As the United States advanced in material and technological progress, the economist Henry George observed, “The rich get richer, the poor grow helpless, the middle class is swept away.” The greatest danger facing the nation, George warned, was “the unequal distribution of wealth.” George’s stinging yet highly popular critique of capitalism, Progress and Poverty (1879), described with great eloquence the inequities of modern industrial society. George advocated eliminating all taxes except one based solely on land value. This “single tax” system, he asserted, would undermine monopolies, distribute wealth more evenly, and eliminate poverty.

George championed free trade and the American worker. He vehemently opposed Chinese immigration, partly out of racial prejudice but also because he thought employers would exploit the influx of laborers and depress wages. George’s writings found widespread support, especially within the burgeoning labor movement, but he failed in his attempt to win elected office.


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