Memorandum on the Henry George School

by Robert Clancy

Bob Clancy founded the Henry George Institute in 1971. This memorandum was written in February 1972 following his dismissal as Director of the Henry George School in New York.

The following is a personal account of some of my experiences with the Henry George School. It is prompted by my long association with the School, my sudden dismissal as Director in July 1968, and the bewilderment of many over the situation. I feel I am far enough from these events to be fairly objective about them (although I realize this is being presented from my own point of view). Also, I wish to state that, although I am critical about some things, this is not to be construed as personal, but rather as lessons to be learned for the future of the Georgist movement.

I was associated with the Henry George School of Social Science almost from its founding early in 1932. I studied under the founder, Oscar H. Geiger, learned the philosophy of Henry George from him, and shared his enthusiasm for the educational work of the School. Soon after Geiger’s death in 1934 I began working for the School, organized its library, later taught classes. I also worked for a while for the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation and the Georgist periodical Land and Freedom. After a stint in the Army during World War II, I was offered a job at the School in December 1945 as Office Manager. (By that time the School in New York was already located at 50 East 69th Street.)

50 East 69th Street today

50 East 69th Street today

At that time Margaret Bateman was Director of the School. She resigned some six months later and I found myself de facto in charge of the School. After a while I was given the title Acting Director, then Executive Director and finally, Director. This last was prompted by John C. Lincoln, the School’s President and largest contributor, and the Board of Trustees accepted his judgment.

Mr. Lincoln had been contributing to the School as an individual. However, because of various upsets at the School (about which he would receive complaints from different factions) he decided to form a foundation through which his contributions would be channeled. He thereupon started the Lincoln Foundation in 1946.

Mr. Lincoln seemed rather satisfied with my administration of the School. He commented that this was the first time he had not been receiving a stream of complaints. He invited me to serve on his Board of Directors. Later, Mr. Lincoln engaged Raymond Moley as adviser. One of the first things Mr. Moley did was to get me off the Lincoln Board on the grounds that the School, and therefore, I was benefiting from Foundation contributions.

In 1954 Mr. Lincoln engaged a Professor of Education, Samuel Burkhard, to make a survey of the School. Prof. Burkhard spent several months at the School, attended classes, looked into records, visited extensions, and rendered an extensive and favorable report on the School to the Foundation. This was rejected by Mr. Moley on the grounds that a Professor of Education was not qualified to survey a school of economics.

When John Lincoln died in 1959, Mr. Moley’s influence increased. John’s son David became President of the Lincoln Foundation and wanted to do a conscientious job, but he relied heavily on Mr. Moley. The Foundation Board began to be filled up with Mr. Moley’s choices, and through his initiative, a “Lincoln School” was begun at Claremont College in California.

Later, Prof. Arch Woodruff came on the Board of the Foundation. He was connected with the University of Hartford and before long there was a “Lincoln Institute” there. Later Prof. Woodruff became head of this University. He was also instrumental in getting a “school for land reform” started on Taiwan, where large estates have been split up into small holdings (a reform that is explicitly criticized by Henry George in Progress and Poverty).

Prof. Woodruff and two other members of the Lincoln Board, Lowell Harriss (of Columbia University) and Douglas Eldridge (of the National Bureau of Economic Research) were appointed by the Foundation as a special academic committee to look into the Henry George School. I looked forward to their consultation, as a closer connection with the academic world had long been one of our aims. Such connections were evolving from our various contacts — professor friends (many of them former Henry George School graduates), speaking engagements we had with various, colleges, papers and theses written by college students, etc.

After a long delay, Prof. Woodruff and Mr. Eldridge visited the School in the Spring of 1966, with a small panel of our people. They spent about an hour with us and it was soon evident that they were not trying either to learn about the School or to help it, but to discredit it. They asked such questions as, “Why do you bother having a Henry George School?” and “What qualifications do your teachers have to teach economics?”

This session was followed about a week later by a 10-minute visit from Prof. Harriss, a completely non-committal encounter. The committee rendered an unfavorable report on the School to the Foundation. Soon afterwards David Lincoln sent a brisk letter to Arnold Weinstein (Secretary of the School’s Board of Trustees) about the matter. He acknowledged it and I offered to answer it further at some length, which I did in a letter to David Lincoln. In it I justified the work of the School, the program of teaching the full Georgist philosophy, and I pointed to the influence our educational work was having. I read this letter to Mr. Weinstein and he approved. I received a fairly friendly and conciliatory reply from David. (I sent copies of my letter to all School trustees and all Foundation directors, but heard from no one else.)

