January 2018

The false dichotomy of liberty vs equality, or markets vs socialism, is exposed when one examines the role of land. Once you see it, you can’t unsee. — Edward Miller

Check Out the new “American Experience” Documentary on The Gilded Age

Readers of this newsletter will want to tune in to PBS’s American Experience on February 6th for a new documentary on the Gilded Age. Here’s the trailer, which describes the period of the last three decades of the 19th century as “an age of possibilities,” “an age of extreme wealth,” and “an age of extreme poverty.

The term Gilded Age comes from the 1873 novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today by Mark Twain. It’s revealing that the term is “Gilded” rather than “Golden” – implying a surface prettying-up, a patina applied over an underlying reality that was much grittier.

The times we’re living through are often described as a “New Gilded age.” We often hear Donald Trump bragging about the strong stock markets and high productivity over which he presides — but these economic gains tend to only benefit those at the very top of the economy.

Henry George was one of the seminal voices of the Gilded Age. George, who had experienced extreme poverty in his own life, wrote with deep feeling and empathy about the abject suffering that seemed inextricably tied to economic progress.

The documentary devotes at least ten minutes to George — his hardscrabble early history, and his dramatic mayoral race. There is even a separate trailer about this segment of the film, which elevates George to the level of fame enjoyed by Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan. Unfortunately, though, filmmaker Sarah Colt emphasizes Henry George’s biography and his easily-understood role as a spokesman for popular discontent — without mentioning his analysis. Viewers of this documentary will see Henry George as a compelling voice that described the yawning divide between rich and poor, as when he wrote: “It is as though an immense wedge were being forced, not underneath society, but through society. Those who are above the point of separation are elevated, but those who are below are crushed down.”

Apparently, Colt mentions neither Henry George’s explanation of the fundamental cause of these problems, nor his proposed solution. The problem of deepening poverty along with material progress remains, in the viewer’s mind, a matter of society’s inevitable power dynamic between Haves and Have-nots.

Fans and devotees, desperate to leverage any mention of Henry George in popular media, will see this film as cause for celebration. Serious readers of George, however, are more likely to throw up their hands in frustration at one more in a long list of references to Henry George as a self-taught guy who had nothing of any great consequence to add to economic analysis, and whose ideas certainly have no practical relevance today.

It’s worth noting that Mark Twain didn’t damn Henry George with that sort of faint praise. Twain was quoted as saying, “The earth belongs to the people. I believe in the gospel of the single tax.” The pointedly Georgist article “Archimedes” appeared in Henry George’s newspaper The Standard under the byline “Twark Main,” and Twain scholars have endorsed it as Twain’s work. Also – and more important to the current discussion – The Gilded Age, in 1873, was all about land speculation. The quest to get rich from simply owning a piece of well-placed ground is the backbone of the book’s plot. And so it should be, for the appropriation of the community’s work, as it piles up in the unearned rent of land and natural resources, underlies “progress and poverty” just as much today as it did in the first “Gilded Age.”

Ed Dodson Shares SOTU Response

Our stalwart colleague, Ed Dodson, has composed and recorded a video response to President Trump’s state of the Union message. Ed has provided us with a video that is sober, cogent, thoughtful and well worth your consideration. Perhaps it’s not scintillating, but, hey, if you can listen to Trump bloviate for 90 minutes, you ought to be able to handle Ed for eight.

A Milestone for The Progress Report

Lawrence Bosek, Editor at www.progress.org, writes: I have some exciting news! The progress Report has reached a milestone of 1000 followers on Facebook this week. Thanks to contributors such as yourself, our site is growing and we are spreading our resource sharing messages farther than before. Thank you all and please keep up the excellent work.

This year has even more growth in the plans. I will send out another update when the plans have been solidified. Meanwhile, if you have any other ideas or know of anyone else that has ideas to share, please send them my way.

Articles You Shouldn’t Miss

New York Times: The Subways Made Them Rich. Is It Time for Them to Pay Up?

New York Times: The Next Crisis for Puerto Rico: A Crush of Foreclosures

Bloomberg News: Faster Growth Begins With a Land Tax in U.S. Cities

New York Times: Flood Map Revision Sets Up New York Real Estate Battle

Scottish Land Commission: Land Commission to Look at Potential for Land Value Taxes n Scotland

Bloomberg News: Land Is Underrated as a Source of Wealth

Georgist Site of the Month

Rumour has it that these blokes may be changing their name from “The Single Tax and Natural Energy Band” to simply “Natural Energy Band” — a change that deserves support, I’d say — for the single tax message of this set of songs by John Harris and friends comes through loud and clear. Don’t be put off by the kludgy appearance of their website; these guys are rockers, not coders. But give their songs a listen! They are providing us with some sorely-needed “movement music” that will get you moving.

