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Henry George and the Crisis of InequalityProgress and Poverty in the Gilded Age$
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Edward O'Donnell

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231120005

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231120005.001.0001

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“Poverty Enslaves Men We Boast are Political Sovereigns”

“Poverty Enslaves Men We Boast are Political Sovereigns”

Progress and Poverty and Henry George’s Republicanism

(p.33) 2 “Poverty Enslaves Men We Boast are Political Sovereigns”
Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality

Edward T. O’Donnell

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines the system of political economy that Henry George would develop in Progress and Poverty. It begins with an overview of the turmoil of the 1870s, which culminated in the bloody Great Uprising, and the rise of social Darwinism that reflected a decisive departure from earlier forms of American republicanism. It then considers two main questions that dominate George's Progress and Poverty: Why does poverty always accompany material progress? How is humanity morally compelled to respond? It then looks at George's main arguments which he articulated in Progress and Poverty: he challenged the very foundation of the age's prevailing economic dogmas of laissez-faire capitalism; he rejected Malthusianism as overly deterministic; he offered his own explanation for the prevalence of poverty amidst increased aggregate wealth; and he identified the causes of the steep rise in land values and rents. Finally, the chapter discusses George's assertion that land monopoly was the problem of modern industrial society as well as his solution to this problem: the “single tax”.

Keywords:   political economy, Henry George, Progress and Poverty, social Darwinism, republicanism, poverty, material progress, laissez-faire capitalism, land monopoly, single tax

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