Harry Gunnison Brown's Advocacy:
The Case He Made for Land Value Taxation 1917-1975
Christopher K. Ryan
[Reprinted from the American Journal of Economics
Vol. 56, No. 4, Special Issue: Commemorating the 100th Anniversary
of the Death of Henry George (Oct., 1997), pp. 545- 563]
ABSTRACT. Harry Gunnison Brown's fifty plus years
of active advocacy of land value taxation are reviewed in the light
of two recent articles. One indicates a waning interest and even
understanding of Brown's chosen cause while the other demonstrates
quite the opposite: the persistence and relevance of land value
taxation. Brown's strategies are examined, drawing on his
correspondence as well as his publications. It is suggested that
evaluation of Brown's success or failure is a moot question in the
sense that there was no one with whom to compare him.
FOR MUCH OF HIS LIFE as an academic economist Harry Gunnison Brown
was North America's foremost advocate of greater land value taxation
in accord with Henry George and his predecessors. "Foremost"
requires some qualification. He was practically alone. Martin
Bronfenbrenner (1985) mentions Herbert J. Davenport along with Brown,
but Davenport's contribution was limited to advocacy of only taxing
future increments in land values and he did not stress his advocacy in
publications after 1917. Several other economists were sympathetic:
Thomas Nixon Carver, Frank Taussig, and John Commons in this country
and Knut Wicksell, Leon Walras, and P. H. Wicksteed abroad, but none
made much effort in propagating their views. Paul Douglas commented in
his autobiography that he hoped that St. Peter would forgive his
failure in the Senate to promote something he believed in. Irving
Fisher, Brown's professor, colleague and co-author, was silent, then
generally supportive, but with great emphasis on his reservations.
Brown thus gained notoriety in his profession and over the years added
to it by demanding that Federal Reserve policy be directed toward
maintenance of price stability and objecting strenuously to the facile
acceptance of the consequences of deficit financing. Decades have
passed and Brown's "crankishness" can now be attributed back
to his land value taxation arguments. His accomplishments in the
fields of public finance, monetary economics and regulation were
appreciated by his contemporaries and remembered by more contemporary
economists such as Arnold Harberger, Peter Mieszkowski, Alfred Kahn,
and Leland Yeager to name only a few. Another economist with praise of
and insight into Brown is America's leading advocate of land value
taxation, Mason Gaffney. Gaffney has recently characterized Brown's
advocacy of land-value taxation as follows, "[Brown] pretty much
GAFFNEY'S PEPPERY CONCLUSION THAT Brown failed may be too harsh. It
is not clear whether Brown's failure to persuade happened in 1934 or
in 1994. If we examine the "failure" in 1994 we find a
startling piece of evidence. The National Tax Association conducted a
tax policy opinion survey of its membership which repeated verbatim a
1934 survey of American public finance professors carried out by Mabel
Walker of the Tax Policy League. Question 13 of the survey reads: "Should
there be a special tax on [the] unearned increment of land values?"
The response to this poorly worded question was 62% positive in 1934
and only 22% in 1994! The 1994 survey was broken down by age groups in
decades from 20 to over 60. The youngest and oldest groups with 38%
and 34%, respectively were much more favorable to land value taxation
than the middle groups with 16%, 19%, and 23%. On a related question
(Question 11): "Should improvements be taxed at a lower rate than
land?," the 1934 positive response was 54% which dropped to 38%
in 1994 which indicates some inconsistency in the responses. The poor
wording may explain some of the huge drop-off in support in that "special
tax" is not explained and the term "unearned increment"
is a bit pedantic. The professors in 1934 would have readily decoded
these questions as calling for some degree of support for Henry
George's single taxation. If one's text were J. S. Mill's
Principles of Political Economy or George's Progress and
Poverty or even Brown's Economic Science and the Common
Welfare the "correct" answer would be to answer "yes"
to both survey questions.
Joel Slemrod, who commented on the results of the survey, interpreted
"unearned increment of land values" to be 'presumably' the "capital
gains not due to improvements." Slemrod then attempted to explain
the drop- off as "one example of greater tendency in 1934 to
favor higher taxes on capital income compared to labor income."
