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At least they spelled the name right

March 20, 2008
I’ve gotten reports from a couple of HGS friends about Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, which mentions Henry George a couple of times, not in a favorable light. I rarely find it worthwhile to read Goldberg’s columns in the Tribune, so I would hardly waste time reading his book, but I have been lent a copy of it and found two references to Henry George in the index. Page 93 says:

Many of the ideas and thinkers the Fascists and Nazi’s admired were as influential here [in America, apparently] as they were in Italy and Germany, and vice versa. For example, Henry George, the radical populist guru of American reform, was more revered in Europe than he was in America. His ideas gave shape to the völkisch economic theories on which the Nazi Party was initially founded. Among British Socialists, his Progress and Poverty was a sensation. When Marx’s son-in-law came to America to proselytize for scientific socialism, he was so enamored of George that he returned to Europe preaching the gospel of American populism.

Then on page 260:

E. A. Ross, the author of the “race suicide” thesis…first became attracted to Progressivism when he saw that one of his conservative professors was horrified by Henry George’s Progress and Poverty — a tract that inspired American progressives, British socialists, and German national socialists.

No references are cited for any of these assertions, but they could all be true. Henry George was certainly revered by many Europeans, and not by all Americans. His ideas are often misunderstood (which is why we have a Henry George School), and it’s certainly possible that some fragment of something he wrote could be taken to lead to something that would interest somebody who wishes to do evil. And certainly, many Brits were quite taken with George’s ideas, for example including G B Shaw and W Churchill.
I assume the reference to “Marx’s son-in-law” means Paul Lafargue. What I know about him is that he wrote The Right to be Lazy, which I read many years ago and I believe makes the point that if workers received all that they produce they would not have to work nearly so hard as they do. I didn’t know that Larfargue was “enamored of Henry George,” but if this can be documented perhaps we can use it to entice socialists to see things from a Georgist perspective.
Goldberg leads us to believe that E. A. Ross was a racist, and perhaps he was, although you wouldn’t know it from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s description. But the link to Henry George is essentially nonexistent. Progress and Poverty inspired millions of people, and it is possible that some of them were or became German national socialists.
As I said, I am not likely to read Goldberg’s book, but here is part of the jacket blurb:
Jonah Goldberg reminds us that the original fascists were really on the left, and that liberals from Woodrow Wilson to FDR to Hilary Clinton have advocated policies and principles remarkably similar to those of Hitler’s National Socialism and Mussolini’s Fascism.

The only thing I disagree with in the above paragraph is use of the term “liberal” as a description of the politicians mentioned.

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2 comments

  1. Interestingly, Fredich Engels suggested that communists should align themselves with the National Reform Association. A major plank was land reform.

    Many NRA members went into the newly formed Republican Party (Alvan Earl Bovay became Treasurer) and the result was the Homestead Act.

    see Young America: Land, Labor and the Republican Community

    by Mark Lause


  2. I didn’t recall the National Reform Association, but sure enough Wikipedia credits its founder George Henry Evans with the Homestead Act.

    Writing a bit later, in 1871, Henry George explained in Our Land and Land Policy” why working farmers were able to secure relatively little land under that Act. More recent work on the subject, such as John C. Weaver’s The Great Land Rush… expand on George’s findings.

    Don’t know much about Engels, actually, other than he was Marx’s buddy. I am told that in the third volume of Capital, Marx pretty much endorsed Henry George’s view of things, but I’ve not read that myself.



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