John Kuchta dead at 56

John Kuchta (white shirt) celebrates in 2009 with fellow HGS Board members David Harrell and Irene Marmi
Henry George School photo

We just learned today that HGS instructor John Kuchta passed away on April 7.

John originally came to us as a student in the Poverty, Liberation, and Land Reform course (under its original name, Liberation Theology and Land Reform), taught by the late Sam Venturella.  He subsequently took all the traditional HGS courses, then became our main teacher of both that course and the newer Economics as if God Cared.  He was the only one of our instructors who had formally studied theology, and the only one who made his living as a teacher.

John had taught physical sciences and math at Westwood College, and earlier taught math at De La Salle Institute. Before that, he had managed warehouses and worked in quality control, tutored privately, and worked commercially as a musician.  Referring to predictions that, in the future, we will all have several different careers over our lifetimes, John sometimes introduced himself as a man of the future, who had already had several careers.

Services have been held.  A published obituary is here, and a guest book here.

April 16 Monday: What has religion to do with political economy?

image credit: Joe Wolf via Flickr (cc)

We call this course Economics as if God Cared.

The United States has no formal established church, yet matters of religion keep popping in political campaigns. What has the Judeo-Christian-Muslim religious tradition to do with questions of political economy?

One perspective is to ask how “God” advises us to organize our economic life. According to John Kelly (who created this course) and John Kuchta (who teaches it, with assistance this time from David Harrell), the Old and New Testaments give clear directions about how communities and nations should treat landownership, debt, and taxes, to assure both justice and lasting prosperity. The course deals not only with religion and philosophy, but also with actual historical evidence.  This term we offer Economics as if God Cared on Mondays at 6 PM, beginning April 16 and continuing each Monday thru May 7, at 28 E. Jackson #1004. As for all our classes, a $25 registration fee covers the entire cost of the course.  You can pre-register here, or just show up. No prior study is required for this course.

Think deeper*: Spring term classes starting this week

adapted from work by Andrew McDaniel via Flickr (cc)

Three sections of Progress & Poverty start this week.

For the first time in decades, we’re offering the course in Brookfield, at the British Home ( 8700 W. 31st Street).  Wednesday afternoon classes start at 2:00, comprising six sessions, April 11 thru May 16. This is the modern version of the course, using the “abridged for modern readers” edition of the textbook (which is also available as an audiobook.)  Instructor is Bob Jene, and the total cost is just $25 including all materials.

A downtown section of the modern version is also scheduled, beginning Tuesday at 6 PM. Taught by self-described land speculator George Menninger, the first session comprises “How I made $1,000,000 in Chicago Real Estate: I $tole it from you!”

Finally, the classic version — which uses Henry George’s original text and goes into somewhat more depth — will meet Wednesday afternoons, for five double-sessions (3.5 hours with a break).  Instructor Chuck Metalitz does not insist that every student read every word of the text, but you’ll find the class more rewarding if you can take some time to do most of the suggested reading.

All courses require only a $25 registration fee, with the first session always free. Preregistration is requested but not required, and can be done here. Optional suggested reading prior to the first session is here for the modern version, and here(pdf) for the classic.

*Taken from a comment by one of our graduates, an accountant who said of the Progress & Poverty course: “It forces you to think deeper than you are accustomed to thinking.”  Some other comments are here.


April 12, Thursday, 6 PM: High Cost of Government Revenue

photo credit: Ray Tsang ("saturnism") via flickr (cc)

Take a break from preparing “your” income tax returns to attend this Power Point® presentation looking at the real cost of collecting the income tax.  IRS overhead itself represents the direct cost to the government of generating this revenue. Beside that there is the burden put on the taxpayer in filling out his return, the cost of preparers, the cost of representation in case of audit and the dead weight on the economy.  The sum of all these costs represents a sizeable portion of the revenue collected.  There has to be a better way. Presenter Bob Jene will point one out.

Bob’s main source for this talk is James L Payne’s book Costly Returns.

This free presentation starts at 6:00 PM Tuesday, March 13, at 28 E. Jackson #1004.  Further information at 312 362 9302 or

Sat April 14, Movie: Lord of the Flies

image credit: Andy Martini via flickr (cc)

Lord of the Flies is a novel by Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding about a group of British boys stuck on a deserted island who try to govern themselves, with disastrous results. Its stances on the already-controversial subjects of human nature and individual welfare versus the common good earned it position 68 on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 most frequently challenged books of 1990–1999. (from Wikipedia)

Two feature films of this story have been made, in 1963 and 1990.  We’ll watch the original 1963 black and white version directed by Peter Brook which was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

At 28 E Jackson #1004. Movie at 2:00, followed by discussion and refreshments.  All are welcome and admission is free, with donations welcome.  For further information contact Bob Jene at 312 362 9302, or Bob Matter


April 10 Tuesday 6 PM: How I made $1,000,000 in Chicago real estate: I $tole it from you

Photo credit: Anders Sandberg via Flickr (cc)

Successful land speculation is really a matter of capturing for yourself the gains that belong to the community.  George Menninger is one of many who have done it.  Far beyond any need to earn a living, George now spends some of his time explaining how the bad public policy he exploited not only made him rich, but led to continued poverty, unemployment, and even the current economic meltdown. Come to ask him why he does this and whether he is a traitor to the 1%.

George’s talk, on Tuesday April 10 at 6 PM, is also the first session of our Progress & Poverty course (modern version), which will continue on Tuesdays thru May 8.  As with all our courses, the $25 registration fee need not be paid until the end of the first session, and George Menninger will provide a personal and accessible explanation of Henry George’s ideas. You can pre-register here, or just show up.  You are also welcome to attend just this session; there is no obligation or expectation that everyone attending will enroll.

March 31, Saturday, 1 PM: Invisible Robbery Tour

image credit: InfoMoto ("Will") via flickr (cc)

Right on the streets of every American community, robbery takes place every day.  How can local, state, and national governments claim they need to tax our labor, when there is so much real value that the community creates but fails to collect? On this walk through central Chicago, we’ll see some of this value, understand who takes it and what it costs us all. Along the way we’ll discuss what a free market is, and how it could make the city a better place.

HGS President Chuck Metalitz is your guide for this tour, which departs 1 PM on March 31 from 28 E. Jackson #1004. Hardcopy sourced notes will be provided. A donation of $10 (cash or check, please) is requested, but this is waived for anyone who was enrolled at the School during 2011 or 2012.

Sat. March 10, 2012 – 2 p.m. “The American Ruling Class”

credit: Wikipedia

The American Ruling Class

Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper’s Magazine, wrote this “cleverly contrived non-fiction film” (New York Press) that follows two fictional Yale grads around as they ask some of America’s cultural, political, and economic elite (Walter Cronkite, James Baker III, Robert Altman, Pete Seeger, Lawrence Summers, Kurt Vonnegut, Bill Bradley, Howard Zinn) to define the American ruling class.

The film premiered at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival, followed by a party at the New York Mercantile Exchange. John Kirby—USA—2005—88 mins. A discussion follows the film. Free and open to the public. Donations kindly accepted.

Feb 27, 2:30 PM: Progress & Poverty course

credit: Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig (HikingArtist) via Flickr (cc)

For those wishing to learn the root cause of worsening poverty on an afternoon schedule, our final Winter term Progress & Poverty course starts this Monday, February 27.  This is the modern version of the course, meeting for five consecutive Mondays thru March 26.  Class starts at 2:30. As always, you’re welcome to attend the first session without charge; continuing for the complete course requires a total fee of only $25

If this schedule isn’t convenient for you, check back in a couple of weeks when we will have our Spring term schedule posted.