Towards the End of July 2015, Conference in the Hunter Valley

img098img099 (2)



Last weekend was educational for me with plenty of opportunity to reflect on different life styles and how people behave according to their station in life. It was also another lesson on how to cope with the inflictions of old age.

Peter and I have been members of the Good Government organisation for a number of years. Once every year, usually in July, the Good Government people organise a conference.   This time the conference was in the Hunter Valley. We had not been going to the last few conferences. We decided to go to the conference this year and at the same time maybe get to know a bit more about the Hunter Valley. We felt that at our advanced age it was a bit of a challenge for us. Nonetheless, there was no valid reason why we should not be able to make it, if only we put our mind to it.

The theme of the conference was:

The Crime of Poverty.

There were six speakers:



Henry George delivered an address in the Burlington Opera House, Iowa, on 1st April, 1885. The theme of the address was:


Last Saturday all the talks at the conference were centered on the above speech by Henry George.

You can look it up here:

Uta’s Diary, July 2015


I took this picture this morning. It is the first picture I have taken in a long time. I think all through June I never took a picture because my camera did not work anymore. Then I started using an older, smaller camera. This must have been in May. I loved walking around with this smaller camera taking pictures. All of a sudden this did not work any more either. It just would not open up, even though the battery was still full. So I gave up and just did not take any more pictures.

This morning Peter checked the little camera. Surprise, surprise, it opened up for him! Peter said, it was all right, I could used it for taking picture. When I took the above trial picture, it actually worked all right. So wish me luck, that my next pictures are going to be all right too.

There is a heatwave all over Europe right now, while we have very cold winter weather. At least it is not windy, and the humidity seems to have gone too. Right now it is beautiful sunny. The outside temperature has climbed to 13 Degrees Celsius. I should go for a walk. All morning I’ve had the heater on in the computer-room. So the temperature here has gone up to 19 C. (In the morning it was only 13 C inside and 8 C outside!)

For morning tea we had green tea with ginger, Vietnamese bread-rolls, Berliner Fleischwurst and lovely fresh radishes. For dinner we’re going to have fried fish, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, and sweet potato. From two o’clock on I am going to be at Marion’s place. Irene and Barbara are going to be there too. We are all neighbours. Every Friday afternoon we women have a games afternoon. We usually play one game of Scrabble, then we have a coffee/tea break, after which we play seven games of Rummy-Cub (A Rummy game with tiles instead of cards.)

Yesterday I found out something about the ‘anti-monopolist’ Landlord’s Game by BY LIZZIE J MAGIE. I did publish some of the rules. I would be interested in finding out exactly how it works. As I understand it, it is kind of based on a single tax system which Henry George had been writing about. In this Landlord’s Game with some anti-monopolist rules apparently no player ends up as a monopolist, also all players can play right to the end, only that the players end up with different amounts of money and this determines who the winner is. Maybe the players are allowed to cooperate with each other and no player is allowed to fall below subsistence level.

We are all familiar with Parker Brothers MONOPOLY Game. This works out quite differently, doesn’t it?

I better get ready now for my morning walk.

This was published in HARPERS Magazine in October 2012 about the “Landlord’s Game” versus “Monopoly

Monopoly Is Theft

The antimonopolist history of the world’s most popular board game

The players at Table 25 fought first over the choice of pawns. Doug Herold, a forty-four-year-old real estate appraiser, settled on the car. The player across from him, a shark-eyed IT recruiter named Billy, opted for the ship and took a pull from a can of Coors. The shoe was taken by a goateed toxic-tort litigator named Eric, who periodically distracted himself from the game on a BlackBerry so that he “could get billable hours out of this.” The dog was taken by a doughy computer technician named Trevis, who had driven from Canton, Ohio, as a “good deed” to help the National Kidney Foundation, sponsor of the 25th Annual Corporate Monopoly Tournament, which is held each year in the lobby of the U.S. Steel Tower in downtown Pittsburgh. On hand for the event, which had attracted 112 players, divided into twenty-eight tables of four, were the Pittsburgh Steelers’ mascot, Steely McBeam, who hopped around the lobby grunting and huzzahing with a giant foam I beam under his arm; three referees dressed in stripes, with whistles around their necks; and a sleepy-looking man, attired in a long judges’ robe and carrying a two-foot-long oaken gavel, who was in fact a civil-court judge for Allegheny County donating his time “to make sure these people follow the rules.”

I had spoken the night before with Doug, who won the previous year’s tournament, about his strategy for victory. “Well, last year I managed to get Boardwalk and Park Place, and then everybody landed on them,” he explained, chalking his success up to dumb luck. “What you have to do,” he said, “is get a monopoly, any monopoly, as quickly as you can.” I asked him if he knew the secret history of the game. He confessed that he did not.

The official history of Monopoly, as told by Hasbro, which owns the brand, states that the board game was invented in 1933 by an unemployed steam-radiator repairman and part-time dog walker from Philadelphia named Charles Darrow. Darrow had dreamed up what he described as a real estate trading game whose property names were taken from Atlantic City, the resort town where he’d summered as a child. Patented in 1935 by Darrow and the corporate game maker Parker Brothers, Monopoly sold just over 2 million copies in its first two years of production, making Darrow a rich man and likely saving Parker Brothers from bankruptcy. It would go on to become the world’s best-selling proprietary board game. At least 1 billion people in 111 countries speaking forty-three languages have played it, with an estimated 6 billion little green houses manufactured to date. Monopoly boards have been created using the streets of almost every major American city; they’ve been branded around financiers (Berkshire Hathaway Monopoly), sports teams (Chicago Bears Monopoly), television shows (The Simpsons Monopoly), automobiles (Corvette Monopoly), and farm equipment (John Deere Monopoly).

The game’s true origins, however, go unmentioned in the official literature. Three decades before Darrow’s patent, in 1903, a Maryland actress named Lizzie Magie created a proto-Monopoly as a tool for teaching the philosophy of Henry George, a nineteenth-century writer who had popularized the notion that no single person could claim to “own” land. In his book Progress and Poverty (1879), George called private land ownership an “erroneous and destructive principle” and argued that land should be held in common, with members of society acting collectively as “the general landlord.”

The Landlord's Game, 1906

Magie called her invention The Landlord’s Game, and when it was released in 1906 it looked remarkably similar to what we know today as Monopoly. It featured a continuous track along each side of a square board; the track was divided into blocks, each marked with the name of a property, its purchase price, and its rental value. The game was played with dice and scrip cash, and players moved pawns around the track. It had railroads and public utilities—the Soakum Lighting System, the Slambang Trolley—and a “luxury tax” of $75. It also had Chance cards with quotes attributed to Thomas Jefferson (“The earth belongs in usufruct to the living”), John Ruskin (“It begins to be asked on many sides how the possessors of the land became possessed of it”), and Andrew Carnegie (“The greatest astonishment of my life was the discovery that the man who does the work is not the man who gets rich”). The game’s most expensive properties to buy, and those most remunerative to own, were New York City’s Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and Wall Street. In place of Monopoly’s “Go!” was a box marked “Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages.” The Landlord Game’s chief entertainment was the same as in Monopoly: competitors were to be saddled with debt and ultimately reduced to financial ruin, and only one person, the supermonopolist, would stand tall in the end. The players could, however, vote to do something not officially allowed in Monopoly: cooperate. Under this alternative rule set, they would pay land rent not to a property’s title holder but into a common pot—the rent effectively socialized so that, as Magie later wrote, “Prosperity is achieved.”

For close to thirty years after Magie fashioned her first board on an old piece of pressed wood, The Landlord’s Game was played in various forms and under different names—“Monopoly,” “Finance,” “Auction.” It was especially popular among Quaker communities in Atlantic City and Philadelphia, as well as among economics professors and university students who’d taken an interest in socialism. Shared freely as an invention in the public domain, as much a part of the cultural commons as chess or checkers, The Landlord’s Game was, in effect, the property of anyone who learned how to play it.

Thousands of Monopoly tournaments are held in the United States each year: county tournaments, school tournaments, church tournaments, corporate tournaments, tournaments in basements, in boardrooms, in lunchrooms, in public libraries, and online. Every four or five years there are the big officiated tournaments—the U.S. Championship and the World Championship—sponsored by Hasbro, which hands out $20,580 pots to the winners of each. I missed the big tournaments—both were last held in 2009—and instead ended up in the lobby of U.S. Steel. I thought the venue fitting, as the corporation was the brainchild of supermonopolists Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan, the latter being the inspiration for Monopoly’s top-hatted, monocled, tails-wearing mascot, Rich Uncle Pennybags.

