Monday 30th May 2016

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Henry George: A Neglected Economist

March 16, 2014 Frontpage No Comments

By JOHN YOUNG

American economist Henry George (1839-1897) is best known for his site rent philosophy — the so-called “single tax.” He argued that land values arising from society and natural advantages should be the source of government revenue, instead of taxing the money that people earn by labor or investment.
I have written about that on various occasions, but in this article I want to sketch other parts of his thought, aspects that are often neglected when he is discussed. Not that we hear much about him today, which is regrettable; although organizations promoting his land philosophy are active in many countries, including the United States.
In the late 19th century and the early 20th century, his views were widely discussed, with many people opposed to him and many supporting him. His land revenue doctrine had wide political support, with Winston Churchill in England and Sun Yat-sen in China promoting it. His books became best-sellers, especially Progress and Poverty.
He had a strong following among Catholics, but unfortunately some, including high-ranking ecclesiastics, misunderstood his doctrine about land, and thought (completely erroneously) that he advocated government ownership of all land, with the occupiers being tenants of the government. In fact, his position here is fully compatible with Catholic social teaching.
What is often overlooked is that his view of the land revenue question formed part of a general economic philosophy, its principles being as applicable today as they were in his time. Let us glance at some of its main elements, particularly his devastating refutation of Malthusianism.
Economics and the moral law. In his work The Reduction to Iniquity, George declares: “I am willing to submit every question of political economy to the test of ethics. So far as I can see there is no social law which does not conform to moral law.”
And in the same work: “I am convinced that the attainment of pure government is merely a matter of conforming social institutions to moral law.” He speaks of “that moral law which is before and above all human laws, and by which all human laws are to be judged.” In his book The Science of Political Economy, he states: “Natural laws…pertain to the natural order of things; to that order in which and by which not only man himself but all that is, exists…they are expressions, not of the mutable will of man, but of the immutable will of God.”
Economics is ordered to higher ends. The economy is the means of getting a living, but human life is for higher things. A sound economy provides the means and the leisure for cultural and religious activities, as befitting man, who transcends the animal world. In his most famous work, Progress and Poverty, he argues in the final chapter that there is life after death. “What then is the meaning of life — of life absolutely and inevitably bounded by death? To me it seems intelligible only as the avenue and vestibule to another life.”
Few economists have seen economics as ordered to life after death!
The worker is central. George criticizes the view that capital is the predominant factor in production, and that capital employs labor. Labor (in the sense of the exercise of mind and will in production) is the principal factor, and capital is a tool employed by the worker. “All production results from the action of labor on land, and hence it is truly said that labor is the producer of all wealth” (The Science of Political Economy, book III, chapter 16).
The two sources of value. When the economic value of a product arises from the work and capital needed to produce it, this is healthy and just. But there is also what George terms “value from obligation”; this is usually unjust, arising as it commonly does from unfair advantages the powerful can exert over other people. The value of a slave in a slave market is an extreme example. This kind of value does not increase wealth: It simply redistributes it from the less powerful to the more powerful.
George’s distinction between the two sources of value in the price of things is vitally important, and has to be seen if we are to distinguish between the good and bad features of a capitalist economy — or for that matter, any economy.
Free trade versus protectionism. George argued strongly for free trade, but saw that for this to exist, human rights for all must be respected and monopolies must be overcome. He rejected the naive view of those who assume that if governments don’t intervene everything will work out for the best. His book Protection or Free Trade gives a strong case against protectionism.
Refutation of Malthus. Four chapters of George’s most famous work, Progress and Poverty, are devoted to an examination of the claim of Thomas Malthus that overpopulation is the main cause of poverty and a threat to civilization. As this fallacy is still with us, and is a major weapon in the arsenal of the abortion movement, George’s critique is very relevant.
Malthus claimed that unchecked population growth results in population outstripping food supplies. George shows very clearly that a larger population leads to a proportionately larger per capita supply of food, unless systemic injustices block this from happening. A greater division of labor results from a larger population, there are greater economies of scale, there is greater incentive to find creative solutions. Malthusians worry about how all the additional mouths are to be fed; but they forget that each new mouth is accompanied by a pair of hands.
Further, while a larger animal population leads to scarcity of food to feed the increasing number, man is different: He produces food. As George puts it, man and the jay hawk both eat chickens; but the more chickens the jay hawk eats, the fewer there are, whereas the more man eats, the more there are — because he breeds them.
Nor is the tendency to increase a uniform phenomenon. It is strong “where a greater population would give increased comfort, and where the perpetuity of the race is threatened by the mortality induced by adverse conditions; but weakens just as the higher development of the individual becomes possible and the perpetuity of the race is assured.”
Selfishness is not the driving force. In Progress and Poverty George writes: “Shortsighted is the philosophy that counts on selfishness as the master motive of human action. . . . It is not selfishness that enriches the annals of every people with heroes and saints. . . . It was not selfishness that turned Gautama’s back to his royal throne or bade the Maid of Orleans lift the sword from the altar.” He quotes Plutarch: “The soul has a principle of kindness in itself.”
There is a natural harmony in the working of an economy. The economic system results from the coordinated efforts of millions of individuals, and the harmony thus produced cannot be achieved through state regulation. It is cooperation which requires direction from within, not direction from without. To attempt the latter “is like asking the carpenter who can build a chicken house to build a chicken also” (The Science of Political Economy, book III, chapter 10). To attempt this “is the fatal defect of all forms of socialism.”
The economic philosophy of Henry George demonstrates a natural harmony between all those engaged in economic activity, provided they allow the God-given order to operate. I see it as tragic that George’s thought is today neglected by most economists, and unknown to most of the general public.

