I was forwarded a paper that was published in a journal. I wondered what the journal was about, and found that they were looking to preserve the intellectual lineage of Henry George, a late 19th century philosopher and early Progressive reformer of capitalism. He wanted land to be held in common, and was known for the “Single Tax” of a 100% land tax. His ideas went out of fashion, but has always found a following, including a renewed one online, and at one point, I spent a while reading some of his old texts.
Given the nationwide and worldwide protests, I wondered what his position on racism or race was. I was disappointed to find out that he was anti-immigrant, specifically anti-Chinese, in the years leading up to the Chinese Exclusion Act, and was an intellectual partisan siding against Chinese people.
This essay, “The Chinese in California”, is almost impossible to find online. Obviously, nobody today wants this text to be associated with their intellectual current. I eventually found it at the LOC archives of old newspapers.
I haven’t yet read this as I post this, but I fear that his arguments would be the kind that a Fascist would make toward the working class.
Commentary may come soon. To read this, read down the first column, all the way to the bottom, and then start the second column at the top.
Update: More Racism, and a Tropey Apologia
Twitter’s algo fed me a post from a Henry George fen, and I followed it to this scan-post from a pamphlet. More shockers. It was followed by an essay about George’s racism, but recontextualized with an explanation about how Sun Yat Sen was a fan of George’s land-value ideas.
That just flipped up a bunch of red flags. It sounded too much like “my friend/spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend is Chinese so obviously, they cannot be as racist as you think.” It’s simply not empirically true; there are racists who are married to members of the groups being targeted for racism.
Sun’s story’s interesting, but it’s a weak defense, because it’s an indirect defense at best. I’m mentally deleting it from that essay, because it belongs in a separate essay, not as cover for George’s racism. There’s something offensive about the way he uses Sun’s story. He seems to be overstating George’s influence, for one. He also seems to be presenting Sun as a “model minority”.
Why can’t he just say that Henry George was racist as much as most of America, which was extremely racist, and the outcome of that synthesis of racism and land-centered political economy was likely to lead to things like the Alien Land Laws, or motivation to deprive Asians of access to land upon which to apply labor, as happened with Japanese American farmers during WW2.
Now, this said, I’ll put on my infinite “to do list” a stress testing of the most popular George-influenced economist working today, Michael Hudson. Could his ideas be used within an ideology like ultranationalism or fascism? I would hope not, but I just assume that because I hear him on Democracy Now. I may be wrong.
A Peek at the Hudson Blog
Here’s the first post I saw: The Democrats Role in Distracting with Identity Politics. The post isn’t as horrible as that terrible clickbaity headline, which had nothing to do with the main issues in the post. I didn’t think the post was racist, except it puts an idea for a solution, extremely cheap houses for all poor people, that would probably never happen. He also uses the term “blacks” a few too many times.
In his list of impoverished groups, he included poor whites, but didn’t mention Asians. I’ll assume that was an honest error, because if it wasn’t, and he thinks all Asians are rich, I’d be disappointed.