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Progress and Poverty: An Inquiry in the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth... The Remedy

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This classic work is an enquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and the persistence of poverty amid advancing wealth. Published in 1879, it was admired and advocated by great minds such as Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Leo Tolstoy and Sun Yat-sen in China. Henry George lived through a period of American history which witnessed the closing of the frontier, and he noticed the dramatic deterioration in the condition of labour once that happened. While land was freely available wages were high, once it was enclosed wages fell. Adam Smith appears not to have appreciated the full consequences of this, but he was writing before their full horror became evident in the form of landless peasants crowding into city slums, seeking work in "satanic mills" at minimum wages. Henry George, observing similar events in America (he was a journalist), saw the connection between land enclosure and poverty and unemployment. He also realized that the harmful effects could be rectified, without confiscating the land, through a change in the tax system and allowing market forces to work. This classic offers an alternative ethical and practical guide at a time when the collapse of the Marxist/Socialist experiment and the deep recession in the West leave many seeking fresh inspiration.

599 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1879

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About the author

Henry George

251 books88 followers
Henry George was an American writer, politician and political economist, who was the most influential proponent of the land value tax, also known as the "single tax" on land. He inspired the economic philosophy known as Georgism, whose main tenet is that people should own what they create, but that everything found in nature, most importantly the value of land, belongs equally to all humanity. His most famous work, Progress and Poverty (1879), is a treatise on inequality, the cyclic nature of industrialized economies, and the use of the land value tax as a remedy.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 79 reviews
Profile Image for Jennifer Foshee.
5 reviews14 followers
July 3, 2009
Left vs Right, Communism vs Capitalism, Marx vs Hayek -- this is the essential argument that has driven our global discussions and conflicts for the past century or two. The thing is, both sides are half-right, and both sides are half-wrong, ironically because both make the same essential mistake -- the failure to recognize that Land and Capital are two *very* different means of production.

Henry George saw the third way, and shows us how we can build a society that values both economic liberty AND economic justice.
Profile Image for Michael.
477 reviews1 follower
December 14, 2013
Tolstoy believed Henry George would "usher in an epoch." Mark Twain proselytized for the cause, and Einstein, Aldous Huxley, and Milton Friedman have praised his ideas. John Dewey said, "It would require less than the fingers of the two hands to enumerate those who, from Plato down, rank with Henry George among the world's social philosophers."

That said, economic thought has made tremendous progress since this book was published. Keep that in mind in the early chapters. I rate this book highly because of its huge significance—it gets the big ideas right. Many details, including key ones like the nature of technology and the treatment of intangible goods, are possibly wrong and subject to correction. Its accomplishment remains staggering.

I recommend skipping Book II unless you enjoy discredited Malthusian theory. Book V, Chapter II; Book VII; and Book VIII will yield the most return on your time—you may wish to start there. Now, some excerpts:

Rent, in short, is the price of monopoly, arising from the natural elements which human exertion can neither produce nore increase.

As Produce = Rent + Wages + Interest,
Therefore, Produce - Rent = Wages + Interest
[read the book for definition of terms]

And hence, no matter what be the increase in productive power, if the increase in rent keeps pace with it, neither wages nor interest can increase.

One man will not work for another for less than his labor will really yield, when he can go upon the next quarter section and take up a farm for himself.

To see human beings in the most abject, the most helpless and hopeless condition, you must go, not to he unfenced prairies and the log cabins of new clearings in the backwoods, where man single-handed is commencing the struggle with nature, and land is yet worth nothing, but to the great cities, where the ownership of a little patch of ground is a fortune.

[Take] some hard-headed business man, who has no theories, but knows how to make money. Say to him: "Here is a little village; in ten years it will be a great city—in ten years the railroad will have taken the place of the stage coach, the electric light of the candle; it will abound with all the machinery and improvements than so enormously multiply the effective power of labor."... [He'll say] "Go, get yourself a piece of ground, and hold possession." And if, under such circumstances, you take his advice, you need do nothing more. You may sit down and smoke your pipe; you may lie around... go up in a balloon, or down a hole in the ground; and without doing one stroke of work, without adding one iota to the wealth of the community, in ten years you will be rich! In the new city you may have a luxurious mansion; but among its public buildings will be an almshouse.

The fallacy [of the poor but lacking industry] is similar to that which would be involved in the assertion that every one of a number of competitors might win a race. That any one might is true; that every one might is impossible.

[When] all land is 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 be just able to live and reproduce... the lowest on which they will consent to maintain their numbers.

[Socialism], modern society cannot successfully attempt. The only force that has ever proved competent for it—a strong and definite religious faith—is wanting and is daily growing less. We have passed out of the socialism of the tribal state... The ideal of socialism is grand and noble; and it is, I am convinced, possible of realization; but such a state of society cannot be manufactured—it must grow. Society is an organism, not a machine. It can live only by the individual life of its parts.

