12. (2013 March) What You Can Do: WSJ Controversy

By now, some of our readers may be aware of the controversy regarding the portrayal of the Georgist cause in a recent Wall Street Journal article. While many thought that the Georgist philosophy and movement were unfairly portrayed, some contend that this is a useful moment to reflect upon the strategies we employ, the modes of communication we utilize to engage people outside the Georgist ranks, and our vision of the future. Below you’ll find a link to the original article. We invite you to add your comments to the growing chorus on the WSJ website. You’ll also find a letter from Mark Sullivan, Administrative Director of Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, offering some reflections on the incident and a special offer from RSF.

It’s a Lonely Quest for Land-Tax Fans, But, by George, They Press On
Acolytes of 19th-Century Economist Try Movies, Cartoon, Tours; ‘Uphill Struggle’
By Ianthe Jeanne Dugan (Wall Street Journal)


Dear Fellow Georgists,

These are my personal comments, but it concludes with an offer from RSF.

We are perhaps upset not so much by any errors in the WSJ article as by its facts, which are of course somewhat selective. The article revealed at least two disturbing facts: our minimal success in reaching and recruiting the general public and policy-makers; and our members’ by and large lack of support for the movement itself, as demonstrated by the mere $1,000 that Charles Ashira was able to raise for his proposed “Henry George – the Movie”. This support was to be raised via the Foundation for Economic Justice, as tax-deductible contributions (as well as via direct investment). Yet the response was embarassingly and hopelessly inadequate. I know this lack of support is not only a problem for Charles Ashira. The Georgist organizations I have been involved with (going back more than 30 years) all consistently have this problem. Georgists, by and large, are not putting their money where their mouth is. There are exceptions, generous Georgists, and we should be very grateful for them.

Polly spotted, and admirably corrected, the one statement we can honestly dispute as a matter of fact, and it was made by Lincoln’s Ingram, not by the author of the article, who simply reported the (again, selective) fact of Ingram’s statement. What else can we do to respond? And on what grounds? In its July 2003 issue, The American Journal of Economics and Sociology published a 50+ page symposium on “Henry George and His Legacy” (based on an EEA session that responded to Warren Samuel’s memorandum “Why the Georgist Movement Has Not Succeeded”). Is it time to revisit this issue in a similarly formal and organized fashion? It seems we are now doing it informally via the internet. In any case, RSF is willing to send a complimentary copy of this AJES issue, while the supply lasts, to each person who requests it. Please send any requests to books@schalkenbach.org. (RSF does not have the rights to reproduce it, so we cannot send electronic copies.) Perhaps we can turn the WSJ negative publicity into an opportunity to move forward.


Mark A. Sullivan
Administrative Director
Robert Schalkenbach Foundation
90 John Street, Suite 501
New York, NY 10038
Tel: 212-683-6424 Fax: 212-683-6454

2 thoughts on “12. (2013 March) What You Can Do: WSJ Controversy

  1. Thank you – and all the great Georgists who commented on the WSJ article! The comments alone move our cause further forward. Clearly, the non-Georgist readers of that article are being exposed to Georgism for the first time. Your comments clarified and expanded our message.
    I also wrote directly to Ms. Dugan about the clearly false 5-10% claim of the somewhat estranged Lincoln Institute, and informed her of how they had twisted George’s message into a profit-making opportunity instead of a quest for justice through land reform. I pasted Polly’s excellent comment in that email too, and gave her credentials, which are of course lacking in a simple e-comment on the WSJ site.
    I believe this article is a net positive, and we have already decided to include it in our collection of handouts at our public presentation at upcoming Earth Day April 21, by Common Ground-NYC. As I told others in a separate email chain, remember Gandhi’s advice:
    First they ignore you (where we’ve been for a long time)
    Then they laugh at you (some of what the article now enables, though not entirely, so this is progress)
    Then they fight you (Josh Vincent and others can better speak to that, but we need more fighting and less of 1 & 2 above)
    Then you win.

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