Public Education as a Course of Social Action

Will Lissner

[Reprinted from Land and Freedom, January-February and March-April 1939]

One of the surest signs of virility in the Georgeist movement is the criticism which constantly appears of the strategy and tactics with which Georgeists are engaged in working for the establishment of an ethical, democratic social order. Throughout their history, Georgeists have never taken strategic policies and tactical efforts for granted. Even when embarked upon them they have continued to scrutinize, study and weigh their efficacy. It is because of this that they may claim to merit, at least in part, Professor Broadus Mitchell's generous tribute to the intelligence of their efforts.

In the framework of this the Henry George School of Social Science has a prominent place. As the most successful effort undertaken in recent years by those who believe that the socio-ethical economics and the progressive social philosophy of Henry George deserve a more influential role in American thought, it is, of course, representative of the most progressive tendencies in the movement. Even before the permanency of the venture was as definitely established as it is today, those who were contributing valuable time or were sacrificing income or savings to support this institution constantly questioned its course.

This deserves to be set down, if only for its historical interest.


This tendency of Georgeists is derived, of course, from the social philosophy that animates them from the framework of ideas to which they refer practical problems whose solution is not found in measurements. It is only natural that the tendency should have been especially marked among supporters of the Henry George School of Social Science; Oscar H. Geiger was its founder.

I can still hear Oscar Geiger's voice ringing in my ears, expounding the principle one of his most cherished convictions derived from the Georgeist social philosophy of an inner unity between ends and means that bars any divorcement of ends from the means with which they are sought to be achieved, that demands, nay, even furnishes the same criteria for the determination of practical methods (as. say, the choice of economic devices) as are employed in the selection and formulation of practicable aims (as social goals).

I can still see the look of justifiable pride which brightened his face as he showed me, in his apartment one day, the exposition of this principle by his son, Dr. George Raymond Geiger, in the galley proofs of The Philosophy of Henry George which the author's father was then engaged in checking. The whole book itself bore testimony to the principle. Oscar Geiger thought his son's work was a precise statement of his own convictions in more modern language than that in which he had arrived at them; I thought privately that the son had shown himself worthy of his father, that the father had made himself worthy of such a son.

The doctrine that the end justifies the means falsely ascribed to the Jesuits who immediately proscribed the one Jesuit book in which it appeared around the turn of the sixteenth century was one Oscar Geiger never tired of refuting with weighty, reasoned argument.

No follower of Thomas a Kempis or Groot or whoever it was that really laid down the injunctions in "The Imitation of Christ" ever engaged in this type of soul-searching more earnestly than the supporter of the Henry George School of Social Science, a fact which I think deserves to be entered into the record.

I can speak of these matters with some assurance. Before the School opened its doors I was a student. I think I may claim to be one of the very first students on those grounds, because, since there was yet no School then for him to refer me to, Oscar Geiger was kind enough to have me visit his home weekly throughout the winter preceding the School's establishment so that he could tutor me personally in the subjects which later became its curriculum.

On the other hand, the claim would be a sentimentalism: Oscar Geiger was a teacher all his life and hundreds must have preceded me. But at any rate, when the School opened its doors at last, I was one of the eighty-four students of the first year. Joseph Dana Miller was a frequent visitor and a welcome one Oscar Geiger yielded the rostrum to Stephen Bell when we took up international trade. Frank Chodorov used to come in from Minnesota or some other outlandish place to discuss the School's problems with its director.

Norman C. B. Fowles, who passed from among us the other day, sat next to me in the only classroom. And I can still remember the light in Oscar Geiger's eyes one day at the end of that year when, haggard with overwork and worry, he fixed an evangelical look upon Fowles and me and said: "Never mind about me. The work will go on. Your consciences will never let you rest easily if it doesn't."

(At Oscar Geiger's funeral not many days later an outpouring of student affection that jammed the school's limited quarters Norman Fowles recalled this to me as one summoned on a mission; and later he told me that it was this that determined him to accept the vacant directorship over the urgent objections of his physician and family.)


Most of the debate of the School's supporters are about its charter from the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York (the State Education Department). Oscar Geiger went to great lengths to get this and it was granted, I think, only as a tribute to his own integrity and scholarship and to his extraordinary capacity as a teacher.

Actually, the School he visioned had only dubious prospects and uncertain support. He himself was staking his small lifelong savings and perhaps I ought not to speak of this lest it embarrass a friend; his largest contributor was one who was sacrificing an unbelievable percentage of an executive salary. The prospects of continued support were more meagre than the prospects of students.

One of the things that helped hasten Oscar Geiger to his grave, I think, was the diffidence with which most of the movement's veterans greeted his effort. Call a roll of the trustees and incorporators, add half a dozen to a dozen more names, and you have a complete roster of the old-timers who were willing to gamble with the founder.

