Chapter 5: Not only an Economist – Autobiographical Reflections of a Historian of Economic Thought
* Mark Blaug I owe the decision to study economics to the influence of the writings of Henry George and Karl Marx. In 1944 I was 17 years old and attending Peter Stuyvesant High School in New York City. I enrolled for a course in commerce, and in the last week of the term the teacher took some of the better students, who included me, to a special lecture at a nearby Henry George School. The lecture was an explanation of why the unrestrained growth of land rentals had produced poverty, wars, and all the other ills of modern civilization. Henry George had long ago provided both the diagnosis of the evil and the treatment that would cure it: a single confiscatory tax on ground rent! At the end of the lecture, we were all presented with free copies of Henry George’s Progress and Poverty, which I duly read without understanding much of it. But years later, when I finally studied the Ricardian theory of differential rent, I did have a moment of excitement at discovering the true source of George’s theory. THE INFLUENCE OF MARXISM I was intrigued by Progress and Poverty but I was not entirely convinced. But shortly afterwards, during my first year at New York University, I became friendly with some left-wing students who introduced me first to the pamphlets of Lenin and Stalin and later to the weightier tomes of Marx and Engels. I was completely bowled over by these writings and within a matter of...
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