Progress and Poverty

Henry George

Why I looked at this book

Progress and Poverty sold over 3 million copies, and Alfred Russell Wallace thought it to be the most important book of the 19th Century (more important than Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species or Karl Marx's Das Kapital). Also Joseph Stiglitz has made a persuasive case of why Henry George's idea of a land rent is a very efficient way of for the state to raise money. So I thought I ought to read this book.

First impressions

The book starts with the puzzle of why poverty persists despite substantial increases in overall wealth. George sees that there is clearly enough to go round, so how come some are in need? The standard explanation, which was that wages came from capital, which was supposedly fixed and so restricted what people could earn. In a growing economy this was clearly a fallacy. George devotes quite a bit of space to arguing against this - to my mind rather more than it deserves - but his writing doesn't become tedious as a result. I'm looking forward to the rest of the book.

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