There has been a lot of band-wagon jumping in recent years, but all of the remarks cast about "recent adherents to our movement" (with an implied emphasis on the adjective) will not erase the speech of Oscar Geiger at Town Hall in 1934, when he told how everyone he tried to enthuse about the School had sought to dissuade and discourage him except a handful of men and women he named and pointed out. Even Charles O'Connor Hennessy, who turned out before his death to be one of the School's most valuable supporters, had no faith in Geiger's effort at the beginning. Hennessy used to admit it, with a frankness and honesty one finds was not contagious.

The Board of Regents was willing to wait five years before it counted the books in the School's library (Bolton Hall was forever at a dither lest its size be inadequate) or examined more closely the need for the School, the practicability of its methods, the adequacy of its equipment and its financial support. It must take pride in faith in intangibles now that the School is permanently established and its advanced technique the admiration of experts in adult education.

Oscar Geiger considered, and rightly so, I think, that the granting of the charter marked a turn in the history of the movement. Joseph Dana Miller, who more than any other of Henry George's close associates is qualified to speak upon this history, once wrote, it should be recalled, that the movement wasn't in the business of making history, its own or the country's, in the years just preceding the School's founding.

Oscar Geiger would point out that Georgeists had tried the method of political coalition with a third party, in George's time and in our own. (Geiger was a ring- leader in the Committee of Forty-eight, the abortive venture in 1920.) He would point out that Georgeists had tried concentrating their forces on a single state, Delaware. They had tried the method of setting up their own political party. They had tried initiative petitions in several states, referenda in many, independent legislative action in municipalities, states and even in the Nation. They had made deals with the old parties, deals with the new; they had been sold out more than once. The political results justified R. G. Tugwell in writing in an encyclopedia that comparatively little had come of George's far-reaching work by way of practical achievement.

Actually, at the time when he launched the School, Geiger looked upon the movement's situation as a challenge to him and to all who cared. Many seem to overlook that in the post-war years, when a delusion of speculative prosperity gripped the country, the movement fell to such a low estate it was a miracle Joseph Dana Miller, through the movement's organ, LAND AND FREEDOM, was able to keep it alive.

Oscar Geiger understood that Mr. Miller's single-handed achievement was no neat trick but an heroic effort which taxed his every energy. He made this clear in a speech on his aims and hopes for the Henry George School, read for him by Mr. Miller at the Seventh Henry George Congress in Memphis in 1932. He said then:

"It is thirty-five years now since Henry George left this sphere of life. Those who knew his philosophy while he lived are all now on in years and few are left to carry on the work that he began. Those who did not know his teachings while he lived, likewise are on in years and burdened with cares, and comparatively few of these have more than heard of him or of his books. Those who have come upon the scene since he has gone, have had little chance and very poor advantage to learn of the great truth which he made clear and which alone can make men free."

John J. Murphy had been obliged to report to the Fourth International Conference to Promote Land Value Taxation and Free Trade in Edinburgh three years earlier:

"... In general it may be stated that, during the World War and since its conclusion, there has been little effort to affect taxation national, state or local by legislation."

Mentioning the brief list of Georgeist activities then, he concluded:

"The men engaged in the work include several of the most devoted men in the movement, but they fail to obtain the general support of Single Taxers, nor have they been able to attract any considerable measure of public attention. ... I wish I could present a more optimistic picture."

The School, as Oscar Geiger visioned it, was a break with all the unsuccessful methods of political maneuvering. It was a new course. To establish an ethical, democratic order, he believed, it was not enough to write economic devices for its achievement into the statute books. First, he thought, the masses of the people through their leaders must be helped to discover what they really wanted and needed in this respect and then they must be helped to discover how they can obtain this. It was because he saw no royal road to the good society, no short cut to economic democracy, that he tackled the herculean task of founding the School.


Oscar Geiger recognized the job as one of education, one of adult education. (It happens that my own higher education was largely in this field, so that we had a common interest in educational techniques and used to discuss them I had an academic interest in the field only, for my profession is in quite another field than teaching.)

This educational job. as he saw it, was the basic one; above all, the neglected one. Create an informed influential public opinion, he felt, and the political side of the task would take care of itself. This educational job, he thought, could only be done when the educators went among the people in the role of educators. Not as propagandists. Not as politicians. Not as agitators for a special interest. Not as missionaries for scripture and calico. Not as paid evangelists, but as leaders of groups of earnest, selfless men, seeking the truth wherever it might be found. The charter, be believed, established that character in the institution he founded.

We used to recall his position when we debated whether the School would prosper best with the charter or without it. We used to recall how we alumni (I among them) would say to him, with typical youthful impatience:

"We've got the vision of a free society, and we've got an understanding of its concrete economic foundations. But now that we've got it, what will we do with it?"

