Henry George and Europe
[Reprinted from the American Journal of Economics
and Sociology, January 1994]
Hungary began a promising venture in Georgist tax reform but
revolutionary turmoil and inflation ended it
I. The Plight of the Hungarian Landless
AT THE END Of the 19th century, Hungary--then a Kingdom united with
Austria within the Habsburg Empire--was burdened with an unsolved land
problem.(1) The situation was similar to that of Ireland, although
stemming from entirely different historical antecendents. In Hungary,
serfdom had not been abolished until 1848, and even after that,
archaic conditions of land tenure persisted in the country's
agricultural sector. More than half of the arable land belonged
(incidentally until after World War II, 1945) to huge estates,
so-called latifundia.(2) The management of these estates was, in most
instances, outdated; technology and administrative procedure were
backward; mismanagement often reigned.
1848 was a year of revolution in Europe. In Hungary, the turmoil
lasted until 1849. The Magyars rebelled against the Habsburgs but were
defeated. The next 18 years were marked by oppression and hostility.
But in 1867, an inter-state agreement, called Compromise, brought
about reconciliation between Austria and Hungary. This was followed by
a decade of economic prosperity, and the condition of the poor
smallholders and of the landless agricultural laborers also became
more bearable. Moreover, growing industrialization created new urban
jobs and many farm laborers migrated to the cities to escape from
Yet soon, during the great European agricultural crisis of the 1880s,
want and misery again engulfed the small farmers and the landless
agrarian proletariat, and an enormous wave of overseas migration from
Hungary developed.(3) But not only the very poor--many owners of
medium sized and even of larger farms got into trouble.
The landless poor, including dependents, were estimated to number 6
million, that is, about one third of the total population of the
country.(4) As the crisis worsened, there was widespread unrest among
these masses.(5) In the 1890s, disquiet often erupted into open
uproar. It was in these days that for the first time embryonic land
reform aspirations surfaced in the Kingdom: a politically articulate
tiny minority among Hungary's poor peasant millions was desparately
looking for a way out, for some goal that could be communicated to the
untutored masses. The first pioneers found what they needed in the
program of the Social-Democratic Party of Hungary.(6)
In actual fact, the Hungarian Social Democrats did not have an
elaborate plan for a land reform; but in firm adherence to Marx's
teachings and unlike the 1875 Gotha program of the German
Social-Democracy,(7) their program included the thesis that "landed
property and all means of production should be placed under public
ownership."(8) The first known spokesman for the aroused
propertyless rural population, the agricultural laborer Janos
Szanto-Kovacs, adopted this item on the program as his slogan. He was
arrested in 1895 and sentenced to 5 years in jail for incitement.(9)
He declared himself to be a Social-Democrat and to be striving for the
nationalization of the large estates. But he emphatically (and
truthfully) denied having agitated for the carving up of the
latifundia among those without land.
It might appear incomprehensible, if only at first glance, that the
rural proletariat--in contrast to Parnell and the majority of
dissatisfied tenant farmers in Ireland--did not seek farm ownership,
but instead wanted to be employed at government-owned estates. But
these people, like their fathers before them, had never had land of
their own. They had rather always sought to find work at large
estates. Moreover, the situation of the small landowners did not
arouse their envy, for these small farmers did not have it much
easier. They carried the additional burden of worries about
over-mortgaging their property, and with it the terrible fear (one
shown by statistics, not to be unjustified(9a)) of losing it. The
unpropertied farmhands of Szanto-Kovacs' kind had to perform their
labors for starvation wages, but were glad even to find a job. Thus it
is understandable that when they dreamed, it was not of owning their "own
soil," but of getting fair wages and secure employment, a dream
which the program of nationalization of the large estates promised to
fulfill.(10) At first, when the dissatisfaction of the small and
medium-sized farmers began to take concrete form, the desire for
breaking up large estates into small parcels became a political
demand--as in the program written by the farmer Andras Achim,(11) who
founded the first substantial Hungarian farmers' party.(12) According
to Achim's program the tremendous estate entails, the vast church
lands, and all other estates above 10,000 "hold" |1 "hold"
= 0.57 hectares = 1.4 acres~ were to be nationalized and then
parcelled out into small rentable plots; later on, Achim reduced the
upper limit of the properties to be left untouched to 1,000 "hold".(13)
Actually, since the end of the eighties, some owners of latifundia
and medium-sized estates had been giving consideration to the
elimination of the manifold social ills. Yet even while their
proposals were later to be represented as, inter alia, a first step
toward a land reform movement,(14) more likely these were proposals
which, with few exceptions, could never be realized. They were
proposals which were designed to improve the existing order through a
far-reaching lease system(15) or through dividing up state and
community property into parcels,(16) and thereby to secure the
existing order against crises. Another intention, at times stated
explicitly, was to arrest the "racial loss" which Hungary
had sustained by the already mentioned emigrations, by establishing
Magyar settlements in the territories of the national minorities.(17)
Within the conservative, Hungarian Christian-Socialist movement, the
so-called progressive wing might be said to have represented most
closely those ideas which could be described as land reform-styled.
