thumbnail of Conversation with Georgists; 7
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
Exploring the ideas of protection free trade wages taxes automation and unemployment. These are just some of the topics to be heard on. Conversation with George's produced in cooperation with the and rejoined school of social side. And now we're here is your host for a conversation with Georgia. The faculty of the mom now an extension of the Henry George School of Social Science. A school devoted exclusively to the dissemination of the philosophy of Henry George via free courses and economics welcomes you to the seventh in a series of programs dealing with the subject of economics.
This subject because of its vagueness and contradictions is usually relegated to a back seat with respect to our interest and left in the hands of the so-called experts. We feel that economics is everybody's concerned regardless of sex profession occupation or education. This program conversation with joy just deals with economics in this vein and we hope to bring forth some answers to the perennial problems that face our nation and the world. My name is Stan Rubenstein director of the Long Island extension of the Henry George School. With us tonight are three members of the faculty of our school. Each one well over in the field of economics having spent many years teaching our free courses in economics Dr. Sam Shirk is an orthodontist. Mr. Doug Butler is a
retired educator. And Mr. Orby flatiron is an engineer. Our subject for tonight deals with that that we all might be rich. A chapter title from Henry George's book social problems. It is indicative of some of the adjectives that have been used by others in the scribing his philosophy such as utopian idealist or dreamer. Yes Henry George had a dream that poverty could be eradicated from our society. And he devoted a major portion of his life and seeking out the courses of poverty. He was definitely not of the school that feels that poverty and the poor will always be with us. Recognizing that the terms rich and poor vary in meaning according to time and place. I'd like to quote one paragraph
from the book social problems. The terms rich and poor are of course frequently used in a relative sense among Irish peasants kept on the verge of starvation by the tribute wrung from them to maintain the luxury of absentee landlords in London or Paris. The woman of three cowls will be looked on as rich while in the society of millionaires. A man with only five hundred thousand dollars will be regarded as poor. Now we cannot of course all be rich in the sense of having more than others. But when people say as they so often do that we cannot all be rich or when they say that we must always have the poor with us. They will not use the words in this comparative sense they mean by the rich. Those who have enough were more than enough
wealth to gratify all reasonable rhymes and by the poor want those who have not. Sam would you like to comment on this particular paragraph that I read from so to social problems and perhaps then to tell us what have been some of the teachings that have contributed to the idea here that poverty is inevitable or that poverty will always be with us. Well take this phrase that we all might be rich and then say to yourself well why not. From the period of 1900 to the present day we have actually multiplied the productive power per man hour 17 times. Now if we had a fair distribution of wealth you might say well why couldn't we all be 17 times richer than we were in 1900. This is the
problem we're talking about. However it has been taught to us by people in authority that the poor must always be with us. This is a sentence which comes to words from religious teachings college prevent professors try to teach us also all that poverty must always be with us and the teachings of politicians and government today seem to indicate that this is a foregone conclusion. Poverty is here. Our system our American system has failed. We sure just do not believe that we have great confidence in our traditional American system and we feel that we all can be rich if we just learned what the natural laws of economics are and abide by them.