A much more likely explanation is that contemporary tax specialists
find any question nonsensical if it treats land as not identical to
capital. In 1934 these questions were apparently meaningful. An
earlier private survey of the American Economic Association membership
in 1908 conducted by Charles Fillebrown found that 77 of the 87
respondents answered affirmatively to the following: "It would be
sound public policy to make the future increase in ground rent the
subject of special taxation." Thus the downward trend in the
profession's support for land value taxation has characterized nearly
the whole of this century.
Brown at Yale
BROWN'S "FAILURE" TO PERSUADE should be examined in the
context of the nature and historical content of his advocacy. Brown is
said to have solidified his interest in land value taxation in the
early 1910's while he served at Yale as an economics instructor. In
his three years as a graduate student and five as an instructor he
published nine articles, four books with Macmillan and assisted Irving
Fisher in his
Purchasing Power of Money (1911).
None of these contributions deal directly with land taxation. At
Davenport's request in 1916, Brown moved to the University of
Missouri. Although Brown had only positive remarks about his life in
New Haven and his subsequent move to Columbia, Missouri, it is
difficult to explain why he was not promoted at Yale. Allen's (1993)
biography of Fisher may have inadvertently shed some light on why
Brown left Yale University. Although Brown was a friend of Fisher's
(indeed Brown was one of Fisher's two favorite students) and one who
genuinely admired his economics, Allen argued that Fisher had a "user"
personality. In addition, just as Fisher was described by Brown as
noncommittal on land value taxation, Brown was silent with respect to
Fisher's many enthusiasms which ranged from the benign and peaceful,
such as healthy diets to the not so benign and not so peaceful such as
eugenics. So it appeared that Brown decided to distance himself from
one friend to be with another (Davenport) in a place where promotions
were not so mystifyingly denied. In 1917 Brown openly commenced his
campaign for land value taxation in an article in the Journal of
Political Economy. He published The Theory of Earned and
Unearned Incomes in the following year.
GAFFNEY SAYS SUCCINCTLY of Brown's advocacy: "Brown was a
neo-classically trained economist who used neoclassical tools to plead
the Georgist case before other NCEists [that is, neoclassical
economists]." Yet Brown very early on saw that a radical
abandonment of certain generally established classical principles
would cripple his cause. He hinted at this in calling himself somewhat
enigmatically on several occasions "an economist unemancipated
from the classical tradition." In effect he was aligning himself
with the neo-classicals such as Alfred Marshall, Knut Wicksell and
Eugen von Boehm-Bawerk each of whom maintained the classical
distinction between land and capital as against those who tended not
to, in particular J. B. Clark, Frank Fetter, Vilfredo Pareto, and
Edwin Cannon. Brown's somewhat minor participation (1913, 1914) in the
capital theory debates was a premonition on his part that the
resolution of that long-running debate could be prejudicial to the
cause of land value taxation.
The strategy of Brown's advocacy is revealed in his writings, his
teaching specializations, and his correspondence. Wherever possible he
wrote articles espousing land value taxation but also attacking what
he believed to be erroneous criticisms of it. In his early years, he
displayed a youthful aggressiveness. Brown's attacks were confident,
strident, and biting. Brown's 1917 article, "The Ethics of
Land Value Taxation," was the nucleus for three subsequent books
culminating in his 1932
The Economic Basis of Tax Reform. Also in 1917, Davenport
published his major article, "Theoretical Issues in the Single
Tax." Neither article provoked a response and Brown's books
elicited only five reviews. Four of the five reviews were favorable.
Frank Knight in a very short review was content to note his "altogether
negative" view of the single tax. In the Nation a reviewer
stated: "It was full time for some competently equipped economist
to take up the cudgels in behalf of the economically tenable parts of
Henry George's doctrine. Mr. Brown has done it with zeal, and on the
whole with skill. Of course this puts him outside the fold of the safe
and sane economists, and the vigor of his onslaught has already
occasioned some little fluttering in the academic dovecotes."
Brown's 1918 book did draw a rebuke from Willford I. King in 1921 in
the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
King confined his argument to an attack on whether there is any
distinction between earned and unearned income. He stated: "...
