Paradox of Progress
Industrialization and the development of finance capitalism deeply
transformed the U.S. economy, society, and culture at the end of the
nineteenth century. As a small number of capitalists and industrialists
made fortunes, the living and working conditions for most American wage
workers and immigrants worsened, which produced divergent positions on
the causes of growing income inequality. Henry George’s Poverty and Progress (1879) and William Graham Sumner’s What Social Classes Owe to Each Other (1883) exemplify some of these positions.
After reading the sources listed below, briefly synthesize George’s
and Sumner’s arguments. Then, using Phillips Thomson’s poem and Father
Edward McGlynn’s comments explain how they reflected on the causes of
unequal distribution of income and opportunity. What do you think
influenced these views?
– Henry George, Poverty and Progress (1879). (Links to an external site.) Read pp. 3-13 only.
– William Graham Sumner excerpt from What Social Classes Owe to Each Other (1883) (Links to an external site.)
– Phillips Thomson, “The Political Economist and the Tramp” (1878) (Links to an external site.)
– Comments on Henry George by Father Edward McGlynn in Louis
F. Post and Fred C. Leubusher, Henry George’s 1886 Campaign: An Account
of the George-Hewitt Campaign in the New York Municipal Election of
1886 (1887) (Links to an external site.)
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