Now when you speak about poverty as not being inevitable. Isn't it also true that we have always had poverty and the poor with us and as much as we always have had these things with us doesn't seem to be likely that there's a certain inevitability in this that the poor and poverty will always be with us. I know before you mention that from the year 9800 up until the present day that the amount of wealth that has been produced has been multiplied by 17 times. And yet as you are well aware we still have a tremendous amount of poverty with us. Doesn't this seem to be something inevitable does harbor seem something inevitable about it and something very frustrating about it. And this latter point is brought out by all the strikes we are having recently by riots by student
riots and so on. It almost seems as if our society is going to burst at the seams and verily may happen if we don't come to the cause of our trouble and the solution very fast. Poverty has been with us for centuries and it all it has always occurred because of the same thing and that is that the cause of poverty which is the inequality of the opportunity to Labor has always been with us and we must eliminate inequality of opportunity to produce. This is the only way to eliminate poverty. I like to break down the answer that you gave before in two parts it seems when you would mention the tremendous amount of wealth that has been produced since the turn of the century. And then you also mention that there the real problem that we seem to have isn't a
thing where distribution of wealth. Is there any difference as far as poverty is concerned between the amount of wealth that's produced and the way that this wealth is distributed. What is it that we seem to suffer from. Is it a production problem or is it a distribution problem. It seems to be more of a distribution problem that we are suffering from although we are producing 17 times more than we did in 1900. The average person is not receiving 17 times as much. But I say the people in the upper strata may be receiving 17000 times as much as they used to. The people who have control of the monopolies are receiving a much bigger proportion of the wealth that is being produced today than years ago. And the ordinary laborer who
has who is. Is being unfairly treated by not having any opportunity to have access to land. He is being discriminated again and he is only receiving enough to just for a bare living. He finds it very difficult to pay his the rent on his home the telephone bills get medical care and so one he has the same trouble today as he had centuries ago. And yet you acknowledge that the production of wealth has increased 10 20 fold 100 fold. Yes this is happened and it's going to multiply in the future at an even greater rate than it has in the past. Then from what you state you feel that the rich will become richer and the poor will become poorer. Yes and although in some respects the poor as nodders are not as poor as they have been in the past. They may have telephones they may have cars they may still be starving for and suffering from malnutrition.
It's the difference between the poor and the rich which is so much greater today than decades ago which is making the people so restive today. This of course is why I think Henry George meant in that particular paragraph that I read that there was a relativity that connected when we speak about the poor and the rich because certainly if you were to compare the poor in this country with the middle class in India. There is no question that the poor in this country may very well have more conveniences and may have more luxuries and may have more wealth than perhaps the middle class in India. But this is to be this is done on a relative basis. But the point that you bring up here is this. Why gap that seems to be occurring in this country between the very poor and the very rich Am I correct in this. Yes this is correct yes. The very rich are receiving more and more and without working they just have control of the land and the part that they are
getting as a reward for the use of the land. The rent goes to them automatically without their labor. And this is growing constantly. OK I'd like to follow up on some of the comments that Sam has made concerning this particular problem. As I mentioned before Henry George spent a considerable amount of years writing on this specific problem of poverty. In fact his most renowned work progress some poverty which you wrote back in 1879 which is a classic today goes into the analysis of this particular problem. How does juries differ. With many of the other groups that Sam has spoken about concerning this whole philosophy or idea concerning the inevitability of poverty. Well of course George is opposed to this.
He feels that poverty is is not a product of mankind. It's a product of the evils of mankind but not mankind itself. He doesn't feel that poverty should exist or would exist if equal opportunity to labor or equal opportunity to benefit from a land was available then. We're speaking here about the equal opportunity with respect to labor that if labor had the opportunity they would not be the monopolies of this wide gap that Sam spoke about when he mentioned the the rich and the poor. Well I think it's the monopolies that are preventing the equal opportunity. And as land becomes more and more valuable. As it is today and will increase as time goes on the
differential between the benefits derived by the controllers of land as opposed to those wishing to labor on land are going to get greater and greater. I know that you do not have the use of E S P but I would ask you perhaps for a moment to read Sam's mind. Is this what Sam meant before when he spoke about this wide gap that's taking place between the very poor and the very rich that the prime reason that the rich specifically of those groups of people that have been able to accumulate vast amount of wealth the primary reason that they have been able to accumulate this is because of the monopoly that they have had in various areas and in particular and specifically in the area of land. If they have a monopoly in land all other areas become insignificant. Obviously if you
wish to control an area. Wish to control the people in the area just control the land. If you own the land people will come to you for an opportunity to work the land. Now perhaps we can backtrack a little bit into history and I don't want to get specific with any names or any groups of families during the 18 and even the 1900s but I think that the audience plus ourselves are very familiar with many of these families that have accumulated millions upon millions upon millions of dollars. Now is the reason that they have been able to complete this due to this monopoly or is it due. As has been customarily taught in schools is it not due to initiative. Perhaps we can get Doug into this conversation because I know that he has a great wealth of information concerning the history of this country or how a monopoly of