The attempt to divide incomes into categories of 'earned' and
'unearned' seems to serve no purpose and this classification appears
to have been devised, not with an intent to aid science or
statescraft, but in an effort to stigmatize the institution of private
A Principles Text
IN 1923 BROWN PRODUCED a principles text titled
Economic Science and the Common Welfare. Brown's strategy in
doing this was obvious. This book included an extensive, flat-out
promotion of land value taxation. Despite this and Brown's implied
advocacy of birth control the text was generally well-received and
went through eight editions bringing it into the 50's. Just how widely
the text was adopted in America is hard to imagine. His publisher was
a local press and Brown always taught a principles section thus
underwriting the demand for the book. John R. Commons provided the
most detailed review of this text in 1925. Although critical of
several points Commons accepted Brown's view of land taxation: "His
method of analysis at this point is quite superior to that of David
Ricardo and Henry George, since it makes scarcity the central feature
and not the reduction of efficiency at the agricultural margin of
cultivation. I believe it places the argument for special taxation of
bare-land values on stronger and better grounds than those that have
hitherto been offered by the followers of the Ricardian analysis."'
Brown had won one important adherent, but although there were others,
he needed more.
GIVEN THE VARIETY OF Brown's interests in economics, it cannot be an
accident that he came to specialize in the area of public finance. He
clearly wished to challenge the preeminence of E. R. A. Seligman in
this field so closely connected to his advocacy. In 1924 Brown
produced his text, The Economics of Taxation, which emphasized
taxation and tax incidence. To avoid a stigmatization of the text he
omitted his advocacy of land value taxation. Given Seligman's
long-standing opposition to the single tax, Brown saw him as an
important obstacle to be overcome. Despite his vast scholarship, Brown
believed Seligman to be "fearfully vulnerable on basic
principles." Perhaps he was encouraged by F. Y. Edgeworth's
earlier criticism. In the text Brown found numerous examples of
The book proved to be Brown's best theoretical effort. It won praise
from, most notably, Henry C. Simons. It was reprinted with a few
corrections in 1938 by Henry Holt & Co. and again in 1979 by the
University of Chicago Press upon the instigation of Arnold Harberger.
Brown remained a leading authority especially on tax incidence until
the 40's. One piece of evidence that he had surpassed Seligman on
incidence can be found in John Due's published dissertation. Brown is
mentioned some 28 times while Seligman only 14. Yet, Brown knew he
was outnumbered and outgunned in the field of public finance as he
revealed in a letter to a sympathetic Glenn Hoover: "The
Seligmans, Hunters, Adams, Elys, Plehns, Lutzs, et al. aided and
abetted by the National Tax Association and the National Association
of Real Estate Boards constitute an effective group, largely because
they have directly or indirectly access to nearly all students and the
rest of us to just a few. Those trained under them use their texts and
repeat their views."
The Single Tax Complex
IN 1924 HIS FRUSTRATION with the weak response from the economics
profession may have lead Brown to make a tactical error. He was an
advocate of what he called the "laughter" method as opposed
to one of denunciation when dealing with the ideas of academic
economists. By laughter he meant subjecting what he felt to be
erroneous arguments to ridicule. George and many of his followers
openly declared their opponents lackeys for the landed interests. In
some cases the shoe didn't fit well and the result was more divisive
than was necessary to Brown's mind. He may also have been encouraged
by the Veblen-like approach of Davenport who in his 1917 article
attacked an earlier argument by Alvin S. Johnson (taken from J. B.
Clark) to the effect that the lure of an unearned increment played a
vital role in this country's westward expansion by inducing pioneers
to leave better paying occupations to become low paid pioneers.
Davenport argued: "I submit that the net social result of sending
men out where 'farmers work for less than a day's wages, if we measure
his reward in annual income alone,' is, so far, to waste the labor of
each man. ... In the form of a mortgage on the future we have been
paying the pioneers for wasting their time."16 Brown did not
reject the denunciation approach per se and in a letter to E. O.