The emcee called the lobby to order, shouting into his microphone, “You have ninety minutes. Let’s play Monopoly!” Immediately, the men at Table 25 began rolling dice and frantically buying property as they rounded the board. Doug snagged Pacific Avenue (an expensive investment at $300), two yellow parcels, and several slummier properties. Trevis’s portfolio included two railroads and Marvin Gardens, the most expensive property in the yellow group. Billy held the ultrachic Boardwalk ($400). Eric got Tennessee Avenue and St. James Place ($180 each). These last are among the properties most coveted by competitors, because they are relatively cheap and frequently landed on, along with the other properties that sit directly downboard of the jail, where odds are the players will spend a lot of time.

Sixteen minutes into the game Doug offered Billy a trade. (“The propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another,” writes Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations, “is common to all men, and to be found in no other race of animals.”) Land was already growing scarce, and as land becomes scarce in Monopoly—as in the real world—its market value rises, often beyond its nominal value. “This,” said Doug, holding up one of his yellow deeds, “for that,” pointing at one of Billy’s slum deeds, “plus three hundred bucks.”

Billy was unimpressed. “No, you give me three hundred bucks.”

“Give you three hundred bucks?”

“Cash is king!”

This in turn inspired Trevis and Eric to start haggling, with Billy and Doug interjecting to gum up the talks when their own interests were threatened. The table got loud. The parties offered, counteroffered, rejected all offers, sweetened the original offers, rejected the sweetened deals with greater aplomb. Doug heaved a great sigh. “We’re just gonna go around the board and around the board,” he said, “and collect our little money.”

“It’s gotta make sense for me,” said Trevis.

“This guy wants my left testicle,” Doug replied.

In what amounted to open conspiracy, Billy then told Eric that if they made a trade and each received a monopoly as a result, they’d share a “free ride”—no rent would be charged—when they landed on one another’s monopolies: a corrupt duopoly, in effect, targeting Doug and Trevis.

Doug shrugged as Eric pondered the deal, but Trevis was aghast. “You can’t do that—it’s against the rules.”

“Rules!” said Billy. “I’m gonna set my price.”



A referee, whistle around his neck, hurried over—the judge with the gavel had disappeared—to decide on the matter as the players barked at each other. “You can’t do that,” he said finally.

A few weeks before the tournament, I’d had a conversation with Richard Marinaccio, the 2009 U.S. national Monopoly champion. “Monopoly players around the kitchen table”—which is to say, most people—“think the game is all about accumulation,” he said. “You know, making a lot of money. But the real object is to bankrupt your opponents as quickly as possible. To have just enough so that everybody else has nothing.” In this view, Monopoly is not about unleashing creativity and innovation among many competing parties, nor is it about opening markets and expanding trade or creating wealth through hard work and enlightened self-interest, the virtues Adam Smith thought of as the invisible hands that would produce a dynamic and prosperous society. It’s about shutting down the marketplace. All the players have to do is sit on their land and wait for the suckers to roll the dice.

Smith described such monopolist rent-seekers, who in his day were typified by the landed gentry of England, as the great parasites in the capitalist order. They avoided productive labor, innovated nothing, created nothing—the land was already there—and made a great deal of money while bleeding those who had to pay rent. The initial phase of competition in Monopoly, the free-trade phase that happens to be the most exciting part of the game to watch, is really about ending free trade and nixing competition in order to replace it with rent-seeking.

Henry George was not formally trained in economics. At age sixteen, he shipped out of his native Philadelphia as a mast boy on the freighter Hindoo,bound for Australia and India, where he watched the crew threaten mutiny over their miserable working conditions. By the age of twenty, transplanted to California, he was working as a printer’s apprentice, a rice weigher, and a tramp farmworker. George was soon married and broke, caught up in a wave of unemployment on the West Coast, and by the winter of 1865 his pregnant wife was starving. “Don’t stop to wash the child,” the doctor told George upon the birth of a son that January. “Feed him.” Poverty turned his mind to economics, to the question of why poverty proliferated in a land of plentiful resources. Economics turned him to newspapers, where he imagined he might get paid for his ideas. Eventually, journalism brought him to live in New York City.

What puzzled George was that wherever he saw advanced means of production arise in the United States—wherever industry was built up and capital accumulated—more poor people could be found, and in more desperate conditions. It was for him a stunning paradox. “It is the riddle which the Sphinx of Fate puts to our civilization, and which not to answer is to be destroyed,” wrote George. “So long as all the increased wealth which modern progress brings goes but to build up great fortunes . . . progress is not real and cannot be permanent.” In 1879, he published the book that made him famous, Progress and Poverty: An Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth—The Remedy, which provided a sweeping answer to the riddle: land monopoly was the reason progress brought greater poverty. As American civilization advanced, as populations grew and aggregated in and around cities, land became scarce, prices soared, and the majority who had to live and work on the land paid those prices to the minority who owned it. For the laboring classes, rent slavery was the result. “To see human beings in the most abject, the most helpless and hopeless condition,” George wrote, “you must go, not to the unfenced prairies and the log cabins of new clearings in the backwoods, where man singlehanded is commencing the struggle with nature, and land is yet worth nothing, but to the great cities where the ownership of a little patch of ground is a fortune.”

From those little patches, primarily in New York City, had arisen the dynasties of the American nouveau riche: the Astors, the Beekmans, the Phippses, the Stuyvesants, the Roosevelts, and, later, the Tishmans, the Rudins, the Roses, the Minskoffs, the Dursts, and the Fisher and Tisch brothers. According to George, the sequestering of valuable land assets in private hands was itself the product of a system of property “as artificial and as baseless as the divine right of kings.” “Historically, as ethically,” he wrote, “private property in land is robbery. . . . It has everywhere had its birth in war and conquest.” This was, in fact, the original sin of Western civilization:

In California our land titles go back to the Supreme Government of Mexico, who took from the Spanish King, who took from the Pope, when he by a stroke of the pen divided lands yet to be discovered between the Spanish or Portuguese—or if you please they rest upon conquest. In the eastern states they go back to treaties with Indians and grants from English kings; in Louisiana to the government of France; in Florida to the government of Spain; while in England they go back to the Norman conquerors. Everywhere, not to a right which obliges, but to a force which compels.

George noted that many premodern tribes recognized no right of land ownership; the tribesman’s property was the bow and arrow he built with his hands, not the land he hunted on. Nor was such a right recognized under the laws of the Old Testament, in which land was “treated as the gift of the Creator to his common creatures.” Moses had, after all, instituted the jubilee, under which land was redistributed every fifty years, and the debts incurred against land were canceled—a tradition ended by Roman rule. Everywhere George reviewed the annals of the precapitalist world, he saw the “struggle between this idea of equal rights to the soil and the tendency to monopolize it in individual possession.”

By the nineteenth century, however, the “superstition” of “absolute individual property in land,” represented by the complex array of state-sanctioned deeds and titles, had become fundamental to the American legal system. It could not be crushed—nor should it be, said George. Land seizure and nationalization, he believed, would lead to tyranny. “Let the individuals who now hold it still retain, if they want to, possession of what they are pleased to call their land.” George would not revoke the right to buy and sell property or to will land to one’s descendants. Instead he argued that society might leave landowners “the shell” of their holdings if it could “take the kernel.” As George wrote, “It is not necessary to confiscate land; it is only necessary to confiscate rent. . . . In this way the State may become the universal landlord without calling herself so.”

