|Famous as||Economist, Politician, Writer|
|Born on||02 September 1839|
|Born in||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania|
|Died on||29 October 1897|
|Works & Achievements||Initiator of land value tax, Creator of Georgism school of thought|
Henry George Childhood & Early Life
Henry George was born on 2 September, 1839 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to father Richard S. H. George and mother Catharine Pratt (Vallance) George in a low middle class family of ten children. George was the second amongst all the children who had to end his studies at the age of 14 due to paucity of money as he was born in a modest family that had many members. Soon after abruptly ending his formal education at the age of 14 George started out on a journey in the seas when he turned 15 in April 1855 on the ship, ‘Hindoo’ that was bound for Melbourne and Calcutta. After spending a year and a half in the seas George returned to Philadelphia to start working as an apprentice typesetter before deciding to settle in California.
George tried to make out a career in gold mining but was not successful in it. In 1865 he started to work in the newspaper industry as a printer going on to become a journalist which continued till he decided to put an end to his newspaper industry journey as an editor and proprietor. During his career in the print media George worked in various newspapers. From 1871–1875 he was the editor of his own newspaper ‘San Francisco Daily Evening Post’.
George started his political career by becoming a Lincoln Republican. Later he turned into a Democrat and lost one election to the California State Assembly. Throughout his political career George had been a strong critic of corruption among politicians, railroad and mining interests, land speculators, and the system of labour contractors.
George travelled a lot. In one of his cross country travels he found that the poverty line people residing in New York City lived in worse conditions than the poor people living in less developed California. All of these observations were brilliantly put together by George in his famous book, ‘Progress and Poverty’ which he wrote in 1879. The book was greatly accepted selling a huge 3 million copies and above. In the book George discussed that poverty was an invariable result of the mass land ownership held by land owners and monopolists via economic rents through the advancement brought about by free market economy that gave rise to great wealth amassed by social and technological advances. The great line of demarcation between the wealthy and the poor was highly criticised by George. He further stated that there was grave injustice in the imbalance of wealth distribution. George explained that natural resources were subjected to restricted access resulting in private profit thus levying high taxations on the actual producers. In his book and in his thoughts George showed how this system of divide created a system similar to slavery. Coming form a poor family George could asses the situation very clearly. George was able to point out the growth in living conditions while residing in California. He saw the Californian railroads being constructed which instantly increased land values and rents much faster than the wages were rising.
In 1880 George moved to New York City. By this time he had turned into a notable writer and a great public speaker. During this time George associated himself with the Irish nationalist community although he had a British origin. This alliance made him start his travels abroad for giving speeches in Ireland and Scotland where land was a politically held issue.
In 1886 George ran for the election of mayor for New York City being the United Labour Party candidate. This party was a short-lived political society of the Central Labour Union. George had many votes that made him come second only to Republican candidate Theodore Roosevelt. According to popular belief (by great many supporters of Henry George) the election was fraudulently won by Tammany Hall candidate Abram Stevens Hewitt. In 1887 George tried for the third time in the 87’ New York state elections where he came third in the election for Secretary of State of New York. George’s United Labour Party was soon struck by divergence within the party that led to internal rifts. United Labour Party comprised of many Marxist members. ‘Georgist’ notions played the central belief system for the party. George was greatly criticised for his free trade policy.
George was a proponent of new age land taxes. His ideas ranged from economy to politics, foreign relations, employment, poverty eradication, land ownership, secret balloting and many other varied areas of society, politics and economy. He was a believer of free trade, state ownership and regulation of natural policies. Some of his popularly proposed state policies are given below.
George was a staunch advocate of state ownership on certain things like land, telegraph, water supplies, invention and scientific investigation. George proposed taxation and state regulation on natural monopolies like water and electricity which formed the base for an industry to grow. George was liberated on the railroad constructions which he willingly suggested, to be given to private ownership systems if need be as far as the rail tracks were state owned. George criticised state monopolies and proposed a more flexible and open system of government-supported incentives for invention and scientific investigation. George proposed municipal control on water supplies and state sanctioned telegraph systems.
Restricted Chinese Immigration
George became popular with his writings that stated the importance of restriction of Chinese immigration. He explained that many of his writings supported immigration restriction but it would not be necessary to continue so in future. However he stood by all his earlier statements arguing that acceptance of low wages by immigrants brought down the economy and the standard wage payments for all.
Single Tax on Land
George’s finest achievement was with his theory of societal land rent sharing over private ownership of lands. In his book ‘Progress and Poverty’, George stated, “We must make land common property”. George showed the way by stating that implementation of large land value tax gradually decreased the value of land titles. George was dead against compensation for landowners. He also proposed that nationalized lands or private leases on lands could make land a common property and a commonly shared thing in society.
George advocated Free Trade. He being a great critic of tariff systems promoted free trade in federal politics. In his book ‘Protection or Free Trade: An Examination of the Tariff Question with Especial Regard to the Interests of Labor’ which was written in 1886 George openly discussed and differentiated between protectionism and free trade. In the book George explained the need for removing all taxes from production thus ensuring a free production and thus making the land become a common property.
United States owes its secret ballot system to Henry George who first proposed the adoption of Australian Ballot in the United States. George was a prominent and the earliest proponents of secret ballot.
Henry was around 22 years old when he fell in love with an eighteen-year-old Australian girl who was an orphan. He married Annie Corsina Fox by eloping with her in 1861. Annie had just turned into an adult when Henry ran away with her in a borrowed suit. The couple was happy having 4 children, two sons and two daughters. George and Annie’s children were future United States Representative from New York, Henry George, Jr. (1862–1916), Richard F. George (1865–September 28, 1912), Jennie George (1867 – 1897) who later became Jennie George Atkinson and Anna Angela George (1879), who mothered future dancer and choreographer, Agnes de Mille and future actress Peggy George, (who was born Margaret George de Mille). George’s family went into starvation in the early stages but with George’s rising popularity in the newspaper industry his family soon saw economical advancement.
Later Years and Death
It was in 1897 that George had decided to campaign for becoming the mayor representing himself as an Independent Democrat. Doctors had advised George not to stand for the elections due to falling health. George died on 29 October 1897 just four days before the elections. He suffered from heart stroke. George’s funeral was attended by more than 100,000 people. His funeral was held on 30 October 1897.
Henry George Timeline:
1839 – Henry George was born on 2 September
1855 - George started out on a journey in the seas when he turned 15 in April on the ship, ‘Hindoo’ that was bound for Melbourne and Calcutta
1861 - He married Annie Corsina Fox by eloping with her
1865 - He started to work in the newspaper industry as a printer going on to become a journalist which continued till he decided to put an end to his newspaper industry journey as an editor and proprietor
1871–1875 - He was the editor of his own newspaper ‘San Francisco Daily Evening Post’
1879 – He wrote ‘Progress and Poverty’ which was greatly accepted selling a huge 3 million copies and above which discussed that poverty was an invariable result of the mass land ownership held by land owners and monopolists via economic rents through the advancement brought about by free market economy that gave rise to great wealth amassed by social and technological advances
1880 - George moved to New York City. By this time he had turned into a notable writer and a great public speaker
1886 - George ran for the election of mayor for New York City being the United Labour Party candidate
1886 – In his book, ‘Protection or Free Trade: An Examination of the Tariff Question with Especial Regard to the Interests of Labor’ George openly discussed and differentiated between protectionism and free trade
1887 - George tried for the third time in the 87’ New York state elections where he came third in the election for Secretary of State of New York
1897 - George died on 29 October just four days before the elections where he had campaigned as mayor representing as an Independent Democrat