Progress and Poverty
by Henry George
This classic work is an enquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and the persistence of poverty amid advancing wealth. Published in 1879, it was admired and advocated by great minds such as Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Leo Tolstoy and Sun Yat-sen in China. Henry George lived through a period of American history which witnessed the closing of the frontier, and he noticed the dramatic deterioration in the condition of labour once that happened.
While land was freely available wages were high, once it was enclosed wages fell. Adam Smith appears not to have appreciated the full consequences of this, but he was writing before their full horror became evident in the form of landless peasants crowding into city slums, seeking work in “satanic mills” at minimum wages. Henry George, observing similar events in America (he was a journalist), saw the connection between land enclosure and poverty and unemployment. He also realized that the harmful effects could be rectified, without confiscating the land, through a change in the tax system and allowing market forces to work. This classic offers an alternative ethical and practical guide at a time when the collapse of the Marxist/Socialist experiment and the deep recession in the West leave many seeking fresh inspiration. The important social issues raised in this great classic of economic literature remain unresolved to this day – indeed the gulf between rich and poor continues to widen. The non-violent solution proposed has been all but forgotten, although it had widespread support around the world