When non-producers can claim as rent a portion of the wealth created by producers, the right of the producers to the fruits of their labor is to that extent denied. There is no escape from this position.

The real and natural distinction is between things which are the produce of labor and things which are the gratuitous offerings of nature.

The equal right of all men to the use of land is as clear as their equal right to breathe the air—it is a right proclaimed by the fact of their existence. For we cannot suppose that some men have a right to be in this world and others no right.

For what are we but tenants for a day? Have we made the earth, that we should determine the rights of those who after us shall tenant in their turn?

Who are the land holders that they should thus be permitted to reap where they have not sown? Consider for a moment the utter absurdity of the titles by which we permit to be gravely passed from John Doe to Richard Roe the right exclusively to possess the earth... In California our land titles go back to the Supreme Government of Mexico, who took from the Spanish King, who took from the Pope, when he by a stroke of the pen divided lands yet to be discovered between the Spanish or Portuguese—or if you please they rest upon conquest. In the Eastern States they go back to treaties with Indians and grants from English Kings; in Louisiana to the Government of France; in Florida to the Government of Spain; while in England they go back to the Norman conquerors. Everywhere, not to a right which obliges, but to a force which compels. And when a title rests but on force, no complaint can be made when force annuls it. Whenever the people, having the power, choose to annul those titles, no objection can be made in the name of justice. There have existed men who had the power to hold or to give exclusive possession of portions of the earth's surface, but when and where did there exist the human being who had the right?

To improvements, such an original title can be shown; but it is a title only to the improvements, and not to the land itself. If I clear a forest, drain a swamp, or fill a morass, all I can justly claim is the value given by these exertions. They give me no right to the land itself... But it will be said: There are improvements which in time become indistinguishable from the land itself! Very well; then the title to the improvements becomes blended with the title to the land; the individual right is lost in the common right. It is the greater that swallows up the less, not the less that swallows up the greater. Nature does not proceed from man, but man from nature, and it is into the bosom of nature that he and all his works must return again.

Has the first comer at a banquet the right to turn back all the chairs and claim that none of the other guests shall partake of the food provided, except as they make terms with him? Does the first man who presents a ticket at the door of a theater, and passes in, acquire by his priority the right to shut the doors and have the performance go on for him alone? Does the first passenger who enters a railroad car obtain the right to scatter his baggage over all the seats and compel the passengers who come in after him to stand up?

If chattel slavery be unjust, then is private property in land unjust.... Place one hundred men on an island from which there is no escape, and whether you make one of these men the absolute owner of the other ninety-nine, or the absolute owner of the soil of the island, will make no difference either to him or to them... for simply to refuse them permission to live upon the island would be to force them into the sea.

[It] is no wonder that [slaveowners] easily persuaded themselves of the divine institution of slavery. That the field hands of the South were as a class better fed, better lodged, better clothed; that they had less anxiety and more of the amusements and enjoyments of life than the agricultural laborers of England there can be no doubt...

[In] London, New York, and Boston, among people who have given, and would give again, money and blood to free the slave, where no one could abuse a beast in public without arrest and punishment, barefooted and ragged children may be seen running around the streets even in the winter time, and in squalid garrets and noisome cellars women work away their lives for wages that fail to keep them in proper warmth and nourishment. Is it any wonder that to the slaveholders of the South the demand for the abolition of slavery seemed like the cant of hypocrisy?

One of the anti-slavery agitators (Col. J. A. Collins) on a visit to England addressed a large audience in a Scotch manufacturing town, and wound up as he had been used to in the United States, by giving the ration which in the slave codes of some of the States fixed the minimum of maintenance for a slave. He quickly discovered that to many of his hearers it was an anti-climax.

[The] working classes are being driven by a force which acts upon them like a resistless and unpitying machine... for exchange is not governed by sentiment.... it is the inexorable laws of supply and demand, a power with which the individual can no more quarrel or dispute than with the winds and the tides, that seem to press down the lower classes... in reality, the cause is that which always has and always must result in slavery—the monopolization by some of what nature has designed for all.

To buy up individual property rights would merely be to give the land holders in another form a claim of the same kind and amount that their possession of land now gives them; it would be to raise for them by taxation the same proportion of the earnings of labor and capital that they are now enabled to appropriate in rent.

[To] buy up the lands at market rates and pay interest upon the purchase money would be to saddle producers not only with the payment of actual rent, but with the payment in full of speculative rent.

[We] have been educated to look upon the "vested rights" of land owners with all the superstitious reverence that ancient Egyptians looked upon the crocodile. But when the times are ripe for them, ideas grow, even though insignificant in their first appearance. One day, the Third Estate covered their heads when the king put on his hat. A little while thereafter, and the head of a son of St. Louis rolled from the scaffold. The anti-slavery movement in the United States commenced with talk of compensating owners, but when four millions of slaves were emancipated, the owners got no compensation, nor did they clamor for any.

