Thomas Paine, oil painting by Auguste Millière (1880)

Thomas Paine was one of the more truly revolutionary figures of the first American Revolution. For this reason he traveled to become part of the revolution in France, where he was honored as one of the few foreigners elected to the new post-monarchical National Assembly. In 1795 he proposed what was essentially the first national social security plan for France, to be paid for from taxes on wealthy landowners. He published this proposal as a pamphlet entitled Agrarian Justice.

Today in 2013, the corporate shills who rule us from D.C. are doing their darndest to gut Social Security, and reduce taxes even further on wealthy landowners!  Many Americans now recognize it is past time for a second American Revolution. For this reason I’d like to share a few words from Paine’s pamphlet that could have been written yesterday. We can see a brighter future, standing on the shoulders of giants.

The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It is absolutely the opposite of what it should be, and it is necessary that a revolution should be made in it. The contrast of affluence and wretchedness continually meeting and offending the eye, is like dead and living bodies chained together….

Personal property is the effect of society; and it is as impossible for an individual to acquire personal property without the aid of society, as it is for him to make land originally.

Separate an individual from society, and give him an island or a continent to possess, and he cannot acquire personal property. He cannot be rich. So inseparably are the means connected with the end, in all cases, that where the former do not exist the latter cannot be obtained. All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man’s own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came.

This is putting the matter on a general principle, and perhaps it is best to do so; for if we examine the case minutely it will be found that the accumulation of personal property is, in many instances, the effect of paying too little for the labor that produced it; the consequence of which is that the working hand perishes in old age, and the employer abounds in affluence…

The superstitious awe, the enslaving reverence, that formerly surrounded affluence, is passing away in all countries, and leaving the possessor of property to the convulsion of accidents. When wealth and splendor, instead of fascinating the multitude, excite emotions of disgust; no, instead of drawing forth admiration, it is beheld as an insult on wretchedness; when the ostentatious appearance it makes servest to call the right of it in question, the case of property becomes critical, and it is only in a system of justice that the possessor can contemplate security.”

So my fellow Firedoglakers, are you with TPaine? Know justice, know peace. No Justice, No Peace!!