The most important spokesman of this wing was Ottokar Prohaszka,(18)
after 1905 the Bishop of Szekesfehervar (Stuhlweissenburg). Prohaszka,
a celebrated demagogue of his time, and a staunch anti-semite,
emphasized that the unpropertied agrarians should be helped to obtain
land, but that this goal was opposed, not only by economic liberalism
and what he called Jewish plutocracy, but also by the latifundia
system.(19) As early as 1898, he declared--a statement revolutionary
not only for his time, but for Hungary as a whole until 1945--that
sooner or later there would inevitably come a secularization of church
lands.(20) In 1916, the Bishop made the acquaintance of Adolf
Damaschke, then visiting Budapest, and as a result became an active
follower of the program of the Union of German Land Reformers.(21) At
that time, he himself publicized a land reform proposal which
suggested the creation of war veterans' homesteads.(22) However, his
antisemitic and antiliberal position forbade a joining of forces with
the Leftist land reformers, of whom we shall speak shortly, and his
conservative side rejected land reform ideas, even those of
Damaschke's brand.(23) As a result, the Bishop's proposals were not
implemented. Those who espoused land reform in Hungary until 1914,
whether in the direction of socialization or of parcelling large
estates, were Socialist politicians. Two notable groups among them
were members of the Social Science Society and of the club of the
reform-happy young students, the Galilei Circle. These two
organizations were the spiritual pioneers of the "bourgeois"
revolution in Hungary of October 1918.(24) But these efforts did not,
prior to World War I, achieve any political significance, much less
any movement toward land reform.
It is, therefore, not surprising that, in 1913, the largest Hungarian
encyclopedia of the 20th century did not mention, under the heading "Foldbirtokreform"
(landownership reform), any Hungarian movement, not even any Magyar
authors. Rather it cited, first, the earlier English precursors and,
second, it spoke of Henry George as "initiator of landownership
reform in the narrower sense." It then went on to describe in
detail the German land reform movement and the relevant socialist,
especially Marxist efforts. Only the last sentence of the encyclopedia
article dealt with Hungary. It says: The Hungarian Social Democratic
party "still could not agree on an appropriate agrarian program
(i.e. one which also took the needs for protection of the small
farmers into consideration)."(25) To be sure, behind this
sentence is hidden the fact that the agrarian problem was the subject
of controversial discussions within the party," notwithstanding
the lack of definitive conclusions.(26) The land reform scene came to
life at last in June of 1914, when the avant-garde of the Leftist
intelligentsia, active partly in the Masonic lodges, and partly in the
Social Science Society, founded a radical agrarian party which was to
become the bearer of the republican October revolution in 1928.(27) In
its platform, radical land reform stood in foremost place.(28) Among
its principles (as well of the Independence Party, founded in 1916 by
the "Hungarian Kerensky," Count Michael Karolyi,(29) head of
the short-lived bourgeois revolution of 1918/19) was the demand for "democratic
Furthermore, the promise of "far-reaching" land reform(31)
was in the foreground of the republican government's program, but now
enhanced by a significant fiscal-political element. In a History of
Hungary, published in 1967 under the aegis of the Hungarian Academy of
Sciences in a second, revised edition, we read the following in
connection with the land reform endeavors of the revolutionary
government of 1918: "The majority of the bourgeois radicals
sought to introduce, consistent with the teachings of an American
economist, Henry George, a land value tax in order to solve the land
problems, and wanted to use the revenues of this tax (this land value
tax would have been equal to the annual land rent) for social
purposes. Their ideas included the confiscation of part of the large
landed estates. . . . Some of the Socialists leaned toward this
conception, while other |Socialists~ championed the cause of private
property based on small farm holdings."(32)
II. Julius J. Pikler, Effective Publicist of Georgism
HOW DID IT HAPPEN that Georgism, which had played no role whatsoever
in Hungary until 1914, moved so strongly into the foreground in 1918,
if only--as we shall see--for a short time and without lasting
effects? This was due to the entrance into the picture of a single
individual, a physician and statistician, Julius J. Pikler(33)
(1864-1952(34)). No writings exist about Pikler except for short
articles in encyclopedias and a footnote in a work about the
intellectual history of Hungary.(35) One of his surviving
students,(36) however, portrays him rather effusively as "a
personality of manifold knowledge, of superior intellectual force, and
of utterly irresistible powers of persuasion."(37) The Georgist
doctrine had actually reached Hungary earlier: the Pester Lloyd, the
German-language daily of the Hungarian intelligentsia, reported in
1886--the only significant periodical to do so--in two lead articles
the efforts of the Land League just rounded in Berlin.(38) But Pikler
did not learn about the doctrine until shortly before the first World
War. The intermediary was the sociologist Robert Braun
(1879-1937),(39) who maintained a close relationship with the American
world of learning. Braun, prior to World War I, had met with the
American adherents of the Single Tax theory.(40) Braun started the
publication of George's work in Hungarian translation. In 1909, he
began by issuing a Magyar version of Protection or Free Trade
(Vamvedelem vagy szabadkereskedelem), followed in 1912 by the
rendering of a Georgist novel written in English in 1894,(41) and in
1914 he brought out Progress and Poverty, for the first time in
Hungarian (Haladas es szegenyseg).(42) A review of this work may be
counted as Pikler's own first Georgist publication. Pikler had studied
medicine in Vienna and, after receiving his accreditation, settled in
Koroshegy as circuit doctor. Then he worked for some time in Budapest
as a panel doctor. After having made a name for himself with
publications in the areas of medicine and statistics, particularly
mortality statistics, he entered, in 1897, the service of the
Statistics Office in the capital, where, in 1906, he was named Deputy
Director. Both as country doctor in the backward province and as panel
doctor in Budapest--then synonymous with doctor for the poor--he
obtained an insight into the misery of the masses, an insight to which
he gave expression as an author.
