Thomas Paine on Taxes, Social Security, and Welfare



Thomas Paine and Social Security?? Yes.

Back in 1792, Thomas Paine wrote about Social Security.

He didn't just skim over it either. He calculated the numbers. For example, he set old age at 60. Then he figured the number of people in England who would need assistance after 60 years old, and how much it would cost for that assistance.

He also talked about the poor. His primary solutions were: 1) to lower the taxes, and 2) to educate the poor with technical skills.


Thomas Paine's views on taxes and welfare

In total, his basic views on taxes and welfare seemed to be the following.

(Note that I am paraphrasing, based on reading his words, but I have tried to remain true to his beliefs.)


1. Lower taxes as much as possible. Lowering taxes will help the people take care of themselves. No redistribution of wealth would be needed.

2. Train the poor. Give free training to all people. With skills, they will earn more. This results in less burden on the society.

3. Aristocracy should take care of their own family.

4. Offer locations in the city where newcomers can earn their keep (not welfare) for a few days, until they find their full time job.

5. Pay former military people. This will be a fraction of full time pay, but a suppliment nonetheless.

6. Determine the cost of living, then figure luxuries beyond that. Tax only at the luxury stage.

7. People over 60 shouldn't have to do physical labor, or live in the streets. The public should pay for thier keep.

8. For the disabled, which often happens during work accidents, the public should pay for their keep.

9. For the remaining poor, tax the aristocrats and the men of commerce and distribute the money to support the poor.


Quotes regarding Taxes, Welfare

A few interesting quotes:


Quote #1

"It is no other than the consequence of excessive burden of taxes, for at a time when the taxes were very low, the poor were able to maintain themselves."

Thomas Paine, 1792


Quote #2

"In the present state of things, a laboring man, with a wife and two or three children, does not pay less than between seven and eight pounds a year in taxes. He is not sensible of this because it is disguised to him in the articles which he buys; but as these taxes take from him at least a fourth part of his yearly earnings, he is consequently disabled from providing for a family, especially if himself or any of them are afflicted with sickness."

Thomas Paine, 1792


Quote #3:

"The tax on houses is one of those direct taxes which, when taken off, the relief will be instantly felt. This tax falls heavy on the middle class of people."

Thomas Paine, 1792


Other observations of Paine's writings in these chapters

Note that one of Paine's complaints was that the very people who inherited the wealth would not help even their own family.

This was a time when only the first born male had right to inheritance, and the rest of the family were out of luck. Many of the siblings were left to wander the streets and live in debtors prisons. Paine felt that it was the duty of the first born (who inherited the money and the land) to help his own family.


Compiled by Mark Fennell

March 10, 2005