some family has great wealth. Others I'm trying. They live in poverty stricken many others and you're a stranger with a family that owns the land of the Grand Central Station in New York City. Very well turn around on family owned land there and every time you buy a ticket or buy a sandwich or a newspaper the Grand Central Station you're paying tribute to the wealth of these great families. Of course time is not of the name of the family but the title of the Grand Central Station of the land upon which it rests is in the title of the how some rebel rebel I think it's cause of all the structure is owned by one family and they collect the revenue which accrue to them through the land upon which the Grand Central Station rests that's only one of the structures and how it was done because when you monopolized land the exclusion of many other people then you acquire for yourself the wealth to the exclusion of giving wealth to other people
who really deserve it and produces honest sounded rather strange to New York City over a well-known family another well-known family who own all the land from Broadway to the north or are from about forty third Street uptown to around the 50 US and their choir that land and all the rent of that land went to the people that had title to the land. I'm going to go on with the lie monopoly that I learned on the first I will buy the king of England line up around sixty third and sixty fourth Street I think between Park and Madison Avenue which is owned by one of the lords of parliament and some years ago I had some figures I think something like 25 million dollars a year were collected in land rights from problems in New York City. I was paid I was through a large national banks of the Bank of England that was ready to be distributed to people who own the land in this country. Just why the people of New York City or any other city should pay tribute to farmland all there's something new so there was
something really quite beyond me. I know in addition to what you're stating this recalls a number of articles that have appeared in the newspapers lately concerning the reverence that you speak of and as is well known very recently before the Long Island Railroad was taken over it was controlled by Pennsylvania railroad and one of the areas where they are. Cumulating fortunes actually fortunes is in the urban renewal that's going on because many of the areas that are adjacent to the railroad line wherever they may go whether it's in New York or in Chicago as it's currently taking place the land values in these areas have skyrocketed. And I know one of the problems occurring specifically on Long Island is that they have hopes of putting the railroad the Long Island Railroad underneath the ground so that they can do some building above. Now of course it's quite obvious as to who would gain
tremendously from this and of course would be the railroads because they control this particular area. So I would say MS that there are many areas where land planes and then trickle partner economy. And yet it seems to be hidden by it by a number of other factors. But getting back to this particular question that we all might be rich which of course is as mentioned before in the chapter and in social problems would not a good idea and I direct this question to Sam would not a good idea be since we have inequity in the distribution of wealth. Then why not forcibly take all of the wealth and just divide it so that everyone will get an equal share. What do you this solve the poverty problem. Well all of this sounds like a scheme evolved by man and to be run by men. But this would not solve
the problem of poverty or the inequitable distribution of wealth because it would not be long before the inequitable distribution of wealth would become evident again. Some of the people would be improvident and would sell their wealth for drink or pleasure while others were more provident and physically are able to abstain from drink and other like you like free. And I say would be acquiring all this wealth. So in the end you would have some people being very rich again and some people being very poor again. I think about all we can hope to do is provide an equal opportunity for a production and then anybody who wants wealth can produce wealth without hindrance. And there would not be the great disparity between a poor and rich that we have today. Sam would you say
that a method that is currently being used to forcibly redistribute wealth is our current taxation system. Yes this is being done today. Of course the ultimate in this is and idealistically a communist country which we seem to be approaching by leaps and bounds. So what you mention right here is that taxation one of the reasons besides the supporting of the government to participate in a number of its functions. One of the purposes in a taxation system is to forcibly redistribute the wealth. Yes this seems to be one of the functions of our governmental system today. And this I do not think was and visited by the original founders of our government. But they did leave a loophole when they mentioned that certain things can be done for the public welfare. This through this
loophole the government has been permitted to expand its governmental functions to take over the roles which have been traditionally delegated to the individual. Now organ I'd like to ask you this question. Once again it's a follow up on what Sam has mentioned. It seems that the GA's philosophy on those followers of Henry George would be against the forcible redistribution of wealth. And yet. One of the prime problems as we have recognized is that there is an unequal distribution of wealth. Well then if it isn't done by force and would seem that the only other way would have to be voluntary and I have great difficulty understanding how many of the rich families would voluntarily give up part of their wealth. How does Henry George hope to accomplish this purpose of redistributing if that's what he wants to do. Redistributing the wealth so
that there will be a fairer distribution of wealth. Well he doesn't want to do it forcibly. He wants to do it legally within the present scope of our Constitution. The simple way of redistributing if you want to use that term the well. It is by taxing the land and collecting the economic rent. The collection of the economic rent by the community rather than by the individual. Is this what Doug meant before when he was giving a multitude of examples concerning the ownership of land and how these landowners are able to extract or to obtain from people living on the land fortunes or vast amounts of money. Exactly the owners of the land contribute nothing. The Grand Central Station the people that produce that fabricated the station that built the railroads are contributing something.
