Progress and Poverty
Epigraph to preliminary pages:
Make for thyself a definition or description of the thing
which is presented to thee, so as to see distinctly what kind
of a thing it is, in its substance, in its nudity, in its complete
entirety, and tell thyself its proper name, and the names of the
things of which it has been compounded, and into which it will
be resolved. For nothing is so productive of elevation of mind
as to be able to examine methodically and truly every object which
is presented to thee in life, and always to look at things so
as to see at the same time what kind of universe this is, and
what kind of use everything performs in it, and what value everything
has with reference to the whole, and what with reference to man,
who is a citizen of the highest city, of which all other cities
are like families; what each thing is, and of what it is composed,
and how long it is the nature of this thing to endure.
-- Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.
Progress and Poverty Table Of Contents
to the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition -- 1905
FAME WON BY HENRY GEORGE as writer, economist and philosopher,
has not diminished with the years that have passed since his death
in 1897. On the contrary, there has been a steadily broadening
recognition of his intellectual eminence. Significant of this was
the recent Appreciation by John Dewey, the famous American educator
and professor of philosophy at Columbia University, which contained
these striking statements:
would require less than the fingers of the two hands to enumerate those who,
from Plato down, rank with Henry George among the world's social philosophers....
No man, no graduate of a higher educational institution, has a right to regard
himself as an educated man in social thought unless he has some firsthand acquaintance
with the theoretical contribution of this great American thinker."
fiftieth year after the first publication of "Progress and Poverty" it
must appear to that growing body of workers for social justice who in many
lands are spreading George's gospel, that there is at this time as great a
need as ever for the comprehension of the truth he sought to make plain. For,
as in 1879, there if, widespread social unrest in the world. Industrial depression
and unemployment are conditions common to many lands, and even in the nominally
prosperous atmosphere of the United States, vast numbers are compelled to live
in poverty or close to its border line. It would appear that in the half century
since "Progress and Poverty" was published, there has been little
abatement of the social and economic ills that have afflicted the human family
everywhere, and that recur, with unfailing regularity, in cycles that seem
unexplainable except to the followers of Henry George. And, at a time when
world opinion is demanding that statesmanship shall outlaw war, it is important
to recall that the World Economic Conference, held at Geneva in 1927 at the
call of the League of Nations, found a definite interdependence of the economic
causes of war and industrial depression. It seems like a vindication of the
philosophy of Henry George to find that this Conference, to which the representatives
of fifty nations were called, unanimously arrived at the conclusion that:
main trouble now is neither any material shortage of the resources of nature
nor any inadequacy in man's power to exploit them. It is all, in one form or
another, a maladjustment; not an insufficient productive capacity, but a series
of impediments to the full utilization of that capacity. The main obstacles
to economic revival have been the hindrances opposed to the free flow of labor,
capital, and goods."
effect, is what Henry George maintained fifty years ago, contrary to the teachings
of the accepted political economy.
need than ever exists for a re-examination by mankind of the remedy for the
world's social and economic ills that is involved in the fundamental proposals
of Henry George-proposals which Tolstoy declared must ultimately be accepted
by the world because they are so logical and so unanswerable.
the trustees of the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, of New York, which was
formed to bring about a wider acquaintance with the social and economic philosophy
of Henry George, have considered this an appropriate time to produce from new
plates this Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of "Progress and Poverty."
HOW THE BOOK CAME TO BE WRITTEN
the Introduction to the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition, Henry
George, Jr. told interestingly, as follows, how "Progress
and Poverty" came to be written:
Out of the
open West came a young man of less than thirty to this great city of New York.
He was small of stature and slight of build. His alma mater had been the forecastle
and the printing- office. He was poor, unheralded, unknown. He came from a
small city rising at the western golden portals of the country to set up here,
for a struggling little newspaper there, a telegraphic news bureau, despite
the opposition of the combined powerful press and telegraph monopolies. The
struggle was too unequal. The young man was overborne by the monopolies and
his little paper crushed.
was Henry George and the time was 1869.
defeated, Henry George was not vanquished. Out of this struggle had come a
thing that was to grow and grow until it should fill the minds and hearts of
multitudes and be as "an army with banners."
For in the
intervals of rest from his newspaper struggle in this city the young correspondent
had musingly walked the streets. As he walked he was filled with wonder at
the manifestations of vast wealth. Here, as nowhere that he had dreamed of,
were private fortunes that rivaled the riches of the fabled Monte Cristo. But
here, also, side by side with the palaces of the princely rich, was to be seen
a poverty and degradation, a want and shame, such as made the young man from
the open West sick at heart.
