An Analysis of the Crime

An Analysis of the Crime of Poverty, 1885.

Student’s name



Poverty is a crime, I do not mean that it is a crime to be poor. For instance it is not a crime to be assassinated but it is basically a crime to be a murderer same goes to a man or rather anyone who is poor. The curse of poverty is not limited to the destitute; alone it affects all classes, even the affluent and very rich. They, too, suffer; there can be no pain in a community from which no class can completely escape. The sin, the meanness born of poverty, the ignorance, and hence the same air that wealthy and poor must breathe.

However, while a person who wants to be poor cannot be charged with a crime, forcing poverty on others is unquestionably a crime. The crime of poverty is what creating and maintaining this situation, it is the crime of those who by their primary responsibility for the economic conditions that force the masses to misery and desperation. The economic bondage of dependency, which chains men and women to low wages or unemployment, can be traced directly to a system that permits private ownership of land and natural resources (Peter 2019). The title deeds are held not by individuals but by corporate entities, which are nothing but a privileged group of monopolist.

The natural resources are denied to all but those who obtain these rights through political or social connections. These title holders claim exclusive right to all that nature gives – land and natural resources – in addition they claim exclusive right to the products created from these resources. And since the major part of this wealth is produced through the labor of workers, it will follow that the fruits of their labor are stolen from them and go to those who are fortunate enough to hold title to natural resources or lands (Peter 2019).

There are many types of monopoly in modern society but land monopoly is most important for addressing poverty. The monopoly on land is not limited to just the personal possession of land but also includes ownership of land by corporation. Land monopoly is so prominent in a capitalist society that entire cities are owned by private monopolist. These big business owns not only houses and leases them out but also holds title to all public utilities such as gas, water, bridges, subways, and railroads.

Land redistribution was a viable solution to poverty in the Eastern United States in the late nineteenth century. The Western expansion and the dramatic shift in power and wealth was certainly one of the major events that brought about a serious economic crisis. These events create numerous problems for American society, with land monopoly being chief among them. The large influx of humans from Europe and Asia, both already land owners and soon to be land owners created a new concentration of wealth both locally and globally. Inevitably, most of these newcomers had more money than they could invest, while many were unwilling to allow themselves to become dependent on wage labor; instead they became interested in land ownership as a means of escaping wage labor altogether.

George source contrast with that of Carnegie in that George believed in protecting the poor and invested in social welfare. Carnegie, on the other hand, sees poverty only as a resource to boost economic growth. Poverty is also seen among laborers as an indicator that they are lazy and unwilling to work hard to earn money, the solution to this is that they should be replaced by machines. Carnegie also believed that wealth and capital accumulation should be unlimited, which was the cornerstone of his philosophy. Carnegie also believed in the association of wealth with virtue and honor in society. The major difference between Henry George and Andrew Carnegie can be found in their views on what constituted a rich person. For example Andrew Carnegie said that “the man who dies thus rich dies disgraced” (George 1882) In other words if one did not leave behind a vast fortune for heirs then he was just another poor soul who never really improved on himself.

George believes that wealth is the product of nature, not labor. Land rent is the value of natural resources, which is created by nature and not people. Henry George advocates for the progressive taxation of land value, which is earned by nature and should be owned by everyone (George 1882). One similarity between Carnegie and George’s view on wealth is that Carnegie like George believed that there was a need for social change through revolution if nothing was done about it. However, in contrast to this view of revolution was the belief in harmony between capital and labor. This belief, advocated by Carnegie, was manifested in his support for higher wages to end strikes.

Carnegie see modern industrialization as a positive form of economic growth because, as per Carnegie, the benefits of modernization are shared across society. He uses examples of how the technologically developed nations such as Japan, Germany and Sweden have been able to provide for their populations such that all their citizens enjoy a standard of living never known before in human history. For example, he states that Japan has transformed from being an economic disaster after WWII and is now world’s second largest economy with less than one-third the population of America but higher living standards. George sees industrialization as a problem because it contributes to and perpetuates poverty. He says poverty is crime against humanity because it leads to “human bodies stunted, dwarfed, twisted by want and families broken up.”

The wealthy should act as trustees toward a ‘lazy worker since they pay for the roads and power, which are both a public utility. They should also be required to pay for people’s needs before they purchase their own. The natural friction between the wealthy and labor be eased through a change in the land system. The “crime of poverty” would be reduced to the point of virtually disappearing. Henry George explains his view on how this could be achieved through a change in the land system (George 1911). By taxing idle land and all other natural resources, everyone will have access to them, which will boost wages and reduce gaps between rich and poor. The “crime of poverty” would be reduced to the point of virtually disappearing as people’s needs are met through their work without dependence on charity or government assistance.

Carnegie extends charity by hiring unionized labor while he was at Homestead Steel Works. There is a relationship between the wealthy and those who are powerless of which the wealthy must be aware of how their actions can impact others. The relationship between Carnegie and the Homestead strikers is one example where Carnegie ignored the voice of a group of workers in order to make money. Carnegie had received his first fortune from his father in coke ovens, so he had been familiar with labor and how it worked, but did not know how to relate to them. He believed that these power struggles were best left out of the hands for others to handle. He thought that these battles could be resolved by finding ways for all parties to work together. This did not happen because Carnegie seemed too worried about making money in order to receive charity from others; rather he became very aggressive in standing up for his beliefs as an industrialist (Carnegie 2021).

In Conclusion, the primary sources that best reflects American economy policy in the Gilded Age is “Progress and Poverty” by Henry George because it has more accurate information than other sources on how America’s economy was shaped through industrialization and because it helps the people to understand how the economy was shaped under him (George 1911). The contrasting historical actors are no one else than the great industrialists such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and Joseph Armour. The purpose of each organization is to make those people pay their taxes. The economic purposes of this source is to raise the amount of tax from 4% to 8%, so that the government would be able to spend more on people’s needs, and making sure that everyone pays their taxes.


Carnegie, Andrew. “The gospel of wealth.” In The Nature of the Nonprofit Sector, pp. 94-99. Routledge, 2021.

Conolly-Smith, Peter. “Teaching The American Promise.” The History Teacher 52, no. 4 (2019): 615-636.

George, Henry. Progress and poverty. Vol. 560. London; Toronto: JM Dent, 1911.

George, Henry. Progress and Poverty: an Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions, and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth. Appleton, 1882.