Jorgensen in 1927 discussing Richard Ely and his Institute for Land
Research opined: "It is quite possible that he is unconsciously
prejudiced-I very much doubt that he is consciously dishonest -- by
his own economic gains from land speculation. At any rate, his
thinking on the subject is terribly confused, but no more so, perhaps,
than the thinking and writing on various phases of taxation of the
redoubtable Edwin R. A. Seligman of Columbia University."
In this spirit Brown (1924) penned "The Single-Tax Complex of
Some Contemporary Economists." The editors of the
Journal of Political Economy might well have rejected the
essay as "inappropriate" by virtue of its bantering and wry
tone. The editors did not and in this way invited any type of flippant
rebuttal. In the article Brown basically implied some of the negative
reactions to land value taxation proposals were biased in the sense
that it was received wisdom from experts who were really not so expert
after all. The "complex" in the title of the article was a
defense mechanism used by the afflicted who did know they were
afflicted and thus could not rationally consider the merits of the
case. He punctuated this with Jacob Viner's and his own criticisms of
contemporary writers who dealt with the single tax idea. Toward the
end of the article he pled that it not be considered as a defense of
single tax principles anticipating his own strategic error in
presenting an advocacy piece without the usual armor of specific,
modern refutations to the existing arguments against land taxation.
The rebuttal came six months later by Willford I. King. King's
approach can best be described by quoting his opening paragraph: "As
Mrs. O'Flanagan was on her way home from a review of the regiment of
which her son was a member, she overtook her neighbor. 'Faith,' said
Mrs. O'Flanagan, 'Oi'm proud of me Terence. Whin the byes came
marchin' by in a long straight line, ivery man in the regiment was out
of step except Terence.'  The ploy of isolation is obvious as is
the rhetorical device used (as it was also by Seligman) to insist that
the term single tax be used only in the specific context of Henry
George's proposal. Writing in the third person throughout, King
analyzed Brown's psychological problems, referring to him in each
paragraph as "Dr. Brown" and reiterating without citation
whatsoever old and answered arguments against single taxation. None of
King's arguments were his own. Most originated with Charles Spahr,
Seligman and Francis Walker in America and with Marshall, J. Shield
Nicholson, William Smart and Edwin Cannan in England. Seligman would
later comment that this nadir in the standards of academic journalism
"effectively ridiculed" Brown's contentions. Brown
pulled his punch and left himself open to a devastatingly low blow.
BROWN DID NOT REPLY to King nor in his correspondence did he indicate
any particular personal animosity toward his critic. He appended his
article to his last book on land value taxation,
The Economic Basis of Tax Reform in 1932. He continued to
publish in the Journal of Political Economy through 1927. He
was, perhaps, not aware of King's warning shot effect on other
adherents or sympathizers. Brown must have puzzled as seeming allies
in the profession seemed to slip away over the years. In 1928, Brown
appended a list of American economists who had made statements
favorable on land value taxation to a survey conducted by American
Association for Scientific Taxation to his first abridgment of
George's Progress and Poverty. He quoted statements from
Davenport, Fisher, Carver, Frank Graham, Commons, Raymond T. Bye,
Glenn Hoover, William H. Dinkins, and T. J. Anderson Jr., and he
reported that similar expressions had been made by Arthur T. Hadley,
Tipton R. Snavely, Paul Douglas, Thaddeus P. Thomas, and the Rev. Dr.
John A. Ryan. Despite including some relatively less known
figures, this group was by in large a very influential group with
demonstrated theoretical abilities. In reading the quotes one cannot
but help notice how most of these names would emphasize their own
particular differences with the Georgist proposal such as rejecting
the "singleness" of the tax, or insisting on the taxation of
only future increments to land value or calling for a gradualist
implementation of the reform. No Kantian "leaps of faith"
here. All wanted to hedge their bets. But these were honest
expressions and indicate only that the Georgist reform did not have
the urgency or priority for them that it held for Brown and many other
Georgists. Gaffney is correct to say that Brown failed in efforts with
respect to the profession, but the failure of his production lies in
no small part with his supporting cast. That critics such as King were
able to isolate Brown despite his demonstrated competence and
mainstream academic connections is, I find, a key explanation for the
lack of a more general consideration of land value taxation by
ISOLATION AS A TOOL as well as ridicule was practiced again by Frank
Knight in his review of George Geiger's 1933
The Philosophy of Henry George. "Pure land value in the
sense assumed by the advocates of the single tax does not exist. ...
