Henry George's Legacy in Economic Thought.

Author:Horner, Jim
Position:Book review
 
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Henry George's Legacy in Economic Thought, edited by John Laurent. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar. 2005. Hardcover, ISBN 1843768852, $110.00, 271 pages.

Followers of Henry George generally welcome any new work on the mostly forgotten American economist. Henry George's Legacy in Economic Thought, edited by John Laurent, will not be an exception to this rule. Readers unfamiliar with the "Prophet of San Francisco" will find a sufficient overview of his major works and a respectable critique. Georgists will discover new ideas for discourse and scrutiny. Although much of the volume centers on the influence of George in Australia, everyone interested in the history of economic thought is likely to find something of interest in the eleven chapters of this bold book.

The best contribution to this volume is "The Duke of Argyll and Henry George" by Warren Samuels, Kirk D. Johnson, and Marianne Johnson. Debate between Argyll and George presents a clear distinction between two opposing theories of productivity. The Duke of Argyll defended "rent" as a function of ownership. George saw rent as a function of population growth. Both men thought of themselves as "conservative" and adherents to "natural order." This fact notwithstanding, the real difference between the two is found in their definitions of these terms. Argyll supports the "natural order" of the landed class and a subservient tenant class. George pleads for a system of "natural order" in terms of equality and justice. George saw himself as a conservative in the sense of supporting the market system with a set of fair rules. Argyll was conservative only in the sense of maintaining the status quo.

The least impressive chapter comes from Laurent. The editor contributes two chapters. Chapter One, succinctly introduces this volume and offers some excellent insight on George. Laurent's second contribution seems uncomfortably out of place in this erudite volume. "Henry George: Evolutionary Economist?" is a defense of Malthusian thought. Defending Malthus, no matter how cleverly framed, is invariably about creating the "superior" and the "other." The "superior" in this case is Laurent and his elitist mentality, and the "other" would be anyone who doubts his dismal and apocalyptic vision. John Roger Commons (1961, p. 144) best summed up this issue when he exclaimed, "The Age of Reason ended in the French Revolution. The Age of Stupidity began with Malthus."

John Pullen also contributes two chapters. "The Philosophy...

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