Share Button

2016 The Wanderer Printing Co.

34% of “Pro-Choice” Women Who See This Viral Video Turn Against Abortion

A new four-minute viral video is causing over a third — 34 percent — of “pro-choice” women surveyed to view abortion “less favorably.” And 28 percent of pro-choice women who watched the video stated there should be more restrictions on…Continue Reading

‘Biblically wrong’: Oklahoma lawmakers urge Obama’s impeachment over transgender bathrooms

Lawmakers in Oklahoma have introduced legislation calling for President Barack Obama to be impeached because of his administration’s support for transgender bathrooms. Another bill calls for a declaration of emergency in the state. In a measure called Senate Concurrent Resolution…Continue Reading

Oklahoma legislature passes bill making it a felony to perform abortions

Lawmakers in Oklahoma approved a bill Thursday that would make performing abortions a felony and revoke the medical licenses of most physicians who assist in such procedures. This sweeping measure, which opponents described as unconstitutional and unprecedented, now heads to…Continue Reading

Unanimous Win for Little Sisters of the Poor at Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the government cannot fine the Little Sisters of the Poor.  The Supreme Court vacated the lower court rulings against the Little Sisters, accepting the government’s admission that it could meet…Continue Reading

Conservatives outraged over Obama transgender directive to public schools

The Obama administration’s directive Friday that every public school provide transgender access — or face the loss of federal funds — drew swift and strong condemnation from conservatives, with one public official blasting it as presidential “blackmail.” The administration’s directive…Continue Reading

Pro-Life Leaders Decry Scandals, Urge Catholic Colleges to Reject Culture of Death

Concerned by recent high-profile events at Catholic colleges featuring pro-abortion leaders — including Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards, Bill Clinton, Wendy Davis and Vice President Joe Biden — 31 Catholic and pro-life leaders joined a statement urging Catholic colleges to “stand firm…Continue Reading

ACLU launches campaign to strip Catholic hospitals of federal funds

NEW YORK, May 9, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Catholic hospitals across the U.S. are “withholding emergency care” and denying “essential health services,” the ACLU is alleging in a new campaign. They also inflict harm on “transgender and gender-non-conforming patients” “when seeking…Continue Reading

