Agrarian Justice by Thomas Paine

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Marxist_Trash, Oct 29, 2017.

  1. Marxist_Trash
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    Marxist_Trash Member

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    Agrarian Justice

    We were talking about this in social philosophy class a week ago, and I wanted to see what your guys' opinions were on the subject. I will say I believe this pamphlet was likely something that influenced Karl Marx in his writings, because it talks about how all men have a natural inheritance that was taken away by civilization. And that it must be recompensed not just to the poor, but to the wealthy, because both the poor AND wealthy are suffering the damaging effect civilization had in regards to the segregation of land and natural bounty that once belonged to all.

    Though I tend to disagree with the wealthy needing more money part of it, this was truly a revolutionary idea in his time that 1, civilization could detract from quality of life: "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."

    And 2, that people had a natural entitlement to a system that was better or at least equal to the natural, hunter gathering state of man, in what I think is the most impactful quote from this pamphlet: "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."

    Essentially this forms the beginnings of the idea of basic income...as not just something that should be charitably given, but something that ALL people deserve due to the damage civilization inflicted upon the natural state, while at the same time preserving the good parts that civilization provides.

    Structurally, he spends the first part talking about the moral reasons why this compensation of natural inheritance should be the case, the second part working out the numbers, and the third discussing how this could be practically achieved.

    What say you about the concept of natural inheritance?
     
  2. Ringel05
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    Ringel05 Diamond Member

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    All my natural inheritance is sagging with age..........

    That said we have a right to try and live as best we can given the circumstances we're in then ultimately die. All we manage to do when we change the conditions is create an opposite reaction(s) that thinks their conditions are better. Of course there are the free radicals that are always present to truly gum up the attempted (but always flawed) application of the theoretical model.
     
  3. Shrimpbox
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    Shrimpbox Gold Member Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    Well the first tenet has been historically disproven, As western civilization has shown.

    The second really has no relationship to nature. Nature being assumed to all benevolent. Should you be in the path of a hurricane, a plague, or a famine, all natural phenomena, your life will not be better and it will have nothing to do with civilization. After that it is all preaching about equal outcomes, not equal opportunities. Very Marxist indeed.
     
  4. Marxist_Trash
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    Marxist_Trash Member

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    I sometimes thought of just keeping calm and carrying on in terms of what was going on around me. But I suppose I have incredibly thin skin in this regard. It's hard for me personally to ignore issues I have on the surface very little control over.

    I'll be honest, there are times I wish I could. It's a lot easier to make more out of your life when you focus on you and the people close to you before anything else.

    I feel like on a global scale this isn't really the case, and western civilization is built upon the need for those who have less. Otherwise there is no supply for labor. There will always be those made richer, and those made wretched, in the current way of doing things, which is what Paine was trying to ameliorate in his own way.

    This is actually a huge subject in anthropology as far as I know...I took a class called the anthropology of food for a gen ed requirement and the first thing it talked about was the great exchange involved with the Agricultural Revolution, how we got benefits such as societal security and the ability to make food consistently available, but also got problems like increased spread of disease, conflicts over economy and land, etc. But I'm not an Anthro major so...can't really speak too much on the subject.

    The natural state doesn't necessarily have to do with nature itself. More or less, how humans were without modern society. There have been many takes on it...certainly Hobbes would agree with you that life without society was nasty, brutish and short.

    Also I believe Agrarian Justice was trying to salvage capitalism and make it accessible for all. This is the guy who wrote Common Sense after all, he was an advocate for individual rights all the way around.
     
  5. Shrimpbox
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    Shrimpbox Gold Member Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    Being 40 or more years removed from school I cannot hang with your historical knowledge but I do discern a progressive academic creep to your comments. Will the poor always be with us, yes. But there is no one living in America who is living in a wretched state that has not been self induced. Even the homeless are courted, sought after, and pampered.
     
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  6. Billy_Kinetta
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    Billy_Kinetta Paladin of the Lost Hour Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    Some people erroneously proceed from the assumption that they are owed something simply by virtue of the fact that they exist.
     
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  7. Marxist_Trash
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    Marxist_Trash Member

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    A lot of professors at Pitt where I go for schooling are liberal. I have had a math and organic chemistry teacher openly criticize Trump in class for laughs lol...surprisingly, my politics professor was very non-partisan in class, though she openly identified as libertarian.

    From my experience the homeless seem to be given everything but money and a home. Which would stop them from being homeless entirely. Instead we focus on giving the poor food for some reason..seems somewhat counterintuitive to me, but I imagine it's less expensive and allows for certain charitable organizations to sneak profits in here and there. I mean, don't tell me you don't think stuff like the Clinton Foundation isn't a money laundering scheme.

    I would argue that the circumstances of where and what the poor were born into has more impact on how they live than any sort of mental complacency they might have, whether white or black...I often cite West Virginia and Midwestern American small towns as examples. They literally have no opportunities there, and very little money to go around. Their circumstances make their state wretched, not themselves.

    I know what you mean. But this has more to do with society's obligation to people, not what people think of themselves. If a society is supposed to be better than the natural state of humanity, then here's a way to make it so, is what I think Paine is proposing.
     
  8. Ringel05
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    Ringel05 Diamond Member

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    Doesn't mean I don't care just means I'm a realist, all political-economic theories are great on paper, all were designed to raise everyone up but they all forget to take one thing into account, people. Not just people in general but people of all different beliefs, backgrounds, dispositions, desires and motivations. The best we can do is try to find a balance within whatever system we live in as much as we are able within those confines, there will never be true equity and equality no matter which system is in charge. The utopia that many on the left want only exist in books, TV and movies, the same is true for those on the right who want to resurrect a society that only existed on the family shows of the 1950s.
    That doesn't mean we should stop trying or that things occasionally won't get better from time to time but I leave that to the passion of the young, I'm now content to be an observer who has the realism of history, psychology and sociology to draw from. I'm free where it's important, in my heart and mind.
     
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  9. williepete
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    williepete Gold Member

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    With all due respect, you may be taking Paine out of context. Study the social structures of the 18th century. Do they compare to today? You can't plug and play Paine just like you can't plug and play Marx. One of the MANY problems with today's indoctrination centers is they willfully or purposely ignore historical context.

    Understanding Historical Context Is Key to Analysis and Interpretation
     
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  10. Marxist_Trash
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    I understand. I know that capitalism was once a lot worse, and that aristocracy and nobility was still a huge thing back in the day, there's a reason why Marxism came to be, and why Paine wrote this pamphlet concerning natural inheritance (which I also understand wasn't something written in terms of labor vs labor control).

    But I more or less think that abstract stuff like natural inheritance is timeless. That's really the main thing of what I was discussing. Philosophy can get me excited, and this is one of those times, might have gotten carried away. We talked thoroughly about the historical context of Agrarian Justice in class, and how England's poverty law system was a civil rights nightmare compared to what we have to day...this was in response to that, as well as the failures of more idealistic systems at the time. But I think the concepts Paine brings up are something still worth talking about in the context of modernity, how we look at the obligations of society in general.

    Sorry for mistaking your outlook earlier. And I hope that for the rest of your life you always have that freedom to think and act on your own terms...probably the most important thing we have.

    But I did also want to say I find how you look at things rather enlightening, thanks for explaining it to me.
     

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