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Some Background on the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation


Pat Aller has kindly written this background to one of our most influential sister organisations. It is a few years old, but will give you a sense of one of the foundations that was created to promote Henry George's social philosophy.

The Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, incorporated in 1925, is the second oldest United States Georgist group; the Henry George Foundation of America was established a year earlier.

Robert Schalkenbach rose from poverty in New York to become a printing executive and was introduced to Progress and Poverty by his wife, who heard about it from her riding instructor. Schalkenbach read the book and immediately became George's friend. Before Schalkenbach died in 1924, he bequeathed about $200,000, the bulk of his estate, to create an organization dedicated to "teaching, expounding and propagating the ideas of Henry George as set forth in [Progress and Poverty], and in his other books."

Among the 21 men named by Schalkenbach as directors were Louis Post, assistant Secretary of Labor under President Woodrow Wilson, and James Brown, the riding instructor who, like Schalkenbach, had been active in the Manhattan Single Tax Club. Charles O'Connor Hennessey, second president, addressed Georgists in Copenhagen in 1926, when the International Union for Land Value Taxation and Free Trade was created, and later became IU president too. Interest in George's ideas had waned after his death, with introduction of the US income tax in 1913, and with the onset of World War I. His books were going out of print. Therefore the foundation's first goals were to reprint and publicize them.

In 1929 it became a publisher, issuing a 50th anniversary edition of Progress and Poverty on new plates. Philosopher John Dewey, who admired George, was then persuaded to write the foreword to Significant Paragraphs from Progress and Poverty, which increased sales, especially in universities. Praise from other important individuals was used to advertise George's works. During The Depression, foundation assets fell but the organization nevertheless contributed to establishment of the Henry George School in 1932 and has had a close relationship with it since, especially during the many years it was housed in the school's building, until 1988.

In 1941 Will Lissner, a New York Times editor, established more regular contact with academics by founding The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, with Dewey and other major scholars on its first board. One article in each issue of the refereed periodical is about George, land value taxation, free trade, or relevant topics. When Lissner retired in 1989, he and his wife Dorothy (AJES assistant editor) compiled the George Studies, books containing many of those articles. As its finances improved, the foundation published works by other authors on Georgist themes, helped fund Henry George schools, Henry George Foundation, Center for the Study of Economics, Land and Liberty, and others, and also made grants for research, including municipal tax studies, to students, scholars, activists, and nonprofit groups. Two films were produced. In the 1960s the Committee on Taxation, Resources, and Economic Development (TRED) was established, holding nearly annual conferences at the University of Wisconsin, subsequently published as books by the university. They are still invaluable references.

In the 1970s, P. I. (Perry) Prentice, vice-president of Time, Inc., and editor of House & Home and Architectural Forum, was elected Schalkenbach president. He attracted high-profile Americans to the idea of land value taxation, created the National Council for Property Tax Reform, spoke all over the country, and held roundtables on tax issues, published highlights of which later became Schalkenbach pamphlets. In the 1980s the foundation endowed four universities (Pace University and St. John's University, NY; the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Williams College, Massachusetts).  Each holds annual or biennial Georgist lectures or programs, often published. Several lecturers have been Nobel prize winners.

In 1990 the foundation invited USSR economists (two from the Duma, the chief legislative body) to meet in NY to discuss the feasibility of a land value tax in the USSR. This initiated a series of visits by US Georgist economists to the USSR and the nations that replaced it. A letter to top US economists, asking them to endorse LVT, enlisted 30 supporters, including three Nobelists. In the late 90s the foundation reformed bylaws, limiting directors to three three-year terms, resulting in a nearly total turnover. The foundation continues to publish, though that is now contracted to a major academic press. Its grant program, which includes book proposals, outreach, and LVT and free trade topics, has expanded. Last year the foundation emphasized research by creating the Association for Geonomic Studies.

Mary Cleveland, PhD, is the current president. The entire board, which at present includes three Canadians, meets in NY each June, while committees meet by telephone during the year. Mark Sullivan, acting executive director, heads the small staff, which handles administration and correspondence, as well as worldwide orders for books and pamphlets and requests for, or exchanges of, Georgist ideas and news, especially on Henry George or LVT. The foundation maintains a library; its LVT holdings are the best in the US, according to scholars who have used it. There are no members except the board, but the foundation reports on current activities to its many correspondents with an annual fund appeal in November.

A painting of Carcassonne, France, hangs in the Schalkenbach Foundation office, dedicated to that organization because its publishing kept George's works from perishing, just as the French city kept Europe from succumbing to invasion.

Those who wish further information may use mail: Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, 149 Madison Avenue #601, New York NY 10016 USA phone: 212-683-6424 fax: 212-683-6454 email: schalkenba@aol.com or staff@schalkenbach.org and website: www.schalkenbach.org



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Wealth and Want
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