Harvard Law Professor Says Pro-Life Christians Should be Treated Like Nazis

Every day, it seems, the United States is becoming a more hostile environment for people with pro-life and conservative positions. Abortion activists constantly challenge pro-life laws, stall abortion industry investigations, force religious objectors to pay for abortions and attack life-affirming…Continue Reading

Obama plans new push for transgender rights in schools

The divisive and politically combustible issue of bathroom access for transgender individuals is about to become further inflamed, as the Obama administration is expected in coming weeks to aggressively reinforce its position that transgender student rights are fully protected under…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: Notre Dame is Wrong

Notre Dame’s Great Scandal: Honoring Vice President Biden By Thomas McKenna, President of Catholic Action for Faith and Family: The University of Notre Dame has announced that they intend to confer the Laetare Medal, an honor given to Catholics “in…Continue Reading

DoJ to North Carolina: You Have Until Monday to Reverse Bathroom Bill

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory received a letter from the Department of Justice that gives him until Monday to reverse his state’s controversial bathroom bill, reports The Hill. The DoJ said the law is in violation of the federal Civil…Continue Reading

Lavender Graduations Harmful to Students at Catholic Colleges

At least eight Catholic colleges across the country are hosting “lavender graduations” this spring — many of them as part of an annual campus tradition — to celebrate and honor students with same-sex attraction (SSA) or who identify as lesbian,…Continue Reading

Newsmax

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Enter Comments Below

This Weeks Comments And Letters . . .

Commentary

This Weeks Comments And Letters . . .      

Today . . .

">Ronald Reagan . . . Memorial Day Address

Planned Parenthood sponsors bill to make it illegal to record and post undercover footage

A bill making its way through the California State Assembly, sponsored by Planned Parenthood, seeks to make it a crime to publish conversations with certain health care providers, notably those associated with abortion facilities. California has already squashed the rights of pro-life pregnancy centers, demanding they offer abortion as an option to their clients, despite their pro-life mission. Now, Planned Parenthood and CA Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez think it’s a fine idea to prosecute someone from posting a “photo…Continue Reading

South Carolina governor signs ban on abortion for babies who feel pain

CHARLESTON, May 26, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – South Carolina has joined 13 other states that forbid abortions to be performed on unborn children capable of feeling pain. As expected, Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican, signed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act on Wednesday. The law restricts abortion to the first 19 weeks of pregnancy. “South Carolina took a courageous stand to protect women’s health and safety in limiting abortion at a point at which the risks…Continue Reading

Pope Francis: Perseverance in prayer needed, but not “magic wand”

pope908

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday said “prayer is not a magic wand.” He was speaking during his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square. The Pope was discussing the Parable of the Unjust Judge – also known as the Parable of the Persistent Widow – from the Gospel of Luke. In the parable, the persistence of a widow forces the unjust judge to grant her request for justice, “so that she will not eventually…Continue Reading

Catholic College Presidents Hopeful for Resolution in HHS Mandate Challenge

The presidents of two Catholic colleges involved in the U.S.Supreme Court challenges to the HHS mandate applauded the Court’s recent decision to vacate all lower court rulings and expressed their hope that a positive resolution for religious freedom would soon be reached. “I am pleased that Supreme Court has offered us a way forward which doesn’t require us to participate in the provision of the services which

Havana: The Potemkin Village Of The 21st Century

By ALBERTO MARTINEZ PIEDRA According to the media, it is often heard that many Americans are interested in traveling to Cuba because, as relations between the jewel of the Caribbean and the United States warm, they “want to see the island before it changes.” And they make this statement with a certain degree of optimism.…Continue Reading

Rocky Homilies

By DEACON JAMES H. TONER (Editor’s Note: Deacon James H. Toner, Ph.D., serves at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Greensboro, N.C.) + + + The Holy Father’s admonition in Amoris Laetitia that priests must understand that the moral law should not be thrown at people as if it were so many stones (n.…Continue Reading

Restoring The Sacred… A Procession To The Ends Of The Earth

By JAMES MONTI Several weeks ago, after attending the Easter Vigil at a nearby seminary, and the emptied chapel had fallen silent, I began to hear the sound of the sacring bell being rung in the sacristy. Puzzled by this, I wondered whether the seminarians were perhaps trying to repair the bell. But then from…Continue Reading

Is Scarborough Shoal Worth A War?