Pikler's interests were multi-faceted; whenever he encountered
problems, he tried to solve them by strictly logical and rational
means. In the realm of the rational he was at one with George, but the
emotional warmth of the American was alien to him. (By the way, the
same reproach often leveled at George, that he operated with eternally
valid natural laws and lacked a historical sense, was also directed at
There is no complete bibliography of Pikler's publications, but even
the extant data about his works demonstrate a decided versatility. He
published not only medical and statistical works;(43) in 1910, he
subjected the bally-hoo about the "calculating horses of
Elberfeld"(44) to a devastating critique. In 1927, he offered in
Schmoller's Year Book (a German economic journal), a proposal for
solving the problems of monetary stability.(45) Finally, in 1940, he
began writing a study in which he as a Jew was also interested
existentially. It was initially meant to concern itself with
discovering the sources of the social phenomenon of the hostility
toward Jews. But this work eventually expanded to become a
far-reaching analysis and inventory not only of antisemitism, but--as
Pikler put it--of "anti-ism" in general.(46) As Deputy
Director of the Public Statistics Office in Budapest, Pikler attended,
together with Robert Braun, the International Congress of Georgists
held in Oxford in 1923.(47) At that time he reported in a speech that,
in 1913, he had occupied himself primarily with housing statistics and
with the housing shortage.(48) He steeped himself in the problem and,
in the process, turned to the literature of the German land reform
movement. From it he learned a great deal, but he rejected "its
practices which were false and which complicated things (value
increase tax, land tax, estate entail-styled restitution of
family-owned farms, purchase and sale of land through the community
etc.)" His own thinking and the study of Henry George's works led
him to the conviction that the solution of the land question--yes, of
the entire social question--could be found in the idea of the "pure,
simple, and concession-less land value tax." "Thereupon I
determined to institute the urban land value tax in Hungary, in the
hopes of expanding it in time into a tax which would embrace all real
estate in the whole country," Pikler writes.
He deliberately decided upon doing this by himself, without founding
any movement, any organization, any party--for this purpose, or even
without tying himself to any particular political group. He believed
that he could reach his goal simply through logical argumentation, if
he could just get the ear of the men in authority.
His first publication about Henry George's doctrine, as already
stated, was devoted to the Hungarian edition of Progress and Poverty.
The review article appeared in the influential scholarly journal
Huszadik Szazad |Twentieth Century~,(49) the organ of the Social
Science Society. According to its program, this Society had originally
been supra-partisan, a-political, but was now dominated by the
pioneers of the bourgeois revolution of 1918.(50) The Freemason Pikler
held his first speech about a land value tax in his lodge "Demokracia."
His remarks evoked a strong echo among the Hungarian Masons, although
the group as a whole did not identify itself with Georgist theses.(51)
As the respected Deputy Director of a high city administration office,
Pikler found many doors open to him. In addition, with the help of his
Masonic brethren, he obtained entrance even there where perhaps as
statistician, however much esteemed, he might not have been able to
find a hearing.
As lobbyist, then, for the idea of the land value tax, he conducted
what might be called a one-man campaign. To gain support, he wrote for
the great liberal daily founded by the Masons, Vilag (the word means "world"
as well as "light")(52) and for the official periodical of
the capital, Varosi Szemle |Urban Review~. He also held speeches at
the Social Science Society, in the Galilei Circle, and before any
union or group whose interest he could arouse. In fact, he went so far
as to use personal conversations to win over resistant city
Pikler did not, however, propagandize overtly for Georgism or for the
Single Tax. He merely pointed out again and again that he was
proposing a new kind of taxation. This was the argument which had the
strongest effect on the councillors of the City of Budapest, battling
a constant deficit(54)--for it promised revenues while increasing
production of homes and thus served to ameliorate the shortage of
residences. Yet it was eminently fair, required little administrative
cost, and could not be fraudulently evaded. It was only later that
Pikler indicated that, of course, other taxes, those which were
anti-social, production-inhibiting, and corruption-inciting, could
(and must) be eliminated at the same rate that revenues from the new
taxes, land value taxes based on generally accepted valuation, were
After the town of Arad (today Romania) had accepted the land value
tax in May of 1917,(56) Pikler achieved a breakthrough in Budapest in
November. Here, in 1917, he converted the Mayor, Istvan Barczy,(57)
his deputy, Ferenc Harrer, and the head of a large center-party,
Vilmos Vazsonyi,(58) who, during the last years of the war, was at
times also Attorney General. In November of 1917, the Budapest City
Council also adopted, with a large majority, an "Ordinance for
the city land value tax in Budapest,"(59) which was proclaimed on
December 17th of the same year with the approval of the Secretaries of
Finance and of Interior.
According to this ordinance, a land tax was to be instituted, based
on generally accepted valuation and strictly in accord with orthodox
Georgist principles.(60) There was no mention--yet--of any taking away
by taxation of the whole land rent, and the annual tax rate amounted
to only 0.5 percent of the assessed land value; at the same time, a
special city tax, the so-called "rent-dime," was reduced by
50 percent. The tax basis was the generally accepted land value,
defined as follows: "As per the paragraph below, the city land
value tax is determined according to the market value of the parcel of
land. The value of the improvements existing in and above the land
(construction above and below ground, trees, plants, etc.) are not to
be taken into consideration in the computation of the tax basis."
