How I Learned of
Henry George's Philosophy

Frank Berman

[Reprinted from the Henry George School
Alumni News, March-April 1956]

I was born in the slums of New York City -- and the Mexican peon had nothing on me. My father was an active trade unionist and street-corner exponent of the doctrine of Karl Marx.

I was indoctrinated with socialist ideologies at an early age and accepted my father's ideologies as gospel truth, and often got a great thrill marching in protest parades, especially when I was allowed to hold the strings of the parading banners!

r read very little on the subject; getting most of the socialist philosophy verbally from my father and the socialist newspapers.

When my father sent me to the Hebrew Technical Institute to learn a trade, T often took part in student discussions on social-economic problems. I just naturally championed the cause of socialism.

During these daily controversies I became acquainted with a fellow student, Hyman Levine, who was an ardent exponent of the philosophy of Henry George and we had many a verbal battle! It was then I began to realize how very little I knew of the subject of Political Economy.

At Mr. Levine's urging I read my first book on economics, Progress and Poverty by Henry George. At first I had great difficulty in understanding it, because the terms were strange to me, and I had to overcome my own prejudices. After re-reading the book a number of times, the first rays of the great philosophy began to penetrate.

Though not yet an outspoken disciple of Henry George, I now began to quote him in my discussions at home. My father was amazed at my turn-coat attitude, but he then accepted my heresy in good grace, though I never converted him, because he read very few books in English and then with great difficulty, and the Jewish newspapers that guided his beliefs were all staunch supporters of socialism, and he remained so until the day of his death. My brothers followed blindly in his footsteps; especially the youngest, who read only socialist books. Whatever arguments of mine they could not defeat, they complacently ignored.

I began to attend the weekly lectures given at the meeting rooms of the Manhattan Single Tax Club. I now began to read more of the books of Henry George and began to realize that he had produced the key answer to the solution of why poverty should exist amidst plenty.

At these gatherings I became acquainted with other very ardent Georgists. Outstanding among. them I remember the name of George Lloyd, a retired New York City fireman. I often took part in their open air street meetings and distributed literature.

At night we often visited the Wall Street section and stuck Single Tax stickers on the doors of brokerage houses as a "Good Morning" greeting to the vested interests when they opened the doors for business. Of course, we had to keep an eye open for the sight of patrolling police officers!

For a time I carried on the campaign for the Henry George Philosophy as a lone wolf.

When the Georgists formed the Commonwealth Land Party I again became one of the boys. and there met, for the f'irst time, the 'big guns' of the movement; 0scar Geiger, Joseph Dana Miller, Frank Chodorov, Morris Van Veen, Fuchs, Ryan Guild, etc~ These fellows certainly "knew their stuff"; and our favorite slogan was "Idle land means idle men".

Another method of propaganda was to go about at random gathering signatures on thousands of petitions to the Legislature to reduce taxation on industry and increase it on economic rent. It was remarkable how easy it was to get the signatures, even from people who knew nothing of Henry George, but it produced no tangible results, for legislators are only influenced by campaign funds and votes.

Thus, I drifted along until I heard of Oscar Geiger starting a school; I visited it a number of times and sat in on the classes. They were operating under great handicaps -- lack of funds and lack of able instructors.

I hoped and still hope that the school will produce some public leaders -- for that is how philosophies spread -- but schools, no matter how well they serve such need, were not compatible with my personal nature, as I am poor timber for a regimented course of instruction of any kind where subjects are covered in a fixed time. I just can't take it!

Though I realized my idiosyncrasies in this matter, it did not hinder me from working in my own way for the cause and steering possible prospects to your door.

I remember one instance in particular: While waiting in the dental office I handed the dentist my own leaflet on the Henry George idea. After glancing at it, he told me that he had a very close friend, a student at Columbia, who was greatly interested in social economic problems, and that he would give the leaflet to him and let me know his reaction.

The next time I saw the dentist I was surprised by the information that his friend, Paul Peach, had enrolled as a student in the Henry George School, and was even more amazed later to learn that Paul Peach had become Assistant Director to Mr. Frank Chodorov, and that he courted and married one of the girls at the School!

I was also instrumental in making a convert of Charles Kee, who for a long time was an instructor at the school.

So you see that though I never met or corresponded with Paul Peach personally, yet I was the means 'of making a convert. To this day I still don't know who Paul Peach is personally. A person never knows what ripples he will create by even haphazardly throwing a stone in a lake, thereby creating ripples which spread further and further.

Well, this ends my spiel, but I only hope that it may give inspiration and ideas to others that may enable them to use the torch of their knowledge of Henry George which they now possess in lighting the torches of other seekers for the truth.