[The] common right to land has everywhere been primarily recognized, and private ownership has nowhere grown up save as the result of usurpation.... an idea of comparatively modern growth, as artificial and as baseless as that of the right divine of kings.

"In all primitive societies, the soil was the joint property of the tribes and was subject to periodical distribution among all the families, so that all might live by their labor as nature has ordained. The comfort of each was thus proportioned to his energy and intelligence; no one, at any rate, was destitute of the means of subsistence, and inequality increasing from generation to generation was provided against." (M. de Laveleye)

There still remain in our legal systems survivals that have lost their meaning, that, like the still existing remains of the ancient commons of England, point to this. The doctrine of eminent domain, existing as well in Mohammedan law, which makes the sovereign theoretically the only absolute owner of land, springs from nothing but the recognition of the sovereign as the representative of the collective rights of the people; primogeniture and entail, which still exist in England, and which existed in some of the American States a hundred years ago, are but distorted forms of what was once an outgrowth of the apprehension of land as common property. The very distinction made in legal terminology between real and personal property is but the survival of a primitive distinction between what was originally looked upon as common property and what from its nature was always considered the peculiar property of the individual. And the greater care and ceremony which are yet required for the transfer of land is but a survival, now meaningless and useless, of the more general and ceremonious consent once required for the transfer of rights which were looked upon, not as belonging to any one member, but to every member of a family or tribe.

[During the SF gold rush] it was by common consent declared that this gold-bearing land should remain common property, of which no one might take more than he could reasonably use, or hold for a longer time than he continued to use it.... The title to the land remained in the government, and no individual could acquire more than a possessory claim. The miners in each district fixed the amount of ground an individual could take and the amount of work that must be done to constitute use. If this work were not done, any one could re-locate the ground. Thus, no one was allowed to forestall or to lock up natural resources.

Upon the same principle are based the mining laws of Mexico; and the same principle was adopted in Australia, in British Columbia, and in the diamond fields of South Africa...

It is not necessary to say to a man, "this land is yours," in order to induce him to cultivate or improve it. It is only necessary to say to him, "whatever your labor or capital produces on this land shall be yours." Give a man security that he may reap, and he will sow...

"The change required would simply be a change of landlords. Separate ownership would merge into the joint-stock ownership of the public. Instead of being in the possession of individuals, the country would be held by the great corporate body—society. Instead of leasing his acres from an isolated proprietor, the farmer would lease them from the nation.... A state of things so ordered would be in perfect harmony with the moral law. Under it all men would be equally landlords, all men would be alike free to become tenants." (Herbert Spencer)

I do not propose either to purchase or to confiscate private property in land. The first would be unjust; the second, needless. Let the individuals who now hold it still retain, if they want to, possession of what they are pleased to call their land. Let them continue to call it their land. Let them buy and sell, and bequeath and devise it. We may safely leave them the shell, if we take the kernel. It is not necessary to confiscate land; it is only necessary to confiscate rent.... abolish all taxation save that upon land values.

Taxes on the value of land not only do not check production as do most other taxes, but they tend to increase production, by destroying speculative rent. How speculative rent checks production may be seen not only in the valuable land withheld from use, but in the paroxysms of industrial depression which, originating in the speculative advance in land values, propagate themselves over the whole civilized world, everywhere paralyzing industry, and causing more waste and probably more suffering than would a general war.

[Familiar? http://tinyurl.com/75fwexn Hear Thomas Jefferson: "If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered... I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies." Welcome to the new millennium.]

[A] tax upon land values can, of all taxes, be most easily and cheaply collected. For land cannot be hidden or carried off; its value can be readily ascertained...

Instead of saying to the producer, as it does now, "The more you add to the general wealth the more shall you be taxed!" the state would say to the producer, "Be as industrious, as thrifty, as enterprising as you choose, you shall have your full reward! You shall not be fined for making two blades of grass grow where one grew before; you shall not be taxed for adding to the aggregate wealth." And will not the community gain by thus refusing to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs; by thus refraining from muzzling the ox that treadeth out the corn; by thus leaving to industry, and thrift, and skill, their natural reward, full and unimpaired?

And so, I think, it will be seen throughout—this measure would make no one poorer but such as could be made a great deal poorer without being really hurt. It would cut down great fortunes, but it would impoverish no one.

Call it religion, patriotism, sympathy, the enthusiasm for humanity, or the love of God—give it what name you will; there is yet a force which overcomes and drives out selfishness; a force which is the electricity of the moral universe; a force beside which all others are weak.... To be pitied is the man who has never seen and never felt it. Look around! among common men and women, amid the care and the struggle of daily life, in the jar of the noisy street and amid the squalor where want hides—every here and there is the darkness lighted with the tremulous play of its lambent flames.