The market value was to be determined every three years. A special
city office was created for the evaluation of the land value; Julius
J. Pikler was named Director of the Budapest Land Valuation Office.
Pikler had no doubt that the favorable experiences with the land value
tax would inevitably lead to a gradual increase by the city
administrations of the 0.5 percent tax rate, along with an equal
decrease of other taxes, until the rate corresponded to the entire
land rent, in other words, to about 5 percent. The image he had before
him as goal was something similar to the tax system of Kiautschou,
China, the province he characterized as late as 1948 as the "model
After his success in Budapest, Pikler traveled in 1917 and 1918
throughout Hungary and proceeded everywhere in the same way as in
Budapest, except that in his attempts to persuade the provinces he
could now point to the ordinances passed in the capital. Within twelve
months, seven other cities had decided to institute the land value
tax: Szeged, Debrecen, Kaposvar, Ujpest (today part of Budapest),
Gyor, Marosvasarhely (today Tirgu Mures, in Romania), and Sopron.(62)
In the cases of Szeged and Debrecen, Pikler's success was especially
remarkable, since these towns at that time (1918) could not be called
towns in West European terms, but were rather enormous agrarian
settlements around an urban core, a tiny one in proportion to the
expanse of the total area. So, for example, the entire precinct of
Debrecen, the city which in Hungary was called the "Calvinist
Rome," had a diameter of 70 kilometers--with around 80,000
inhabitants.(63) Pikler's land value tax, in accord with Georgist
doctrine, placed a levy on each site without exception, on each piece
of real estate, whether urban or rural, at the same percentage of the
generally accepted value. Thus, in Debrecen the Georgist program was
accepted--though, it is true, formally through city ordinances--in a
large agricultural area; and Pikler reports that he was surprised at
having been able to convince the leader of the small farmers in
Debrecen more quickly of the justice and usefulness of the new tax
than the upper class.(64)
During 1918, an appraisal was made in all applicable cities of the
value of all real estate property--without consideration for their
use, possible construction, or improvements; the imposition of the tax
was to begin in Budapest on January 1, 1919. (Par. 1 of the
Ordinance). Shortly before, however, on October 31, 1918, the
revolution broke out in Budapest. The comment cited above in the
Hungarian History of the Budapest Academy illustrates how strongly
even the historical writings of Marxists who clearly rejected Henry
George's teachings have assessed the Georgist influences at that time.
But in actuality this impact was due, in Pikler's own opinion, rather
to his personal propagandistic efforts and to the example of the land
value tax introduced in nine cities.
These two factors lent the Georgist program a sort of nationalistic
flavor, so much so that the republican regime of Count Michael
Karolyi, eager to stabilize its popularity, included in its program
among other items the introduction of a land value tax throughout the
country. This was alongside other demands which were deemed to be
effective propaganda weapons, but which were incompatible with
Georgism.(65) In fact, however, it did not come to a realization of
this statement of intentions.
On March 21, 1919, the regime of Count Karolyi was replaced by the
Hungarian Soviet Republic which in turn broke down on August 1. And on
August 3, Romanian troops marched into Budapest and occupied the
capital until the middle of November. On November 16, 1919, Admiral
Nikolaus von Horthy with his national army seized power in Hungary; as
a result, groups of right extremists attained control of the
government.(66) This change also meant the end of the relatively
liberal self-governing bodies in the Cities.(67)
The Budapest Ordinance concerning the land value tax was not actually
rescinded by any of these changing administrations, but to the
political disorders was added the rapid decline in value of the
Hungarian currency. An inflation now set in which was similar in
magnitude to the Austrian one, so that by 1919 the revenues from the
tax, which had been based on the land value assessments of the
previous year, were reduced to insignificance.
The rightist parties, which were supported by the tenement house
owners' lobby and which ruled in Budapest at the time, now organized a
campaign against Pikler.(68) Their principal objection--at the time a
very effective one--against the land value tax was simply that this
was an invention of the (then banned) Masons and of the Jews. Pikler,
though still head of the capital's Land Valuation Office, had no
contact with the new city delegates; but he writes that these men
still could not bring themselves to abolish without a proper
substitute the Ordinance of December 1917. During the decisive City
Council debate, the speakers took turns countering each other's
arguments directed against this Ordinance.(69) Finally, in 1921, it
was decided that, while at that time the law was not to be rescinded,
the collection of the tax was to be suspended for the time being. The
legal department of the city was instructed to formulate a new, more "Christian"
and more truly nationalistic land value tax ordinance.(70)
Things remained at that stage. The city agencies have not returned to
the matter since then.