And we used to recall his bland reply, ever reiterated to alumni:

"Now that you've 'got' it, what will you do with it? I don't care what you do with it; because I know what you'll do with it."

He did know. I would have realized this even if, in the few months before his death, he had not confided in me his intimate opinions about current social tendencies and about what he thought the movement ought to do in the event that it was confronted with certain alternative situations, situations which then, as now, were likely to develop.

He did know and we've been doing it, just as he had planned that we should. The record of our activities and influence is there for anyone to examine who wishes to ; it is neither a short nor an unimpressive one. We have consciences and we sleep at night. That record is a vindication of Oscar Geiger's belief that the charter would never hamstring the School, would never bar effectual action.

We did recognize in our discussions that the charter did keep the School within certain limitations.

For one thing, it assured that the minimum of educational standards, which distinguish New York State Schools alone from all others, would be maintained.

It assured that the director would be a man with some experience in the conduct of a responsible enterprise and some culture, as Geiger, Fowles, Dorn and Chodorov have been, rather than a glib wire-puller.

It assured that the teaching would be in the hands of competent instructors rather than the windbags who always infest movements.

It assured that the endowment would not be dissipated in overhead in providing jobs for professional executive secretaries, the "bureaucrats of causes."

It assured that every penny of financial contributions would be used for educational purposes and not diverted to political adventuring.

It assured that those who came to seek guidance in the fulfillment of their responsibilities as members of humanity and as citizens of their country would get that guidance; and it assured that they would not be letting themselves into the clutches of unscrupulous manipulators of the popular will.

It assured that the corporation's board of directors the trustees, a hand-picked, self-perpetuating body like the governing boards of all Georgeist organizations but in this case, as in that of the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, no affront to the organization's democratic philosophy since its status as a hand-picked self-perpetuating body is one peculiarly suitable for endowed educational institutions and one dictated for these alone by tradition and law would be held to their responsibilities by a higher power, a written contract entered into with the representatives of the people of the State.

And it assured, finally, that an adequate plant would be maintained, with adequate equipment.

To be sure, we recognized these things as limitations, as others have so recognized them. But the more we thought about it the more we welcomed these limitations. They were not the least among the factors responsible for the success of the School.


The mention of the maintenance of educational standards recalls an amusing incident. The special techniques of the School use of the discussion method, relation of theory to current events having living reality in the student's own world, the active participation of the student in the educational process, employment of the catechetical method not to teach but to set off the discussion among students by which they teach themselves when under competent leadership these were, of course, laid down by Oscar Geiger. But when he passed on, his teaching materials covered only part of the present curriculum and were in the form of notes which required not only editing but adaptation for less skilled teachers than he was.

This was done, but with Oscar Geiger gone we always suspected the adequacy of the supplementary work. We once were worried because a minority of registrants did not complete the course. Mrs. Anna George deMille, daughter of Henry George and indefatigable president of the School's board of trustees, and I were dispatched one time by Otto K. Dorn, the trustee who was then the director, to pay several visits to Professor John Dewey to see what could be done about this problem.

Professor Dewey, whose system of progressive education has remoulded the practises of the teaching profession in many parts of the world, studied our registration and attendance figures. He questioned us about our teaching materials and we explained that we were always uncertain about them and used to fashion them from experience in the classroom, test them under varying conditions and constantly revise them in the light of further experience. We thought we needed an expert to change our system completely.

After he had looked over the materials and talked to one or two friends, Professor Dewey entertained us again. He seemed quite amused when he explained that the student loss we were worrying about actually was one of the lowest in the whole field of adult education and really was a remarkably successful record.

He told us, in the kind, gentle way that is characteristic of this foremost scholar and educator, that he thought we really ought to carry on as we had been doing, in the assurance that an expert, no matter where we recruited him from, could not much improve the method that seemed, on the basis of the results we related, to do our job so efficiently.

Some time before, well-intentioned professors had sought to make clear to me what distinguished the progressive methods of Dr. Dewey and his collaborators from traditional ones. But it was only after I pondered these remarks of Dr. Dewey that I realized that the basic test of an educational technique was whether its procedures were drawn from life and projected back into it, not whether its theoretical basis followed fullsome expositions in forbidding textbooks; whether it worked, not whether it squared with the traditional opinions of experts.

And it was only then that I realized why Oscar Geiger would not even open his School until he had experimented with his method, until he had tested his techniques at Pythian Temple in Manhattan, until he had tempered his ideas in the fires of practise. It was only then that I came to understand that the veneration Geiger accorded Dewey was not merely homage to a courageous social theorist, but acknowledgment of intellectual debt to an educational practitioner.


