progress and Poverty, 1879)