HG: Antiprotectionist Giant of American Economics
FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF DALLAS VOLUME 10, NUMBER 2
— Richard W. Fisher, President
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Americans are again confronted, both domestically and internationally, with the clash of protectionist and free trade senti- ment. A deeply divided U.S. House just barely passed the Central American Free Trade Agreement [2005 July 27]. Politicians who a few years back supported the North American Free Trade Agreement now adamantly oppose CAFTA. Americans are torn between enjoying the benefits of globalization, with its increased consumer choices and lower prices, and worrying about the costs to the nation that some claim come with global free trade.
There is nothing new about this clash of ideas, as this latest Economic Insights points out; they have been vigorously debated before, most notably during the late 19th century. In the center of that debate was one of this nation’s most famous economists — Henry George. Today, few Americans recognize his name, yet his Progress and Poverty is the best-selling economics book ever written and outsold all English-language books save the Bible in the late 1890s. He touched off a worldwide movement for major tax reform, and societies and institutions still bear his name and span the globe.
Who was George? Why was he so influential? And what did he have to say about protectionism that we might profit from today? We offer this short biographical piece to answer these questions.