Saturday 23rd May 2015

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

Comment on this Article:

Untitled 3

Pope FrancisAn Open Letter To His Holiness Pope Francis      Given the controversy and confusion surrounding the 2014 Synod on the Family, the staff of The Wanderer and its supporters thought it appropriate to address Pope Francis with an open letter . . .

Ireland has voted to legalize gay marriage, both sides say

DUBLIN (AP) — Irish voters have resoundingly backed amending the constitution to legalize gay marriage, leaders on both sides of the Irish referendum declared Saturday after the world’s first national vote on the issue. As the official ballot counting continued,…Continue Reading

Vatican’s eco guru champions Occupy Wall Street thugs

May 22, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — Jeffrey Sachs wears many hats. He is known as the architect of the UN Millennium Development Goals, and the proponent of the upcoming UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). His new book, entitled, (what else) The…Continue Reading

Boy Scouts president: We need to allow open homosexual leaders

May 22, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Boy Scouts of America president Robert Gates says the youth organization must change with the times and allow open homosexual men to serve as Scout leaders. Gates, the former U.S. Secretary of Defense and CIA…Continue Reading

Federal Court Forces University of Notre Dame to Obey Pro-Abortion HHS Mandate

A federal appeals court has denied a request by the University of Notre Dame to get out of having to comply with the pro-abortion HHS mandate that is a part of Obamacare and requires businesses and church groups to pay…Continue Reading

The Reception of Holy Communion in the United States

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the close of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Francis has decided to mark the occasion with the “Year of Mercy.” Despite much happy-talk and positive papal press, it is a time of foreboding in…Continue Reading

‘Eleven Christians Killed Every Hour,’ Says Irish Bishop

According to Bishop John McAreavey, the Chair of the Council for Justice & Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, statistics show that the situation of Christian persecution in the world is far more dire than most people understand. The…Continue Reading

Africa’s experience of family life must be heard at synod, Pope tells Togo’s bishops

Pope Francis received Togo’s bishops in audience on May 11 as part of their quinquennial ad limina visit to Rome. The West African nation of 6.8 million is 20% Muslim, 15% Protestant, and 14% Catholic, with approximately half of the…Continue Reading

The eco-encyclical won’t commit the Church to unsettled science

By the time the environment encyclical of Pope Francis is released, it will be anti-climactic. Not anti-climate change to be sure, as the Holy See is certainly enthusiastic about the issue. Actually, it is against climate change, but enthusiastic about…Continue Reading

“America’s Changing Religious Landscape.”

The Pew Research Center just released its latest study on “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.” The subtitle tells the story: “Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow.” For our purposes, I want to focus…Continue Reading

Vatican cardinal sees no change in family teachings at synod

VATICAN CITY (AP) — A senior Vatican cardinal predicted Saturday that there will be no change in the Catholic Church‘s practice and teaching about marriage, divorce and the reception of Communion at an upcoming meeting of bishops on family issues. Cardinal…Continue Reading

Synod Leader: Don’t Expect Changes in Catholic Church Policy

Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, who is playing a key role in the Catholic Church’s upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family, said there will be no changes in church policy coming as a result of the summit. There has been…Continue Reading

Germany’s bishops vote to allow Church employees to publicly defy Catholic teaching

WURZBURG, Germany, May 6, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — On April 27 in Würzburg, the German bishops approved with more than a two-thirds majority a reform of the Catholic Church’s Labor Law in Germany, allowing some Church employees to publicly defy Church…Continue Reading

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 subscribe 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

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading

Today . . .

Pope Francis: Labour must be free, creative, participatory, and mutually-supportive

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis spoke to the Italian Christian Workers Associations (ACLI) on Saturday in the Vatican on occasion of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Association. In his speech to the Italian Christian Workers Associations – also known as the ACLI – Pope Francis exhorted those present to support a culture of dignified labour. He denounced the ‘god of money’ at the heart of our global economic system, promoting a culture of…Continue Reading

At the General Audience Francis asks that fathers and mothers take back their full role as educators

2015-05-21 L’Osservatore Romano “It is time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile – for they have exiled themselves from bringing up their children – and to fully resume their educational role”. This was the Pope’s declaration at the General Audience on Wednesday morning, 20 May. Continuing his series of catecheses on the family, he spoke to the crowds – many of them families – about the importance of parents as educators. The…Continue Reading

Pope’s appeal for World Day of Prayer for Church in China

(Vatican Radio) At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis made a special appeal for prayer for Catholics in China.   The Holy Father’s appeal comes ahead of Sunday’s feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, celebrated throughout the world on May 24. Chinese Catholics have a special devotion to Mary, Help of Christians, whose feast day is marked with special devotions and pilgrimages, especially to the National Marian Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai. In…Continue Reading

General Audience: Parents’ Vocation To Educate Children

pope784

(Vatican Radio) In his catechesis at the General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis focused on the role of parents in the education of their children, which he called “an essential characteristic” of the family. The Holy Father noted the many difficulties facing parents today, especially those who find themselves in difficult situations. He spoke especially about the difficulties of separated couples, calling on them to “never, never, never take the children hostage!” He spoke out…Continue Reading

What If We Didn’t Have A Constitution?

