George, Henry

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Comment by Dave Wetzel on April 11th, 2009 at 4:06 am

You say that Henry George was: “Influenced by socialist ideas, he believed that the government should operate social welfare programs for the benefit of those in need, and that his proposed land tax would be sufficient to fund them.”

This is nonsense.
I am a socialist (President of the Labour Land Campaign here in the UK) and have read most of Henry George’s work including “Progress and Poverty”. I can assure you that Henry Geoerge’s support for the free market was very far from socialism. In fact he and Marx never met but warned their respective supporters against each others ideas.

George did not advocate “social welfare programmes” as he argued that under his system of taxing all land values “social welfare” and private charity on a big scale would become unnecessary.
Henry George argued that the NATURAL wealth of our planet (ie NOT man-made wealth) is for all to share – not just landowners, and that we all create land values.
He argued that by encouraging investors to buy land, sites are kept out of use as they appreciate in value, and workers are denied jobs (depressing wages) and consumers denied homes, goods and services.
George argued for private entrprise to compete on a level playing field with all businesses paying ground rent to the rest of community and with no taxes on their workers’ wages, their sales nor their profits.
With Henry George’s Land Value Taxation (LVT) proposal, all sites would be charged there full economic rent leaving no room for speculation, creating more access to land (nobody would hold land out of use if they paid the land rent to the whole community) more workers would have jobs (no unemployed claiming benefits) and these jobs themselves would be better paid with no income tax and a much reduced civil service releasing former bureaucrats to play a productive role in the economy – providing valued goods and services.

Traditionally, most socialists wanted a bigger role for the state with welfare paid to more people, a minimum wage and more state employees in nationalised industries. Most socialists today also want high taxes on company profits and high wage earners and the elimination of wasteful competition between companies. Far from the free market ideals of Henry George.

Of course, modern socialists also argue for a mixed economy with more controls over the excesses of capitalism.

Comment by Jennifer Tanabe on April 11th, 2009 at 10:51 am

Thank you for pointing out that confusion. Indeed George and Marx were quite opposite, and I have added another statement to that effect. Agreed George was no socialist, although he was familiar with socialists (not Marx) and concerned with the same problems and inequalities in society as socialists. His conclusions, however, were indeed different. I hope the revisions make this article more accurate and clear. Thanks again for your feedback.

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