Page 17

photo by kendrick brinson

and secured a job as an enumerator for the U.S. Census of Irrigation. During this time, his Georgist underpinnings moved from the abstract to the applied. He studied forest management, the timber industry, and water laws, producing trenchant analysis that elevated him “from just another nice boy with good grades to someone serious.” He climbed the ivory tower, first as a professor at various universities, then as a research associate and director of think tanks. Eventually, he settled into a teaching position at UC Riverside, where he served on the economics faculty for 39 years and earned the reputation of being the foremost Georgist of our time. The extent of his impact on progressive economics is far-reaching. In a system that tends to focus on labor and human production, Mason offers a contrasting view that the land and its resources—often regarded as a static input—are fundamental in their value. Through a Georgist lens, he interprets some of the major economic dilemmas of our time, such as the market crash of 2008, American dependency on foreign oil, and tax reform. His articles demonstrate shrewd historical insight peppered with a cheeky panache, with titles like “Sleeping with the Enemy” and “The Sales Tax: History of a Dumb Idea.” Now, at 94, Mason continues an incredibly prolific career. He still regularly publishes economic analyses, taking on some of the more urgent consequences of American imperialism. When I spoke to the prominent economist James Galbraith on the phone, he told me he had just finished reading an article by Mason about the perils of corporate involvement in the military, an analysis Galbraith describes as “striking.” He continued, “Every time you read one of Mason’s articles, you come up with something that places in a very crisp and clear light some important issue, and he has thoroughly persuaded me over the years of the centrality of the question of land rent to our understanding of economics.” Mason has told some of America’s sadder stories, but he always offers something that feels a little bit like faith. As a man who spent his life pointing out the errors of his profession, he reassures us that the solution to our problems has always been there—in the earth beneath our feet. Find out more at MasonGaffney.org

december 2018  Reed Magazine 15

Profile for Reed College

Reed College Magazine December 2018  

Reed College Magazine December 2018