Thomas Paine om ”medborgarlön” och ”plattskatt” 1797

Den amerikanska revolutionären och religionskritikern Thomas Paine var en av de första som började fundera på någon form av medborgarlön, och en rättvis beskattning för att finansiera medborgarlön. Detta gjorde han 1797. Tanken var att utrota fattigdomen en gång för alla, och ge alla människor en chans att göra något av sitt liv. Hans förslag var ett ”medborgararv” finansierat med  platt arvsbeskattning.

Välkommen till del 3 i min serie med tankar om liberalismens historia. (Del 1, del 2)

Paines idéer  kan givetvis inte kopieras rakt av idag, vi lever i en annan tid. Men det är intressant att studera, och lära av, hans tankegångar. Speciellt för de idag som vill utrota vår tids fattigdom genom en kombination av plattskatt och medborgarlön.

I pamfletten Agrarian Justice (1797) föreslår han att man skulle beskatta arv.

Alla arv skulle beskattas lika. Arv till arvingar skulle beskattas med en plattskatt på 10% + (”10 percent or more”…) för alla, och arv som inte går till direkta arvingar, utan till andra, skulle beskattas högre, men enligt samma princip om plattskatt. Dvs samma skatt till alla.

En del av pengarna man skulle få in från detta ville Paine ge till alla medborgare som var över 50 år. De skulle få 10 pund om året, som en pension. Det mesta av de övriga pengarna skulle gå till att ge var medborgare, man och kvinna, 15 pund det år de fyllde 21, dvs myndighetsåldern. En arbetare på ett jordbruk tjänade ungefär 23 pund per år vid denna tid. En liten summa skulle bli kvar som skulle gå till ”de lama och blinda”.

Det är inte samma sak som medborgarlönen. Arvet var ett engångsbelopp till var medborgare. Men tanken bakom det var samma, grundtrygghet till alla.

Låt oss se vad Paine skriver.

Han börjar med att diskutera begreppen frihet och jämlikhet. Vad innebär jämlikhet? Paine skiljer mellan två sorters egendom. Den man anskaffar under livet och den han anser att man har ”rätt till” genom att man föds här på jorden, genom att man kort och gott är människa.

France has had the honor of adding to the word Liberty that of Equality; and this word signifies essentially a principle that admits of no gradation in the things to which it applies. But equality is often misunderstood, often misapplied, and often violated.

There are two kinds of property. Firstly, natural property, or that which comes to us from the Creator of the universe–such as the earth,air, water. Secondly, artificial or acquired property–theinvention of men. In the latter, equality is impossible; for to distribute it equally it would be necessary that all should have contributed in the same proportion, which can never be the case; and this being the case, every individual would hold on to his own property, as his right share.

Equality of natural property is the subject of this little essay. Every individual in the world is born therein with legitimate claims on a certain kindof property, or its equivalent.

Det gör att det finns vissa saker som alla har rätt till. Ett sånt exempel på något som är rösträtten.

Det kan verka vara ett egendomligt exempel, men vid denna tid var egendomsrätt (rätten till ägande) en fråga som hade med rösträtten att göra, eftersom rösträtten i många länder, som England, var kopplad till stånd, eller hur mycket man tjänade. Kampen för allmän rösträtt handlade till stor del om egendom och om att definiera egendomsrätt (se hur liberalerna resonerade ifråga om arbetarrätt, rösträtt och egendomsrätt här hemma i Sverige här!).

Paine använder alltså EGENDOMSRÄTTEN en medborgare – en röst, som exempel på en rätt, som alla ska ha från födseln.

The right of voting for persons charged with the execution of the laws that govern society is inherent in the word liberty, and constitutes the equality of personal rights. But even if that right (of voting) were inherent in property, which I deny, the right of suffrage would still belong to all equally, because, as I have said, all individuals have legitimate birthrights in a certain species of property.

Vad Paine menarmed detta var att försvara rätten till egendom. Jämlikhet, betyder inte att alla måste tvingas att vara lika. Allas lika rätt att KUNNA skapa sig en bra tillvaro, det var jämlikhet för Paine. Att alla har rösträtt betyder inte att alla är lika, en del blir riksdagsmän och styr över andra ändå. Det är samma sak.

Fattigdomen

På samma sätt är det naturligt med inkomstskillnader, men det betyder inte att fattigdom ska tillåtas, anser Paine. Ett liknande system som med rösträtten behövs. Dvs att alla får en grundtrygghet, men att alla ändå tillåts utveckla sina förmågor och bli rika.