We, of course, have become permeated with the School's theory of action in the course of applying our energies actively along the lines that it demands. We understand the theory because we have always seen it in relation to the life around us in which it has its only meaning. These things seem so simple and commonplace to us that sometimes we cannot look sympathetically upon otherwise intelligent persons who seem to misunderstand our method, to miscomprehend that our method is a precise course of action distinguished by a zone, not a line, from any other upon which the movement has embarked.

The evidence of this misunderstanding has always been small but it may be growing. So perhaps it is well that someone should turn from pursuit of that course of action and take the trouble to define it in measured terms, to explain what it implies to set down in limiting prose what has become known by conversation, debate and more direct experience to the thousands identified with the School over the country.

The misunderstanding is grave enough to require plain-speaking. That most of those who misunderstand are those who have not been active as teachers, secretaries, administrators, financial contributors or in other capacities in the School's crusade for economic literacy should not deter us; it is to be expected that those who divorce theory from the experience out of which it sprang, from the experience to which it is to be applied, should be the first victims of confusion.

These persons demand: "Do you not abjure politics?" And we say we do, not merely to the extent demanded by the charter, not merely because the charter demands it (for we could give up the charter with an infinitesimal amount of the trouble it took to get and keep it) but because we, as members together of an institution, have foresworn political maneuvering as a matter of principle.

"Then how," they declare triumphantly, "do you expect to put our principles into practise?"

There is a naivete implied in this declaration that one who as I did followed a state's politics for several years as a professional observer can readily appreciate. Apparently these people think that the statutes which now are the laws of the land were enacted primarily as the result of pressures generated by political clubs, the offices of legislators or the headquarters of legislative associations. Students of society ought to know, nevertheless, that he wastes his time who raises straws against the winds of legislation in these halls. The laws, regardless of where the technicalities are whipped into written form, arise from the offices or the drawing rooms of private individuals for the most part. And particularly of the tax laws it can be said that the last place to look for an intelligent discussion of pending legislation in this field is in a political club.

But the answer to our triumphant friends has already been given. We have abjured politics, but what we specifically have abjured is politics as the predominant field of our collective activity. As individuals, we have not abjured life, nor politics as a department of life. (With Father Edward McGlynn we can say that when we took the cross of service to humanity in this crusade we did not surrender our temporal citizenship.) We follow our course of action not as a method of expounding principles as principles apart from practise we have no interest in them but we follow it as a method of putting the principles into practise.

It is amusing to see these very persons raise the question and in the next breath tell us frankly that we are doing an excellent job of teaching Henry George's principles. For if our course of action were not a method of putting Georgeist principles into practise it would be a negation of the fundamental principle that distinguished George as economist and social philosopher. John Dewey set this out very clearly when he wrote (in the Foreword to G. R. Geiger's Philosophy of Henry George, Macmillan, New York, 1933, pp. ix-x):

"Henry George is typically American not only in his career but in the practical bent of his mind, in his desire to do something about the phenomena he studied and not to content himself with a theoretic study. ...There is something distinctive in the ardent crusade which George carried on. His ideas were always of the nature of a challenge to action and a call to action. The 'science' of political economy was to him a body of principles to provide the basis of policies to be executed, measures to be carried out, not just ideas to be intellectually entertained, plus a faint hope that they might sometime affect action. His ideas were intrinsically 'plans of action'."

If the spirit of Dewey, father of a successful educational process, is found 'n the School and I think I have indicated how large a debt the School owes to the educator, its honorary president, a debt which would have been incurred even if Dewey had never set foot within its doors, if there had not been the slightest intimate contact between the institution and the educational philosopher even if the educator had never said a word about George's or anybody's social theory if the spirit is found there then its course of action is truly a method of putting principles into practise.

For if Dewey's idea, Dewey's process, mean anything at all they are identified with the notion that democracy is the growth of popular enlightenment, not a form of popular rule. Understanding, in this view (I avail myself of the phrases of a recent commentator who happens to be, and not by accident, a socio-ethical economist), is more important than authority. Thus democracy can be identified with education in the broad sense as a process for achieving this popular understanding.

"What makes the devices of suffrage and representation important, and what makes them work in so far as they do work, is general literacy, the growth of the informed interest of people generally in their general as well as individual concerns," notes Professor C. E. Ayres (in "Dewey: Master of the Commonplace," The New Re- public, New York, Jan. 18, 1939, pp. 303-6). "... The keynote of modern education is its continuity with life. That is what Dewey has stood for always the continuity of learning with doing and living and not for any particular educational fad of the 'child-centered' schools. Its most important result for the country as a whole ... is a phase of the larger process of the realization of democracy and the emergence of the modern mind from immemorial tradition."

