Social Solutions to Poverty:
America's Struggle to Build a Just Society
A book by Scott Myers-Lipton


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Agrarian Justice  



The effect of Native Americans on early America is evident in the work of Thomas Paine. Paine, the great intellectual and activist of the American and French Revolutions, was a keen student of Indian life.

After observing that Native American life was a "continual holiday" in comparison with that of poor people in Europe, Paine was inspired to develop a poverty reduction plan. In Paine's 1797 book, Agrarian Justice, he argued that "civilized" people should create a social order that was as equal and free as that of Native Americans.

Paine called for the creation of a social insurance plan for the elderly and a onetime payment to men and women when they turned twenty-one years of age so as to ensure a good start in life. The money would come from a national fund to be financed by a 10 percent assessment on all land at the time of death of the owner. Paine felt this assessment was justifiable since before cultivation, all land was common property of the human race, and therefore, every landowner owed rent to society.

Paine's plan of "natural inheritance" attempted to give meaning to the words in the Declaration of Independence that all are created equal and born with an inalienable right to pursue happiness, which for Jefferson included economic security.

Myers-Lipton, p. 4-5

(Excerpted from “Social Solutions to Poverty” © Paradigm Publishers 2006)



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