Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Friday, June 24, 2011

No man is an island, says Thomas Paine




Here's a comment made by one of the American Revolution's heroes, Thomas Paine, in an essay advocating the imposition of an estate tax in post-Revolutionary France-- to fund substantial benefits for those of modest means:


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.
This is putting the matter on a general principle, and perhaps it is best to do so; for if we examine the case minutely it will be found that the accumulation of personal property is, in many instances, the effect of paying too little for the labor that produced it; the consequence of which is that the working hand perishes in old age, and the employer abounds in affluence.
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It is a sign of how little progress we've really made that now, more than 200 years later, these words of one of our founding fathers still fall on deaf ears. 21st century politicians, who denounce taxes on the wealthy as "confiscatory," or, "punishing success," represent an ancient, greedy point of view. This outlook survived the American, French, and Russian revolutions. Yet the clear logic and good moral sense of Paine's position still retains its power as well.
We must continue to press the case, as Paul Krugman does so well, that trickle-down policies weaken our economy. But we also shouldn't be afraid to follow Paine-- in calling for restoring the principles of justice, gratitude, and civilization that are essential to any decent society. Helping the middle class and poor will not only stimulate demand, it will restore a sense of self-respect in all Americans.

3 comments:

Motivated In Ohio said...

We need to start calling it the "Multi generational wealth hoarding tax". Because that is what it is.

No one is taxed to die, but the hoarded wealth, should not be given untaxed to the next generation.

This will not effect the 98%. So tell Grover Norquist to buzz off, and tax these large estates.

Ulysses said...

Very well said as usual, Motivated!

Cletis L. Stump said...

Ulysses, Tom wasn't afraid to call for a little more action from folks as well. Fascists do not relinguish power willingly. When the game is rigged, new rules are in order.