Freedom and Henry George
Henry Ware Allen
[Excerpted from Chapter 5, "Freedom," from
the book, The Man, Henry George]
"It was on a misty Sunday morning in the
spring of 1890 that Henry George and Mrs. George, pausing for a
brief stop in Kansas City on their way to Australia and thence
around the world, were greeted at the old Union Station and
conducted to the Midland Hotel for breakfast by young Henry
Allen, bustling with the importance of being the committee of
one designated by the Single Tax Club of Kansas City to meet the
distinguished visitors. Mr. Allen's subsequent contacts with
Henry George, both in the Midwest and in New York were frequent,
and it was not long before he had established a reputation as
one of the outstanding writers in the Georgist movement."
[Editors, The Freeman, January, 1943]
Born in 1861 in Massachusetts, Allen was living in Kansas City,
Missouri when Henry George's lecturing activity was at its
height. He remained active in the Single Tax movement throughout
the remainder of his long life, which ended in 1957 at age 96.
Allen delivered an address on "Social Injustice" at
the 1932 Henry George Congress held in Memphis, Tennessee.
Later, he contributed a number of thoughtful essays to The
Freeman during its years of publication by individuals
associated with the Georgist movement in New York. What follows
is an excerpt from Chapter V, "Freedom," from the book
The Man, Henry George.
By the discovery of a great natural law, Henry George gave to the
world in his masterpiece, Progress and Poverty, the right way
to abolish land monopoly and undeserved poverty. This philosophy has
never been successfully controverted.
Henry George was born in Philadelphia, within a half mile of
Independence Hall, September 2, 1839. When 19 years of age, he went to
California, working his way as a sailor before the mast around the
Horn. When in San Francisco as a young married man, a printer and
writer, he experienced the pinch of undeserved poverty and noticed
that experience in the lives of others. He observed the contradiction
of grinding poverty amidst advancing wealth. This enigma had puzzled
the minds of countless others, but Henry George with greater
intellect, greater heart, greater perseverance and clearer vision than
other men resolved that he would not rest until he had discovered the
cause and the cure for this puzzle, this inability of men wanting to
work but unable to earn wages above the cost of a bare living. He
examined every available authority in the realm of political economy
with the purpose of following truth wherever it might lead and with
the elimination, if necessary, of any and all established theories or
convictions concerning the problem.
His great book, Progress and Poverty, was published in 1879,
and it proclaimed to the world in classic language and with
unanswerable logic the philosophy which has since been associated with
his name. According to this philosophy, economic rent resulting from
the value given to land by population was a community value and
belonged to the community as the rightful revenue to be collected by
government through taxation in order to provide for the necessary
expenses of government.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF HENRY GEORGE
When William Lloyd Garrison II had accepted the philosophy of Henry
George which caused him thereafter to be a notable supporter of that
philosophy, he advised Henry George, adding that he did not believe
that the Single Tax would cure all the ills which afflict society. "Nor
do I," responded Henry George, "but freedom will." And
it will be well for those who may have had the same reaction as Mr.
Garrison to remember that in our present day existence freedom is
denied to us in a multitude of ways.
Says Buckle in his
History of Civilization, every great reform which has been
effected has consisted not in doing something new, but in undoing
something old. The most valuable additions made to legislation have
been enactments destructive of previous legislation; and the best laws
which have been passed have been those by which some former laws have
The philosophy of Henry George is revealed or uncovered by repeal of
those laws and regulations which are found to be unjust, leaving only
the taxation. This is a practical expression of the great natural law
that was discovered by Henry George.
The single tax is the name for a practical application of that
natural law which automatically provides adequate revenue for the
normal expenses of government.
This discovery of a great natural law in the realm of political
economy was comparable to and of far greater potential benefit to
mankind than was the discovery in physical science of the law of
gravitation by Sir Isaac Newton. The single tax involves the abolition
of all ordinary taxes. Those taxes violate the principle of justice.
According to Addison, justice is the greatest and most God-like of all
the virtues; and according to Henry George, unless its foundation be
laid in justice the social structure cannot stand."
demands that economic rent, a product of the community, be conserved
in full to the community by taxation. Justice also requires that
rentals of buildings of every kind produced by man's labor rightfully
belong not to the community, but to the owners of these buildings and,
in consequence of this, that they should be free of taxation.
...Over-taxation is robbery: under-taxation is dishonesty. A just tax
measures exactly the equivalent service rendered by the community. The
single tax is the only tax which conforms to this requirement.
The present system of taxation is thoroughly dishonest. It robs
certain classes for the benefit of other classes and is frequently
accompanied by inquisitorial methods. It penalizes thrift, industry
and enterprise, while providing to other classes monopolies and
special privileges. It has the effect of creating a steadily
increasing proportion of tenant farmers in place of the sturdy
independent farmers of earlier days. It makes necessary an expensive
army of public officials and tax gatherers who might otherwise be
engaged in productive enterprises. The cost of all agricultural
products being based on inflated land values, it increases the cost of
living to artificially high levels. The single tax would reverse all
of this bad influence.
Those who have come to understand the great natural law upon which
the single tax is founded invariably experience a new appreciation of
the wisdom of the Creator: as Herbert Quick expressed it, they have
been privileged to see a great light. They have been privileged to
understand how every new labor-saving device or machine, how every
improved method in transportation and every advance in the arts and
sciences would provide increasing benefits to all mankind.
With a fine understanding of this. Dr. Edward McGlynn, the eminent
New York City Catholic priest, exclaimed, "The single tax simply
means making room at the Father's table for all His children!"