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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 11


This is the grave of Henry George.


Henry George was the man behind the idea of the single tax. This was his solution to the inequality dominating the United States during the Gilded Age. In 1879, he wrote Progress and Poverty, his discussion of how to fix America’s gaping inequality. The single tax was a basic property tax. At its core was the idea that people earned the value of own their own labor, but that land was a common resource for all and should essentially be quasi-socialized with very high taxes on large landowners. George‚Äôs ideas quickly spread beyond the U.S. and were especially popular with the English and Scottish working classes, as well as the Irish resisting British domination.

He came to this realization while in California. In 1871, he recalled:

I asked a passing teamster, for want of something better to say, what land was worth there. He pointed to some cows grazing so far off that they looked like mice, and said, ‘I don’t know exactly, but there is a man over there who will sell some land for a thousand dollars an acre.’ Like a flash it came over me that there was the reason of advancing poverty with advancing wealth. With the growth of population, land grows in value, and the men who work it must pay more for the privilege.

This developed into Progress and Poverty, which sold an astounding 3 million copies over the years.

In 1886, Henry George ran for mayor of New York City on a 3rd party ticket. He came in 2nd, ahead of the Republicans who had nominated a whipper snapper named Theodore Roosevelt. He had a stroke in 1890 while on a global tour speaking against poverty. He slowly recovered and ran for mayor again in 1897, but had a second stroke and died four days before the election.

Among the many things inspired by Henry George is the game of Monopoly, whose inventor was a follower of his.

Not everyone agreed with the single tax. But we all agree that there is a single end uniting everyone.

Henry George is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.

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