Rent was the key. In line with classical economics from the time of Adam Smith, George defined rent as the unearned income owners derived from the rising value of land, meaning it was distinct from the labor that went into property in the form of improvements, the construction of homes and offices and factories, and the cultivation of fields. A community’s productivity was the invisible hand that caused land values to increase. The cabin in the woods became a prize when a mine opened up across the field, a road linked the cabin to the mine, a country store opened to supply the miners, more homes were built, a railroad came in, a town was born. The land under the cabin derived its worth from what society built around it. Its increase in value therefore belonged to society, and George said this value was to be assessed and taxed at market rates. This “single tax” on land and natural resources offered a reform of capitalism—whose self-destruction George believed it was his task to prevent—that “open[ed] the way to a realization of the noble dreams of socialism.” [1]

Georgism, as it came to be known, was denounced by wealthy landowners as the most radically lunatic notion of its time, and the single tax as more insidious than all the writings of Karl Marx put together. The Catholic Church ruled George’s thought “worthy of condemnation.” Yet within five years of the publication of Progress and Poverty, hundreds of thousands of Americans would come to believe in the gospel of the single tax. In New York City, the populist priest Father Edward McGlynn referred to George simply as “this prophet . . . this messenger from God.” Mark Twain proselytized as a Georgist, as did the philosopher John Dewey. “It would require less than the fingers of the two hands,” wrote Dewey, “to enumerate those who, from Plato down, rank with Henry George among the world’s social philosophers.”

Leo Tolstoy proclaimed that George would “usher in an epoch.” “The method of solving the land problem has been elaborated by Henry George to such a degree of perfection that, under the existing State organization and compulsory taxation, it is impossible to invent any other better, more just, practical, and peaceful solution,” wrote Tolstoy. “The only thing that would pacify the people now is the introduction of the system of Henry George.”

In 1886, the United Labor Party, fresh from the battles and boycotts of the first May Day, nominated George as its candidate for mayor of New York. His campaign offered a radical vision for the time: wherever railroads, telegraphs, telephones, and gas, water, electric, and heating utilities could be operated more efficiently at scale, as “natural monopolies,” the public would own them; transit in New York would be made free for all; city government would be responsible for social services; he would end child labor and mandate an eight-hour workday. The land-value tax would pay for his programs.

Though not a single major newspaper endorsed him, clubs were founded in George’s name in twenty-four districts across the city. Members financed his campaign, each contributing twenty-five cents, and George, in between sixteen-hour days of speeches and rallies, sat at headquarters rolling coins for distribution to his workers. The coalition he built with the ULP was big-tent, crossing lines of class, ethnicity, and religion that had long divided New York. Three days before the election, his supporters—merchants, lawyers, doctors, tailors, plumbers, cigar makers, brassworkers, Germans, Irish, Russians, Poles, Italians, Jews—gathered by the tens of thousands in lower Manhattan. They carried banners reading HONEST LABOR AGAINST THIEVING LANDLORDS, and at Tompkins Square, in driving rain, they chanted, “Hi! Ho! The leeches must go!” But George was defeated, amid allegations that Tammany Hall had engineered massive voter fraud to ensure his loss.

George returned to journalism, went on the lecture circuit, wrote five more books, and dedicated himself to spreading the word of the single tax. He has been credited with inspiring a generation of progressive reformers. William Jennings Bryan said thatProgress and Poverty “ought to be read by every thinking man and woman.” Samuel Gompers, Jacob Riis, Upton Sinclair, and Ida Tarbell read him and sang his praises. But George showed little interest in reform beyond the single tax. A believer to the end in Adam Smith, he denounced the socialists and labor organizers who were his strongest supporters, and, as one critic wrote, came to lead single-tax supporters “of intolerably dogmatic and doctrinaire spirit.” He refused to accept that unearned income might be gleaned from investments other than land, and thus he was accused of failing to confront the rising power of finance capitalism, which made money off of the socially created value behind stocks and bonds. By the time of his death in 1897, when 100,000 New Yorkers lined up to view his body in state, George’s “great idea” was already, as Tolstoy would lament in 1908, on the long road to being forgotten.

About a month before the Pittsburgh tournament, an amateur Monopoly historian and game collector named Richard Biddle invited me to the village of Arden, Delaware, to have a look at the first Landlord’s Game ever fashioned. Arden had been founded as a Georgist experiment in 1900, four years after a failed attempt to implement the single-tax system across the state. It was envisioned as a self-sufficient utopia on 160 acres of woodland, and it soon attracted artists, poets, actors, anarchists, and freethinkers. Upton Sinclair had a cottage there, dubbed the Jungalow. Ardenites were barred from “owning” their plots, instead purchasing ninety-nine-year leases on cooperatively held land. It didn’t matter whether the residents built mansions or shacks: they were taxed only on the underlying value of the land, often at very high rates. This revenue paid for roads, parks, a commons, playgrounds, and utilities.

Lizzie Magie visited the village not long after its founding, and brought with her an oilcloth mock-up of her Landlord’s Game, which soon became a pastime among residents. While at Arden, she built a board for the game with the help of a resident carpenter. Biddle spoke solemnly of this alpha board; he estimated that it could be worth a million dollars.

We met at the village green and walked a few blocks, where we found the owner of the board, an eighty-year-old retired autoworker named Ronald Jarrell, standing outside his cottage looking nervous. Apprised of our visit, Jarrell had earlier in the day gone to his safe-deposit box at the local bank to retrieve the board. We entered his living room, where, amid a collection of antique china, jade statues, and old dolls, he laid out the prized artifact on his coffee table. Jarrell’s three yapping poodles made it difficult to talk.

“It was the summer of 1903,” he said. “A woman was down visiting here—”

“Lizzie Magie,” said Biddle.

“I don’t remember the name,” said Jarrell, “but she had an idea for a game.” He told us his stepgrandfather, a Georgist carpenter named Robert Woolery, had grown tired of playing checkers at the general store and needed new entertainment. Woolery looked over the plans drawn up by Magie on the oilcloth and immediately set about making the board.

Arden Board, 1904

Biddle held it up and nodded his head approvingly. It was hand-painted and hand-carved out of the backside of a reclaimed pressed-wood crokinole board, and it smelled like an old shoe.

I had earlier looked up Magie’s 1904 rule set, which she produced several months before she and Woolery completed the original board. Oddly, it contained no rule about forming monopolies out of the property groups, nor did it mention charging players higher fees after they’d built houses or hotels (constructions that also didn’t exist in Magie’s original rules). Nor was there anything about Henry George, land-value taxation, or the evil of rent. If the game was designed to teach Georgism, it seemed Magie hadn’t quite thought out the lesson. Two years later, when the game was officially published,the rules had evolved: the business principle of monopoly was fully established, as was the Georgist alternative of cooperation. Theories abound as to how the changes arose; one holds that someone in Arden had pushed The Landlord’s Game in the direction of Henry George, and also in the direction of the Monopoly we know today.

I asked Biddle about the discrepancy. “Ask the Monopoly monopolist,” he said.

“Excuse me?”

“Patrice McFarland. The Monopoly monopolist. She’d have all the answers because she is now the possessor of Lizzie Magie’s diaries. And a lot of other key stuff. But she isn’t talking.”

McFarland, I later learned, was a former exhibit specialist at the New York State Museum who in 1992 had received $25,000 from a Georgist organization, the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, to produce a biography of Magie. In the ensuing years, Biddle said, she had acquired, along with Magie’s diaries, a trove of early Landlord’s Game prototypes handcrafted by players in Arden and elsewhere. But she had never produced her book, nor, according to Biddle, had she been willing to share the information or documents she’d amassed. “She’s a tough player,” he said. “I once bid against her on eBay for my 1939 Landlord’s Game. Bid almost $10,000.” (I called and emailed McFarland several times to ask about her alleged Monopoly monopolism, but she never responded.)

With us in Jarrell’s cottage was Mike Curtis, an Ardenite who twenty years earlier had played a round of Magie’s original 1906 Landlord’s Game (one of his opponents, as it happened, was Patrice McFarland). The Georgist rules by which Curtis had played were known as the Single Tax set, and they went beyond having players simply pay rent into Magie’s “Public Treasury.” They also aimed to teach the shared ownership of public goods. Under Single Tax rules, when the amount in the treasury reached fifty dollars, the player who owned the lighting utility was forced to sell it, and thereafter the utility cost no money to land on, as it was now publicly owned. This process repeated itself with the Slambang Trolley, then with the railroads, then with the Go to Jail space, which became a public college that, instead of sending players to jail, provided extra wages at the end of the game. After that, each fifty-dollar deposit in the treasury raised players’ wages by ten dollars. A “win” in Single Tax, which Magie later dubbed Prosperity Game, occurred when the player with the least amount of money had doubled his original capital. “The Landlord’s Game,” said Magie, “shows why our national housekeeping has gone wrong and Prosperity Game shows how to start it right and keep it going right.” Curtis admitted that he didn’t think much of the game, pronouncing it “kind of boring after a while.” [2]

In the summer of 1971, Ralph Anspach, a game inventor and retired economics professor who lives in San Francisco, emerged from a crushing Monopoly defeat in his living room—his eight-year-old son had bankrupted him—and found himself considering the salability of a board game that was explicitly antimonopolistic. “My game would have to start,” he wrote in a self-published memoir, The Billion Dollar Monopoly Swindle, “where Monopoly ends, when the board is full of monopolies.” The goal of play would be to break them up, with monopolists fighting off trustbusters. The game Anspach created, Anti-Monopoly, sold 200,000 copies in 1973, its first year of production, and was on pace to top 1 million sales by Christmas of 1974. Parker Brothers, at that time a subsidiary of General Mills, was not pleased. The company threatened to sue Anspach for trademark infringement. Instead, he preemptively sued Parker Brothers—“a sort of buckshot maneuver,” his lawyer called it—on the theory that he could show the company’s Monopoly trademark was invalid.

