Thomas Paine’s “Agrarian Justice” and the Origins of Social Insurance

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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

"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 InsuranceThomas Paine’s “Agrarian Justice” and the Origins of Social Insurance"
Hayek supported social insurance, even in The Road to Serfdom [...] He made clear that compulsory contributions to a system of social insurance were compatible with a free society. Hayek rejected laissez-faire capitalism and insisted that a free society was also compatible with various forms of economic regulation [...]
Elizabeth Anderson, "Thomas Paine’s “Agrarian Justice” and the Origins of Social InsuranceThomas Paine’s “Agrarian Justice” and the Origins of Social Insurance"