The economic and social ideas of Henry George are as a whole at the
same pre-arithmetical level, the level of those held before and since
his time by all who have held any at all, apart from an insignificant
handful of competent economists and other negligible exceptions."
John Dewey, an enthusiastic single taxer, had written a preface to the
book. Knight referred to him as "America's most quoted living
philosopher, who aspires to similar leadership in social thought,
standing as a representative of all that is liberal and humane."
Brown in a letter to John Ise described Knight in the context of this
review as "a bit rabid." On George himself Knight
opines: "Henry George's claim to be an economist (or social
philosopher either) rests on the possession of linguistic powers not
uncommon among frontier preachers, politicians and journalists, and on
the fact that his particular nostrum for the salvation of society
appeals to a number of people, no doubt for much the same reasons that
made it appeal to him, and which give many other nostrums their
appeal." In a most curious attempt to indict both George and
Dewey's instrumentalism Knight argues: "An instrumentalist theory
of social truth has meaning only with reference to a dictatorship .. ."
And continues: "It should not be thought accidental or unnatural
that a large fraction of the peoples of European civilization have
already accepted political systems in which the pretense that public
policy can be determined by free discussion-or safely permitted to be
a subject of such discussion-is dropped. Every indication points to
the early extension of such a system over the nations where it does
not obtain. The newspaper and radio have made of every national group
a crowd, and the idea that a crowd will possess political intelligence
and virtue can no longer be taken seriously. If society is to get the
management required for the effective application of modern technology
and the maintenance of social against special interests, it will
apparently have to get it in the historically venerable way of Dei
gratia! The notion that management might be left to the intelligence
and impartiality of the citizenry was a dream of a century which did
not foresee modern technology or means of communication-but more
particularly did not foresee modern psychology, especially in its
practical sense, the twin arts of salesmanship and propaganda."
Knight proves himself on this occasion to be a better candidate for
isolation than those he found "negligible." Geiger, a
student of Dewey also proved himself to be a student of Brown when he
published The Theory of the Land Question in 1936. Geiger's economic
discussions draw very much on Brown's writings.
BY THE EARLY 1930'S AFTER AN EXCHANGE with Edwin Cannon on the non-
reproducibility of land, Brown's advocacy passed its apex. Only
sporadically did Brown inject his views into the mainstream dialogue.
In 1936 he commented to his fellow social scientists as follows, "I
find I am sometimes spoken of as a single-taxer by persons who are
opposed to the single tax, while some of the thoroughgoing
single-taxers profess themselves not wholly satisfied with my
orthodoxy. The truth is that I recognize the fundamental justice and
common sense of the single-tax idea."
YET IF YOU COUNT PERSEVERANCE as a virtue, Brown was a saint. He
explored many venues beyond that of academic economics to further his
advocacy. He contributed articles to Georgist periodicals such as the
Monthly Freeman, Henry George News, and Land and
Freedom. This was, in part, a different type of advocacy, as he
had to explain his differences with George in economic theory to an
audience some of whom had read only George and earlier political
economists. His differences were large. He rejected George's
conclusions on Malthusian population theory. Brown felt that Georgist
critics of Malthus based their views on the first edition of his book
and ignored his more careful statements in later editions. As Brown
explained in a long article in the Henry George News, he felt George
was completely wrong in his explanation of the causation of interest.
He seemed to be less concerned with refuting George's fructification
theory of interest than with emphasizing to Georgists that "saving
and investment constitute a contribution to production in the same
sense that labor is a contribution." Brown took pains to show
that these errors by George in no way impinged on George's central
contribution. Brown also believed George's theory of business
depression to be "hopelessly on the wrong track."