[The] development of society is, in relation to its component individuals, the passing from an indefinite, incoherent homogeneity to a definite, coherent heterogeneity. The lower the stage of social development, the more society resembles one of those lowest of animal organisms which are without organs or limbs, and from which a part may be cut and yet live. The higher the stage of social development, the more society resembles those higher organisms in which functions and powers are specialized, and each member is vitally dependent on the others.

[The] garment of laws, customs, and political institutions, which each society weaves for itself, is constantly tending to become too tight as the society develops.

What has destroyed every previous civilization has been the tendency to the unequal distribution of wealth and power.

And when the disparity of condition increases, so does universal suffrage make it easy to seize the source of power, for the greater is the proportion of power in the hands of those who feel no direct interest in the conduct of government; who, tortured by want and embruted by poverty, are ready to sell their votes to the highest bidder or follow the lead of the most blatant demagogue; or who, made bitter by hardships, may even look upon profligate and tyrannous government with the satisfaction we may imagine the proletarians and slaves of Rome to have felt, as they saw a Caligula or Nero raging among the rich patricians.

To put political power in the hands of men embittered and degraded by poverty is to tie firebrands to foxes and turn them loose amid the standing corn; it is to put out the eyes of a Samson and to twine his arms around the pillars of national life.

The truth that I have tried to make clear will not find easy acceptance. If that could be, it would have been accepted long ago. If that could be, it would never have been obscured. But it will find friends—those who will toil for it; suffer for it; if need be, die for it.

I had no theory to support, no conclusions to prove. Only, when I first realized the squalid misery of a great city, it appalled and tormented me, and would not let me rest, for thinking of what caused it and how it could be cured.

A garden in which are set the trees of good and evil. A vineyard in which there is the Master's work to do. A passage—from life behind to life beyond. A trial and a struggle, of which we cannot see the end. Look around to-day. Lo! here, now, in our civilized society, the old allegories yet have a meaning, the old myths are still true. [END OF EXCERPTS]

If ever the last become first and the first become last, if ever the meek inherit the earth, they shall owe an eternal debt to Henry George.
Profile Image for Otto Lehto.
437 reviews159 followers
May 21, 2017
If, instead of the red flags of Marx and Lenin, the people of Russia, China and Cuba had aggregated underneath the earthen banner of Georgism, 20th century would look very different. Had people only understood that social justice requires not only equal access to land and other natural resources but a progressive free market society in which the free endeavours of man can be pursued unhindered, the institutional excesses of state socialism might have been averted.

Progress and Poverty was a bestseller from the get-go: messianic and poetic, yet admirably clear-headed, it created a high-speed rush at the time of its release, and has kept up a steady, slow-burning flame ever since. Despite its reputation, and arguably diminished influence (in our age of post-modern Marxism), the book's (and the author's) heyday may still be in the future. At least if the quiet murmurings in the intellectual underground, little ripples of Georgist resurgence, are any indication. People are starting to go back, if not en masse, to a more free market-oriented, libertarian social justice perspective, as they should. We are living through a period when more and more people are looking for an alternative to rigid socialism and unjust, exploitative capitalism.

A typical misrepresentation of George's argument is that land should be confiscated from producers and given to the needy. This could not be further from the truth. In reality, George argues that private ownership in land, if allowed to perpetuate itself as an institutional framework, far from being the protector of legitimate producers and their wealth, is the robbery and rape of the same, committed by unproductive monopolists. He argues that all other forms of taxation should be abolished and only monopoly rents should be taxed, at 100%, and handed out to the community in the form of public services and the like. While contentious, this argument is a powerful one.

George's system does not provide a panacea that can cure all our problems, since it is too mired in the classical political economy of it time. It advocates for a labour theory of value in the tradition of David Ricardo. The chapters that deal with the division of income between labour, capital and land are quaint and outmoded. The lessons of marginalist and neoclassical economics we have only learnt in the long century after the death of Henry George, so I am not willing to judge the book too harshly for failing to anticipate the doctrines of economists that came after him. The book exemplifies mid-19th century political economy - and thankfully most of its best attributes.

Although mostly known for one thing, and one thing only, Progress and Poverty is no one-trick pony. It has worthwhile things to say in many areas. I was impressed by many a section. George has interesting ideas to share e.g. in the following areas of science: 1) human mental creativity as the source of all wealth, 2) economic progress as caused by the integration of human cooperation, 3) the anti-Malthusian, pro-utopian approach to population growth, 4) the further elaboration and development of Herbert Spencer's libertarian "system of equal liberty", 5) the explanation of labour exertion and capital production as materially and biologically conditioned processes of social surplus generation, 6) the elaboration of the social benefits of the system of free market exchange.