III. Pikler's Influence Abroad
THE NEWS OF JULIUS J. PIKLER's initial successes in Hungary reached
Vienna during the first World War.(71) The Viennese Socio-Pedagogical
Society, founded by the Austrian Freemasons,(72) invited him to give
an address in Vienna. Pikler's arguments were persuasive in Vienna as
well: the Christian Socialist mayor, Dr. Richard Weiskirchner, and his
deputy, von Goldemund, received Pikler and became converted by him to
the idea of the land value tax.(73) Thus, already before the
dissolution of the monarchy, the preparations began here too for the
passing of appropriate legislation, which were not even undercut,
whether by the revolutionary upheaval, by the reform of the franchise,
by Weiskirchner's defeat at the polls on May 4, 1919, or by the entry
of a two-thirds Socialist majority into the City Council.(74)
The contact with Pikler had been interrupted since the beginning of
1919, but on December 18, 1919, the "law concerning a tax on the
current land value (land value tax) in the metropolitan area of the
City of Vienna" was passed.(75) It followed in several ways the
Budapest model, and the tax rate of 0.5 percent of the market price
was taken over as well. But one major difference, a fact which later
drove Pikler to bitter protest, lay in the provision that the amount
was to be based on the landowners' self-appraisal.(76) Pikler saw in
this a direct violation of the spirit of Georgism which required the
creation of a tax measure through which no one could gain an advantage
by cheating the community; and for the same reason, no one should be
exposed to the temptation of making false statements. In a system
truly governed by natural law, there would be no tax declarations, and
the evaluation of a piece of land should, as had been done in Hungary,
be done through an independent assessment office. This office, if
required, would have to justify its assessment in writing to the
concerned taxpayer, and would have to make all values available for
public inspection in order to facilitate comparisons (in Budapest,
Par. 8 of the City Ordinance provided that the values be issued as a
city publication); and its decisions could be appealed in court.(77)
Whether the self-appraisal actually would have had a negative effect
of this sort could not be determined empirically in Vienna. The
valuations were carried out in 1920, and the tax collections began in
1921; but the revenues which, with a relatively stable currency, would
have been quite substantial, appeared in the whirl of the galloping
inflation from a fiscal standpoint to be hardly worth the trouble.(78)
The Socialist majority in the City Council showed from the outset
little enthusiasm for this tax. On one hand, the little man, whose
grandparents had built a meager cottage at the far-away city limits,
and who still lived modestly in this tiny home while the city had
grown beyond his piece of land, the value of which had grown a
thousand-fold--this little man was now to be burdened with a high tax.
On the other hand, the wealthy tenement house owner on the parcel next
to him would not have to pay more land value tax than the modest
neighbor and, as far as his rental edifice was concerned, would be as
tax-exempt as the little man's cottage. This did not sit well with a
Marxist Socialist.(79) The Georgist thinking was that this wealthy man
was useful to the community as a residence provides by using his land
for rental apartments, while the poor neighbor was withholding a
costly site from the community. Therefore, objectively speaking, the
latter was a land speculator, even though the ultimate, unearned
super-gain might not fall to him but to his heirs. However, such a
viewpoint was incomprehensible to the Viennese Socialists.
In Budapest as in Vienna, it was doubtless the inflation and the
thereby diminished revenues from the land value tax which helped its
enemies to achieve an easy victory. Still, it must have been a tragic
experience for Pikler to be forced to witness the wrecking, not only
of his project, based on Henry George's teachings, but also of the law
of his Viennese followers, even though it was a law slightly divergent
from his conception. In Vienna, it was the Socialists whose ideology
drove them to tax, not the land but the members of the propertied
class, their enemies. They officially abolished the Viennese land
value tax at the end of 1923.(80) In contrast, in Budapest it was the
real estate owners who, supported by the majority in the City Council,
prevented for understandable reasons of self-interest the taxation of
their private land monopolies.
The news of Pikler's seemingly thoroughgoing success in Budapest
reached, long after the demand for a land value tax had vanished in
Hungary, into far-off foreign countries. In consequence of an article
in the British Georgist journal, Land & Liberty, in which Dr.
Pikler reported about his activities,(81) he was invited at the
beginning of the 1920s by land reformers in northern Germany and
Denmark to make a speaking tour. Pikler was able, through financial
support of the United Committee for the Taxation of Land Values in
London to make this trip, which ordinarily would have been impossible
for a Hungarian, in straitened circumstances as a result of the war.
In addition to Copenhagen, he visited the Hansa cities of Lubeck,
Hamburg, and Bremen, where he spent, respectively, two, four and eight
days.(82) True, the periodical Land Reform of the Union of German Land
Reformers, published by Adolf Damaschke, did not take any notice of
the Hungarian's trip through northern Germany. But how Pikler was
received there is indicated by a letter about the visit of the
chairman of Bremen's Land Reformers, Otto Erich Gunther, to the editor
of Land & Liberty. In this letter, characterized by the editor as "enthusiastic,"
"Dr. Pikler's presence and activity in Bremen was
entirely in keeping with our method of conducting our campaign,
which aims at the introduction of as clean a form of Taxation of
Land Values as possible. This has been our aim during all the years
we have been working for the cause, and we have always put stress on
this in our negotiations with friend and foe, in public and
privately. It was our former chairman, Mr. Elwert, who, being a
subscriber to Land & Liberty, had his attention drawn to Dr.
