Wednesday, April 10, 2013 by Markus Döring

Thomas Paine - courageous mastermind of a basic heritage

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine

In the USA, every child knows Thomas Paine. He is considered one of the founding fathers of the United States and was one of the most courageous thinkers of his time. His life was determined by the pursuit of justice and freedom. This striving characterizes his entire life and also led him to develop the idea of a kind of basic inheritance. He formulated this idea in his pamphlet "agrarian justice"(1797), in which he also proclaimed the introduction of a pension-system. 


Thomas Paine was born in England. He grew up in humble circumstances, attended school and took up the profession of tax officer. However, when he campaigned for better pay for this politically, he came under pressure from the authorities, whereupon he lost his job. He met Benjamin Franklin, with whom he emigrated to America. Once there, he becomes a journalist and, together with others, founds a society to fight slavery. When violent clashes between settlers and the British army began in 1775 due to reprisals by Great Britain against the American colonies, he began his work on "common sense"; this was the central script of the American independence movement. He returns to Great Britain after his independence.
The outbreak of the French Revolution motivated him to write two books ("rights of man(I + II)") to support the revolution. He is declared outlawed due to " rebellious writings " in England and is forced to flee to France. There he participated in the French Revolution until its end in 1802, during which time he wrote the work "agrarian justice", which was of interest to our foundation.In these writings he delivers the idea of the basic heritage

Thomas Paine and the Basic Heritage

The core statement in "agrarian justice" is that every human being has the right to a share of the earth with his birth to ensure his survival. It shows that it is not fair in principle that certain people own so much land that other people are denied ownership of land.
"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[...]. "
From this he derives the claim that those who cannot settle the earth freely, because the land is already taken over by others, receive appropriate compensation. He does not blame the heirs or landowners for the undesirable development, but rather the general conditions. However, he makes it clear that compensation is legitimate.
"In advocating the case of the persons so dispossessed, it is a right, and not a charity, that I am pleading for."
He does not call for expropriation or aggressive redistribution, but wants to make this compensation carefully, in the form of a fund. This is to be done through an inheritance tax. This is ethically based on the fact that originally all assets were taken out of the earth in part, of which every human being is entitled to a share. The funds received are used for a social security system and a one-off payment upon reaching adulthood. This one-off payment corresponds to our basic inheritance.

Paine's proposal:

Concrete design (for the year 1796 in Great Britain):
National wealth: £1.3 billion
Inherited: £43.3 million per annum
To close relatives £30 million, of which 10% to the Fund and £13.3 million to distant relatives or strangers, of which 20% to the Fund. So the fund has £5.6 million annually at its disposal. Four million of this will go to a pension system and the rest to people over 21 years of age, which is about £15 per capita.

This £15 is our central demand, the fundamental legacy. With this, a more independent start into adult life can now be made. The money can be invested in own land, real estate or education; thus a foundation-stone for a real chance on self-determination and prosperity.