Although Brown argued that land speculation was harmful in general, he
could not accept it as a cause of depressions. On the other hand Brown
could be more openly polemical in his approach especially for the Monthly
Brown wished that students would read Progress and Poverty so
he twice produced abridgments of George's classic. The 1928 abridgment
mentioned above was the more radical in that he cut the number of
George pages from 600 to 80. Anna George de Mille authorized the
abridgment of Progress and Poverty and the Robert Schalkenbach
Foundation underwrote its publication. Brown removed all of Book I on
wages and capital and all but a small portion of Books II and III on
population and laws of distribution, respectively. Also Book IV,
George's thesis on the effect of economic growth on the distribution
of wealth, was cut to 4 pages from 28.
Brown pared at the remaining Books but managed to offer the essence
of George's remedy and its effects as well as a good sampling of
George's rhetorical ability. He also added a few comments and
interpretations. John Dewey, who provided an introductory essay to the
book, praised Brown's work, but indicated that this summary should not
serve as a substitute for the original because it did not capture
George's social theory. "No man, no graduate of a higher
educational institution, has a right to regard himself as an educated
man in social thought unless he has some firsthand acquaintance with
theoretical contribution of this great American thinker."
Brown's 1940 abridgment was considerably less radical as it resulted
in a book of 232 pages. Brown made no comments in the text, but
continued to achieve much of the reduction in length by exorcising
George's treatment of Malthus, the wages-fund, and laws of
distribution. The success or failure of Brown's very considerable
efforts might be judged by knowing the precise years for which the
abridgments were available and their sales in those years. We do not
have this information and based on the infrequency with which the
books show up in university and college card catalogues, it is a safe
bet they attained only a limited circulation, despite being very
THE FOUNDATION IN 1941 OF THIS JOURNAL by Will Lissner was felicitous
for Brown. Although nominally on its editorial board, Brown was made a
"designated" contributor by Lissner. He responded with some
forty articles, long and short, over the next three decades. In 1980
Paul Junk selected from these articles those most relevant to land
value taxation and added three previous articles for Selected Articles
by Harry Gunnison Brown: The Case for Land Value Taxation. In addition
he provided an excellent Preface on Brown. Brown ranged freely in this
unusual largess of a journal, but his general focus was on pointing
out the relevance of and possibilities for greater land value taxation
as well as his traditional hounding of those who would venture forth
new (usually old) criticisms of it. Most notable of these critics were
Frank Knight (1953) and Murray Rothbard (1957).
BROWN HAD A GREAT INTEREST in case studies that illustrated the
success of land value taxation. The cases of Australia and the state
of Pennsylvania were of keen interest. Brown helped edit in 1955
Land Value Taxation Around the World. In his last two years of
teaching at Franklin and Marshall College he and his wife, Elizabeth
Read Brown were active at the grass roots level in the promotion of
the adoption by cities in Pennsylvania of a graded tax plan wherein
separate assessments of land and improvements and differential tax
rates could be applied. The recent study of the rejuvenation of the
city of Pittsburgh would have pleased Brown. Wallace Oates and Robert
Schwab (1997) in their abstract to that article wrote, "The
analysis suggests that, while the shortage of commercial space was a
primary driving force behind the expansion, the reliance on increased
land taxation played a supportive role by enabling the city to avoid
rate increases in other taxes that could have impeded development."
Brown would have applauded the authors' objectivity and their
recognition that the importance of the study overrides the very
considerable difficulties in carrying it out. He may as well have
quibbled with the authors' statement above, and asked if the previous
tax regime was what actually contributed to the shortage of commercial
space. If it had, then the role of land value taxation is something
more than merely supportive.
DAVID KAMERSCHEN (1987) SAID OF BROWN in his retirement: "I
found him to be sharp as a tack analytically while still in his
nineties." Brown used his considerable speaking and debating
skills to champion land value taxation throughout his career and long
into retirement. He spoke to social, commercial, and academic groups.
His largest audience over the years was his students. His almost fifty
years of teaching with always (as mentioned) a principles class
implies a very large number of students. Brown took pains to present
the case for land value taxation objectively. That he did so is
supported by a statement he made in an article on teaching. "Nor
is there any intention to suggest that the teacher should become a
preacher or an exhorter, even for so good an end as the general
welfare. If the house, the playground, the school, the church, etc.,
have not given to the student any spark of altruism or any spirit of
idealism, it is not likely that a college course in economics will do
so." Yet Brown had a profound belief in the ultimate benefits of
economic education and it greatly influenced his advocacy of land
value taxation. Several of his students went on to distinguished
careers in economics.