Every chapter is a treasure trove on brilliant observations. And, of course, the central premise - that we cannot have justice without true liberty and true equality - still rings true. While private ownership in land may not be the origin of all our problems, as George believed - the serpent in our Eden - the paradigm shift of transferring the onus of taxation from the taxation of productive activity and competitive profits to the taxation of unproductive activity and monopoly rents still shines bright as a beacon of revolutionary common sense masquerading as visionary lunacy.
Profile Image for Brian Ross.
102 reviews1 follower
May 4, 2022
This book was a phenomenon in and beyond its time. Written in 1879, it is a book on political economy, specifically exploring why poverty not only remains but actually seems to increase, as societies become more wealthy. It is a work of logical precision yet leavened and enlivened with passion.In arguing his case, George incorporates economics, social philosophy, history, literary references, and commentary. In reading this I was reminded of my prejudices: assuming that "modern, progressive" thinking is an artifact of our age. I know better but this book was a forceful reminder.

Of course at the same time is is a product of its time - and this juxtaposition is almost as interesting as the argument itself. His conclusions regarding the cause of poverty was radical vis a vis accepted economic theory of both then and now, yet within a capitalist framework. This book was a bestseller in its day and was studied for years afterward. In fact George became a political figure of note in late 19th C politics among the progressives. I was fascinated reading his description and analysis of the political and economic landscape of his time - a point at which the United States was just coming toward filling the western frontier, and contrasting it with the "old" societies of Europe. The differences between the world then and now are significant, yet his description regarding the long term consequences of the current system and how societies tend to fail will resonate with anybody who has paid attention to public affairs in the last 20 years.

If you don't have any grounding in economics parts of this book can be heavy going, although he is good at avoiding unnecessary jargon, and explaining it when he must use it. Given it is was written by an economic thinker 135 years ago it is remarkably accessible.As the book proceeds you will encounter views that reflect 19th century thinking that may offend; but in many ways his thinking would be considered progressive today.

This book is definitely NOT for everyone. But for students of economic, social and political philosophy it is a must-read.
Profile Image for Deborah Garvin.
4 reviews4 followers
July 26, 2008
Not sure how this website is set up, but Progress and Poverty, an economic blueprint was written by Henry George in 1880, it has been reviewed, edited, and reprinted, with the latest being 2003.

Progress and Poverty speaks on much of what we see today, why it's happening, and a possible remedy for what it describes as the main problem detrimental to maintaining a politically vialable society. The epidemic of Poverty discussed in Progress and Poverty takes an analytical look at the political economy, it's weaknesses and strengths.

The historically famous economists that inspired Henry George, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx are taken into account and all of their best elements, applied to the organic theory used by Henry George to describe the plan for the perfect economy. Other greats not mentioned in economics are appreciated for their input into the political economy, specifically Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin and Henry David Thoreau.

He introduces the problem of poverty, the industrial depressions that cause change and forces people into poverty, followed by a remedy that would possibly annihilate poverty once and for all.

It's a must read for anyone living today, wondering what went wrong.

Profile Image for Tyler.
69 reviews21 followers
February 22, 2018
Incredible book. Fundamentally reworks an interpretation of Adam Smith which is surprisingly compatible with Mengerian economics-- that the value of land's production (the only thing that really determines interest, besides labor invested in creating capital) works itself into an increasing proportion of the good's price over time, because the increased productive efficiency of the denser population with land increases the quantity of wages, but the increased efficiency is partially absorbed in a rent increase.
Profile Image for Eric Ruark.
Author 23 books27 followers
May 14, 2014
This is a must read book for anyone who is even remotely politically aware today. Henry George could have been writing about our time when corporations like WalMart are making billions and their laborers are on food stamps.
Profile Image for Brian.
48 reviews1 follower
July 9, 2011
Still insightful today, Henry George's economic classic starts with a central puzzle; why, when unemployment increases, do interest rates drop?
He startlingly sees a natural alliance between the Wage-earner and the Capitalist, and makes a good case for it. And that's just the beginning of this book's points. Worth reading in 2011 for policy-makers and for the rest of us who have to live in the world those policy-makers make.
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 1 book8 followers
April 6, 2013
I read this looking to understand HG's proposal as it relates to speculation/vacant lots/abandoned buildings in urban settings. I wasn't expecting to get such an eye-opening treatise on societal progress and disparities in wealth (although maybe the name should've clued me off). I highly recommend this - it's well written and very easy to follow (there's a little bit of drudging through 19th c. style but not too bad). HG starts to wander towards the end - I think reading the first 2/3 of the book would probably suffice to convince the reader of its merits.