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN If China begins to reclaim and militarize Scarborough Shoal, says Philippines President Benigno S. Aquino III, America must fight. Should we back down, says Aquino, the United States will lose “its moral ascendancy, and also the confidence of one of its allies.” And what is Scarborough Shoal? A cluster of rocks…Continue Reading

Cicero In An Election Year

By JUDE P. DOUGHERTY In the midst of the turmoil that characterized the mid-decades of the last century, the English jurist Sir Patrick Devlin wrote, “If a society’s laws are based on a particular worldview and that worldview collapses, the laws themselves will crumble.” His 1965 book, The Enforcement of Morals, is still worth reading…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

The Marvel Of The Catholic Church Miracles And The Saints

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 2 “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’.” “Heal the sick, raise the dead, and cleanse the lepers, cast out demons” (Matt. 10:7-8). It is evident that our Lord Jesus Christ gave to His disciples the power to perform miracles, and many of them did just that. Not…Continue Reading

The Church’s Liturgy — Who Celebrates?

By DON FIER There is an ancient Latin saying in the Church that eloquently expresses what her members believe of the efficacy of the sacraments and their relationship to faith: lex orandi, lex credendi (“the law of prayer is the law of faith”). Each of the seven sacraments, as we saw last week, can be classified in various categories. Yet…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. My husband and I are wondering when to say the “Amen” after the Lord’s prayer is prayed during Mass. I believe “Amen” should be said after we say “deliver us from evil.” — J.W., Georgia. A. Although it is correct to say “Amen” at the end of the Our Father while saying it outside of Mass, for example, while…Continue Reading

God’s Prophet

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Tenth Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: 1 Kings 17:17-24 Gal. 1:11-14a, 15a, c, 16a, 17, 19 Luke 7:11-17 In the first reading today we hear about the death of the son of a widow with whom the Prophet Elijah stayed when he was passing through that region. The woman had been very good to…Continue Reading

Cardinal Mueller Reminds The Church Of Her Marriage Doctrine

By MAIKE HICKSON Part 2 (Editor’s Note: We are publishing this commentary from Gerhard Cardinal Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as reported by Maike Hickson, in two parts. The first part appeared in last week’s issue. (OnePeterFive graciously gave The Wanderer reprint permission for this article. All rights reserved. See: www.onepeterfive.com/cardinal-muller-reminds-church-marriage-doctrine/. (Dr. Hickson, born…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Augustine Of Canterbury

By CAROLE BRESLIN A Celtic cross erected in 1884 marks the spot in Ebbsfleet, Thanet, East Kent, where St. Augustine of Canterbury is said to have landed in 597. While some form of Christianity in England may be traced back to the times of the Roman occupation, it did not become a strong presence until the arrival of St. Augustine,…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Crispin Of Viterbo

By CAROLE BRESLIN In March 1986, Pope John Paul II visited the Basilica of Our Lady of the Vine (Oak) located in Tuscany, Italy, to proclaim our Lady patroness of the Diocese of Viterbo. The tradition of visiting the image of Our Lady of the Oak began 600 years ago in 1417 when Mastro Baptist Magnano Iuzzante commissioned an image…Continue Reading

COMPLETE 3 PART Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Insights On The State Of The Church In The Aftermath Of The Ordinary Synod On The Family

Cburke3

By DON FIER Part 1 (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, recently traveled from Rome to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., a magnificent place of worship which he founded and dedicated. (His Eminence graciously granted an extensive interview to The Wanderer during which he…Continue Reading