I förordet till den engelska utgåvan förklarar Paine att det just är tanken på att fattigdom måste existera som upprört Paine. Pamfletten om agrarian justice är en polemik mot tanken att ttigdomen, liksom rikedomen, skapats av Gud, och att fattigdom därför är bra (!) för en nation.

THE following little piece was written in the winter of 1795 and ’96… What has determined me to publish it now is a sermon preached by Watson, Bishop of Llandaff. Some of my readers will recollect, that this Bishop wrote a book entitled ”An Apology for the Bible,” in answer to my second part of ”The Age of Reason…. At the end of the Bishop’s book is a list of the works he has written. Among which is the sermon alluded to ; it is entitled: ”The Wisdom and Goodness of God, in having made both Rich and Poor; with an Appendix, containing Reflections on the Present State of England and France.”

The error contained in this sermon determined me to publish my ”Agrarian Justice.” It is wrong to say God made rich and poor; He made only male and female, and He gave them the earth for their inheritance.

Instead of preaching to encourage one part of mankind in insolence . . . it would be better that priests employed their time to render the general condition of man less miserable than it is. Practical religion consists in doing good: and the only way of serving God is that of endeavoring to make His creation happy. All preaching that has not this, for its object is nonsense and hypocrisy.

Texten: Agrarian Justice

Paine börjar med att måla ut hur barbariskt det är med fattigdom

On one side, the spectator is dazzled by splendid appearances; on the other, he is shocked by extremes of wretchedness; both of which it has erected. The most affluent and the most miserable of the human race are to be found in the countries that are called civilized…

In taking the matter upon this ground, the first principle of civilization ought to have been, and ought still to be, that the condition of every person born into the world, after a state of civilization commences, ought not to be worse than if he had been born before that period.

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 been born among the Indians of North America at the present.

Via resonemang om jordräntan visar han att en del människor i och med civilisationens utveckling blivit rika och andra fattiga. Man har glömt bort människans rätt att slippa födas in i fattigdom och misär.

Cultivation is at least one of the greatest natural improvements ever made by human invention. It has given to created earth a tenfold value. But the landed monopoly that began with it has produced the greatest evil. It has dispossessed more than half the inhabitants of every nation of their natural inheritance, without providing for them, as ought to have been done, an indemnification for that loss, and has thereby created a species of poverty and wretchedness that did not exist before.

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 right which, being neglected at first, could not be brought forward afterwards till 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 their principles by blessings.

Vad Paine ville göra

Pain kallar sitt förslag ”naturligt arv”. Dvs att alla människor då de är myndiga ska få en summa av staten. (Precis som varje arvsberättigad fick ut eventuella arv då de fyllde 21.

Having thus in a few words, opened the merits of the case, I shall now proceed to 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 person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age…

It is proposed that the payments, as already stated, be made to every person, rich or poor. It is best to make it so, to prevent invidious distinctions. It is also right it should be so, because it is in lieu of the natural inheritance, which, as a right, belongs to every man, over and above property he may have created, or inherited from those who did. Such persons as do not choose to receive it can throw it into the common fund.

Varifrån ska man ta pengarna? Jo från en platt arvsskatt.

Taking it then for granted that no person ought to be in a worse condition when born under what is called a state of civilization, than he would have been had he been born in a state of nature, and that civilization ought to have made, and ought still to make, provision for that purpose, it can only be done by subtracting from property a portion equal in value to the natural inheritance it has absorbed.

Various methods may be proposed for this purpose, but that which appears to be the best (not only because it will operate without deranging any present possessors, or without interfering with the collection of taxes or emprunts necessary for the purposes of government and the Revolution, but because it will be the least troublesome and the most effectual, and also because the subtraction will be made at a time that best admits it) is at the moment that property is passing by the death of one person to the possession of another…

Considering, then, that man is always related to society, that relationship will become comparatively greater in proportion as the next of kin is more distant; it is therefore consistent with civilization to say that where there are no direct heirs society shall be heir to a part over and above the tenth part due to society…

I do not suppose that more than one family in ten, in any of the countries of Europe, has, when the head of the family dies, a clear property of five hundred pounds sterling. To all such the plan is advantageous. That property would pay fifty pounds into the fund, and if there were only two children under age they would receive fifteen pounds each (thirty pounds), on coming of age, and be entitled to ten pounds a year after fifty.

It is from the overgrown acquisition of property that the fund will support itself;

Paine fortsätter…

Jag utesluter de delar av pamfletten som rör hans beräkningar om hur exakt det ska finansieras. Det blir för tekniskt, ni får läsa det själva. Det är resonemang som rör jordräntan, en idag död fråga som i 200 år låg i centrum för den ekonomiska och sociala debatten. Han föreslår att skatten ska vara 10% eller mer på alla arv. Det system för obligatrioner och för att lösa ut arv och sånt, som han föreslår kan givetvis inte tillämpas i dagens värld.