In the Fall of 1966, the School trustees started to hold meetings without me. These were prompted by one of the trustees, E. C. Harwood (the most domineering member of the Board) who called them “executive sessions.” The Board held its meetings with me present as usual, then at a certain point Mr. Harwood (or “Colonel” Harwood) would announce that the “executive session” should now take place and this meant I was supposed to leave the room.

I had known Arnold Weinstein a long time and was in frequent touch with him about affairs of the School. But between the Spring of 1966 when he agreed with me, and the Fall of 1966 when these sessions started, his attitude changed, and he lost his candor with me from then on. I began to feel a plot building up.

This development weighed heavily on me but I tried to carry on the work of the School as well as I could. Classes, correspondence courses, international work, extensions, lectures, etc., kept going. Since “academic upgrading” was in the wind, in the Spring of 1968, with the consent of the trustees (given reluctantly, as they had by now proceeded far with other plans), I engaged Prof. Norma Mewmark whom I knew from the New York Adult Education Council, for a 3-month period. Many useful contacts with economics departments of various colleges were built up in this short period, showing signs of opening new fields for us. Other interesting developments were taking place, such as the approval of our correspondence courses by the US State Department for their overseas personnel.

However, the trustees had already moved too far in another direction. Mysterious trips around the country were being taken by Arnold Weinstein, the purpose and nature of which were not confided to me, although previously all this had been left mostly to me.

By June of 1968 the atmosphere was getting thick. I had the feeling I was being hit at in the dark. The trustees were evidently trying to provoke me into resigning. (I still do not know why they did not explain to me what changes they were contemplating and why they rather chose this secretive method.) After a series of petty harassments, I told Mr. Weinstein, “If you are trying to get rid of me, you’ll have to fire me, I won’t quit.”

The School’s annual conference that year was held in Miami in July. On that occasion Mr. Weinstein steered clear of me and bustled around getting extension directors into corners for private conversations. Then at the conference banquet it was announced that Arnold Weinstein was now President of the School. I had not been officially informed of this in advance.

On the way back to New York I realized that things had gone too far and I resolved to get on better terms with the Board. It was too late.

At a Board meeting on July 11, a few days after the Miami conference, the trustees informed that me that I was to be placed on a two-year sabbatical leave effective immediately. No explanation was given. None of my questions were answered and they refused to discuss the matter with me. They simply said that they decided it was “best for the School” and told me the Director serves “at the pleasure of the Board.” They refused to reconsider their decision. There was a strong inference I was through with the School but it was not stated. (I asked: “At least tell me why you will not explain anything to me,” and was told, “Because you would have an answer for everything.”)

Staff and extension directors were taken aback at the news. It was a well-guarded secret, executed more like a coup-d’etat than a businesslike decision. People seemed too stunned even to ask questions. Some friends accepted that it was indeed a sabbatical and that I would return after two years. But an atmosphere was quickly created in which Robert Clancy never existed — or if he did exist he was no longer to be mentioned. All this was done rather vaguely but effectively. Nobody was informed of what was going on, except for general statements about “upgrading” the School.

Thereafter most of the program of the School that had taken so many years to build up was dismantled bit by bit or allowed to perish from neglect. A few recognizable things remained and some School people still came around, although more and more dropped off, feeling out of place and unwelcome. Eventually, correspondence courses were entirely discontinued, as well as foreign language programs, most extensions were closed, and activities such as neighborhood classes, Speakers Bureau, annual dinners, annual reports, members’ activities, etc., were dropped, and the Henry George News became a shadow of its former self. (However, fund appeals were still sent to Georgists.) Most of the staff were dismissed and a new cast of characters came in, most of them knowing little or nothing of the Georgist philosophy or of the background of the School. The emphasis was to be “academic” with something about “urban renewal” including “a little more land value taxation” rather than the full Georgist philosophy. It seemed as though almost anything and anybody that had a “Ph.D.” label were latched onto.

Meanwhile, during my sabbatical, I maintained contact with the Georgist movement, chiefly via the International Union for Land Value Taxation and Free Trade whose Newsletter I edited (also writing for ). Contact with the School was minimal and discouraged, and I was removed from its mailing list. I also prepared and issued, during this period, a draft of a manual, “The Application of Land Value Taxation.” At the end of my sabbatical, I secured a (non-Georgist) job and devoted spare time to Georgist work. Gathering together with some colleagues who shared my views we took steps to form a new organization that would continue and develop a straight Georgist program. We started the Henry George Institute to this end.

