Walsh Memorial Lecture in Honour of Henry George

Walsh Memorial Lecture in Honour of Henry George

Turf! How holding territory makes us both wealthy and unequal, and how land taxes can enable us to share prosperity in peace

Humans evolved over millions of years on the dry savannahs of east Africa. Here, to this day, mobile hunter-gatherer tribes lead an extraordinarily peaceful, cooperative, and egalitarian lifestyle. Some 15,000 years ago, humans first began to hold territory when they created permanent settlements in a corner of the Fertile Crescent. These first settlers quickly became highly unequal, as apparent from their burials—a few big graves packed with luxury goods surrounded by others containing barely more than skeletons. With the invention of agriculture some 3000 years later, extremely unequal societies exploded across the ancient middle east and eventually around the globe. Warfare for territory became routine. Empires rose and fell. Yet there’s a lesson from the more successful empires, such as the Chinese, Ottoman, and British: Empires that relied on systematically collecting land taxes were both more prosperous, more equal, and more durable. The classical economists, including Adam Smith, recognized the superiority of land taxes. Over a hundred years ago, the American economist and progressive leader, Henry George, crusaded successfully to make land taxes the sole source of public revenue. His legacy, often unrecognized, continues today.

The 2018 Walsh Lecture will be delivered by Professor Polly Cleveland. Polly is an economist focusing on wealth distribution. Since fall 2007, she has been Adjunct Professor of Environmental Economics at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

Event Details


Wednesday 11 April 2018
4:30 pm - 6:30 pm

Afternoon tea from 4:30 pm

Refreshments from 6:30 pm

Lend Lease Room
Macquarie Graduate School of Management
99 Talavera Road
North Ryde, NSW 2113
Wednesday 4 April 2018 to Sri Modali - sri.modali@mq.edu.au

The Speaker

Mary M. (Polly) Cleveland is an economist and long-time activist for social justice. She is the Executive Director of the Association for Georgist Studies (AGS), named for the great nineteenth-century American economist and reformer, Henry George. George attributed the persistence of poverty in the midst of economic growth to concentrated ownership of land and other natural resources. He advocated taxing the "rent" of land as a remedy. AGS seeks to bring George's ideas-and his questions-back into the discussion of scholars and writers in economics and other social sciences. Since 1997, she has been a member of Boston-based United for a Fair Economy (UFE) and on the board of UFE from 2002 to 2006. She has helped organize a number of UFE events in New York with prominent speakers, including Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Edward Wolff, Kevin Phillips, Robert Frank, Bill Gates Sr., Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz.

From 1994-2004 she served on the Board of the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation and was President from 2003-2004. The Foundation publishes Progress and Poverty and other work by Henry George, as well as work influenced by George. From 1994-2001, she was the Director of Research at The Partnership for Responsible Drug Information, a non-profit that encourages open and well-informed discussion of drug policy.

Dr. Cleveland received a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1984. Her dissertation, entitled Consequences and Causes of Unequal Distribution of Wealth, addressed George's basic questions in a modern model, showing how unequal distribution of wealth lowers economic productivity and growth.

She is a Research Scholar in economics at Barnard College and Adjunct Professor of Economics in the Master's Program in Environmental Science and Policy at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. She writes an occasional column "Econamici," which is posted to the AGS website.

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