Pikler by an article in that journal describing his work in
Budapest. . . . In looking back upon Dr. Pikler's visit I can but
say that the high expectations we had placed in it have been far
surpassed. Quite apart from his being a charming man to know, he put
an enormous amount of energy and self-sacrifice into his work, that
we cannot but cherish the memory of his visit and personality among
the pleasantest experiences we have had for a long time."(83)
Pikler also left a deep impression with his audience by the speech,
cited previously in this chapter, before the participants at the
International Georgist Congress in Oxford in 1923. The correspondent
of the British Georgist periodical wrote about this event:
"Dr. Percy McDougall presided, and said he was
introducing one of their friends whom they were all waiting to hear
because of his eminent services as chief of the Land Valuation
Department of Budapest. Dr. Pikler had already taken some part in
their deliberations, and in these contributions had given them an
insight into the great talents he possessed. Dr. Julius J. Pikler
had chosen as the title of his address, 'Theoretical and Tactical
Lessons to be learned from the Land-Value Policy in Hungary.'. . .
Dr. Pikler's address, which occupied more than an hour's time,
marshalled in masterly fashion a whole dossier of facts and
arguments. It made a profound impression on his audience, and
speakers in the discussion were glad to express their hearty
appreciation of his informing treatment of the subject, especially
complimenting on the way in which he had dealt with questions of
In the years of Admiral Horthy's regency, Pikler's influence was
shattered, and his potential for effectiveness was extinguished. He
did, it is true, continue to enjoy much respect in the circles of the
liberal intelligentsia. But the rigid and intolerant logicality of his
theories and the extreme sharpness of his polemics had the result
that, in Hungary after 1920, he could assemble only a small group of
compatriots who, under a conservative regime, had become as
ineffective as he. He made speeches and took part in panel
discussions. On those occasions he was assured, as reports his closest
collaborator Aladar Sos, of complete success owing both to his
arguments and to his sarcastic comments, but his sarcasm did little to
gain friends among the other participants in the debates. From 1934 to
1937 he published (together with Sos) a scientific periodical, Allam
es polgar (State and Citizen), in which he sought to deepen the
theoretical basis of Henry George's system and to solve, along his own
lines of thinking, some problems not touched upon by George. Pikler
held fast to the Georgist tenets, as well as to the differentiation
between two kinds of property, "the land (site) and men
(respectively, labor power and its products)."(85) He believed
that he could divide every social system according to the ways in
which it dealt with these two kinds of property, of which the first
(land) belonged by right to the community and the other (labor power
and its products) definitely to the individual.(86)
Pikler was asked in 1948, four years before his death, at the end of
an interview granted a German-language, Viennese, Jewish periodical, "Do
you have hopes for the actualization of your teachings?" He gave
an answer which was typical for his thinking, so opposed to any
political compromise or compromise of any sort, and so strictly
rationalistic, but indicative at the same time of his presentiment
that his efforts were going to fail:
"We are against collectivism, against a planned
economy, in fact against any unnecessary ties or any avoidable
coercion. Yet, we are also just as unrelenting in our hostility
toward the misusers of monopolies as are the Communists. In other
words, we are thoroughly out of step with the times. But I believe I
know one thing: Our propositions are equal in rank of logic to the
arithmetic equations of the multiplication table. Even if today
someone were to forbid, in the name of some ideals, the use of the
multiplication table, and were to turn the masses against it through
the appropriate educational-propagandistic measures--the equation 2
X 2 = 4 would still win through in the end. That I shall scarcely
see this happen is my private grief and sorrow."(87)
- On the general situation and
on the land question in the Kingdom of Hungary see Gyula Szekfu,
Homan-Szekfu, Magyar tortenet |'Hungarian History'~, Vol. V, 2nd
ed. (Budapest, 1936), p. 537 ff.; Erik Molnar et al., Magyarorszag
tortenete |'History of Hungary'~, Vol. II, 2nd ed. (Budapest,
1967), p. 188 ff. Magda M. Somlyai (publ.), Foldreform 1945
|'Bodenreform, 1945'~ (Budapest, 1965), p. 7 ff.
- According to Aladar Mod, 400
ev kuzdelem az onallo Magyarorszagert |The 400-year battle for an
independent Hungary'~, 7th ed., (Budapest, 1954), p. 357. In 1895,
1,945 large estate owners shared 13.7 million "hold"
(about one-third of the agricultural land of Hungary), while
1,358,875 smallholders had to be content with 2.5 million (about 6
per cent of the agricultural land).
- Between 1899 and 1911, more
than one million Hungarian residents emigrated overseas (Mod, op.
cit., p. 369; cf. also Zoltan Horvath, Die Jahrhundertwende in
Ungarn, Neuwied/Budapest, 1966), p. 345).
- Molnar, op. cit., p. 189.
- Molnar, op. cit., pp. 130 ff.
- Op. cit., p. 136 fn.
- Mod, op. cit., p. 376 fn.
- Op. cit.; also see Molnar, op.
cit., p. 124.
- On Szanto-Kovacs cf. Agnes
Kenyeres (ed.), Magyar Eletrajzi Lexikon |'Hungarian biographical
lexicon'~, Vol. II (Budapest, 1969), p. 705 fn.; Szekfu, op. cit.,
p. 542; Molnar, op. cit., p. 141; Somlyai, op. cit., p. 13, and
Tibor Sule, Sozialdemokratie in Ungarn (Cologne, 1967), p. 33.
- 9a. See Mod, op. cit., pp. 360
- Somlyai, op. cit., p. 11.
- On Achim see 1.
Reinert-Tarnoky, "Achim L (iker), Andras,"
Biographisches Lexikon zur Geschichte Sudosteuropas (Munich,
1972), p. 10 fn.
- Op. cit.
- Loc. cit.