One of Anspach’s first discoveries as he built his case was the existence of The Landlord’s Game. But he could not explain how Magie’s invention, with its promotion of socialized land and shared wealth, had been transformed into the proprietary commodity that made billions of dollars for Parker Brothers. The key to the mystery, he learned, was a radical socialist professor of economics named Scott Nearing, who taught at the Wharton School of Finance from 1906 to 1915. Anspach spoke to Nearing in 1974, when Nearing was ninety-one years old. The professor said he had learned to play the game around 1910, while living in Arden, then taught it to his students at Wharton in order that they might learn, in his words, “the antisocial nature of monopoly,” and in particular “the wickedness of land monopoly.” The students apparently taught it to their friends. It was around this time that the game became known as “monopoly”—denoted in lowercase, like checkers, chess, or dominoes. The game spread widely over the next several years, to the hometowns of Nearing’s students and to other universities. It would slowly lose its antimonopolistic message, however, as players came to the conclusion that Magie’s vision of Georgist redistribution was not nearly as entertaining as ruining one another.

By 1913, monopoly had made its way to Altoona, Pennsylvania, and four years later it arrived in Philadelphia. The economist Rexford Tugwell, a future member of FDR’s “kitchen cabinet,” remembered having played it in 1915. By the 1920s, camp counselors in the Poconos were playing it, as were students at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Harvard, Haverford, Princeton, and Swarthmore. During the early stages of the Depression, the game reached Indianapolis, where a Quaker schoolteacher-in-training named Ruth Hoskins played it. Hoskins soon traveled to Atlantic City and taught the game to two fellow Quakers, Jesse and Eugene Raiford.

The brothers were so taken with the game that they worked to improve it. Along with other members of the Quaker community, they changed the pawns to household objects: tie clips, hairpins, keys, thimbles. They changed the names and property values to reflect those of Atlantic City. Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues, slums in the Raifords’ hometown, became slums on the board; Boardwalk and Park Place, the carrefour of chic, became the most expensive deeds to purchase. The rules related by Ruth Hoskins stipulated that properties were to be auctioned when players landed on them; Jesse Raiford instead set the prices on the board. (This change later made the game marketable to children, who had difficulty understanding how auctions worked.)

The Raifords taught the game to a friend of theirs, Charles Todd, who taught it to its putative inventor, Charles Darrow. Sometime in 1932, Darrow copied the layout of the board, the rules of play, the property names, the deed values, and the Chance cards, and made his own version of the game. His only innovation seems to have been to claim the mantle of sole inventor. He would soon be assumed into the pantheon of American heroes of commerce.

The irony was not lost on Anspach. Before being monopolized by a single person working in tandem with a corporation, Monopoly had in fact been “invented” by many people—not just Magie and the Raifords but also the unknown player who gave the game its moniker and the unsung Ardenite who had perhaps aided Magie in advancing its rules. The game that today stresses the ruthlessness of the individual and defines victory as the impoverishment of others was the product of communal labor.

None of the information Anspach uncovered helped his case when it went to trial in 1976. The widows of Eugene and Jesse Raiford testified, as did seven other witnesses who claimed to have played monopoly as many as twenty years before Darrow marketed his game. Anspach even put Robert Barton, the former president of Parker Brothers, on the stand. Barton, who was pivotal in helping Darrow secure a patent for his “invention,” admitted under oath that he was fully aware of the game’s history and that he knew Darrow had not in fact invented it. The judge was unmoved. He dismissed Anspach’s complaint, ordering all unsold copies of Anti-Monopoly to be “deliver[ed] up for destruction.” Seven thousand of the games were bulldozed into a garbage dump in rural Minnesota, where officials from Parker Brothers oversaw the interment. [3]

After forty minutes of play, the game at Table 25 had stalled—or, depending on your view, was going along just fine, because no one had a monopoly and no one could raise rents. So Billy paid rent to Eric, who paid about the same rent to Doug, who paid to Billy, who paid to Trevis, who paid to Eric, who made a bad roll and briefly went to jail. Then Doug Herold landed on his third lucrative green property, allowing him to form a monopoly. He had enough cash on hand to build several houses, and one after another the players fell afoul of his outrageous rent hikes. Billy and Trevis handed over several properties in lieu of cash, giving Doug three monopolies. “You see,” he said, turning to me, “I don’t have to deal with these knuckleheads anymore.” There was no further need for trading, no need for the dynamism of the marketplace. He had done the work, built the houses, invested in the properties. Now he did no work, took no risks, made no investments. And yet wealth moved inexorably in his direction. When after ninety minutes time was called, Doug oversaw five monopolies and a wad of $10,293 in cash, more than half the money in the Monopoly bank. He was declared not only the victor at Table 25, but the all-around winner of the U.S. Steel tournament for the second year in a row.

I’d invited Richard Biddle to the tournament, and as Doug had started his run Biddle wandered off to watch the other tables. Every so often I could see him peering over the shoulders of the players, a pinched look on his face. He did not like what had become of Lizzie Magie’s invention. “My brother taught me how to play Monopoly when I was five,” he had told me. “It was pivotal in helping me understand the importance of lying, cheating, and stealing.” I’d asked him to bring along his reproduction of The Landlord’s Game, which he carried in a backpack. Earlier in the evening he had gingerly taken it out to share with whomever he could waylay. “This is the real Monopoly,” Biddle would tell the players, before attempting a sort of CliffsNotes explanation of what Lizzie Magie had in mind. The players nodded politely, their smiles freezing into nervous masks. “That’s very nice, thank you so much,” they said, and then they walked away.

[1] University of Missouri–Kansas City economics professor Michael Hudson has noted that property tax today functions in exactly the opposite fashion from George’s proposed single tax. The Federal Reserve Board is responsible for assessing the total market value of real estate in the United States, Hudson says, yet it routinely produces “nonsensical undervaluations of land.” In fact, the FRB mostly ignores land itself; instead, it considers buildings and capital improvements as the chief markers of value, basing its calculations on the historical cost of original construction and the replacement cost of structures. Land value is an afterthought. The amateur in the real estate marketplace need not read Henry George to know this flies in the face of common sense, the mantra being “location, location, location,” not “replacement cost, replacement cost, replacement cost.” Hudson has conducted some of the few authoritative analyses of the FRB’s sleight of hand, the tax losses that result, and how it benefits the finance, insurance, and real estate sectors, which together have lobbied the FRB to maintain its approach.
[2] Curtis also didn’t think much of Arden’s Georgist experiment, saying it had degenerated into something of a failure. The leaseholders, he told me, had learned to game the system by electing land assessors who based their assessments on the town’s budget needs rather than the land’s real market value, and so they avoided paying taxes at appropriate rates. “To be frank,” he said, “the people in Arden today don’t give a damn about Henry George.”
[3] Anspach twice appealed the decision, and in 1982 a California appellate court ruled in his favor, concluding that Parker Brothers had in fact committed fraud in the Darrow patent, and was thus under threat of losing its trademark. General Mills Fun Group appealed to the Supreme Court in 1982, backed by amicus briefs from nearly every major American industry group, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Trademark Association, the Bar Association of the District of Columbia, and the Committee on Trademarks of the Bar of the City of New York. The Court declined to hear the appeal. Anspach was nearly bankrupted, his house thrice mortgaged, his game business on the edge of ruin, his distributors unwilling to work with him because of a ten-year legal cloud. He was free, however, to continue selling Anti-Monopoly. In the past four years, he has sold 454,000 copies in European markets. Domestic sales, he says, have been comparatively small because Hasbro has used “its monopoly power to monopolize the Monopoly market” in the United States.

