Image of the Author - Mason Gaffney - Shepheard Walwyn Publishers


Merrill Mason Gaffney was born on 18th of October 1923 in White Plains, New York.

His interest in economics sparked after reading Henry George’s Progress and Poverty as a high-school junior, whilst he was bed-ridden for a summer, from injuries he endured in a cycling accident. Gaffney later went to study at Harvard before realising his disappointment in their approach to economics and leaving in 1942, in order to join the war effort. After his service in World War II finished, he received his B.A. from Reed College in Portland, Oregon within 1948.

Eight years later, Gaffney earnt his PhD in economics at the University of California. He wrote a dissertation called Land Speculation as an Obstacle to Ideal Allocation of Land during his studies, aiming to address his teachers’ sceptical attitude towards Georgism. From that point on, he taught at several universities across America, including the University of Oregon, North Carolina State University, University of Missouri, University of Wisconsin-Miluakee and UCLA. Finally, Gaffney settled as a professor at the University of California.

Nevertheless, his career was varied throughout his life. He was also a journalist with TIME, Inc., a researcher with Resources for the Future, the head of the British Columbia Institute for Economic Policy Analysis – an institute he founded. Besides these countless positions, he was also an economic consultant to several government agencies and businesses.

However, at the age of 96, Merrill Mason Gaffney died on 16th July 2020 in Redlands, California. Still, Gaffney will not only be remembered for his innumerable positions and notable views on economics and land as a resource but also the several brilliant books he published on these subjects. His views can be read on in works including Concepts of Financial Maturity of Timber and Other Assets, LAND: A Special Issue (of House and Home Magazine), Extractive Resources and Taxation: Proceedings, Oil and gas leasing policy: alternatives for Alaska in 1977: a report, Land and Taxation, ‘What price water marketing?: California’s new Frontier’ The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, The Corruption of Economics and After the Crash: Designing A Depression Free Economy.


“There is a sense in which all taxes are antagonistic to free enterprise – yet we need taxes … so the question is which are the least bad taxes? In my opinion, the least bad tax [note switch to singular] is the property tax on the unimproved value of land, the Henry George argument of many, many years ago.”
Milton Friedman

“Tax economists overwhelmingly support the idea that a tax on land represents an excellent source for government revenue.”

“Gaffney’s contribution is both timely and interesting.”
Journal of Economic Literature

“Gaffney shows how the philosophy of Henry George was deflected so as to protect the landed establishment from an intellectual assault which was more accurate than Marxist critical analysis.”
Peace Magazine