Dr. Dewey himself summed this up back in 1903 when he wrote (in "Studies in Logical Theory"):

"Thinking is a kind of activity which we perform at specific need just as at other need we engage in other sorts of activity. ...The measure of its success, the standard of its validity, is precisely the degree in which thinking actually disposes of the difficulty and allows us to proceed with the more direct modes of experiencing, that are forthwith possessed of more assured and deepened value."

In this way, says Dewey's most recent expositor, "he closed the abyss between thought and things on the brink of which generation after generation of philosophers had mulled and stumbled." Dewey said this in a word when he declared that the fundamental assumption of his point of view "is continuity in and of experience."

It must not be overlooked that the democratic principle was explained by Dewey in the same terms as those employed by Henry George.

"Social reform," George wrote in Social Problems, "is not to be secured by noise and shouting; by com- plaints and denunciation; by the formation of parties or the making of revolutions; but by the awakening of thought and the progress of ideas. Until there be correct thought, there cannot be right action; and when there is correct thought, right action will follow. ...The great work of the present ... is the work of education the propagation of ideas. It is only as it aids this that anything else can avail."

Dewey understood the democratic principle to be "precisely that of solving problems not by 'decisive' authority but with understanding and the slow but eventually sure seepage of ideas through the whole community." (Parenthetically I might ask if it is not true if the advocates of temperance, who obtained enactment of the Prohibition Amendment by the most skillful political strategy, had understood what these plain sentences imply, would the old-time saloon with all its attendant evils be the curse it is today?)

The School has had two alternative courses before it. It could have developed as the training school of a sect, training recruits for the sectarian activities traditional with an isolated group. Or it could make itself a positive force spurring the growth of enlightenment in the whole community it could undertake the task of building the ethical, democratic social order that the first school would only dream about and its few adherents would never live to see. It has chosen the second course and is in the thick of the struggle. It is true to the principles of libertarian democracy to which George, Dewey, and Geiger, devoted their careers.


Actually, the whole substance of any reply to the confused is set forth above. But I can understand that, with no first-hand acquaintance of the School method, those who fail to understand what the School's course of action involves may be as badly off as ever, for they have no experience to which to relate these ideas. I will speak more plainly, much as I hesitate to do so lest the temperate facts of the matter appear in a sensational guise.

What the supporters of the School are engaged in is, in the novelist's useful expression, "an open conspiracy." On every hand they see evidence of the accelerating growth of the principle of meeting force with "decisive" force, of opposing authority with "decisive" authority. And on every hand they see evidence that the democratic way of life is meeting its greatest challenge. Reaction is on the march, in America as well as in Europe and Asia. George was no prophet when he warned of "the new barbarians" he was a precise social analyst.

Whether a native communism or, as is more likely, a native fascism be the outcome of America's situation today matters little. What does matter is that for those who would preserve human values the time for action is short; they must expend their energies with the greatest efficiency. This means that one can no longer concentrate upon attempts to achieve the ghosts of legislative devices here and there in the hope that they will teach a lesson before the reactionaries get around to nullifying them; reaction today is alert and hyper-sensitive about the maintenance and extension of its privileges. It means one must challenge the whole structure of reaction by mobilizing all the progressive forces of society against it. This is precisely what the active supporters of the School are doing.

I say this is aptly called an "open conspiracy." The policy is best understood when it is contrasted with the Communists' and the Fascists' "boring from within" policy. The obvious contrast, that our policy is designed to promote an American doctrine, ethical democracy and its corollaries of equality of opportunity, the preservation of human individuality in the midst of societal integration, the safeguarding of individual rights in the face of social necessities, whereas theirs is designed to promote a foreign one, is most superficial and hardly apropos. For our doctrine claims to be, and we believe it is, one as capable of universal application as theirs claims to be. The province of humanity knows no frontiers.

But unlike the Communists and the Fascists, the followers of the School's course of action have from the outset publicly explained precisely what they were doing and what they intended doing in the simplest, clearest terms. At the Memphis Congress in 1932, with a representative of the nation's press present, Oscar Geiger, speaking through the lips of Joseph Dana Miller, said:

"... If we are to do our part in leading mankind out of its economic and spiritual darkness ... it is for us to supply the vision, the leadership and, above all, the teaching that is lacking in our present day. . . .

"The farmer more than any man looks to some tomorrow for his rewards, yet his work is done when, today, he has prepared his ground and sown the seed destined to bear the desired fruit. Its growth is in other hands. For him it is but to do his work well today, assured that in the measure that he has done it well, its results will be good.

"And so must we prepare the ground and sow the seed. The seed we know is good; in the measure then that the ground we select is fertile, and in the measure that we do our planting well, we, too, can be assured that the results may be left in other hands. 'The stars in their courses still fight against Sisera.' If we will but understand Nature we will believe in her and trust her; and if we do her bidding she will work with and for us. ...

