George, Henry

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George, Henry

George, Henry, 1839–97, American economist, founder of the single tax movement, b. Philadelphia. Of a poor family, his formal education was cut short at 14, and in 1857 he emigrated to California; there he worked at various occupations before turning to newspaper writing in San Francisco. George's experience in a number of trades, his desperate poverty while supporting a family, and the examples of financial rapacity that came to his attention as wage earner and newspaperman gave impetus to his reformist tendencies. George believed that an increase in poverty accompanied and even surpassed the increase in national wealth. He believed that the answer to this seeming paradox lay in the fact that the rental of land and the unearned increase in land values profited a few individuals rather than the community whose existence made the land valuable. He believed that a single tax on land would meet all the costs of government and even leave a surplus, besides unburdening labor and capital of taxes on their output. He first outlined the doctrine in the pamphlet Our Land and Land Policy (1871) and set himself to write a more elaborate treatise, which appeared under the title Progress and Poverty (1879); it sold millions of copies all over the world. In 1880 George moved to New York City and spent the remainder of his life writing and lecturing. He supported the Irish Land League and various economic and political reforms. In 1886 he ran for mayor of New York on a reform platform, and the incumbent Tammany machine was forced to go outside its ranks to find in Abram S. Hewitt a man strong enough to oppose him. Hewitt won, but George, without a party organization, polled a heavy vote, running ahead of the Republican candidate Theodore Roosevelt. In 1897 George ran again but died just before the election. Clear presentation and moral fervor rather than originality make George's ideas outstanding. His theories have influenced tax legislation in Australia, in parts of Canada, in the United States, and in certain nations of Western Europe.


See biography by Henry George, Jr. (1900); studies by A. A. G. DeMille (1950, repr. 1972), S. B. Cord (1965), E. J. Cord (1965), and J. Oser (1973).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

George, Henry


Born Sept. 2, 1839, in Philadelphia; died Oct. 29, 1897, in New York. American economist and publicist.

George was a bourgeois radical who disseminated bourgeois and reformist views among the workers. He promoted the idea of “a single land tax,” as a means of ensuring the general well-being, and the idea of “a socially just world,” which F. Engels called completely bourgeois (see K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 36, p. 78). George analyzed wages, interest, rent, capital, and economic crises from anti-scientific vulgar positions.


Progress and PovertyAn Inquiry Into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want With Increase of Wealth: The Remedy. London, 1890.


Al’ter, L. B. Burzhuaznaia politicheskaia ekonomia SShA. Moscow, 1971. Pages 151-70.
Rose, Edward J. Henry George. New York [1968]. (Bibliography, pp. 170-72.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

George, Henry

(1839–97) social reformer, economist; born in Philadelphia. Although not a truly original or systematic economist, he was perhaps the most influential 19th-century U.S. social analyst, renowned for his fervent writing and magnetic speaking style. His book, Progress and Poverty (1879), was one of the most widely read books of that time; it sparked many heated debates among intellectuals, and was translated into several languages. Primarily self-taught, his formal schooling ended at age 14 and he worked as a sailor, a journalist, and a printer before embarking on Progress and Poverty, which he wrote while working as a state gas meter inspector in California. The book was his reaction to the great disparity he saw between the wealthy and the poor. In order to abolish poverty and all economic crises, his theory called for a "single-tax" on land, exclusive of improvements, that would be sufficient to finance all government expenses. His popularity as a lecturer in the U.S.A. and abroad and his association with the single-tax movement led him to run, albeit unsuccessfully, for mayor of New York City in 1886.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.