One more Chapter out of Progress and Poverty

Chapter 43

The Central Truth

OUR ECONOMIC INQUIRY led us to a certain truth. The same truth explains the rise and fall of civilizations. Furthermore, it agrees with our deep-seated perceptions of relation and sequence, which we call moral perceptions.

The evils arising from the unequal and unjust distribution of wealth become more and more apparent as modern civilization goes on. They are not signs of progress, but tendencies that will bring progress to a halt. They will not cure themselves. Unless their cause is removed, they will expand until they sweep us back into barbarism — the path every previous civilization has taken.

But this truth also shows that these evils are not imposed by natural laws. They arise solely from social maladjustments that ignore natural laws. Poverty, with all the evils that flow from it, springs from a denial of justice. By allowing a few to monopolize opportunities nature freely offers to all, we have ignored the fundamental law of justice.

By sweeping away this injustice — and asserting the rights of all people to natural opportunities — we shall conform ourselves to this law. We shall remove the great cause of unnatural inequality in the distribution of wealth and power. We shall abolish poverty; tame the ruthless passions of greed; and dry up the springs of vice and misery. We shall light the lamp of knowledge in dark places; give new vigor to invention and a fresh impulse to discovery; substitute political strength for political weakness; and make tyranny and anarchy impossible.

The reform I have proposed will make all other reforms easier. It agrees with all that is desirable — politically, socially, or morally. It is simply carrying out, in letter and spirit, the self-evident truths set forth in the Declaration of Independence: that all people are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

These rights are denied when the equal right to land is denied — for people can only live by using land. Equal political rights will not compensate for denying equal rights to the gifts of nature. Without equal rights to land, political liberty is merely the right to compete for employment at starvation wages.

We honor liberty in name and form. We set up statues and sound her praises. But we have not fully trusted her. And as we grow, her demands grow. She will have no half service. For liberty means justice, and justice is the natural law.

Some think liberty’s mission is accomplished when she has abolished hereditary privileges and given the vote. They think she has no further relation to the everyday affairs of life. They have not seen her real grandeur. To them, her poets seem dreamers, her martyrs but fools. Yet it is not for an abstraction that people have toiled and died. In every age, the witnesses of liberty have stood forth.

We speak as if liberty were one thing, and virtue, wealth, knowledge, invention, and independence were others. But liberty is the source, the mother, the necessary condition, of all these. She is to virtue what light is to color; to wealth what sunshine is to grain; to knowledge what eyes are to sight.

In the history of every nation we may read the same truth. It is the universal law, the lesson of the centuries. Our primary social organization is a denial of justice. Allowing one person to own the land — on which and from which others must live — makes them slaves. The degree, or proportion, of slavery increases as material progress goes on.

This subtle alchemy is extracting the fruits of their labor from the masses in every civilized country, in ways they do not realize. It institutes a harder and more hopeless slavery in place of the one that has been destroyed. It brings tyranny out of political freedom, and must soon transform democratic institutions into anarchy. This is what turns the blessings of material progress into a curse, what crowds human beings into squalid tenement houses, and fills the prisons and brothels. This is what plagues people with want and consumes them with greed.

Civilization so based cannot continue. The eternal laws of the universe forbid it. The ruins of dead empires so testify. Justice herself demands that we right this wrong.

It is blasphemy to attribute the suffering and brutality that comes from poverty to the inscrutable decrees of Providence. It is not the Almighty, but we who are responsible for the vice and misery that fester amid our civilization. The Creator showers us with gifts — more than enough for all. But like swine scrambling for food, we tread them in the mire while we tear each other apart.

Suppose at God’s command, for every blade of grass that now grows, two should spring up. And crops increase a hundred-fold. Would poverty be reduced? No — any benefit that would accrue would be temporary. The miraculous new powers could be utilized only through land. And while land is private property, the classes that currently monopolize the bounty of the Creator would monopolize all the new bounty.

Landowners alone would benefit. Rents would increase, but wages would still tend to the starvation point.

This is not merely a deduction of political economy — it is a fact of experience. We have seen it with our own eyes, in our own times.

The effect of invention and improvement on the production of wealth has been precisely the same as an increase in the fertility of nature.

What has been the result? Simply that landowners took all the gain. The wonderful discoveries and inventions of our century have neither increased wages nor lightened toil. The effect has simply been to make the few richer — and the many more helpless!

Can the gifts of the Creator be misappropriated with impunity? Can labor be robbed of its earnings, while greed rolls in wealth? Is it right that many should want, while a few are glutted? Turn to history! On every page we read that such wrongs never go unpunished. The nemesis that follows injustice never falters nor sleeps.

Look around today. Can this continue? The pillars of state tremble, and the foundations of society shudder from forces pent-up beneath. Great new powers, born of progress, have entered the world. They will compel us to a higher plane, or else they will overwhelm us.

The world is pulsing with unrest. There is an irreconcilable conflict between democratic ideas and the aristocratic organization of society. We cannot permit people to vote, then force them to beg. We cannot go on educating them, then refusing them the right to earn a living. We cannot go on chattering about inalienable human rights, then deny the inalienable right to the bounty of the Creator.

While there is still time, we may turn to justice. If we do, the dangers that threaten us will disappear. With want destroyed and greed transformed, equality will take the place of jealousy and fear. Think of the powers now wasted, the fields of knowledge yet to be explored, the possibilities that the wondrous inventions of this century only hint at. Who can presume the heights to which our civilization may soar?

Who Was Henry George?


What his granddaughter says about him in 1979 in an afterword to Progress and Poverty

Agnes George de Mille was the granddaughter of Henry George. Famous in her own right as a choreographer and the founder of the Agnes de Mille Heritage Dance Theater, she received the Handel Medallion, New York’s highest award for achievement in the arts. She was the author of thirteen books.

An Afterword to Henry George’s Progress and Poverty by Agnes George deMille

 New York, January 1979

A HUNDRED YEARS AGO a young unknown printer in San Francisco wrote a book he called Progress and Poverty. He wrote after his daily working hours, in the only leisure open to him for writing. He had no real training in political economy. Indeed he had stopped schooling in the seventh grade in his native Philadelphia, and shipped before the mast as a cabin boy, making a complete voyage around the world. Three years later, he was halfway through a second voyage as able seaman when he left the ship in San Francisco and went to work as a journeyman printer. After that he took whatever honest job came to hand. All he knew of economics were the basic rules of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and other economists, and the new philosophies of Herbert Spencer and John Stuart Mill, much of which he gleaned from reading in public libraries and from his own painstakingly amassed library. Marx was yet to be translated into English.

George was endowed for his job. He was curious and he was alertly attentive to all that went on around him. He had that rarest of all attributes in the scholar and historian that gift without which all education is useless. He had mother wit. He read what he needed to read, and he understood what he read. And he was fortunate; he lived and worked in a rapidly developing society. George had the unique opportunity of studying the formation of a civilization — the change of an encampment into a thriving metropolis. He saw a city of tents and mud change into a fine town of paved streets and decent housing, with tramways and buses. And as he saw the beginning of wealth, he noted the first appearance of pauperism. He saw degradation forming as he saw the advent of leisure and affluence, and he felt compelled to discover why they arose concurrently.

The result of his inquiry, Progress and Poverty, is written simply, but so beautifully that it has been compared to the very greatest works of the English language. But George was totally unknown, and so no one would print his book. He and his friends, also printers, set the type themselves and ran off an author’s edition which eventually found its way into the hands of a New York publisher, D. Appleton & Co. An English edition soon followed which aroused enormous interest. Alfred Russel Wallace, the English scientist and writer, pronounced it “the most remarkable and important book of the present century.” It was not long before George was known internationally.