"It is the aim and purpose of the Henry George School of Social Science to teach fundamental economics and social philosophy to those still learning; to those to whom study is still a habit. It is its purpose to send these forth into the world of life and living; into their chosen fields of labor, industry, politics and education, so fortified that error cannot prevail against them: so prepared that truth, our truth, will, through them, reflect itself in every field of their endeavor."

One could not want plainer language. No more authoritative statement could be desired these are the words of the founder of the School, spoken for him by a collaborator in its board of trustees who was then, as he is now, editor of the movement's organ. The point has been iterated and reiterated countless times since and perhaps most recently by Dr. George Raymond Geiger, pupil and disciple of the founder as well as his son, author of two of the School's textbooks and one of its manuals, editorial councilor of its official organ and its benefactor in countless other ways.

Dr. Geiger set this forth as plainly as Oscar Geiger had done in an article in "The Social Frontier: a Journal of Educational Criticism and Reconstruction," organ of the John Dewey Society and spokesman for some 5,000 school administrators throughout the country, in 1938.

Here Dr. Geiger pointed out that there are two distinctly different approaches taken by the follower of Henry George on the land question. According to the first, a solution of the land question affords a compromise between "individualism" and "socialism," and a refuge for democratic capitalism from "fascism" or "communism." He goes on (italics are in the original):

"Since this 'compromise' between 'individualism' and 'socialism' seems so crucial, the efforts of one group of Georgeists are centered on forming an enlightened public opinion which can recognize and effect such a compromise position.

"The more pessimistic of this group, convinced that some type of right wing or left wing 'revolution' is inevitable, are attempting to develop, say, a hundred thousand or more intelligent and persuaded followers of Henry George, who can be relied upon as a nucleus to salvage the economic system after it has been overturned by political catastrophe.

"Already they feel that they might be able to point to Mexico, and even to Spain and Russia (not to mention land reform movements in democratic countries like Denmark) as examples of this historical process, i.e., the gradual abandonment of various forms of collectivism, with concentration upon the socialization of land."

Dr. Geiger continues by pointing out that the second approach of the land reformer "is more limited and concentrated. Here, he confines his efforts to tax reform. ...So, this follower of Henry George works to increase the taxation of land values and to exempt taxes on improvements, buildings, industry, and the results of labor." Then he goes on:

"With both these national objectives, however, the specific methods of appeal (propaganda, if you will) have chiefly in the educational field. Active independent participation in politics on the part of 'Single Taxers' has been diminishing ever since the New York City mayoralty campaign of Henry George.

"For a number of years there was a national party which backed local and national candidates and before the World War there were hectic state campaigns, particularly on the Pacific coast, supported by the Fels Fund.

"Also, at present, there are periodic political efforts, especially through initiative and referendum measures, to introduce some measure of Single Tax into state constitutions; recent activities have centered in California.

"But this political emphasis is now definitely secondary to the educational one. The educational center of the movement is the Henry George School of Social Science, with national headquarters in New York City. Although founded only five years ago, the School has achieved a spectacular success. ...Georgeists look upon the School as the brightest promise for any future success in the movement."


By the test of experience this course of action justifies itself. In the clubs, societies and associations which organize the cultural life of the community, in the trades, the businesses, the industries and their associations which organize its economic life, in the churches and the schools which organize its moral life, in the parties and the committees and the associations which organize its civic life, in all the instruments of popular enlightenment, alumni of the School, acting as responsible individuals, are struggling as leaders of their communities to achieve a democratic order. It would gladden Oscar Geiger's heart to see how surely the things he had visioned had come to pass.

In New York, the city with which I am most familiar, alumni are active as Georgeists in the Harvard, City, Rambam, Ho-Hum and a score of other clubs. They are active in the Young Men's Board of Trade, the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, the Legal Aid Society, the Y. M. C. A., the Big Brothers, the Little Businessmen's Council, in Rotaries, Chambers of Commerce, Community Councils, trade unions as variegated as the musicians' to the journalists' the list is long enough to be boring.

To be complete the list would have to include men's and women's clubs of churches, schools and colleges, fraternal, charitable and philanthropic groups; in almost every field of community life their wholesome influence is being felt. Nor are the alumni neglecting their civic responsibilities as citizens, charged with certain political tasks as citizens. In their political parties New York alumni are active in all three of the New York parties, the Democratic, Republican and American Labor, and were in the center of the smoke-filled room struggle over the platform of one at the last election they are applying the principles they have learned.

Because of experience and training, they gravitate not only to the platform subcommittees of their parties but to the role of advisers and councilors, and are active as constructive critics of the country's and their party's economic policies and as advocates of improvement of these policies on sound lines.

