Book descriptions

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Henry George (1839-1897): Progress and Poverty

Henry George was an American economist, philosopher, and social reformer who lived from 1839 to 1897. He is best known for his influential book titled “Progress and Poverty,” published in 1879. In this book, George examined the issues of poverty and inequality in industrial societies and proposed a radical solution to address them.

“Progress and Poverty” argued that the unequal distribution of wealth and land ownership was the primary cause of poverty and social injustice. George believed that land, as a natural resource, should be treated as a common heritage rather than privately owned. He proposed a single tax on the value of land, called the “land value tax” or “single tax,” which would replace all other taxes. This tax, according to George, would eliminate speculative landholding, stimulate economic growth, and provide a fairer distribution of wealth.

George’s ideas gained significant attention and support during his time and sparked lively debates. His book became a bestseller and influenced various political and social movements, such as the Georgist movement, which advocated for land value taxation. Despite his popularity, George’s proposed reforms were not widely implemented, but his work continues to inspire discussions on economic and social justice.

Overall, Henry George and his book “Progress and Poverty” were instrumental in highlighting the issues of inequality and proposing innovative solutions, particularly through the concept of a land value tax, which remains a subject of interest and debate to this day.

Thomas Gaskell Shearman (1834-1900), Natural Taxation

Shearman refers to Thomas Gaskell Shearman (1834-1900), an American lawyer, author, and advocate of economic and social reform. Shearman is primarily known for his advocacy of a concept called “natural taxation” or “single tax.”

In his book “Natural Taxation: An Inquiry into the Practicability, Justice and Effects of a Scientific and Natural Method of Taxation” published in 1895, Shearman expands upon the ideas put forth by Henry George. Shearman argues that the value of land is created by society and natural factors rather than individual effort, and therefore, land rent should be the primary source of public revenue.

According to Shearman, a single tax on the unimproved value of land would not only be fair and just, but it would also lead to economic prosperity, social harmony, and the elimination of poverty. He believed that taxing land values would encourage the efficient use of land, prevent speculative landholding, and promote equal access to natural resources.

Shearman’s work was influential in promoting the ideas of Georgism and advocating for land value taxation as a means to address social and economic issues. While his ideas have not been widely implemented, they continue to be discussed and debated by economists, social reformers, and proponents of alternative taxation systems.

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823 to 1913), Land Nationalisation

Alfred Russel Wallace was a British naturalist, explorer, and biologist who lived from 1823 to 1913. He is best known for independently conceiving the theory of evolution through natural selection, which he presented jointly with Charles Darwin. Wallace conducted extensive research in the Malay Archipelago and made significant contributions to the field of biogeography.

In addition to his work in biology, Wallace had a keen interest in social and political issues. He advocated for various reforms, one of which was land nationalisation. Land nationalisation is the belief that land and its natural resources should be owned collectively by the state or the community rather than by private individuals or corporations. Wallace argued that this approach would address issues such as wealth inequality, poverty, and unfair distribution of resources.

Wallace believed that land was a common heritage and that individual ownership of land often led to monopolies and exploitation. He proposed that land should be held by the state and leased to individuals or businesses for a fair rent. He argued that land nationalisation would promote economic justice, prevent the concentration of wealth in a few hands, and ensure that everyone had equal access to land and its benefits.

While Wallace’s ideas on land nationalisation gained some support during his time, they did not gain widespread acceptance. However, his contributions to the theory of evolution and his social and political views have left a lasting impact on various fields of study.

Charles B. Fillebrow, The ABC of Taxation

Charles B. Fillebrown was an American economist and tax expert who made significant contributions to the field of taxation. He is best known for his work titled “The ABC of Taxation,” which provides a comprehensive introduction to the principles and concepts of taxation.

In “The ABC of Taxation,” Fillebrown presents a clear and accessible guide to understanding the fundamental aspects of taxation. The book covers various topics related to taxation, including the purpose of taxation, different types of taxes, principles of taxation, and the economic impact of taxes on individuals and businesses. Fillebrown’s writing style is concise and practical, making complex tax concepts more approachable for readers.

Fillebrown’s expertise in taxation stems from his extensive academic background and professional experience. He held prominent positions in the field, serving as a professor of economics and taxation at several reputable universities. Fillebrown’s insights and analyses in “The ABC of Taxation” are based on his deep understanding of economic theory, tax policy, and the practical implications of taxation.

Overall, Charles B. Fillebrown’s “The ABC of Taxation” serves as a valuable resource for anyone seeking to gain a foundational understanding of taxation. Through his clear explanations and insightful discussions, Fillebrown demystifies the subject, making it more accessible to a wider audience and helping individuals navigate the complex world of taxation more effectively.

Edwin R.A. Seligman, The Shifting and Incidence of Taxation

“The Shifting and Incidence of Taxation” is a significant work by Edwin R.A. Seligman, an American economist and professor of economics and political science. Published in 1899, the book focuses on the economic theory of taxation and explores the concept of tax shifting and its impact on different individuals and groups within society.

In the book, Seligman addresses the fundamental question of who ultimately bears the burden of a tax. He analyzes how taxes imposed on one party, such as businesses or landlords, may be shifted and passed on to another party, such as consumers or workers. Seligman’s research and analysis provide insights into the complex mechanisms by which taxes are distributed and absorbed within an economy.

“The Shifting and Incidence of Taxation” delves into various types of taxes, including direct and indirect taxes, and investigates their implications for economic behavior and social equity. Seligman examines historical examples and empirical data to support his arguments, drawing on both theoretical analysis and real-world observations.

By studying the shifting and incidence of taxation, Seligman aimed to contribute to the development of effective tax policies that promote economic efficiency and fairness. His work continues to be referenced and discussed in the field of economics and taxation, serving as a foundational reference for understanding the distributional effects of taxation.

Overall, Seligman’s “The Shifting and Incidence of Taxation” remains an influential and enduring work in the field of economics. Through his thorough examination of tax shifting and its consequences, Seligman provides valuable insights into the complexities of tax systems and their impacts on individuals and society.