The Economic Theory of George Bernard Shaw

By Thomas Anson Knowlton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
BIOGRAPHICAL: SOCIALISM

One evening in the fall of 1882 Shaw "wandered in" to Memorial Hall, London, "An American [was] finishing a speech on the Land Question."1Shaw didn't know the speaker, but he was greatly impressed--so much so that his whole life was vitally affected by that evening. At the close of the meeting Shaw purchased a copy of the speaker's book, Progress and Poverty, which was then very popular.2 As a result he saw for the first time the "importance of the economic basis" of society.3 It is very possible that Shaw might have become a socialist if he had never heard of Henry George or Progress and Poverty, but it is highly improbable that he could have remained one for long without passing through what Beer called "the school of Henry George."4

Shortly after this eventful evening, having finished Progress and Poverty, Shaw attended a meeting of the Democratic Federation5 and took part in the discussion. "He was informed that he was only a novice in economics [and was told to] read Marx Capital. Aware of his appalling ignorance of economics he [did so] and found . . . that his advisers were awestruck, as they had not read it themselves"!6 However sketchy his knowledge of Socialism,

____________________
1
Henderson, op. cit., p. 149. Letter of Shaw to Hamlin Garland, Dec. 29, 1904.
2
Geiger says that there is no question but that Progress and Poverty is the most popular book on Political Economy ever written. George Raymond Geiger , The Philosophy of Henry George, 1933, pp. 55-56 (note)
3
Henderson, op. cit., p. 152.
4
"Four-fifths of the socialist leaders of Great Britain in the '80s had studied George." Beer, History of British Socialism, quoted in Geiger, op. cit., p. 235. J. A. Hobson wrote ( The Influence of Henry George in England, Fortnightly Review, v. 68 (o.s.) 1897, pp. 835-44) ". . . It is easy to impute excessive influence to the mouthpiece of a rising popular sentiment. George, like other prophets, cooperated with 'the spirit of the age.' But after this just allowance has been made, Henry George may be considered to have exercised a more directly powerful formative and educative influence over English radicalism of the last 15 years than any other man."
5
Organized in 1881. Its name was later ( 1884) changed to "Social Democratic Federation." This was the "first definitely socialist organization in England." Sidney Webb, Socialism in England.
6
Henderson, op. cit, p. 153.

-8-

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The Economic Theory of George Bernard Shaw
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Foreword iii
  • Table of Contents v
  • Chapter I - Biographical: Pre-Socialist Years 1
  • Chapter II - Biographical: Socialism 8
  • Chapter III - Shaw and the National Dividend 18
  • Chapter IV - Capital and Interest 35
  • Chapter V - Shaw's Rent 43
  • Chapter VI - Money and Banking 49
  • Chapter VII - Shaw's Socialist State 52
  • Chapter VIII Shaw's War Record 68
  • Chapter IX - An Appraisal 74
  • Bibliography 76
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