Paine fortsätter genom att säga att detta arv som alla medborgare ska ha rätt till ska vara en rättighet, inte en allmosa som man ger som välgörenhet. Paine menar också att denna rätt till ”arv” via staten befrämjar individens skapande av välstånd. ”Jag anser att rikedom är något positivt eftersom rikedom skapar något gott för samhället”, skriver Paine.

Having now gone through all the necessary calculations, and stated the particulars of the plan, I shall conclude with some observations.

It is not charity but a right, not bounty but justice, that I am pleading for. The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It is absolutely the opposite of what it should be, and it is necessary that a revolution should be made in it. The contrast of affluence and wretchedness continually meeting and offending the eye, is like dead and living bodies chained together. Though I care as little about riches as any man, I am a friend to riches because they are capable of good.

I care not how affluent some may be, provided that none be miserable in consequence of it. But it is impossible to enjoy affluence with the felicity it is capable of being enjoyed, while so much misery is mingled in the scene. The sight of the misery, and the unpleasant sensations it suggests, which, though they may be suffocated cannot be extinguished, are a greater drawback upon the felicity of affluence than the proposed ten per cent upon property is worth. He that would not give the one to get rid of the other has no charity, even for himself.

There are, in every country, some magnificent charities established by individuals. It is, however, but little that any individual can do, when the whole extent of the misery to be relieved is considered. He may satisfy his conscience, but not his heart. He may give all that he has, and that all will relieve but little. It is only by organizing civilization upon such principles as to act like a system of pulleys, that the whole weight of misery can be removed.

The plan here proposed will reach the whole. It will immediately relieve and take out of view three classes of wretchedness-the blind, the lame, and the aged poor; and it will furnish the rising generation with means to prevent their becoming poor; and it will do this without deranging or interfering with any national measures.

But it is justice, and not charity, that is the principle of the plan. In all great cases it is necessary to have a principle more universally active than charity; and, with respect to justice, it ought not to be left to the choice of detached individuals whether they will do justice or not. Considering, then, the plan on the ground of justice, it ought to be the act of the whole growing spontaneously out of the principles of the revolution, and the reputation of it ought to be national and not individual.

A plan upon this principle would benefit the revolution by the energy that springs from the consciousness of justice. It would multiply also the national resources; for property, like vegetation, increases by offsets.

…Would it not, even as a matter of economy, be far better to adopt means to prevent their becoming poor? This can best be done by making every person when arrived at the age of twenty-one years an inheritor of something to begin with.

…To the numerous class dispossessed of their natural inheritance by the system of landed property it will be an act of national justice. To persons dying possessed of moderate fortunes it will operate as a tontine to their children, more beneficial than the sum of money paid into the fund: and it will give to the accumulation of riches a degree of security that none of old governments of Europe, now tottering on their foundations, can give….

Det handlar om att för evigt bli av med källan till politisk instabilitet och göra revolutioner onödiga i framtiden.

The superstitious awe, the enslaving reverence, that formerly Surrounded affluence, is passing away in all countries, and leaving the possessor of property to the convulsion of accidents. When wealth and splendor, instead of fascinating the multitude, excite emotions of disgust; n, instead of drawing forth admiration, it is beheld as an insult on wretchedness; when the ostentatious appearance it makes serves call the right of it in question, the case of property becomes critical, and it is only in a system of justice that the possessor can contemplate security.

To remove the danger, it is necessary to remove the antipathies, and this can only be done by making property productive of a national bless, extending to every individual. When the riches of one man above other shall increase the national fund in the same proportion; when it shall be seen that the prosperity of that fund depends on the prosperity of individuals; when the more riches a man acquires, the better it shall for the general mass; it is then that antipathies will cease, and property be placed on the permanent basis of national interest and protection.

Revolutioner föds genom fattigdom, genom att människor behandlas som djur, menar Paine.

…Despotic government supports itself by abject civilization, in which debasement of the human mind, and wretchedness in the mass of the people, are the chief criterions. Such governments consider man merely as an animal; that the exercise of intellectual faculty is not his privilege; that he has nothing to do with the laws but to obey them; and they politically depend more upon breaking the spirit of the people by poverty, than they fear enraging it by desperation.

Intressant att en av de stora liberala tänkarna under 1700-talet funderade i dessa termer!

3 tankar om “Thomas Paine om ”medborgarlön” och ”plattskatt” 1797

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