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Progress & Poverty
by Henry George

self-published in 1879
commercially published in 1880

the best-selling book on political economy of all time

The book's full title is Progress and Poverty: An inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase of want with increase of wealth ... The Remedy.  George dedicated the book as follows: 

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.

His ideas stand:

  • he who makes should have;
  • he who saves should enjoy;
  • what the community produces belongs to the community for communal uses; and
  • God's earth, all of it, is the right of the people who inhabit the earth.
In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "The earth belongs in usufruct to the living."

This is simple and this is unanswerable. The ramifications may not be simple but they do not alter the fundamental logic.

Multiple versions of Progress & Poverty are available on or from this website. A single table of contents cross-reference connects them all, so if you start with one of the shorter versions and decide you want to explore more deeply, you can find the corresponding or omitted sections.

The unabridged hardcopy of the book is available from http://www.schalkenbach.org or Amazon (new and used), and often on ebay.  The full text is available online at Schalkenbach's website and at http://www.econlib.org/library/YPDBooks/George/grgPP.html

The shortest version is a synopsis by Al Katzenberger, Jr. is available on this website, with links to related themes. A condensation by James Busey keeps George's magnificent language.

(There is actually one shorter version than Al Katzenberger's, and it comes from the first pages of Bengough's Primer:
All Boasted Charitable Doles Ever Futile.
God Hates Injustice.
Justice Knows Land May Not be Owned.
Poverty Quickly Remedied by Single Tax Upon Value, Work-value Excepted.
Yours Zealously, The Author)

Over the years, several abridgements have been done.  One is "Significant Paragraphs from Progress and Poverty" (1928, Harry Gunnison Brown, published by Schalkenbach).   In hard copy, this little book runs 76 pages.  It begins with an appreciation of Henry George from John Dewey. If you teach economics, political science, philosophy, ethics, history or American Studies, you might want the PDF version of Significant Paragraphs, about 35 pages, suitable for a packet.

The next is the A. W. Madsen abridgement (240 pages), available in hardcopy from Schalkenbach and online with Bob Clancy's wonderful illustrations at http://www.henrygeorge.org/. An excellent course is available at the Henry George Institute (self-guiding for free, or with an email or by-mail instructor at a nominal cost).

The newest abridgement is in contemporary language, and titled "Progress and Poverty: Why there are recessions and poverty amid plenty -- and what to do about it." Bob Drake did the "thought by thought" updating and abridgement. [The "thought by thought" concept was among the inspirations for the themes section of this website.] You can read it online here, or here, check the Schalkenbach website for ordering information. A descriptive brochure is available here in two versions, one for US readers and one for those in other countries (only the ordering information varies). And you can download MP3s of this edition here.

Before you embark on these, you might want to dip into some related pieces which will provide some background.

A zipped Microsoft word version (385kb) available at http://www.taxreform.com.au/HG/main.htm which is handy if you're hunting for a specific passage. (Askhenry is useful for that, too.)

Princeton historian Eric F. Goldman, author of Rendezvous with Destiny, a book on politics of the Progressive era, wrote this in tribute to Progress & Poverty:

For some years prior to 1952 I was working on a history of American reform and over and over again my research ran into this fact: an enormous number of men and women, strikingly different people, men and women who were to lead 20th century America in a dozen fields of humane activity, wrote or told someone that their whole thinking had been redirected by reading Progress and Poverty in their formative years. In this respect no other book came anywhere near comparable influence, and I would like to add this word of tribute to a volume which magically catalyzed the best yearnings of our fathers and grandfathers.

from Luke North's book of poetry, Songs of the Great Adventure:

"I AM FOR MEN"
He stood for Men —
Not for parties, sections, classes;
Not for dogmas, doctrines, isms —
Nor all the minutiae of over-elaborated plans for the future,
Nor for craven caution, dissimulation, equivocation —
Patience that now outrages virtue —
Program'd ways and means which if not followed
The world may stay in hell.

He stood for Men —
For in his soul he knew the line of cleavage
Was not between the robber and the robbed —
Was not marked by external difference,
By rank or class or occupation or wealth or poverty.
He knew that poor men could be very cruel and rich men kind.
He knew the line of cleavage was in the heart — those who care and those who don't —
This Henry George who wrote "Progress and Poverty."

He stood for Men —
And was he wrong to yield no tithe to classes?
What has now become of all the appeals
To class interest, class consciousness, class solidarity?
The human heart will not respond to them — in every class are tyrants.
The human mass forgets its every interest,
Flings to the wind all self and class advantage
And goes out to die for a word.

He stood for Men —
And showed the world how to unshackle the chains that bind men.
He showed how poverty begins,
Where modern slavery has its roots,
And how to tear them up.
The earth is for all men, he said —
And his word has gone around the world —
And now it's time to act!

He stood for Men —
Not creeds and doctrines, nor all the lesser details of future contingencies.
He bared the earth to man.
It is for us to take it.
He tried to gain it, and was beaten back to his death.
Now we will gain it —
At whatever cost!

 

One might reasonably wonder why relatively few high schools or colleges today expose their students to such an experience. (If you think these might be merely quaint agrarian ideas, click here!)

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