December 2017

Given a community with republican institutions in which one class rolls in wealth and the many seethe with discontent at a condition of things they know not how to remedy, and power must pass into the hands of demagogues who will seize and wield it for a time, only to be displaced by worse demagogues. — Henry George

CGO 2018: Renewing Baltimore

Monday, August 27th to Friday, August 31st, 2018

The 2018 CGO conference will take place in Baltimore’s vibrant Inner Harbor. Our hotel, the Holiday Inn Inner Harbor, is just two blocks from the Camden Yards Stadium (where the Orioles will be playing while we’re there!) and just blocks away from numerous museums, restaurants, the National Aquarium, street performers in the daytime and live music at night.

Though Baltimore is troubled, and has lost a third of its population since 1970, it is also very proud of its history, and has more buildings on the national historic register than any other US city. Baltimore has long been known as the “city of neighborhoods” and its people take pride in their friendly hospitality. And, Baltimore is city where dedicated activists and local officials have been working for over a decade to enact the LVT reform that Baltimore desperately needs. Clarence Davis, former Maryland state legislator and AARP president, has been a leader in this effort and will be a key speaker at our conference.

Our conference will begin with a special charrette, a brainstorming session in which folks from many fields will envision the probable effects of collecting Baltimore’s land rent for public revenue. One day will be devoted to panels on the morality of property in land, featuring Charles Avila, author of Ownership: Early Christian Teachings.

Stay tuned for more news as this event takes shape!

Henry George’s Birthplace for Sale

 The Henry George birthplace, 413 S. 10th St. in Philadelphia, has been owned by the Henry George School for many decades. Georgist classes were held there through the 1960s and 1970s, and in 1989 the building was restored and opened as the Henry George birthplace Museum. It housed a number of artifacts from Henry George’s life, as well as a library – and classes were still held there. In recent years, the birthplace continued to house the Henry George artifacts, served as an archive for historical materials collected by the school, and served for a time as the headquarters of the Center for the Study of Economics.

Recently the HGS has announced its intention the birthplace on the market. It has offered to sell it to the Robert Schalkenbach foundation for the “market price” of $720,000. Over the years a number of bequests and other donations have been made to the Henry George School which were targeted and restricted to the Philadelphia birthplace. The Schalkenbach foundation estimates the current value of these restricted funds to be approximately $700,000. Recently the HGS has removed all of the Henry George memorabilia and artifacts from the birthplace, placing them in storage in New York.

Because of this building’s importance to the Georgist movement, the Schalkenbach foundation has urged the Henry George School to simply transfer ownership so that it can keep Henry George’s birthplace as a shrine and educational center for our movement’s use. So far, the HGS has made no response.

P&P Launch Event in Vancouver

On December 1st, at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, was held second in a series of lectures and discussions on the The Annotated Works of Henry George. Volume II is the new edition of Progress and Poverty, edited by William Peirce, who contributed an introduction on the historical context of P&P, placing. George’s argument within the framework of the economic theories of his day. This event, hosted by the Henry George Foundation of Canada, included presentations by Frank Peddle and Brendan Hennigan.

Progress and Poverty in German

A brand new translation of Henry George’s classic appeared this year, translated, and with an introduction, by Prof. Dirk Löhr. german readers have eagerly welcomed this new book. For many decades, the only German translation of Progress and Poverty was in an archaic German script, which few now read.

 

Henry George Institute Secures College-Credit Recertification

Since 2012, the Henry George Institute’s three-course series in Principles of Political Economy as been recommended for college transfer credit. This year, the certifying body, the National College Credit Recommendation Service, a division of the University of the State of New York, required its periodic recertification. Expert reviewers Fred Foldvary and Kris Feder went through the HGI’s curriculum and enthusiastically recommended that it be recertified. Students who complete the three-course series receive an official transcript from Excelsior College, an accredited college in New York State. The first course in the series, Understanding Economics, is free and self-based. Anyone can enroll at www.henrygeorge.org.

Articles You Don’t Want to Miss!

This Month’s Featured Blog

The Devon (England) Henry George Society’s blog isn’t the least bit flashy – but it’s well worth a good chunk of your time. It features commentary, analysis and reviews by articulate Georgist writers, with an occasional guest post from across the pond. It clearly announces itself as part of a larger movement, having chosen to associate itself with the “Earthsharing” brand, and offering a smartly-curated list of associated sites in the right-hand margin. Visit! Scroll! Read, comment & Share! You’ll be glad you did.