During his lifetime, he became the third most famous man in the United States, only surpassed in public acclaim by Thomas Edison and Mark Twain. George was translated into almost every language that knew print, and some of the greatest, most influential thinkers of his time paid tribute. Leo Tolstoy’s appreciation stressed the logic of George’s exposition: “The chief weapon against the teaching of Henry George was that which is always used against irrefutable and self-evident truths. This method, which is still being applied in relation to George, was that of hushing up …. People do not argue with the teaching of George, they simply do not know it.” John Dewey fervently stressed the originality of George’s work, stating that, “Henry George is one of a small number of definitely original social philosophers that the world has produced,” and “It would require less than the fingers of the two hands to enumerate those who, from Plato down, rank with Henry George among the world’s social philosophers.” And Bernard Shaw, in a letter to my mother, Anna George, years later wrote, “Your father found me a literary dilettante and militant rationalist in religion, and a barren rascal at that. By turning my mind to economics he made a man of me….”

Inevitably he was reviled as well as idolized. The men who believed in what he advocated called themselves disciples, and they were in fact nothing less: working to the death, proclaiming, advocating, haranguing, and proselytizing the idea. But it was not implemented by blood, as was communism, and so was not forced on people’s attention. Shortly after George’s death, it dropped out of the political field. Once a badge of honor, the title, “Single Taxer,” came into general disuse. Except in Australia and New Zealand, Taiwan and Hong Kong and scattered cities around the world, his plan of social action has been neglected while those of Marx, Keynes, Galbraith and Friedman have won great attention, and Marx’s has been given partial implementation, for a time, at least, in large areas of the globe.

But nothing that has been tried satisfies. We, the people, are locked in a death grapple and nothing our leaders offer, or are willing to offer, mitigates our troubles. George said, “The people must think because the people alone can act.”

We have reached the deplorable circumstance where in large measure a very powerful few are in possession of the earth’s resources, the land and its riches and all the franchises and other privileges that yield a return. These positions are maintained virtually without taxation; they are immune to the demands made on others. The very poor, who have nothing, are the object of compulsory charity. And the rest — the workers, the middle-class, the backbone of the country — are made to support the lot by their labor.

We are taxed at every point of our lives, on everything we earn, on everything we save, on much that we inherit, on much that we buy at every stage of the manufacture and on the final purchase. The taxes are punishing, crippling, demoralizing. Also they are, to a great extent, unnecessary.

But our system, in which state and federal taxes are interlocked, is deeply entrenched and hard to correct. Moreover, it survives because it is based on bewilderment; it is maintained in a manner so bizarre and intricate that it is impossible for the ordinary citizen to know what he owes his government except with highly paid help. We support a large section of our government (the Internal Revenue Service) to prove that we are breaking our own laws. And we support a large profession (tax lawyers) to protect us from our own employees. College courses are given to explain the tax forms which would otherwise be quite unintelligible.

All this is galling and destructive, but it is still, in a measure, superficial. The great sinister fact, the one that we must live with, is that we are yielding up sovereignty. The nation is no longer comprised of the thirteen original states, nor of the thirty-seven younger sister states, but of the real powers: the cartels, the corporations. Owning the bulk of our productive resources, they are the issue of that concentration of ownership that George saw evolving, and warned against.

These multinationals are not American any more. Transcending nations, they serve not their country’s interests, but their own. They manipulate our tax policies to help themselves. They determine our statecraft. They are autonomous. They do not need to coin money or raise armies. They use ours.
And in opposition rise up the great labor unions. In the meantime, the bureaucracy, both federal and local, supported by the deadly opposing factions, legislate themselves mounting power never originally intended for our government and exert a ubiquitous influence which can be, and often is, corrupt.

I do not wish to be misunderstood as falling into the trap of the socialists and communists who condemn all privately owned business, all factories, all machinery and organizations for producing wealth. There is nothing wrong with private corporations owning the means of producing wealth. Georgists believe in private enterprise, and in its virtues and incentives to produce at maximum efficiency. It is the insidious linking together of special privilege, the unjust outright private ownership of natural or public resources, monopolies, franchises, that produce unfair domination and autocracy.

The means of producing wealth differ at the root: some is thieved from the people and some is honestly earned. George differentiated; Marx did not. The consequences of our failure to discern lie at the heart of our trouble.

This clown civilization is ours. We chose this of our own free will, in our own free democracy, with all the means to legislate intelligently readily at hand. We chose this because it suited a few people to have us do so. They counted on our mental indolence and we freely and obediently conformed. We chose not to think.
Henry George was a lucid voice, direct and bold, that pointed out basic truths, that cut through the confusion which developed like rot. Each age has known such diseases and each age has gone down for lack of understanding. It is not valid to say that our times are more complex than ages past and therefore the solution must be more complex. The problems are, on the whole, the same. The fact that we now have electricity and computers does not in any way controvert the fact that we can succumb to the injustices that toppled Rome.

To avert such a calamity, to eliminate involuntary poverty and unemployment, and to enable each individual to attain his maximum potential, George wrote his extraordinary treatise a hundred years ago. His ideas stand: he who makes should have; he who saves should enjoy; what the community produces belongs to the community for communal uses; and God’s earth, all of it, is the right of the people who inhabit the earth. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “The earth belongs in usufruct to the living.”
This is simple and this is unanswerable. The ramifications may not be simple but they do not alter the fundamental logic.

There never has been a time in our history when we have needed so sorely to hear good sense, to learn to define terms exactly, to draw reasonable conclusions. As George said, “The truth that I have tried to make clear will not find easy acceptance. If that could be, it would have been accepted long ago. If that could be, it would never have been obscured.”
We are on the brink. It is possible to have another Dark Ages. But in George there is a voice of hope.


 I think what Henry George wrote in his book “Progress and Poverty” more than one hundred years ago still applies very much to our society today. What do you think, are changes in the distribution of wealth and power possible without major upheavals?

 The following is Chapter 42 of “Progress and Poverty” by Henry George, saying How Modern Civilization May Decline:

OUR CONCLUSIONS about the law of human progress agree completely with our previous conclusions about the laws of political economy. They also show that making land common property — by taxing its value — would give an enormous boost to civilization. Furthermore, unless we do so, we will regress.

Every previous civilization has been destroyed by the unequal distribution of wealth and power. I have traced this tendency to its cause — and provided a simple way to remove it. I will now show how, if this is not done, modern civilization will decline to barbarism, as all previous civilizations have.

History clearly shows these periods of decline, though they were not recognized at their start. When the first Emperor was changing Rome from brick to marble and extending the frontier, who would have said Rome was entering its decline? Yet such was the case.

Our civilization appears to be advancing faster than ever. Yet anyone who looks will see the same cause that doomed Rome is operating today — with increasing force. The more advanced the community, the greater the intensity. Wages and interest fall, while rents rise. The rich get richer, the poor grow helpless, the middle class is swept away.

It is worthwhile to explain the process, since many people cannot see how progress could turn into retreat. They think such a thing is impossible. Many scoff at any implication that we are not progressing in all respects. The conditions of social progress, we have found, are association and equality. The general tendency of modern development has indeed been toward political and legal equality. We have abolished slavery, revoked hereditary privileges, instituted representative government, and recognized religious freedom. High and low, weak and strong have more equal security in their person and property. There is freedom of movement and occupation, of speech and of the press.

The initial effect of political equality is a more equal distribution of wealth and power. While population is sparse, unequal distribution of wealth is due mainly to inequality of personal rights. The inequality resulting from private ownership of land shows itself only as material progress advances. Political equality does not, in itself, prevent inequality arising from private ownership of land. Furthermore, political equality — when coexisting with an increasing tendency toward unequal distribution of wealth — will ultimately beget either tyranny or anarchy.

A representative government may become a dictatorship without formally changing its constitution or abandoning popular elections. Forms are nothing when substance has gone. And the forms of popular government are those from which the substance of freedom may go most easily. For there despotism advances in the name of the people. Once that single source of power is secured, everything is secured. An aristocracy of wealth will never struggle while it can bribe a tyrant.

When the disparity of condition increases, democratic elections make it easy to seize the source of power. Many feel no connection with the conduct of government. Embittered by poverty, they are ready to sell their votes to the highest bidder or follow the most blatant demagogue. One class has become too rich to be stripped of its luxuries, no matter how public affairs are administered. Another class is so poor that promises of a few dollars will outweigh abstract considerations on election day. A few roll in wealth, while the many seethe with discontent at things they don’t know how to remedy.

Where there is anything close to equal distribution of wealth, the more democratic government is, the better it will be. Where there is gross inequality in the distribution of wealth, the opposite is true. The more democratic government is, the worse it will be. To give the vote to people who must beg or steal or starve, to whom the chance to work is a favor — this is to invoke destruction. To put political power in hands embittered and degraded by poverty is to wreak havoc.