Sort of amazing that this book sold millions of copies in the 19th c. but the ideas are only spoken of on the fringe today. I have a hard time explaining that without resorting to crack-pot conspiracy theories.
Profile Image for Alan Nair.
19 reviews3 followers
October 2, 2022
One of the most insightful, profound, clear and enlightening books I have ever read. This book is literally the Bhagavad Gita Chapter "The Universal Truth" applied to the domain of political economy. There are very few books that have hit my philosophical and intellectual groundings so hard as this one, in just a single reading. Beautiful book, a must read for EVERYONE.
Profile Image for Kenny Guzman.
9 reviews
Want to read
October 16, 2014
I picked up this book at a Occupy Wall St movement rally back in 2011. They had tables lined up in different sections of the park, with crates full of books! Felt like a kid walking through toys'r'us for the first time. The spot basically looked like a library inside of zuccotti park. Picked up few books but this one book here, I was amazed to read Einsteins review on the back of it ; told myself, I want in. Look forward to delving into each page and learning its relevance to our universal disparities
Profile Image for Juan Manuel Cafferata.
75 reviews12 followers
February 23, 2022
Apasionante tratado de economía política. Ideas muy radicales que deberían ser puestas a prueba. Reflexiones muy avanzadas para la época y que resistieron al paso del tiempo. Hiper actual a pesar de ser del 1880.
6 reviews
May 2, 2018
This book changed my life. I still remember when I first got ahold of a copy. I was in my uncle's study. He cannot walk very well, and so there are piles of books all around his desk. As I was looking through maybe the dozenth pile, I found a non-descript red book with black binding, the title faded with age. I'm glad that that was the book I took home because in it were ideas that I found so compelling I would make it my life's goal to help realise them.

The central idea of Progress and Poverty is that land, namely the Earth and its natural resources, belong to all people. George proposes how this ideal may be achieved in practice: a full tax on land values.

Working from first principles and refined definitions, George examines how our privatest economic system, in which the private ownership of land is not only allowed but encouraged, leads to massive unearned benefits for landowners at the expense of labourers and capitalists. It is impossible to escape the scale of the injustice that George illustrates in his writing.

George's style commendably blends emotive examples and clear reasoning into a masterpiece of analytical and persuasive thought. At times it reads like poetry. But it is the content, not the style, that is the true substance of George's work. If you seek to understand economics and poverty, beyond the mere indoctrination you undertook at university, and would pull back the curtain on the greatest injustice in our times, sit down and start reading this book until the final word.

The land value tax is the future of politics globally – be informed.
Profile Image for noblethumos.
536 reviews27 followers
March 29, 2023
"Progress and Poverty" is a book written by American economist and social philosopher Henry George, first published in 1879. The book is a treatise on the causes of poverty and the distribution of wealth in society, and it proposes a radical solution to the problem of poverty through a single tax on land values.

In the book, George argues that the unequal distribution of wealth in society is caused by the private ownership of land and the economic rent that accrues to landowners. He proposes that the value of land is created by the community as a whole and that this value should be returned to the community through a tax on land values. George believes that such a tax would not only eliminate poverty but also increase economic efficiency and promote social justice.

"Progress and Poverty" became an instant bestseller and one of the most influential books on political economy of its time. It sparked a worldwide debate on economic and social policy, and its ideas have inspired many social movements and political reforms. Today, it is still widely read and discussed by economists, philosophers, and social activists.

Profile Image for Dina.
449 reviews36 followers
April 8, 2015
Some people engage in sexual sadomasochism, whilst I prefer an intellectual one. Henry is of course a progressive, and apart from the slight tendency to go off on a tandem, the book makes lots of sense. So, following in the steps of going off on a tandem, the past 500 years of human history is the repetition of the present reality. Few usurp everything, and let the rest of us to be slaves, then they call it democracy, opportunity, hard work or whatever else nice sounding name they can come up with.

Henry's main premise of land taxation makes PERFECT sense. In a way that earth wasn't created for one to own, privatize and sell, and that one is only entitled to his own product. Though quite simple in its original premise in reality it gets rather complicated. I am all for taxing the land values, I am all for the fact that increase of population increases the value of land. I mean read it if only to see that nothing much has changed, and we are dealing with the same problems in 21st century we dealt with in 18th.
Profile Image for Dio Mavroyannis.
165 reviews15 followers
October 3, 2020
I spent the day reading this yesterday, I was already familiar with all of the points George made in this excellent book, however, I was blown away by the clarity. This is must obviously be partly due to Henry George himself but I also think that this edition has managed to filter through the essence of the points being made without using arcane language at any point. I think George is ultimately wrong, but it is nevertheless one of those classic works that should be read.
Profile Image for Brent Ranalli.
Author 3 books9 followers
February 15, 2015
The masterpiece of a wildly under-rated thinker. Every educated person ought to be acquainted with George's core ideas, which stand up well against the test of time (unlike, say, those of Marx, who can go take a bath). There are many abridged editions, which are probably fine for the casual reader. But even to read the long original is a pleasure, he writes with such polish and passion.
2 reviews
Currently reading
September 3, 2009
Radical. Old ideas on economics and taxation who's time may have finally come.
Profile Image for Kevin Carson.
Author 29 books200 followers
October 4, 2018
The treatment of Ricardian differential rent -- differentiated by location rather than fertility in his formulation -- is excellent. His "natural productivity" theory of interest is nonsense.
Profile Image for Peter Morgan.
141 reviews1 follower
October 2, 2019
Political economy’s most famous Medium essay. Constantly oscillates between galaxy brain and meme galaxy brain.
5 reviews2 followers
August 8, 2020
I wanted my first review on this website to be about this seminal, epochal work, which is probably the most important secular book I will ever read.

