Thomas Paine

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Tom Paine is much loved by libertarians (and other freedom lovers) for many of his writings about liberty and freedom. But he also wrote "Agrarian Justice", which proposed the first realistic government anti-poverty program.

Links

Agrarian Justice (book, online)
Thomas Paines' prescient proposal which advocated the use of an estate tax and a tax on land values to fund a universal old-age and disability pension, as well as a fixed sum to be paid to all citizens on reaching maturity.
The Common Sense Entitlements of Thomas Paine [More...]
"In other words, the people would receive Social Security, including widows' benefits, welfare, unemployment benefits, veterans' benefits and free education, plus a sum to every married couple to help them start out in life, and these would be rights, things that you were ENTITLED to. Not in any way a charity! Paid for through general taxation."
The Libertarian Reader: Classic & Contemporary Writings from Lao-Tzu to Milton Friedman (book)
(1998) David Boaz cherry picks passages from historical figures as if they wouldn't object strongly to modern libertarianism. Plus selections from the usual ideologues.
Thomas Paine’s “Agrarian Justice” and the Origins of Social Insurance [More...]
Thomas Paine proposed the first realistic plan to abolish poverty on a nationwide scale, a universal social insurance system comprising old-age pensions and disability support, and universal stakeholder grants for young adults. Compared to Condorcet, Locke, Spencer, Rawls and especially Hayek.

Quotations

There could be no such thing as landed property originally. Man did not make the earth, and, though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it; neither did the Creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first title-deeds should issue.
Thomas Paine, "Agrarian Justice"
Land, as before said, is the free gift of the Creator in common to the human race. 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.
Thomas Paine, "Agrarian Justice"
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.
Thomas Paine, "Agrarian Justice"
"Agrarian Justice" forged a path to this modern, systemic understanding of justice. In it, Paine envisioned justice as requiring that the lowest rung be above poverty level. He recognized that achieving this required forging novel, positive (legal) forms of property rights--social insurance and stakeholder grants--that could not be deduced from local or "natural" principles of justice. He saw, if only partially, the limitations of market- and desert-based justifications of property rights that ignore social externalities. Most astonishingly, he stood at the cusp of a famous systemic principle of equality--a principle defining the limits of justified inequality. In the words of its most influential advocate, John Rawls, "social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are . . . reasonably expected to be to everyone's advantage."
Elizabeth Anderson, "Thomas Paine’s “Agrarian Justice” and the Origins of Social Insurance"