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Who was Henry George?

Henry George (1839 – 1897) was a popular US economic philosopher in the late 19th Century. His book Progress & Poverty stormed the world in the 1880’s.

Coming from a very modest background, even being forced onto the streets at one point, George asked the question ‘why, at a time of such human progress with all the achievements of the industrial era, do we experience such widespread poverty? George explored this question in his book Progress and Poverty, which went on to sell millions of copies worldwide.

In this book, George spelt out how current land ownership laws allow a pyramid society for the rich to live off the poor. His simple but emotionally inspired writings alerted the people to this travesty. He also provided a solution: land value tax, (or the ‘single tax’).

He demonstrated how poverty and unemployment could be minimised by the removal of all current taxation with the replacement of the ‘single tax’. Why tax productive activity like income from labour or consumption when there are untapped reserves of unearned income pooling in the pockets of those who held land and other natural monopolies?

This led to a worldwide Georgist movement.

Naturally, proposing to tax resources upset the wealthy elite of his day and so he was bitterly opposed.

People like Albert Einstein, Alfred Deakin and Henry Ford saw George as one of the most important intellectuals of the Classical era. Proof of his popularity in Australia saw some 10,000 people attend George’s inspirational speech at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre in 1890. Similar numbers followed his talks around the country.

He gained such support by making economics understandable to the average person.

Prosper Australia, initially called the Single Tax League of Victoria was formed by a group of Australians inspired by his message.