The Henry George School made a great contribution in developing Georgist education. But there are certain weaknesses and omissions in the School setup which should be corrected in further Georgist efforts. Among them are:

A self-perpetuating Board of Trustees: This enabled a small group of people who knew little of the workings of the School to have absolute power forever over the School. The Georgist movement should not be run thus but needs a more democratic structure.

No protection against subversion: This is in effect what happened when the trustees depended too much on one source of funds, the Lincoln foundation, and capitulated to them when pressured.

Emphasis on the wrong things: Instead of devoting attention to the main purpose for which the School was founded, emphasis was placed by the Board on money and prestige. This has resulted in the School becoming a second-rate academic showcase instead of a first-rate center of the Georgist movement.

Little follow-up on educational work: This has been a long-standing problem which the School — being a school — never got around to really handling. A continuing program of action is needed.

Many of these weaknesses existed from the founding of the School. I repeat this is not a personal criticism of the Henry George School trustees who are by and large sincere and capable persons. Indeed, though I revere the founder of the School, Oscar Geiger, I recognize that new efforts will have to avoid the built-in flaws and oversights of the School’s structure. Further, they are flaws which are rather common in many public service organizations.

I also wish to reiterate that, although critical, I am not “bitter” or “resentful” as some assume — perhaps because that is the reaction to be expected. I very early resolved not to be so. I do not feel committed to a particular building or organization but rather to an idea — the Georgist philosophy — and I want to work for it to the best of my ability.

I feel that the job ahead is to rebuild the Georgist movement on a firmer foundation so that the philosophy of Henry George can make greater progress.

Job Description

by Steve Sklar

Suppose you were one of the very few — suppose you sometimes felt you were the only one — who knew well the rare and all-but-forgotten insight that could arrest and reverse the ruinous progress of the world. Suppose you were in fact the sole repository of unique wisdom discovered over one hundred and fifty years ago, wisdom once widely discussed, known and admired, but now buried under the weight of academia and official contempt — an edict to ignore and forget — set upon it by the few immensely powerful people who have the loss of wealth and power to fear from the wisdom.

Suppose that in that insight lay the path toward the eradication of grinding and widespread and growing poverty and all that comes with it — the fear of poverty, war, corruption, oppression, institutionalized cruelty.

bob37Suppose that those who are most respected for their knowledge and understanding of such subjects, in fact all of the official figures of authority, were arrayed and could be relied upon, through long habit and financial encouragement (of which they may sometimes hardly be aware), to deride and decry any notable public recommendation of that wisdom.

What would you do about it? What could you do about it?

I think, first and foremost, you would have put the calculation of odds, the analysis of prospects for success, entirely behind you. Your adversaries, in the inevitable fight to disseminate understanding, would, perhaps rightly, call you Quixotic. Doomed to almost certain failure, you would have to disregard odds in order to act.

Courage, then, would have to be a starting point. Henry George possessed that kind of courage. He would take on anybody — motivated by the insight that the social “institution” of private property in land is the cause of our greatest social ills. He was naturally determined, witty, ambitious, sanguine, and above all he had heart. He enjoyed a fight and he had the mental and spiritual equipment to carry it on

To pick up the mantle where it has lain fallen for many decades and bear it on, one would need something like that.

Sympathy from

wsjAt first glance, the recent Wall Street Journal article about Henry George and his followers — on the front page! — seemed like a good thing; any ink is good ink, right? Well, perhaps not. The piece was on page one, yes — but it occupied the space in which the WSJ likes to toss in some quirky comic relief. We provided stressed-out businesspeople with a chuckle for their subway ride. Continue reading

What the (Georgist) World Needs Now

by Alanna Hartzok

Thirty-four years ago I walked through the doorway of the Henry George School of Northern California and was greeted by its then executive director, Wendell Fitzgerald. I soon caught the Georgist bug, and I have had it ever since. It is said that when you come across a worthy cause when you are young you think you will sprint to accomplish its goals. At middle age it seems more like an endurance race. Upon reaching the elder years one realizes that the cause is a relay race. Deeply rooted socio-economic change moves ever so slowly. I do confess however to retaining some of that eternally-springing youthful hope that the quantum leap will happen in my lifetime.