By ANDREW P. NAPOLITANO What if we didn’t have a Constitution? What if the government were elected by custom and tradition, but not by law? What if election procedures and official titles and government responsibilities merely followed those that preceded them, and not because any of this was compelled by law, but because that’s what…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Aren’t Homosexuals Born That Way?”

By BRIAN CLOWES (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995.) + + + The most powerful weapon in the homosexual special rights arsenal is the victim status. A close second is the allegation that homosexuals are “born that way.” If scientists can show that homosexuality…Continue Reading

The Passing Of The Word “God”

By DONALD DeMARCO The Word of God will never pass away. But the word “God” continues to pass into oblivion. In some quarters the word is said to be discriminatory and offensive. Therefore, it must be removed. Atheists can be very touchy these days. Take the case of Alain Simoneau of Saguenay, Quebec. This nonbeliever…Continue Reading

Vietnam Today . . . Forty Years After The Fall Of Saigon

By LEE NGUYEN HO CHI MINH CITY (AsiaNews) — Forty years after the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, the Communist Party marked its anniversary by the largest ever military parade in the South. The parade commemorated the day when Communist troops from the North captured the city and ended the Vietnam War and…Continue Reading

Former Soviet Spy . . . We Created Liberation Theology

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNA) — Espionage deep in the heart of Europe. Secrets in the KGB. Defection from a Communist nation. Ion Mihai Pacepa has seen his share of excitement, serving as general for Communist Romania’s secret police before defecting to the United States in the late 1970s. The highest-ranking defector from Communism in the 1970s,…Continue Reading

The Wanderer Interviews His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke . . .

burk10

By DON FIER Part 1 (Editor’s Note: Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, who previously served as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome from June 2008 until November 2014, recently visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis. Prior to that he served as Archbishop…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

The Church — Body Of Christ

By DON FIER As we considered “People of God” as an image of the Church last week, an important and underlying principle inherent to its biblical symbolism emerged: God wills to make us holy and save us not as separated, isolated individuals, but as a people. He wills to sanctify and redeem mankind “by making them into one people gathered…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Writing in the Sunday bulletin of the Church of St. Michael in New York City, Fr. George W. Rutler talked of the “web of contradiction [that] becomes more entangled in our day when politics are complicated by moral inconsistencies.” He cited three examples: “First, the birth of Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana occasioned celebrations, as the birth of any…Continue Reading

Truths Beyond Comprehension

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER The Solemnity Of The Most Holy Trinity (YR B) Readings: Deut. 4:32-34, 39-40 Romans 8:14-17 Matt. 28:16-20 In the first reading today, we hear Moses addressing the people of Israel after their Exodus from Egypt and after they had spent much time in the desert. Moses marveled, and rightly so, that God had entered into human…Continue Reading

Pope To The Bishops Of Mozambique . . . “The Paschal Mystery Is The Beating Heart Of The Mission Of The Church”

VATICAN CITY (ZENIT) — Pope Francis on May 9 received the bishops of Mozambique who were in Rome for their ad limina visit. + + + Dear brothers in the episcopate! You are welcome ad limina Apostolorum, the purpose of the visit undertaken by you these days, so that with your dioceses in your heart, you also celebrate and strengthen…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Rules Without Relationships Foster Rebellion

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK I write this week’s column from Lourdes, France, where I have joined a pilgrimage of 200 wounded warriors, volunteers, family members, military veterans, and chaplains from the United States. Most of us are here through the gift of the Knights of Columbus which has underwritten this magnificent opportunity for prayer, evangelization, fellowship, and renewal of…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Charles Lwanga And Companions

By CAROLE BRESLIN The Catholic Church in Africa has experienced unprecedented growth in the past century. In 1900, shortly after the martyrdom of Charles Lwanga and companions, there were two million Catholics in Africa. When Pope Benedict XVI visited Africa in 2009, the Catholic population was 158 million. Once again the Church has witnessed that the blood of martyrs is…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Philip Neri

By CAROLE BRESLIN Throughout the history of the Church when great persecutions and heresies have been promoted, there were also great saints who underwent persecution in their attempts to protect the Deposit of Faith. Such was the case in the early 16th century, when the Catholic Church was suffering her greatest crisis to date with the Protestant Revolt. During this…Continue Reading