But this is also done by the Communist and Fascist "borers from within." What distinguishes the activity of the Georgeist is that he is acting as a free individual, under the discipline of nothing but his ripened conscience. Naturally, he cooperates with fellow-Georgeists when he finds them to be following identical interests with him. But he does so of his own free will, because he recognizes that they are best equipped to cooperate and collaborate with him and most likely to give him unselfish support. The Georgeist, when he chooses a group for his activity, promotes by his work the best interest of his group, for it is to that group that his own interest has attracted him, and it is the whole group that he wishes to infuse with democratic principles. The Communist or the Fascist is concerned primarily with promoting the fortunes of the party that has him under discipline; high ideals frequently give way to party log-rolling, to patronage considerations, to efforts to obtain domination of the group by means of minority factionalism.

Since they act as individuals who owe no allegiance to an outside organization which has its own machine to maintain, the Georgeists can devote themselves to constructive activities which win them the respect and the attention of their circles. The Communists and the Fascists, whose activities are highly organized, coordinated to the nth degree of efficiency by organization, eventually degenerate from high ideals to destructive partisan activity which wins them the condemnation of the very same circles.

The contributions of these alumni to the parties and the political movements to which they ally themselves as individuals are recognized and valued highly by the leaders and rank and file of those groups. If only the selfless patriotism of these alumni, fulfilling their responsibilities as citizens with such intelligence and clarity of purpose, were general throughout the Nation, we would not need to worry about the future of democracy in America.

In all discussion of organization one finds one or two persons who say that a name should be taken, any old name, and an organization gotten up, any old form will pass, and an office should be opened. What this has always meant has been that in the office is placed an executive secretary and a small executive committee, and the total of group activity is performed by the secretary and this small group (but chiefly by the secretary) simply because they cannot, for one reason or another, get anyone else to engage in it.

This is what is known in the American language as a "letterhead organization"; the phone books are full of them. But anyone who comes into contact with these organizations daily, as I must, sees clearly that the practical accomplishments of these organizations are small; in most cases trivial. I say this in no criticism of our Georgeist "letterhead organization." In most cases their officers are men I regard highly and their secretaries devoted workers. But the facts of any situation must be faced.

This type of organization, however useful it might be in proving certain services of specific nature, could never replace the activity and influence of these alumni and it could never be employed as an integral unit of their course of action. For that course implies not a small group in activity, but an ever-growing fraction of the leaders of the whole community. The effectiveness of this course of action is a function of the numbers of community leaders who engage in it and the scope of their interests.

I do not mean to imply that these alumni will not find it useful to get together as a group to take counsel together and to benefit from the sharing of their experience. Far from it. But that is the function of the Henry George Congress and of the World Conferences of the International Union for Land Value Taxation and Free Trade, as organizations, and of Land and Freedom and Land and Liberty as institutions. Those who believe that "it is later than you think" see no purpose in duplicating the work of existing and functioning enterprises.

Nor do I mean to imply that these alumni forswear cooperation with and even active support of the effort of those whom Dr. Geiger labeled "tax reformers." I can cite several cases in point. In the recent Ralston campaign in California, when our California colleague met with unequalled vituperation and misrepresentation from their home press, I and other alumni in New York acting as individuals, discovered that the campaign of misrepresentation was spreading to the east. We were not engaged in the thick of the fight in pointing out certain shortcomings of the Ralston campaigners, obvious though they were to us. We jumped into the fight as individuals and launched a counter-campaign which stopped the misrepresentation in the east as quickly a it had begun. That was not the least of the expression of our solidarity with our California colleagues as individuals.

Or another case. In New York, after years of research Walter Fairchild, a noted attorney and authority of urban land problems, launched the Graded Tax Committee to obtain the enactment of a graded tax bill, a most progressive piece of legislation framed on the soundest economic principles. I have never been solicited to contribute a penny to the work of the committee or an hour's time; neither has anyone else I know of. As a matter of fact, what I know about the committee's work comes from newspapers I read and civic workers with whom I come in contact. But the bill has obtained the sponsorship of legislators representing the three New York parties and it is thus a non-partisan measure. I have been interested to read of the activities of alumni in behalf of the measure. I read that they have been delivering speeches about it before various political and social organizations and have obtained various endorsements of it. This activity, I would like to emphasize, is one it which the School as a collective entity has taken no part one which was, as far as I know, unsolicited and was given voluntarily by each individual concerned.

The School, it is true, has certain routine tasks incidental to the conduct of an educational enterprise for which numbers of alumni and supporters are required as volunteers. These tasks include the secretarial work in the classroom, writing of letters to editors and others who control instruments of public opinion, arranging addresses to introduce the School to various groups; addressing mailings, carrying on research work, etc. It is quite true this voluntary activity needs to be organized.