Hereditary succession (or even selection by lot) may, by accident, occasionally place the wise and just in power. But in a corrupt democracy, the tendency is always to give power to the worst. Honesty and patriotism are a handicap, while dishonesty brings success. The best sink to the bottom, the worst float to the top. The vile are ousted only by the viler.

National character gradually absorbs the qualities that win power. In the long panorama of history, we see over and over that this transforms free people into slaves. A corrupt democratic government must finally corrupt the people. And when the people become corrupt, there is no resurrection. Life is gone, only the carcass remains. It is left but for the plowshares of fate to bury it out of sight.

Unequal distribution of wealth inevitably transforms popular government into despotism. This is not a thing of the far future. It has already begun in the United States, and is proceeding rapidly before our very eyes. Men of the highest ability and character avoid politics. The technique of handlers and hacks counts more than the reputations of statesmen. The power of money is increasing, while voting is done recklessly. Political differences are no longer differences of principle. Political parties are passing into the control of what might be considered oligarchies and dictatorships.

Modern growth is typified by the great city. Here we find the greatest wealth and the deepest poverty. And here popular government has most clearly broken down. In all the great American cities of today, a ruling class is defined as clearly as in the most aristocratic countries. Its members have whole wards in their pockets, select slates for nominating conventions, and distribute offices as they bargain together. “They toil not, neither do they spin,”* yet they wear the finest of raiment and spend money lavishly. They are men of power, whose favor the ambitious must court, and whose vengeance they must avoid.

Who are these men? The wise, the learned, the good? No. They are gamblers, fighters, or worse. Men who have made a trade of controlling votes, and buying and selling offices and legislation. Through these men, rich corporations and powerful financial interests pack the Senate and the courts with their lackeys. In many places today, a Washington, a Franklin, or a Jefferson could not even get into the state legislature. Their very character would be an insurmountable disqualification.

In theory we are intense democrats. Yet growing among us is a class who have all the power of the aristocracy — without any of their virtues. A few men control thousands of miles of railroad, millions of acres of land, and the livelihood of thousands. They name the governors as they name clerks, and choose senators as they choose attorneys. Their will with legislatures is as supreme as a French king’s.

The development of industry and commerce — acting in a social organization where land is privately owned — threatens to force every worker to seek a master. (Just as the collapse of the Roman Empire compelled every freeman to seek a feudal lord.) Industry takes on a form where one is master, while many serve. If a person steals enough, the punishment will only amount to losing part of the theft. And if a thief steals a fortune, colleagues will greet the embezzler like a Viking returning from pillage.

The most ominous political sign in the United States today is the growing complacency with corruption. Many believe there is no honest person in public office; or worse, that if there were one, he or she would be a fool not to seize the opportunities. The people themselves are becoming corrupted. Our democratic government is running the course it must inevitably follow under conditions producing unequal distribution of wealth.

Where this will lead is clear. Contempt for law develops, and reform becomes hopeless. Volcanic forces festering among the masses will explode when some accident gives them vent. Where will the new barbarians come from? Go through the squalid ghettos of great cities and you can already see them gathering.*

Hinting that our civilization may be in decline seems like wild pessimism. A fundamental belief in progress remains. But this will always be the case when advance gradually passes into retrogression. In social development, as in everything else, motion tends to continue in a straight line. Where there has been previous advance, it is extremely difficult to recognize decline — even after it has begun.

Civilizations do not decline along the same paths they came up. Government will not take us back from democracy to monarchy and to feudalism. It will take us to dictatorship or anarchy. Religion will not go back to the faiths of our forefathers, but into new forms of superstition.

The regression of civilization, after a period of advance, may be so gradual that it attracts no attention at the time. Indeed, many mistake such a decline for advancement. As the arts decline, the change may be accompanied by — or rather caused by — a change of taste. Artists who quickly adopted the new styles are regarded — in their day — as superior. As art and literature become more lifeless, foolish, and stilted — conforming to changing taste — the new fashion would regard its increasing weakness as increasing strength and beauty. Really good writers would not find readers; they would be regarded as dull. The prevailing taste becomes that of a less cultured class who regard what they like as the best of its kind.

Whether current trends in taste and opinion indicate regression is not the point. Many other things beyond dispute indicate our civilization has reached a critical point — unless a new start is made toward equality. Inequality is the necessary result of material progress wherever land is monopolized. Inequality cannot go much further without carrying us into a downward spiral so easy to start and so hard to stop.

Industrial depressions, which cause as much waste and suffering as war or famine, are like twinges and shocks preceding paralysis. The struggle to survive is increasing in intensity. We must strain every nerve to keep from being trodden underfoot in the scramble for wealth. This saps the energy to gain and maintain improvements. Diseases from related causes proliferate. In every civilized country, poverty, crime, insanity, and suicide are increasing.

When the tide turns, it does not happen all at once. When the sun passes noon, the heat of the day continues to increase. One can tell only by the way the shadows fall. But as sure as the tide must turn, as sure as the setting sun brings darkness, so sure is it that our civilization has begun to wane. Invention marches on, our cities expand. Yet civilization has begun to wane when, in proportion to population, we have more prisons, more welfare, more mental illness. Society does not die from top to bottom; it dies from bottom to top.

But the decline of civilization looms far more palpable than any statistics. There is a vague but general disappointment, an increased bitterness, a widespread feeling of unrest and brooding revolution. If this were accompanied by some definite idea of how to obtain relief, it might be a hopeful sign. But it is not. Though we have been searching a long, long time, our power of connecting cause to effect seems not a whit improved.

A vast change in religious ideas is sweeping the world that may have a momentous effect, which only the future can tell. This is not a change in the form of religion — it is the negation and destruction of the ideas from which religion springs. Christianity is not simply shedding superstitions; it is dying at the root. And nothing arises to take its place.

The fundamental ideas of an intelligent creator and an afterlife are quickly weakening in the general mind. Whether or not this may be an advance in itself is not the point. The important part religion has played in history shows the significance of the change now going on. Unless human nature has suddenly changed its deepest characteristics, as shown by the universal history of the human race, the mightiest actions and reactions are thus being prepared.

Previously, such stages of thought have always marked periods of transition. To a lesser degree, a similar state preceded the French Revolution. But the closest parallel to the wreck of religious ideas now going on is when ancient civilization began to pass from splendor to decline.

What change may come, no mortal can tell. But that some great change must come, thoughtful people are beginning to feel. The civilized world is trembling on the verge of a great movement. Either it must be a leap upward, to advances yet undreamed of — or it will be a plunge downward, carrying us back toward barbarism.

Progress and Poverty

Why was Henry George not successful?

Here you may find some interesting answers from a book written by
Mason Gaffney

“Neoclassical economics is the idiom of most economic discourse
today. It is the paradigm that bends the twigs of young minds. Then
it confines the florescence of older ones, like chicken-wire shaping
a topiary. It took form about a hundred years ago, when Henry George and
his reform proposals were a clear and present political danger and challenge
to the landed and intellectual establishments of the world. Few people
realize to what degree the founders ofNeo-classical economics changed the
discipline for the express purpose of deflecting George and frustrating
future students seeking to follow his arguments. The strategem was
semantic: to destroy the very words in which he expressed himself. Simon
Patten expounded it succinctly. “Nothing pleases a …single taxer better
than … to use the well-known economic theories … [therefore] economic
doctrine must be recast” (Patten, 1908: 219; Collier, 1979: 270).’
George believed economists were recasting the discipline to refute him.
He states so, as though in the third person, in his posthumously published
book, The Science ofPoliticalEconomy(George, 1898:200-209). George’s
self-importance was immodest, it is true. However, immodesty may be
objectivity, as many great talents from Frank Lloyd Wright to Muhammed
Ali and Frank Sinatra have displayed. George had good reasons, which we
are to demonstrate. George’s view may even strike some as paranoid. That
was this writer’s first impression, many years ago. I have changed my view,
however, after learning more about the period, the literature, and later

To read on please follow this link:


I am very interested in finding out why there is so much resistance to applying the ideas that Henry George promoted in the 19th century.

The above publication seems to be giving some interesting links.




On the 10th of April 2014 I wrote the following in my blog:


You may have noticed that I googled a lot these past few days. It all had to do with where past civilisations and our civilisation are headed for.