Did Brown Fail?
FINALLY, DID BROWN PRETTY MUCH FAIL? In the particular sense that
Gaffney offered this opinion, the opinion is correct. Brown failed
because he was naive in believing that economic education would work
in a world where Pareto optimality leaves the status quo unexamined. A
reform that challenges this status quo in the particular and sensitive
form of landowning was bound to be met with opposition, both moral and
political. Brown's understanding of economics and its possibilities
for the "common welfare" lead him to advocacy and even more
so because so few of his colleagues felt as he did.
In a larger sense I remember a small gymnasium in a tiny town in the
Midwest where someone had affixed a placard high on the wall with a
quote from Grantland Rice: "For when the One Great Scorer comes
to write against your name, he marks-not if you won or lost-but how
you played the game." Brown played it pretty well: Gaffney
comments "he gave better than he got." Brown's optimism
is embedded in his declaration: "The idealistic economist... must
believe that his science contains the words -- at any rate some of the
words -- of social salvation. Only so can his work continue to be
inspired by the zest of anticipated usefulness."
- Paul Douglas, In the
Fullness of Time: The Memoirs of Paul H. Douglas (New York:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.) 1971, p. 446.
- Louis Post reported that
Fisher made the following statement in a speech at a formal dinner
in New York City: "Premising that so important a change
should not be made abruptly, I favor the gradual reduction, as far
as possible, of the tax burden on industry and labor, and taking
instead the economic rent of bare land. I am, however, opposed to
the 'single tax' in the sense that land value should be the sole
source of public revenue." What Is the Single Tax? (New York:
Vanguard Press), 1926, p. 106.
.... George Geiger reported to have
heard Fisher say that he was "90 per cent a single taxer."
He further stated: "his chief objection to George was the
'metaphysics' of the single tax system, i.e. its absolutism"
The Philosophy of Henry George (New York: The Macmillan Company)
1933, p. 468.
.... In 1932 Fisher published a
short article which stresses his objections to the confiscation
element in the single tax and its "singleness." "The
Single Tax," The International Mu- sician, September, 1932.
- Mason Gaffney and Fred
Harrison, The Corruption of Economics (London:
Shepheard-Walwyn), 1995, p. 123.
- Joel Slemrod, "Professional
Opinions About Tax Policy: 1994 and 1934," National Tax
Journal, v. XLVIII, March, 1994, p. 125.
- Ibid. p. 133.
- Charles Fillebrown, chairman
of a round table discussion "Agreements in Political Economy,"
Publications of the American Economic Association, Ser. 3, no. 5,
- Op. Cit., Mason
Gaffney ... p. 123.
- In one example in 1919 he took
on the venerated Thomas Nixon Carver of Harvard for having in 1902
posited positive welfare effects of protective tariffs. Brown was
a staunch free-trader, but he also managed to work in a point on
land taxation to the effect that if the protective tariff were to
prevent landowners from benefiting from altered trade situations,
then higher taxes on land values were the more efficient way to
bring this about. The aged Carver responded, but unconvincingly.
By sending the article to the QJE and titling it "An Eminent
Economist Confused" Brown uncharacteristically demonstrated a
lack of tact.
- Henry Raymond Mussey, "Talking
of Taxes," The Nation, October 7, 1925, p. 389.
- Willford I. King, "Earned
and Unearned Incomes," Annals of the American Academy of
Political and Social Sciences, v. 95, May, 1921, p. 259.
- John Commons, Review of
Economic Science and the Common Welfare, American Economic
Review, v. 15, Sept., 1925, p. 484.
- Harry Gunnison Brown, Letter
to Glenn E. Hoover, Joint Collection University of Missouri
Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia and State
Historical Society of Missouri Manuscripts, October 13, 1927, p.
