Friday, September 8, 2017

Henry George and the turning point of big government in America

As I have written in the past, Progressivism would not exist at all if not for Henry George. John Dewey was influenced by George, many of the British Fabians, Margaret Sanger; one of the most proud proclaimations of progressive achievement in the early 20th century is Initiative, Referendum, and Recall - that entire movement was based on Georgist ideals (and dishonest ones at that.) The early unions, many of them were not socialist, they were Georgist. The Knights of Labor, Samuel Gompers, and others.

But understanding the link between big government and Henry George is not well understood. The fact that George repeatedly agitated for the nationalization of land typically falls on deaf ears. One of the most prominent members of the so-called "Social Gospel", Walter Rauschenbusch, is another who was deeply moved by the politics of Henry George. Rauschenbusch once gave a speech in which he proclaimed:

Mr. George has taught this proposition in his book. He is often called a socialist, but it is very incorrect to call him so; he is not a socialist, but the strongest opponent of socialism in the United States. He is a strong advocate of laissez faire in the highest sense of that term. Therefore he insists that artificial monopolies, such as the tariff, should be swept away, and that freedom should be given to the natural forces of society, and that natural monopolies should be owned and managed by the community to which they naturally belong. These are his propositions in regard to monopoly. Am I right?

By "his book" Rauschenbusch means "Progress and Poverty", George's most well known work.

Now, just earlier this week I pointed out that Progressives do not (and I believe they cannot; they are impaired from doing so) distinguish between "Government" and "Society". For a progressive, society is government and government is society. This speech from Rauschenbusch is no different. Reading the speech, he repeatedly uses "community", "society" and "the State"(and other synonyms) completely interchangeably.

For Rauschenbusch, natural monopolies need to be owned by the big organization of society i.e. government. He doesn't mean shareholders, read his speech. That's not his tone and its not his content. Besides, ownership by only the shareholders does not encompass an entire community. The only way "society" or "the community" can be the owners and managers is if the state at some level begins nationalizing property.

Which is what George was known for supporting anyways, at least in regards to land. It's clear what Rauschenbusch is talking about and clear who he is citing as his inspiration.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for these posts, they are invaluable and very informative! I am curious if you have seen as to what extent George's work effected the Germans and Italians. i have read it effected the Russians and seeped into the broader socialist movement, but haven't read anything as to how it effected, if at all, the fascists, both Italian and German. i would love to here if you have found anything on this!