The people that own the land. The land has become more and more valuable. Only because the community has grown larger and larger so consequently Henry George felt that the value of this land should belong to the community rather than to the individual. Now following up on this point. You feel therefore that the landlord per se only the one that's involved in the ownership of the land is not entitled to what he receives because he doesn't contribute anything to wealth he does not produce wealth. Wealth is produced by labor on land. The only ship of land in itself or land in itself without labor is valueless. Do you feel about the capital I should receive in return for his investment. Absolutely. The capitalist is taking his money.
Actually right he is doing is using his money which is wealth created by labor and coining it to more efficient use. So in effect he is entitled to a return on his investment. Then you seem to be an ardent at least this seems to be the opposite of what current socialistic and Marxist and communistic thinking is. And that is that the capitalist is not really entitled to a return for his investment. You feel that he is because the communist philosophy is that the capitalist does nothing to warrant a return. Therefore the government would take over. Well capitalistic ventures you feel that the capitalist serves a very useful function in our society. I feel a capitalist basically is using wealth to produce additional wealth. And as the man who was laboring to produce
wealth he isn't entitle to keep the product of his labor. So you feel that the land owner. And I mention this word land only because I know it has many kind of patients with it that the land owner does nothing at all to work for what he have tains as opposed to the laborer puts in a certain amount of work. A capitalist has taken part of his savings which he has accumulated in the past and has put his back into a business that there was to contribute to wealth. But that to me. Landowner contributes nothing. That's correct. Well on this point I'm sorry to say that our time is up. According to the minute hand we've used up all the available time that we have had. I wish to find each one of you for appearing with us tonight Dr. Sam Scheck. Mr. Don Butler and Mr. Orr the Flatiron
the Henry George School will send anyone interested in tonight's show a short booklet concerning its contents were aren't any of our free courses offered on Long Island. The address is the Henry George School Post-office Box 54 Old Bethpage. Long Island that address again is the Henry joint school Post-office Box fifty four Old Bethpage Long Island. Exploring the ideas of protection. Free trade wages taxes automation and the unemployed. This has been a conversation with Georgia. Produced by W. DHC office for University in Hempstead in collaboration with the Emory
Conversation with Georgists
Episode Number
Producing Organization
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-707wqz7n).
Other Description
Conversation with Georgists is a thirteen part program on economics produced by WVHC and the Henry George School of Social Science. In each episode, host Stan Rubenstein speaks with faculty members of the Henry George School about a specific economic issue and draws on the work and philosophy of Henry George. The program states that it seeks to make economics accessible to everybody regardless of sex, profession, occupation, and education.
Talk Show
Social Issues
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Host: Rubenstein, Stan
Producing Organization: WVHC
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-17-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:34
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Conversation with Georgists; 7,” 1969-04-28, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 28, 2022,
MLA: “Conversation with Georgists; 7.” 1969-04-28. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 28, 2022. <>.
APA: Conversation with Georgists; 7. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from