- Thus Janos Ivan,
Foldbirtokreform es tarsadalmunk 1890-1914 |'Landownership reform
and our society 1890-1914'~ (Budapest, 1935), p. 4 ff., 34 ff., 55
ff., 80 ff.
- Op. cit., p. 67.
- Op. cit., p. 105.
- Op. cit., p. 41 fn, 43 fn, 53.
- Magyar Eletrajzi Lexikon, 11,
p. 444; on Prohaszka see also Horvath, op. cit., p. 249.
- Ivan, op. cit., p. 70.
- Loc. cit.
- Damaschke, Geschichte der
Nationalokonomie, 11, p. 336; Damaschke, Zeitenwende, p. 294.
- Ottokar Prohaszka, "Ein
Antrag zur Durchfuhrung der Kriegerheimstatten in Ungarn,"
Jahrbuch der Bodenreform, XII, 1912, pp. 129-133.
- Damaschke, Geschichte der
Nationalokonomie, II, p. 337.
- Horvath, op. cit., p. 120 ff.,
240 ff.; about the Galilei-Circle: op. cit., p. 351 ff. and Paul
Ignotus, Hungary (London, 1972), p. 141.
- Revai Nagy Lexikona |Revai's
great lexicon~, Vol. VII, (Budapest, 1913), p. 757 fn.
- Sule, op. cit., p. 140 ff.
- Op. cit., p. 166.
- Molnar, op. cit., p. 255.
- On Count Karolyi cf., Magyar
Eletrajzi Lexikon, 1 (Budapest, 1967), p. 870.
- Damaschke, Geschichte der
Nationalokonomie, II, p. 336.
- Op. cit., p. 357.
- Molnar, op. cit., p. 297.
- The Hungarian form of his
first name is Gyula. In his German and English publications he
himself used the international form "Julius." (The
translation of Hungarian first names was customary in Hungary
before 1945 in interchange with foreign countries.)
- Magyar Eletrajzi Lexikon, II,
p. 416; Julius J. Pikler should not be confused with his cousin,
legal scholar and psychologist Julius Pikler (1864-1937; ibid.).
- Paul Ignotus, "Die
intellektuelle Linke im Ungarn der 'Horthy-Zeit'",
Sudost-Forschungen XXVII (Munich, 1968), pp. 148-241 (239). In the
footnote, Pikler's place of work of many years is given as the
National Statistics Bureau instead of, correctly, the Budapest
Public Statistics Office.
- Insofar as in the following
comments no other sources are indicated, the portrayal of the
person and of the influence of Pikler's is based on data supplied
by his closest collaborator in the area of Georgism, the architect
and urban planner, Aladar Sos (about him cf. Revai XXI, 1935, p.
752), in letters of May 31, 1971, and August 24, 1972, as well as
oral information of a student of Pikler, economist and historian
Robert Major. Secalso Silagi, "Aladar Sos," Land &
Liberty, London, LXXXII, 1975, p. 73.
- Ignotus speaks of Pikler's "numerous
enthusiastic students, who were fascinated by his incorruptible,
razor-sharp logic" ("Die intellektuelle Linke . . . ,"
- Hans Wehberg, A. Th. Stamm . .
. , p. 25.
- Magyar Eletrajzi Lexikon, I,
- The editor of the Single Tax
Year Book, Joseph Dana Miller, wrote in 1917 in his contribution "Historical
Addenda," p. 194: "his visit to America a few years ago
is pleasantly remembered by many Single Taxers in New York and
- Kormanyzosagom tortenete. The
English original was entitled The Story of my Dictatorship and
appeared initially anonymously in 1894 in England. It describes
how a politician, called to be dictator of England, translates
George's program into action for the welfare of all.
- In 1921, Braun published a
translation of Henry George's Social Problems ('Tarsadalmi
- An incomplete list of Pikler's
medical and statistical writings: Magyar Eletrajzi Lexikon, II,
416. According to this article, Pikler edited "for some time"
the German-language periodical Pester Medizinisch-Chirurgische
Presse and contributed to it "numerous medical and
- See Karl Krall, Denkende
Tiere, 4th ed. (Leipzig, 1912), passim.
- Julius J. Pikler, "Zur
Frage der Dynamik und Systematologie des Geldes," Schmollers
Jahrbuch, LI (Munich, 1927), pp. 723-760 (reprint of an address
given by the author before the Oesterreichische Politische
Gesellschaft in Vienna.).
- According to Sos the
voluminous manuscript of the unfinished work is lost. Pikler also
wrote a whole series of combative and controversial essays, such
as for the Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift, inter alia about
genetics, on the definition of life, and about the psychology of
- This and the following
paragraph are based on Julius J. Pikler, A magyar varosi
telekertekado elmeleti es gyakorlati tanulsagai |'The theoretical
and practical lessons from the Hungarian city land value tax'~,
ms. (Budapest 1924), p. 46. The subtitle of the 65-page brochure
reads as follows: "Expansion of the speech given at the
International Conference in Oxford, August 13-20, 1923."
Meant is the international conference of Georgists, which takes
place at several years' intervals in diverse places throughout the
world. This brochure was the "Bible" of the Hungarian
Georgists between the two world wars, and was labeled the "speech
of Oxford" by them. The text appears to be a transcription
rich in the rhetorical elements of a speech, but in view of its
size only part of it could have been read to the audience. It is
impossible to determine at this point what was actually spoken and
what was expansion or subsequent addition. An excerpt of the
Oxford speech is recorded in the Conference report: "Land
Value Policy in Hungary - Theoretical and Practical Lessons,"
International Conference on the Taxation of Land Values, Values;
Oxford, 1923, Official report of proceedings (London, 1923), pp.