I am someone who commenced a Masters in Economics, and I am the first to confess that I have not applied myself as I should have, which is why the Masters remains as yet unfinished. In the course of doing so, however, I did make the discovery that much of modern (“neoclassical”) economics is, in a word, bunkum. Hence began the eternal journey of the mind toward Truth: if we are to make people's lives better from an economic standpoint, what really must we do?

It is in the midst of my wanderings, gently prodded on by the memory of one-liners from my high school Ethics teacher, that I stumbled upon Progress and Poverty. I will start by saying that this book is not an easy read. It is not a Saturday evening, slippers-and-a-warm-fire read. But it is a Goodread, and that is why we are here, is it not? It is in fact an incredible study, containing many profound truths. I shall attempt to give my own experience of it; if you feel compelled to laugh at the foolishness I harboured before I read it I certainly understand. But by way of example:

I learnt that the factors of production are Land, Labour and Capital. Well, I had learnt this in high school Business Education. What Henry George said, is that this being the case, then naturally the returns from production are shared among these three factors. It seems to me that on this simple premise you could base/found the whole realm of economic study: how much of the returns from production should - rightly, justly, properly - accrue to land, to labour, and/or to capital?

Mr George's central premise is that the returns to land (itself a metaphor for the earth and all its resources) should be realized by all people; that people own the earth and its resources in common, and that the returns to land should therefore be realized in common. This would appear to negate the concept of private ownership of land or property. Mr George's elegant solution to allowing private ownership of land while causing the returns to land to be commonly realized was a land-value tax, that takes the enjoyment of economic rent (i.e. unearned income) arising from landownership away from private hands and places it in the hands of the public. All this he says while demonstrating a power of logic and a mastery over language that seem almost other-worldly.

It might be worthwhile to think, for a moment, about just a few of the implications of this simple premise. Here are a few:

1. That all “owned” land should be taxed. Implementing this would immediately make owning idle land unprofitable. Living, as we do, in a country where vast tracts of land are "owned" without putting them to optimum use - indeed, to any use at all - taxing the ownership of such land would in short order cause the sale, or the lease, or the use of that land; anything to enable the payment of the land-value tax. All of these outcomes would be nationally, economically beneficial. Indeed, is it any wonder that the economic take-offs of Japan, Korea and Taiwan were kicked off by land redistribution among the people (see Joe Studwell's How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World's Most Dynamic Region)?

2. That only land ownership should be taxed, and that therefore labour and capital should not be taxed. Mr George states that to tax anything is to discourage it, and this is one of the reasons that taxing land values would discourage private landownership, unless the landowner was doing something with that land that would enable them to pay the land-value tax. Being more specific, to tax human endeavor is to discourage it, and therefore such endeavor should not be taxed. Imagine the effect on any economy of allowing people to realize the full benefit of their labour. Would this not be just?

3. That the benefit from ownership of naturally-occurring wealth, for example, should be publicly realized. No more private fortunes in oil, or gold, or diamonds, or the electromagnetic spectrum...

4. That the most prime real estate in New York, or Nairobi, or London - that the "owners" of this prime real estate should realize from owning it only such benefit as accrues from their improvement of that land eg by building upon it, not merely from their "ownership" of it.

5. That Apple and Amazon and Google and Microsoft could not evade federal taxes any longer by pretending to be operating out of Ireland, so long as they had offices (campuses!) – land that they were using – in the United States. A land-value tax is not evade-able.

Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, has said, "The opposite of poverty is not wealth. In too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice." It is one of the great tragedies of economic history - indeed, perhaps of history itself - that Mr George's principles did not take root in economic thinking, for we would be living a far more just world than that in which we live if we applied Mr George's principles to the way we run our economies. And, given that this book received praise from personalities as diverse as Churchill, Einstein and Tolstoy - given that the book sold several million copies in the 1890s, second only to the Bible - given that it is estimated that 100,000 people thronged the Grand Central Palace to pay their last respects to Mr George after he died in 1897 - that its principles did not take root may not be mere accident. There are those who say, not without evidence, that economic scholarship actively worked actively to refute Mr George's work after its publication, chiefly by conflating land and capital, thereby causing the discussion of land as a factor of production to disappear from active consideration by economic scholarship.