But it is equally true that this voluntary activity is and always has been organized. At first it was organized as a council. This form proved incapable of expansion to encompass new tasks and a new one was adopted, complete formal organization. This form was found to be ill-adapted to the situation; there was a pronounced tendency for the nominal members to leave the work which was the organization's sole purpose to the officers, land for the officers to shirk it because the members would not undertake it. So a new form was adopted by which specific tasks are given compact, cohesive groups, each group being responsible for the discharge of a set task, and now the work is being done.

I can speak intimately of this also, for I have been in at the founding of these groups under each of these forms from the beginning. We are no worshippers of form; it is the substance we seek. The faculty has been organized as a faculty from the beginning and meets regularly in New York and no doubt this is also true of faculties elsewhere to discuss its work. The age-old faculty form of organization, which has its roots in the medieval universities, has been found to be ideally suited for this group, so its members have no disposition to change it. When these forms no longer serve the purposes of the groups concerned, they may be depended upon to modify or scrap them.

Thus, if those who suggest organization of the alumni are concerned about the discharge of these tasks writing, addressing, researching, teaching- one can only reply that the work is being done efficiently and it is highly organized and thoroughly coordinated.

If, however, what they really wish is to see the alumni organized into a national or local association to achieve certain tax reforms in one place or another, the supporters of the School have no objection. What the supporters will not do, however, is to bring pressure on the individual alumnus or alumna to join one organization as against another, to make financial contributions to one as against another, or to join any particular organization of this type.

Nor will they make it possible for others to bring this pressure by permitting the records of the School to be thrown open. The importance of the assurance given at the opening of the classes, that the School has nothing to sell, is attested at every registration by the understandable suspicion of the registrants that there must be the taint of commercialization lurking somewhere, that there must be a "catch" in the offer of free courses. This assurance is meant literally by each instructor who gives it. To turn it into hypocritical statement is to sacrifice some registrants, and they cannot be spared, and to change the attitudes of the others, which militate against the success of the educational process.

But this should be no bar to those organizations whose officers, constitutions, purposes and achievements are intrinsically attractive to those who are infused with Georgeist principles. The alumini are, as part of their training, introduced to the periodical literature of the Georgeist movement. These periodicals for the most part sell advertising space freely. Through advertisements in these periodicals such associations can reach the alumni with whatever message they have to give them. (Advertising, incidentally, is cheaper than direct mail when reader coverage is highly concentrated.) Only their own limitations will hamstring these organizations if they should be hamstrung. If the type of activity offered is such as to appeal to the individual alumnus or alumna, he or she will respond But he or she will do it of his or her own free will. And if, in these respects, the organizations are such as to attract alumni, the supporters of the School will not only have no objection but will be exceedingly glad.

If those who suggest organization for the alumni wish to see a group effected to bring the alumni together regularly for renewed inspiration in their work, the supporters of the School point to the prior existence of the Henry George Congress for this very purpose. It may be that the Congress ought to be held regionally as well as nationally, since most alumni cannot afford the time or the expense involved in travel. That is a matter for considerable discussion; regional congresses may detract from the service now rendered by the national ones.

Possibly such Congresses ought to be held oftener than once a year, but I doubt it a little oratorical inspiration goes a long way; the movement's literature is also an agency which provides inspiration; and the alumni are busy both in their business or professional careers and in their activity as supporters of the School or and often it is as community leaders.

However, there is one point to which I should like to give the strongest emphasis. If those who suggest organization of the alumni have any thought that such an organization would be, or might develop to be, an organization to discipline or to influence the difference is one of degree only these alumni in their work of building an ethical, democratic social order as community leaders, the answer of the supporters of the School is an emphatic, unyielding no.

They will tolerate no subversive factionalism. They will countenance no efforts to hamstring these devoted citizens in the discharge of their responsibilities to humanity and their country.

The work of the alumni is going on with the highest efficiency, thanks to the course of action they follow. It shall go on, for the salvation of democracy, for the salvation of western civilization if need be, until its goals are achieved.

All this is what Oscar Geiger knew; these concrete actions were those he expected from his work. He knew that a variety of interests integrated his students into the life of the nation. He knew that they would infuse the principles of an ethical, democratic social order into the life of the nation through those interests, the avenues they were best shod to tread their way upon. His notion, like his ideas about educational technique, has stood the best test, the test of experience, the test of practise under widely varying conditions.

From the first, those who have been identified with the school have looked upon its reason for being as that of democracy's best and possibly last bulwark. The bulwark has held so far against the tide of barbarism; the task of every lover of liberty and every friend of humanity is to throw his shoulder against it so that the bulwark will hold.