Foreword

The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, December 2001 | Go to article overview
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Foreword


THE HENRY GEORGE Program at St. John's University originated in 1981 with a grant from the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation that established the Henry George Chair in our College of Business Administration. Mr. Thomas Larkin, a member of the Foundation's Board of Directors and the St. John's University Board of Trustees, was instrumental in arranging the grant.

The Foundation's objective was to disseminate knowledge about the ideas of Henry George, the 19th-century economist and social reformer. George was appalled at the persistence of great poverty in the midst of the unparalleled economic progress brought about by industrialization. By utilizing the tools of economics, he sought to find an explanation for this phenomenon and a solution to it. His thinking was presented in the book Progress and Poverty. Originally published in 1879, it is one of the most widely sold books in history and has been translated into many languages. Progress and Poverty was followed by several other books, articles, and speeches that developed his ideas more extensively. Among these were Protection or Free Trade, The Science of Political Economy, and Social Problems.

According to George, the cause of poverty amidst abundance was due to monopoly in land ownership and land speculation. As a society grows, land values appreciate. The poor suffer because of higher rents and the withdrawal of land from productive use for speculative reasons. George characterized this return to land as an unearned increment, that is, the increased land values are not due to the productive efforts of the landowner but to the progress of society. Thus, he called for a tax on land values to the exclusion of all other taxes. The revenues from such a land-value tax, George believed, would be sufficient to fund all necessary municipal public services. Moreover, land held for speculation would be returned to productive use, thereby increasing employment opportunities for the working classes. In an effort to implement his theories, George ran for mayor of New York City, without success, in 1886 and 1896.

Each semester, an economist of national or international stature presents the Henry George Lecture.

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