Sunday, June 25, 2017

Universal Basic Income For Greensboro, Part 2

Yesterday I posted Universal Basic Income For Greensboro in which I told you a little bit about the history of Universal Basic Income. But what if I told you that Universal Basic Income was one of the basic tenants of the founding fathers of the United States of America?

In his pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, Thomas Paine, one of the signers of The Constitution of the United States  wrote:

"To understand what the state of society ought to be, it is necessary tohave some idea of the natural and primitive state of man; such as it is at this day among the Indians of North America. There is not, inthat state, any of those spectacles of human misery which poverty and wantpresent to our eyes in all the towns and streets in Europe.

Poverty, therefore, is a thing created by that which is called civilizedlife. It exists not in the natural state. On the other hand, the naturalstate is without those advantages which flow from agriculture, arts, scienceand manufactures.

The life of an Indian is a continual holiday, compared with the poor ofEurope; and, on the other hand it appears to be abject when compared tothe rich.

Civilization, therefore, or that which is so-called, has operated two ways:to make one part of society more affluent, and the other more wretched,than would have been the lot of either in a natural state.
It is always possible to go from the natural to the civilized state, butit is never possible to go from the civilized to the natural state.

Thereason is that man in a natural state, subsisting by hunting, requires tentimes the quantity of land to range over to procure himself sustenance,than would support him in a civilized state, where the earth is cultivated."

Poverty is a product of civilization and it is never possible to go from the civilized to the natural state.

In other words, God did not create poverty, humanity created poverty as part of our efforts to create civilization. Unlike today, leaders in Thomas Paine's day were still able to actually witness the native peoples who in his words, "The life of an Indian is a continual holiday, compared with the poor ofEurope..."

So if humanity created poverty then is it not humanity's job to do something to fix poverty? Thomas Paine thought so:

"When, therefore, a country becomes populous by the additional aids of cultivation,art and science, there is a necessity of preserving things in that state;because without it there cannot be sustenance for more, perhaps, than atenth part of its inhabitants. The thing, therefore, now to be done is toremedy the evils and preserve the benefits that have arisen to society bypassing from the natural to that which is called the civilized state.

In taking the matter upon this ground, the first principle of civilizationought to have been, and ought still to be, that the condition of every personborn into the world, after a state of civilization commences, ought notto be worse than if he had been born before that period."

Thomas Paine had a vision of America being better off than Europe. He had been to Europe, seen the suffering masses there, knew what this nation would soon become if no means of sharing the wealth were made available to the poor.

Paine went on to write:

"But the fact is that the condition of millions, in every country in Europe,is far worse than if they had been born before civilization begin, had beenborn among the Indians of North America at the present. I will show howthis fact has happened.

It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural,cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the commonproperty of the human race. In that state every manwould have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietorwith rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions,vegetable and animal."

Paine understood that to live off the land as a hunter-gather required 10 times as much land per person as farming required so therefore those who were landless were condemned to poverty in a civilized world. Thus he wrote:

"But the earth in its natural state, as before said, is capable of supportingbut a small number of inhabitants compared with what it is capable of doingin a cultivated state. And as it is impossible to separatethe improvement made by cultivation from the earth itself, upon which thatimprovement is made, the idea of landed property arosefrom that parable connection; but it is nevertheless true, that it is thevalue of the improvement, only, and not the earth itself, that is individualproperty."

And most importantly:

"Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the community ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express theidea) for the land which he holds; and it is from this ground-rent thatthe fund prod in this plan is to issue."

Of course, in Paine's days land owning farmers/plantation owners were the richest of the rich so it only made sense to tax then the most. And from that money Thomas Paine advocated:

"In advocating the case of the persons thus dispossessed, it is a right,and not a charity, that I am pleading for. But it is that kind of rightwhich, being neglected at first, could not be brought forward afterwardstill heaven had opened the way by a revolution in the system of government.Let us then do honor to revolutions by justice, and give currency to theirprinciples by blessings.

Having thus in a few words, opened the merits of the case, I shall now proceedto the plan I have to propose, which is,

To create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person,when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling,as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance,by the introduction of the system of landed property:

And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every personnow living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arriveat that age."

"it is a right,and not a charity" - Thomas Paine on Universal Basic Income

Stay tuned for Universal Basic Income For Greensboro, Part 3, it just makes sound fiscal conservative sense.