Thomas Paine Was A Communist!

October 16, 2009 at 8:53 pm | Posted in American politics | 18 Comments

I guess Glenn Beck is gonna have to find a new hero. The good folks at Think Progress have unearthed the following from one of Thomas Paine’s tracts:

It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal.

and

[C]reate 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.

Wow, such a radical socialist communist totalitarian dictator! What is Glenn Beck gonna do?

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  1. Quite funny. I think that you are being a bit exaggerative to make a point…but I don’t know. While Paine’s welfare system (which of note, he proposed for England, not America) while socialistic in nature, it is quite lacking to be considered “communistic” or “totalitarian” and doesn’t even mention anything about a dictatorship.

    So basically the only label you even have a chance of applying with a straight face is “socialist”. Even then though Paine, a political libertarian (by today’s reckoning) has an idea about guaranteed minimum income doesn’t exactly qualify him as a through and through socialist. It merely makes him a libertarian with a socialistic idea of dealing with poverty in England.

    In this way, Paine certainly wasn’t alone among the “Founder” generation of political thinkers and leaders. Plenty of them had ideas that could be termed “socialistic”. And yet a great many (in most cases the majority) of their remaining views were small government, limited and balanced power, and free markets.

    • Did Edward call Paine a Libertarian? I don’t think he’s ever read Thomas Paine, and probably knows as much about Paine’s gauranteed minimum income plan as Wikipedia will tell him. And if Edward you still don’t want to read that whole pamphlet, there’s a great summary of it here>>> http://mydd.com/users/yodafone/posts/paine-was-a-socialist

  2. Edward,

    I’m glad you caught the thrust of my point. The ridiculousness of labeling someone like Obama as a socialist when he doesn’t even propose the socialist principles that Paine recommends here! As for the rest, it doesn’t matter. Because if Beck were to train his eye on Paine as he has on any of Obama’s people, he would totally ignore everything else Paine said and focus solely on this quote here to try and destroy Paine for daring to say anything remotely nice about socialism.

  3. While I certainly don’t agree with the witch-hunt in which Beck is engaged, the ousted Van Jones of the Obama administration was a self proclaimed Marxist. Clear audio, video, and sourced text to prove it. There are some very important distinctions to be made between socialism and the Marxist Communist ideals of revolution, would you not agree? Added to that the latest video of Annita Dunn proclaiming her favorite political philosophers as Mao Tse Tung and yes, Mother Teresa.

    Quite honestly being the centrist that I am, I can quite readily deal with socialist ideals. Some of them are to be considered. Marxism and Communism is quite a different story. Obama has yet to prove whether he is inclined towards more of a European socialism for use in the US, or if he has aspirations of communism. Yes, such an accusation of communism is quite absurd–if it were not for the communist sympathizers within his administration. Seems like news comes out about another one every week.

    Maybe Van Jones was really just a socialist? And Anita Dunn? Well then they surely ought to explain themselves, and they surely should have chosen their words more carefully in the past. Anita Dunn was foolish to proclaim her love for Mao Tse Tung–I mean really there are plenty of other socialist philosophers that DIDN’T kill millions of their own people, use one of those philosophers. Communism has a terrible track record. Socialism not so bad–about equal with modern day “Capitalism” (not to be confused with a true free-market which is no where to be found right now).

    So far the worst that has been dug up on Obama himself is his support for redistribution of wealth (socialism–and certainly not a surprise) and an unwavering support for unions–or should I say the proletariat. Such unwavering support while suspect, is in my mind still just socialism until I see more.

  4. Edward,

    Obama has yet to prove whether he is inclined towards more of a European socialism for use in the US, or if he has aspirations of communism.

    What? You claim you are a centrist but can’t see that Obama is a centrist too? I know it is difficult seeing how hard right Republicans and conservatives have shifted, but Obama really is a centrist.

