The subject-matter of this work is the effect of the ideas of the American Henry George (1839-1897) on Europe in the last decades of the 19th and the early part of the 20th century. One might expect that the teachings of Henry George mainly affected the technicalities of landownership reform. But in actual fact, his effect was dominantly ideological. It was his social philosophy that influenced so many Europeans, not necessarily in the direction of his concrete proposals, but rather as spur and inspiration.
Dr Silagi’s investigation proves that George’s impact on modern European thought is in many ways far greater than had been previously recognised.
He was a disturber of Europe’s social conscience, as he was that of the United States. He was a catalyst for social reform, there, as well as in his homeland. He brought to a focus the Anglo-Franco-Germanic-American movement for democracy, the last to develop it in a line of American thinkers of the 18th and 19th centuries. To that movement’s ideology he contributed a needed moral basis.
He helped to make Europe aware that poverty (failure to reap the full reward for labour, enterprise and investment) was the result of social institutions which enabled some of the rich to get richer while the poor got poorer.
Born in Philadelphia in 1839, Henry George went on to San Francisco and became a newspaper editor who addressed the social problems of his day. On a visit to New York, he was shocked by the contrast between wealth and poverty. He resolved to find a solution, if he could. The result was Progress and Poverty, published in 1879, which is said to be the all-time best selling book on economics.