Major Dates in Early September
|September 6, 2009||Posted by Jeffery J. Smith under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Major Dates in Early September
Honor Jury Rights and Henry George
Because freedom matters, we sacrificed a little of our free time to publish an extra article this week.
by Jeffery J. Smith, September 5, 2009
In the US, September 5 is Jury Rights Day. Juries here have rights and powers that most people are not aware of, such as the power to weigh not just the facts of a case but also the justice of a law. And too often, juries are not called for many trials which are decided instead by a lone judge. Both situations put a lot of power into the hands of one person, a lawyer who ends up on the bench. (And what sort of personality wants to wield power of others anyway?)
Juries do have their advocates, groups that try to restore juries to a role of judicial importance. One such group is within the Democratic Party: the Democratic Freedom Caucus. Not only do they see juries as an institution to help keep citizens free, they also accord an important role to economic freedom and economic responsibility. To that end, the DFC promotes many of the ideas of the old American reformer, Henry George, whose good was the impetus behind this news site. George also has his day this month; on September 2 he was born.
George lived a life every bit as dramatic as any more prominent hero. As runaway cabinboy in 1851, he saw death in India. As a starving father in the bustling San Francisco of the 1860s, he almost committed murder.
Puzzled by want amid plenty, while strolling in the countryside Henry George had a moment of epiphany: not only does land have the power to yield wealth but also landowners have the power to absorb wealth above the subsistence of workers. His insight became Progress and Poverty, which outsold every book but the Bible. In packed meeting halls, he embarrassed academics. They settled for major donations from oil and railroad monopolies and twisted their theories to downplay the truths uncovered by George, such as the cause of recessions.
Writing in an age when the worth of land was more transparent to even the ordinary citizen, he became a sought-after celebrity. Hundreds filled halls to hear the fiery red rooster (his hair was red). Addicted to cigars, he let the manufacturer name his favorite brand after him.
George met leaders in Australia and Europe. In Ireland he had to flee for his life from the henchmen of absentee landowners. After Thomas Edison and Mark Twain, who sold tickets at Georges lectures, he was the third most popular American.
New York union leaders persuaded him to run for mayor. The Pope, head of the Roman Catholic Church, the biggest landowner in the world, defrocked Father Edward McGlynn who had refused to quit aiding Henry Georges campaign. George posted his own poll watchers but a few were bribed and those who refused to cooperate were beaten, even drowned. George won but was deprived of his victory; next morning his ballots floated down the East River.
A contemporary, Samuel Butler, who may have been using Georges land-price cycle theory, predicted accurately the next depression.
Against his doctors advice, the popular candidate ran again the Big Apples mayoralty. Tired, and chain-smoking cigars, he collapsed the day before the election. A grieving nation accorded him the biggest funeral ever for a private citizen.
One of the volunteers on his campaign, Louis Post, went on to become Secretary of Labor under President Wilson. He launched the first Labor Day in the beginning, possibly to honor Georges birthday. But thats another connection that may never be shown.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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