Henry George and George Bernard Shaw: Comparison and Contrast

Two 19th Century Intellectual Leaders Stood for Ethical Democracy vs. Socialist Statism


  • Jack Schwartzman

    Search for more papers by this author
    • *

      Jack Schwartzman. J.S.D., Ph.D., is a professor of English in the Nassau Community College, State University of New York, Garden City, NY 11330, and editor of Fragments, a literary journal. This article is based on papers presented before the 5th World Congress of Social Economics at the University of York, England, August 2, 1988, and the Henry George Institute in New York on September 30, 1988.


Abstract. Henry George, the American economist and social philosopher, and George Bernard Shaw, the British playwright and social reformer, were two famous personalities of the last quarter of the 19th century, each a prophet in his own way. The two men probably never met, though Shaw credited George's oratory as well as his classic. Progress and Poverty, with awakening his interest in economic issues, and to his last days acknowledged his debt to George. Both were deeply committed to ending poverty. But there the similarity ended—George was devoted to ethical democracy, Shaw to socialist dictatorship. George saw cooperative individualism as the goal of social reconstruction; Shaw dreamed of a Superman, and fancied himself a supporter of the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin, and of Soviet Russian‘communism.’Shaw saw the purpose of life as “being used for a (mighty) purpose;” George saw it as blazing a trail for‘progressive humanity,’cooperating with the Creator in creating a moral world.