45-50. This excerpt was reprinted on 1960 as "A Land Values
Classic" in Land & Liberty, LXVII, pp. 165-168; 185 fn,
and a separate reprint of the article in the journal was
distributed as a pamphlet by the British Georgists. (In my text
the Hungarian brochure is cited as "Oxford speech.")
Following Pikler, Robert Braun spoke on the theme "Social
Conditions in Hungary." An excerpt of his speech is reprinted
in the Official Report, p. 50 fn.
- On the housing scarcity cf.
Gyorgy Kiss, A budapesti varospolitika |'The communal policy of
Budapest'~, 2nd ed. (Budapest, 1958), p. 95 ff.
- On Huszadik szazad see
Ignotus, Hungary, p. 112 fn and Horvath, op. cit., p. 121, 129 fn.
- Horvath, op. cit., p. 121, 240
- Information by letter from A.
- Adolf Szabo, Az Eotvos-Paholy
hetveneves tortenete |'The 70-year history of the Lodge Eotvos'~,
(Budapest, 1947), p. 17 ff.
- Information by letter from A.
- Kiss, op. cit., p. 143.
- Oxford Speech, p. 46 fn.
- Damaschke, Geschichte der
Nationalokonorme, II, p. 337.
- Magyar Eletrajzi Lexikon, 1,
- Op. cit., II, p. 977.
- The German translation of the
regulation is reprinted in the Jahrbuch der Bodenreform, XVIII,
1918, pp. 174-179; the most important sections, together with a
commentary by Pikler, are contained in the excerpt from the
Hungarian's speech published by the English Georgists.
- Pikler, Oxford Speech, p. 43.
- Julius J. Pikler, "Der
Weg zum Musterstaat," Neue Welt und Judenstaat, II, 14
(Vienna, 1949), p. 8.
- Pikler, Oxford Speech, p. 48
- Op. cit., p. 49.
- Loc. cit.
- Op. cit., p. 50.
- Ignotus, Hungary, p. 141 ff.
- Ignotus, "Die
intellektuelle Linke . . . ," p. 156.
- Pikler, Oxford Speech, p. 50.
- Op. cit., p. 51.
- Op. cit., p. 52.
- Op. cit., p. 53.
- As King of Hungary the monarch
permitted legal, open activities of the Freemasons; as Emperor of
Austria, however, he upheld to the last the ban on the Lodges
issued there at the end of the 18th century. This was the case
through 1918, the end of the dual monarchy. As a result, when the
Austrian Freemasons desired to take part in Lodge activities, they
travelled to Hungary; at home they functioned under camouflage,
through humanitarian and reform associations such as the "Social-Pedagogical
Society." |Gustav~ Kuess, |Bernhard~ Scheichelbauer, 200
Jahre Freimaurerei in Osterreich (Vienna, 1959), p. 117 fn, 161
- Pikler, Oxford Speech, p. 53.
- Rudolf Till, Geschichte von
Wien in Daten (Vienna, 1948), p. 151; Karl Ziak, ed.,
Unvergangliches Wien (Vienna, 1964), p. 404.
- Entwurf fur ein
'Wirtschaftsbefreiungsgesetz,' 6th document of the Bundes
osterreichischer Bodenreformer, 2nd ed. (Vienna, 1933), p. 3.
- Op. cit., p. 4.
- Pikler, Oxford Speech, p. 20
- Philipp Knab,
Bodenwertbesteuerung in Osterreich (London, 1959), p. 2.
- Josef Schwarzl, Franz, Camillo
und Siegfried Sitte (Vienna, 1949), p. 4.
- Till, op. cit., p. 153. A home
building tax was substituted for the previous realty tax to
finance the municipal housing projects which later became world
famous. But the new tax, however much it may have served a useful
purpose, was by Georgist standards inhibiting to production and
therefore inimical to the economy.
- Julius J. Pikler, "The
Valuation and Taxation of Land Value in Budapest," Land &
Liberty, XXVII, 1920, p. 549 fn, and Pikler, "Hungary,"
op. cit., XXIX, 1922, p. 276.
- Pikler, Oxford Speech, p. 53; "Notes
and News," Land & Liberty, XXX, 1923, p. 59.
- "Notes and News,"
Land & Liberty, XXX, 1923, p. 59.
- "Land Value Policy in
Hungary," Land & Liberty, XXX, 1923, p. 175.
- D. Sabbatai, "Ein
humanistischer Sozialismus - Gesprach mit dem Sozialphilosophen
Dr. Julius J. Pikler," Neue Welt und Judenstaat, I, 2, 1948,
- See also "A helyes
tarsadalmi rendszer problemaja" |'The problem of the correct
social order~, Allam es polgar, 1934, No. 1, pp. 2-12 (10 ff.)
- Sabbatai, loc. cit.
Michael Silagi, Dr. jut. et phil., is a Senior Research Fellow at the
Institut fur Volkerrecht, Georg-August Universitat, Platz der
Gottinger Sieben 5, Blauer Turm, D-37073 Gottingen, Germany.