- Henry C. Simons, Review of The
Economics of Taxation, Journal of Political Economy, v.
34, February, 1926.
- John R. Due, The Theory of
Incidence of Sales Taxation (Morningside Heights, N.Y.: King
Crown Press) 1942, pp. 251 and 256.
- Op. cit., Letter to
Hoover, pp. 1-2.
- Herbert J. Davenport, "Theoretical
Issues in the Single Tax," American Economic Review,
v. 7, March, 1917, p. 25.
- Harry Gunnison Brown, Letter
to E. O. Jorgensen, Joint Collection University of Missouri
Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia and State
Historical Society of Missouri Manuscripts, January 14, 1927, p.
- Willford I. King, "The
Single-Tax Complex Analyzed," Journal of Political
Economy, v. 32, October, 1924, p. 604.
- Ironically the term single tax
is not in Progress and Poverty and was only accepted by
George with misgivings.
- E. R. A. Seligman, Essays
in Taxation, 10th edition (New York: Macmillan Co.) 1925, p.
- Harry Gunnison Brown, Significant
Paragraphs from Henry George's Progress and Poverty (New York:
Doubleday, Doran & Company) 1928, Appendix.
- Frank Knight, Review of the
Philosophy of Henry George by George Geiger, Journal of
Political Economy, v. 41, October, 1933, p. 688.
- Harry Gunnison Brown, Letter
to John Ise, Joint Collection University of Missouri Western
Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia and State Historical
Society of Missouri, January 9, 1939.
- Op. cit., Knight,
Review ... , pp. 689-690.
- George Raymond Geiger, The
Theory of the Land Question (New York: The Macmillan Company),
- Harry Gunnison Brown, "A
Defense of the Single-Tax Principle," Annals of the
American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, v. 183,
January, 1936, p. 63.
- Harry Gunnison Brown, "Henry
George and the Causation of Interest," Henry George News,
October, 1948, p. 8.
- Harry Gunnison Brown, Letter
to Walter Verity, Joint Collection University of Missouri Western
Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia and State Historical
Society of Missouri, November, 29, 1930, p. 1.
- Op. cit. Brown,
Significant Paragraphs . . . , Preface by John Dewey, p. 2.
- Frank Knight, "The
Fallacies in the Single Tax," The Freeman, v. 3,
August, 1953, pp. 809-811.
....Op. cit. Knight,
Review.... p. 688.
....For Brown's response to Knight
see his "Anticipation of an Increment and the 'Un- earned
Decrement' in Land Values," American Journal of Economics
and Sociology, v. 2, April, 1943, p. 351.
....Murray Rothbard, "The
Single Tax: Economic and Moral Implications," The Foundation
for Economic Education, "Special Essay Series," see also
Murray Rothbard, Power and Markets (Menlo Park, Ca.: Institute for
Humane Studies), 1970, p. 95.
....For Brown's response to Rothbard
see his "Foundations, Professors and 'Economic Education,'"
American Journal of Economics and Sociology, v. 17,
January, 1958, pp. 149-152.
- Wallace E. Oates & Robert
M. Schwab, "The Impact of Urban Land Taxation: The Pittsburgh
Experience," National Tax Journal, v. L, March, 1997,
- David R. Kamerschen, "Some
Surviving Elements in the Work of Henry George," American
Journal of Economics and Sociology, v. 46, October, 1987, p.
- I will list those I believe
have been Brown's students and apologize to those that I am not
aware of: Karl Bopp, Lester Chandler, Alfred Kahn, Joel Dirlam,
Russel Bauder, Carl McGuire, August Maffrey, Beryl Sprinkel, L Pao
Cheng and Phillips Brown (his son).
- Grantland Rice, "Alumnus
Football," in Only the Brave and Other Poems (New York: A. S.
Barnes and Company), 1941, p. 144.
- Mason Gaffney, Unpublished
notes for his address to the University of Missouri Economics
Department and guests for an annual address honoring Dr. Brown,
date unknown, p. 3.
- Harry Gunnison Brown, "Objectives
and Methods in Teaching the 'Principles' of Economics" American
Journal of Economics and Sociology, v. 3, October, 1945, p.