Why in a
land so bountifully blest, with enough and more than enough for all, should
there be such inequality of conditions? Such heaped wealth interlocked with
such deep and debasing want? Why, amid such superabundance, should strong men
vainly look for work? Why should women faint with hunger, and little children
spend the morning of life in the treadmill of toil?
intended in the order of things? No, he could not believe it. And suddenly
there came to him there in daylight, in the city street—a burning thought,
a call, a vision. Every nerve quivered. And he made a vow that he would never
rest until he had found the cause of, and, if he could, the remedy for, this
deepening poverty amid advancing wealth.
to San Francisco soon after his telegraphic news failure, and keeping his vow
nurtured in his heart, Henry George perceived that land speculation locked
up vast territories against labor. Everywhere he perceived an effort to "corner" land;
an effort to get it and to hold it, not for use, but for a "rise." Everywhere
he perceived that this caused all who wished to use it to compete with each
other for it; and he foresaw that as population grew the keener that competition
would become. Those who had a monopoly of the land would practically own those
who had to use the land.
these ideas, Henry George in 1871 sat down and in the course of four months
wrote a little book under title of "Our Land and Land Policy." In
that small volume of forty-eight pages he advocated the destruction of land
monopoly by shifting all taxes from labor and the products of labor and concentrating
their in one tax on the value of land, regardless of improvements. A thousand
copies of this small book were printed, but the author quickly perceived that
really to command attention, the work would have to be done more thoroughly.
thorough work came something more than six years later. In August, 1877, the
writing of "Progress and Poverty" was begun. It was the oak that
grew out of the acorn of "Our Land and Land Policy." The larger book
became "an inquiry into industrial depressions and of increase of want
with increase of wealth," and pointed out the remedy.
was finished after a year and seven months of intense labor, and the undergoing
of privations that caused the family to do without a parlor carpet, and which
frequently forced the author to pawn his personal effects.
the last page was written, in the dead of night, when he was entirely alone,
Henry George flung himself upon his knees and wept like a child. He had kept
his vow. The rest was in the Master's hands.
manuscript was sent to New York to find a publisher. Some of the publishers
there thought it visionary; some, revolutionary. Most of them thought it unsafe,
and all thought that it would not sell, or at least sufficiently to repay the
outlay. Works on political economy even by men of renown were notoriously not
money-makers. What hope then for a work of this nature from an obscure man-unknown,
and without prestige of any kind? At length, however, D. Appleton & Co.
said they would publish it if the author would bear the main cost, that of
making the plates. There was nothing else for it, and so in order that the
plate-making should be done under his own direction Henry George had the type
set in a friend's printing-office in San Francisco, the author of the book
setting the first two stickfuls himself.
plates, made from this type, were shipped East, they were put upon a printing-press
and ail "Author's Proof Edition" of five hundred copies was struck
off. One of these copies Henry George sent to his venerable father in Philadelphia,
eighty-one years old. At the same time the son wrote:
It is with
deep feeling of gratitude to Our Father in Heaven that I send you a printed
copy of this book. I am grateful that I have been enabled to live to write
it, and that you have been enabled to live to see it. It represents a great
deal of work and a good deal of sacrifice, but now it is done. It will not
be recognized at first—maybe not for some time—but it will ultimately
be considered a great book, will be published in both hemispheres, and be translated
into different languages. This I know, though neither of us may ever see it
here. But the belief that I have expressed in this book—the belief that
there is yet another life, for us—makes that of little moment.
of recognition of the book's greatness was fulfilled very quickly. The Appletons
in New York brought out the first regular market edition in January, 1880,
just twenty-five years ago. Certain of the San Francisco newspapers derided
book and author as the "hobby" of "little Harry George," and
predicted that the work would never be heard of. But the press elsewhere in
the country and abroad, from the old "Thunderer" in London down,
and the great periodical publications, headed by the "Edinburgh Review," hailed
it as a remarkable book that could not be lightly brushed aside. In the United
States and England it was put into cheap paper editions, and in that form outsold
the most popular novels of the day. In both countries, too, it ran serially
in the columns of newspapers. Into all the chief tongues of Europe it was translated,
there being three translations into German. Probably no exact statement of
the book's extent of publication can be made; but a conservative estimate is
that, embracing all forms and languages, more than two million copies of "Progress
and Poverty" have been printed to date; and that including with these
the other books that have followed from Henry George's pen, and which might
be called "The Progress and Poverty Literature," perhaps five million
copies have been given to the world.
HENRY GEORGE, JR.
January 24, 1905.