Skip to main content

Henry George Lives

June 2024
1min read

As president of the Henry George Foundation, I’m thankful that Henry George— although prematurely consigned to the ash heap of history by Mr. John Steele Gordon ("The Business of America,” September 2000)—is given due credit for inspiring history’s most successful board game, Monopoly. But let’s be clear about Henry George’s other legacies.

I’d dispute the claim that George’s idea of a single tax on land was “never taken seriously by mainstream economists.” Several recent Nobel Prize winners in economics have agreed that a land value tax makes sense, notably the late William Vickrey ("It guarantees that no one dispossesses fellow citizens by obtaining a disproportionate share of what nature provides for humanity") and Paul Samuelson ("Pure land rent is in the nature of a ‘surplus’ which can be taxed heavily without distorting production incentives or efficiency").

Thankfully, as governments have learned to recoil from economy-stifling taxes on wages and production, and as Smart Growth advocates try to find out why people are bailing out of cities, Henry George’s ideas have found new vigor. Today, a number of jurisdictions in Pennsylvania have adopted a form of the George program wherein buildings are taxed at a much lower rate than land. Evidence indicates that urban rejuvenation has followed. Land taxation frees others and ourselves from taxation of what we own and what we produce. As it did yesterday, this marriage of social justice and market freedom still resonates today on all bands of the economic and political spectrum.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.