Could the multiple breakdowns and challenges society now faces be the evolutionary drivers that will launch the Georgist paradigm to the front and center of the zeitgeist? That would make our job easy! In the meantime, though, it seems to be time for some of us elders to begin mentoring, encouraging, and empowering a younger generation of Georgist educators and activists.

Lo and behold, there now exists, spanning several continents, a cadre of inspired, bright and talented twenty-somethings, many of whom would love to make a career in the Georgist movement. Therein lies our dilemma and our challenge. The times are crying out for our practical wisdom.

Sadly, the Georgist movement and the various organizations and institutions that comprise it fall short of what is required to enable us to strongly move forward.

I want to share with you what I have learned from observing the work of two effective economic justice organizations.

From 2003 to 2008, along with Dr. Polly Cleveland, I served on the board of United for a Fair Economy. Based in Boston and founded by Chuck Collins and Felice Yeskel in 1995, UFE describes itself as “raising awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermine the economy, corrupts democracy, deepen the racial divide, and tear communities apart… supporting and helping build for greater equality.” UFE has thirteen full-time staff members. It offers internships in eight categories. The staff and interns work in teams in these areas: workshop educators and trainers, tax justice, research, publishing, media and publicity, and membership cultivation and activation.

The UFE’s full-time Development Director plays a vital role — as is true for most non-profit organizations that make an impact on the world. A nonprofit’s Development Director develops potential funding sources, by taking responsibility for the grant-writing process, developing relationships with donors and pursuing other possibilities for obtaining steady funding.

In London recently, David Triggs and I met with Stewart Wallace, the Executive Director of the New Economics Foundation, and Aniol Esteban, head of their Environmental Economics division. NEF was formed in 1986 by James Robertson, Alison Pritchard, and other leaders of The Other Economic Summit (TOES). Many of the NEF staff of fifty-six people work out of beehive-busy offices located near the British Parliament. They are working for a “new model of wealth creation, based on equality, diversity and economic stability.”

NEF’s 2010-11 annual operating budget, the most recent one posted on their website, was £2,505,069, or nearly four million dollars. Could they have achieved this level of prominence and impact without a Development Director?

Compared to our endowed Georgist organizations, UFE and NEF are both youngsters. Their goals for a fair society are similar in several ways to those of our Georgist movement. Both are greatly concerned about the wealth divide and focus on ways to build an economic system that works for everyone. But there are some serious differences. They both have a significant number of paid staff positions, and substantial annual operating budgets. Most important, they both have Development Directors and Publicists.

How have UFE and NEF managed to raise sufficient funds to hire a substantial number of full-time paid staff? They made fundraising a priority by employing Development Directors, who concentrate on grant-writing and other fundraising opportunities. The Executive Director works closely with the Development Director to guide her/his efforts in researching potential funding opportunities for specific projects.

To my knowledge no Georgist organization has ever had a full-time Development Director. They have instead relied on volunteer labor and on the income from their original endowments.

The Georgist movement also needs at least one (and preferably many) fulltime Publicists. Our constantly-churning information age requires strategic critical thinking for effective public relations. A Publicist’s role is to create a solid publicity program via news releases, social media, advocacy campaigns, well-designed material for e-newsletters, announcements and viral messaging.

While there are a number of Georgists who engage in such activities, there is no one doing this job as their main work for the Georgist movement. Our Publicist would also research potential venues, and promote Georgist speakers to a wide range of business, civic, government and academic institutions. There are many excellent, underutilized Georgist speakers. I often think of them (us) as highly trained racehorses that rarely get let out of our stalls (computer screens). Few of us relish promoting ourselves — and it takes time and effort to research and follow-up on leads. We need to hire professionals for this job — and if those professionals are young Georgists, so much the better!

It is my strong opinion and recommendation, based on more than thirty years engaged in the Georgist movement, that there is no better or more urgent requirement for our future and our success than to hire competent Development Directors and Publicists. One of each to start with would be nice. Both positions would likely begin to pay for themselves within a few years. Successful non-profits do this. Why not Georgist ones?

When I recently asked Wendell Fitzgerald what the Georgist movement needs most he said simply: “more girls.” Let’s keep that concern in mind. Meanwhile I am sure that somewhere in this big wide world there are some terrific people who could do a great job as Development Directors and Publicists for the organizations comprising the Georgist movement.

Author’s note: The International Union for Land Value Taxation has recently employed “twenty-something” Jacob Shwartz-Lucas to work one day a week in a Development Director role along with me in my capacity as the IU’s part-time General Secretary. Baby steps — but this is how the proverbial journey of a thousand miles begins.