I live in hope that one thousand years from now, Mr George's work will live on, while modern economics with all its attempts to mathematicise life and the human experience, will have long been consigned to the dustbin of history.
Profile Image for Harry Harman.
607 reviews13 followers
December 19, 2021

His alma mater had been the forecastle and the printing-office




golden age of which mankind have always dreamed


sunk so deeply into the popular mind

displace the most fundamental conceptions



Those who are above the point of separation are elevated, but those who are below are crushed down.


The premises from which it makes its deductions are truths which have the highest sanction; axioms which we all recognize

similar to that between the mercantile theory of international exchanges and that with which Adam Smith supplanted it


primeval man did when he climbed the trees for fruit or followed the receding tide for shellfish
Profile Image for Chelsea.
233 reviews6 followers
June 28, 2020
One of the things I love about reading older economic texts is seeing how certain ideas come back again and again throughout history. His chapter on all the various solutions people propose to wage inequity is a great example of this - co-ops, unions, government intervention: all ideas people have been arguing about for a long time. George proposes instead that the root cause of inequity is profiting off of land, and that this mode of production should be owned and taxed by the state, vs private owners. I need to read more critiques, but overall, seems like a good idea to me?
Profile Image for Owen Nxumalo.
5 reviews
April 16, 2022
'Progress and Poverty' answers the question "Who does the land belong to? "

In the book, George lays out his case as to why the institution of private property causes poverty quite convincingly.

I enjoyed his brief flirtation with expropriation of land. However, I dislike his ultimate solution of a land tax, because it is easy for reactionary forces to reverse it.

The most memorable idea in the book is that the world is the common inheritance of all of us, since it is the source of all our wealth. I credit George for putting me on the path that made me arrive to my current beliefs, even though his solution was far from a real solution.
Profile Image for Abdullah Hussaini.
Author 16 books55 followers
August 17, 2017
Buku ni aku baca masa tingkatan 5. Tak habis pun. Kemudian aku bawak ke asrama, kununnya nak bacalah. Last2 buku tu hilang. Aduiii. Masa aku mula2 buat facebook aku letak buku ni sebagai interest aku. Ianya menenmukan aku dengan seorang pekerja di institut henry george bernama richard l.biddle. Kami saling bermesej tentang penulis dan isi buku ni.
Dan kerana kenangan itu saya bagi 3 bintang. Bolehhh takkk ? Hihi
Profile Image for Eugene Kernes.
444 reviews21 followers
June 28, 2017
The question that is being answered in this book is why does poverty follow wealth. Many wealthy urban cities, have citizens that are wealthy, but the city also has more people in poverty. The way wealth is divided, going to either interest (capital), wage (labor), and rent (landlord), determines how much poverty there is in the city. Rent is the enemy in this story.
Labor produces wealth by providing useful value to resources. Capital allows labor to be more productive. With capital, each worker has more value. The problem is rent, for rent does not add to wealth. Rent just takes income and profit away from those that provide wealth. Ownership of land means the subjugation of the worker by taking away mean of productions, giving more power to the land owner.
Population amount does not create poverty. With fertile land, a single individual would not be produce much wealth. Where the land does not have much resources, many people can subdivide their time to produce a lot of wealth. With more people, each person can create more wealth.
For every argument that Henry George makes, he points out many counterclaims that others have made. Rather than putting the different theories on the sidelines, they are just as central to the story as what George is trying to explain.
The solution the author proposed was to make all land common. Pointing out that every party will benefit via the ability to produce more wealth. The problem he failed to clarify is who is to make the decision on the land, as in who gets to actually use the land when it is common.
The general case solution is to pay only for improvements and maintenance. Ownership of land should not entitle others to take a share in income while providing nothing in return.
Profile Image for Ernest Barker.
81 reviews1 follower
May 31, 2016
George fails to recognize that the people in poverty that live in a country that has made good industrial progress live far better than people that live in countries that are considered backward. Better medical care, more food, wide screen tv's cars, iPad, and smartphones. He mutters about education being denied. My eight-grade granddaughter along with all the other kids was given iPads to use for the school year. Reading this book was a total waste of time unless you are interested in fringe economic theories that have failed. Instead of wasting your time reading this book. I suggest you read some of Thomas Sowell's books, Sowell's theories are relevant to today society.
12 reviews
December 10, 2013
“Undoubtedly the most remarkable and important book of the present century.”
---Alfred Russel Wallace, 1892

"Progress and Poverty is not so much a book as an event. The life and thought of no one capable of understanding it can be quite the same after reading it."
---Emma Lazarus
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