The unequal distribution of wealth and privilege is examined. Progress as well as poverty, how can this be? THIS IS THE QUESTION.


In 1979 Agnes George de Mille, the granddaughter of Henry George, published this:


I found the above when I googled ‘Henry George‘. There are many more links to Henry George in Google!


2 Responses to “UTA’S DIARY”

  1. berlioz1935April 10, 2014 at 9:41 am Edit #

    Research and mathematical modelling has shown conclusively that unequal distribution of wealth has led to the downfall of civilisations. But the Rineharts of this world can not get enough. They never do. They think natural justice is for suckers.

    • auntyutaApril 10, 2014 at 10:03 am Edit #

      This is a very interesting subject, Berlioz, isn’t it?
      The question is, what is a “just” society?
      I know that for instance Henry George was an eloquent speaker and writer, advocating for changes in society to achieve “social justice”. In the 1800s millions of people listened to what he had to say. To this day there are people who study him. Alas, nothing much has changed anywhere as far as social justice is concerned.

      Here is a link to my diary on taxes:

The Association for Good Government

I copied here another page about an association promoting the teachings of Henry George:

About the Association and a little History PDF Print E-mail
The general framework of George’s social philosophy is rooted in the view of Thomas Jefferson that the cause of social problems is an inequality of rights.The problem Henry George addresses is the problem of involuntary poverty.  He sees this problem essentially as one of unequal rights to land.  His teaching is founded upon the right to use land, land being the whole material universe, the “reservoir” as he says, from which all production comes. Because we are many the right to use land is an equal right.Henry George argues that the task of government is to secure these equal rights to land for everyone. However, George points out that observation of the institution of private property in land shows that it entails the very opposite of equal rights in land.In the social law of rent (the fact that productivity is enhanced by location) George finds an “adjustment” in nature that permits government to secure the equal right to land. For, if government took the value of locations, each would be left with land of equal value.   By discouraging the holding of land for gain this charge would also permit all to use land.

The value given by location is land value. If collected, taxes on production might be done away with. For that reason his proposal was called a ‘single tax’. Some have reduced that proposal to some limited use of land value taxation.

More generally George gave a proposal that assists in the resolution of many land problems.    Where land is held exclusively the occupant must pay for the social and natural advantages that constitutes the value of its location. Other land is common and subject to the equal right of all to use. The “market value” of such land and of those common services on it are captured in the value of land held exclusively.

George considered that the value of land would rise faster than wages as a proportion of production. He also believed that it exceeded the needs of government and that it might be made use of for cultural puposes or distributed among the citizens as a kind of ‘dividend’.


The Association for Good Government began in September, 1901, as the Sydney Single Tax League until 1913 when the name Free Trade and Land Values League was adopted. One of many organisations inspired by the influence of Progress and Poverty (1879) and by the visit of its author, Henry George, to Australia in 1890.

The usual name taken by these organisations had been ‘Single Tax Clubs’. Its founders, however, now chose a different name ‘Free Trade and Land Values League, to represent its changing policies. That name generally alternated with ‘NSW Henry George League’ until 1965 when the name ‘Association for Good Government’ was adopted. At the same time its magazine (founded in December, 1905, as The Standard) was renamed Good Government.

The organisation consolidated all Georgist organisations in Sydney into one. A.G. Huie the first Secretary made ‘country visits’ by car to collect subscriptions, speak at open air meetings and maintain contact with members in outlying towns in NSW.  Huie must hold something of a record since he became Secretary in 1901 and only retired in 1955. He also edited the journal.

During its over 100 years of history the Association has maintained a remarkably consistent set of activities, holding conferences, seminars, courses and committee meetings, maintaining a journal and writing submissions to government and letters to the press and others upon issues as divergent as civil liberties, privatisation and taxation.

At all times it has held to the main concerns of its founders, to bring to the attention of the public the importance of equal rights in the earth and an understanding of economic rent to social stability and prosperity.

In 2006 the Association formed a Branch in Canberra.


Here is another link about the Association for Good Government:

Uta’s Diary on Taxes and Walking

After a night with a lot of cramping in my legs I ask myself what did I do wrong? Does it  perhaps have to do with not going for a walk the day before?

If I would stick to my perfect plan I would go for a walk every day. Why then, why did I not take care to fit it in yesterday, on Sunday? For instance, we drove to the Club in the afternoon for our coffee and cake. Why did I not say to Peter, let’s walk to the club? Why didn’t I think of it? Actually I cannot see any reason at all why we should not have been able to walk.

When I could not sleep during the night because of the cramping I thought a lot about what I had been reading yesterday on the internet and also what I had been reading in kindle. Well, in kindle I have finally come to the last pages of ANNA KARENINA. Tolstoy wrote in this novel not just about AK. A lot of other people are written about in great detail, especially LEVIN, one of the big landowners. But I can see now how ANNA has turned into the main character of this book. She is a woman of her time and her circumstances, seen through the eyes of a male writer who definitely has a lot of insight into what a woman’s feelings may be. LEVIN’s connection with the land is dealt with in great detail in the novel and seems to have a lot to do with Tolstoy’s feelings about land ownership. And this brings me to what I have been reading and reblogging yesterday about HENRY GEORGE and the land question: How the way the land is taxed or not taxed affects our lives.

It is said if we had what is called a “single tax” we would have a more just society. A single tax on what you may ask. Well, we are talking here about a single tax on land. Of course, whoever owns some land, would not want such a tax. I learned yesterday about Neoclassical Economics. Apparently this is being taught at universities these days. Everyone who is being taught NCE would be discouraged to consider the teachings of HENRY GEORGE. The teaching of NCE protects the established land ownership and goes against the teachings of HENRY GEORGE. This is the way I see it. Tell me if I am wrong.

If you belong to the top third in society, of course you want things to remain the way they are. For sure, the very,very top want to continue ‘earning’ millions every year without paying any taxes. If you are more in the middle, you are constantly in danger of falling behind, but you have hopes of eventually arriving in the top where you are safe. The bottom third in society they are the ones who can be squeezed in all sorts of ways. Entitlements or security for them? Most countries cannot afford it or soon won’t be able to afford it any more. If more and more people in the bottom third become more and more destitute, what then? Do economists ever consider this? I am sure, some do, but feel they cannot change anything.

Apparently HENRY GEORGE  was thinking of solving problems.  To him a trade-off is a compromise that overlooks the possibility of a reconciliation or synthesis. He was for reconciling by synthesizing, taking two problems and composing them into one solution. He was of the opinion that reconciling is better than compromising. If you read what I reblogged yesterday,  you find for instance the following:

“He (HENRY GEORGE) took two polar philosophies,

collectivism and individualism.

He synthesized a plan to combine the better features

and discard the worse features of each.”

Essays by Mason Gaffney discussed in his Website

Solving the “Unsolvable”

Such dismal dilemmas economists pose for us these days! We’re told that to attract business we must lower taxes, shut the libraries and starve the schools; to prevent inflation we must have millions of people unemployed; to make jobs we must chew up land and pollute the world; to motivate workers we must have unequal wealth; to raise productivity we must fire people. Mason Gaffney has devoted his career to demonstrating the viability of reconciliation and synthesis in economic policy. In these 21 wide-ranging essays, he shows how we can find “win-win-win” solutions to many of society’s seemingly “unsolvable” problems.

“One of the most important but underappreciated ideas in economics is the Henry George principle of taxing the economic rent of land, and more generally, natural resources. This wonderful set of essays, written over a long and productive scholarly career, should be compulsory reading. An inveterate optimist, Mason Gaffney makes an excellent case that, by applying the Henry George principle, we can reduce inequality, and raise ample public revenues to be directed at any one of a multitude of society’s ills. Gaffney also offers plausible solutions to problems of urban renewal and finance, environmental protection, the cycle of boom and bust, and conflict generated by rent-seeking multinational corporations.” — JOSEPH STIGLITZ

“A crisp cocktail of geography, history and economics, chilled by crackling-clear prose. In these sparkling essays on rent, land and taxes, Mason Gaffney gives us Henry George in his time and for our own.” — JAMES GALBRAITH

Mason Gaffney is a national treasure. He boldly treads where few other economists even dare to peek: at the extraction of rent from the many by the few. Such rent extraction is now massive and threatens to destroy our democracy. To those who wonder how to stop it, my advice is simple: read Gaffney.—PETER BARNES