Who Owns the Earth?

Henry George's Progress and Poverty 140 Years Later
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“This association of poverty with progress is the great enigma of our times.” -Henry George, Progress and Poverty

Who owns the earth? Why is there so much poverty amid so much wealth? Who has the right to profit from nature? This exhibit highlights the life and work of Henry George, the social theorist and economist, who observed this paradox 140 years ago while living and working in San Francisco. His book Progress and Poverty (1879) stirred his generation to question social inequities during the Gilded Age as the pockets of land barons and railroad monopolists fattened off the natural wealth in land. George’s keen analyses offered a simple solution—reinvest the economic value of land back into the society that created it.

Progress and Poverty became an international bestseller with translations in more than 30 languages. George's ideas are still relevant today as the San Francisco Bay Area grapples with the highest land values and rents in the nation and unprecedented homelessness. This exhibit contains original written works by George, as well as photos and ephemera that show how his theories reverberated over time.

Sponsored by the San Francisco History Center, in partnership with the California Chapter-Common Ground USA, The Henry George Schools, New York City and San Francisco, The Robert Schalkenbach Foundation and Shaping San Francisco

Related events:

November 7, 6:00 PM, Main Library, Koret Auditorium: Meet Henry George. Historian and actor David Giesen takes on the role of Henry George in a Chatauqua performance set in 1890. Addressing the Friends of the San Francisco Public LIbrary, for whom George had been the founding secretary, George reminisces about his San Francisco days during the 1860s and 1870s.

November 13, 7:30 PM, Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics, 518 Valencia Street, co-sponsored by Shaping San Francisco

Progress to Poverty: Land and Rents-Free Public Talk. On the 140th anniversary of Henry George's Progress and Poverty, his land tax and radical reform of land use are worth a critical re-examination. Geographers Francesca Manning and Richard Walker, along with Ted Gwartney of the California chapter of Common Ground USA, untangle what George proposed, what happened as a result of his ideas, and what the future holds.

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