Teaching, Expounding and Propagating

the Ideas of Henry George as Set Forth
in Progress and Poverty

John T. Tetley

[Reprinted from The Gargoyle, October, 1976]

Henry George has been classified as an economist, a social philosopher, a reformer. By many his name is linked with "Single Tax". Just what were the ideas he set forth in his book, Progress & Poverty?

The full title of the book includes "An Inquiry Into The Cause of Industrial Depressions and Of Increase Of Want With Increase of Wealth -- THE REMEDY."

He wrote: "To Those Who, Seeing the Vice and Misery That Spring From The Unequal Distribution of Wealth and Privilege, Feel the Possibility of a Higher Social State and Would Strive For Its Attainment."

I believe, George intended much more than a mere tax reform, and he ought be considered more than an "economist". Unfortunately "Reformer" has an unsavory connotation, and perhaps, even "social philosopher" may to some persons, imply "socialistic". But to those who will be fair and impartial, I think they may consider the ideas set forth by George in Progress & Poverty, to be "a higher social state." And by that -- equality of opportunity and freedom.

So, likewise, did George mention two methods of bringing about his proposal. One by taxation, another by abolishing land titles, as they exist.

Today, there are those who consider they are teaching, expounding and propagating the ideas of Henry George as set forth in his book Progress and Poverty by devoting their time, energy and funds toward changing the general property tax, increasing the amount to be collected .from the land value, and decreasing the amount from value of improvements. This would be a fiscal reform -- a tax reform and should to some extent modify the present system of land tenure. Presumably by assessing land at 100% of market value the tax on land would, if the rate was high, bring unused land into use and tend toward equality of opportunity.

There are others who direct their activities toward bringing about a change in the land-tenure system directly, whereby the full annual rental value of land will be collected, this not being considered a tax, or a fiscal reform, but rather a complete change in our land tenure system as proposed by George.

There is also method to be considered. An educational program is necessary to effect either tax or a direct land tenure change. And following education there must be legislation. Is "legislative action" a part of "teaching, expounding and propagating?"

There can be no question, the Henry George Schools devote their activities toward education and do not engage in political action.

There are some other Georgist organizations which do specifically engage in political action. There need be no conflict. As I see it such organizations which specifically engage in political action are "teaching, expounding and propagating the ideas of Henry George as set forth in Progress and Poverty.

Maybe there is a legal question involved? Maybe a person with knowledge of the law might read this article and would volunteer a reply?