    As for Van Jones, I made it a specific goal not to even research either way anything about him. I figured he was a good guy, and the perfect guy for the job. On a witch hunt, Glenn Beck got a scalp. No prob. From what liberals say in conceding that loss, Van Jones is more influential outside the position the White House had him in. Sounds good to me. Honestly, if you go to the wikipedia on Van Jones, you’ll see that the stuff is minor. So he called Congress assholes. Who can honestly disagree with that! He saw the utter racial inequality and got fed up with the system in America that has consistently favored the rich white over the poor black. It is kind of obvious that that would drive someone toward socialism. What is fascinating about his life is that he used his smart mind to create organizations that did something about it through positive force. He is truly a good man, and Glenn Beck can go rot in hell.

    As for Anita Dunn, Mao is one of the three most influential individuals of the 20th century. It’s actually not that bad to be impressed with his thinking. Did Mao mess up? Of course he did. He did a terrible job ruling China. He was a much better revolutionary and guerrilla fighter. What she quoted was the revolutionary. And in terms of quoting those aspects of Mao, even John McCain has done so. So again, what’s the story here? There is no story. Besides which, who is Anita Dunn anyways? An interim Communications Director? Really? Is that all Beck has? The fact that she can quote Mao, and even be impressed with him, means she is well educated. Oh yeah, being well educated is a no no for conservatives. Forgot about that.

    There are some very important distinctions to be made between socialism and the Marxist Communist ideals of revolution, would you not agree?

    Of course. Big differences. Socialism was a method to bring about communist principles through democratic channels. And it works well in Western European countries. Communism is a radical approach that has not yet been implemented anywhere. We’ve not seen any real communism. What we’ve seen is Leninism. That is, a hybrid of communist principles with totalitarianism. That is not what Marx had envisioned, particularly the fact that he envisioned communism to come out of developed capitalist states wherein the oppressed of those capitalist states would bring about a change that would ensure everyone got a share. See, Marx’s Das Kapital was a critique of capitalism, not of feudalism. His communist principles would not have worked in Russia or China as he envisioned. I’d actually like to see a country attempt real communism. I’d like to see if it actually works. Just out of curiosity.

    So far the worst that has been dug up on Obama himself is his support for redistribution of wealth (socialism–and certainly not a surprise) and an unwavering support for unions–or should I say the proletariat.

    He’s not a fan of redistributing wealth. I obviously know of the quote you are referring to, but that was taken out of context. Unions rock! 🙂 Except when they don’t. 🙂

  5. Yeah, Van Jones…It is one thing to see the inequality in our country and then level the playing field, verses choosing groups of people based on race and history and giving them handouts. On this note Van Jones is a great proponent of giving the American Indians “the wealth”. Yeah, it’s pretty clear that we screwed the Indians over. So we need to give them money? Sounds like what we did originally. We bought there land out from under them. In most all cases, tribes were given compensation for their land. It was Jefferson’s policy to buy the land from the Indians, several times over if it be necessary. The problem of course was that the Indians had a little different idea about land ownership. They fell for it. But is such an unimaginative idea going to be our solution AGAIN? The more we try to pay the Indians to become whites the worse off they will become (and have become). Yet these are the solutions proposed by the likes of Van Jones.

    And lets be perfectly clear, despite what MSNBC reported, Van Jones was NOT ousted because he called Republicans “assholes”. Most the country agrees with that–even a great deal of Republicans. He was ousted because it was so clear that he supported revolutionary Marxist ideals.

    As for Anita Jones–yes she was “just” a Communications Director, but most ironically she is THE Communications Director that was tasked with the responsibility of attacking Fox News. Hey, I’m no fan of Fox News but who didn’t check to see if Anita perhaps wasn’t the best one for the job having a few skeletons in the closet? And once again, lets be perfectly clear–she didn’t merely quote from Mao (which is quite acceptable), she named him as one of her two top favorite political philosophers, and THEN goes on to quote Mao from his time as a guerrilla fighter. Once again, maybe she just liked the socialist leadership Mao provided. But if that is the case, then say so! Don’t put your rubber stamp of approval on the guy’s leadership by without further explanation saying he’s the one you turn to for political thought.

    When I said that the “worst” opponents have on Obama is his support for redistribution of wealth, I was doing so to defend him as not being as radical as some in his administration. When you look at redistribution for what it really is, it is obvious that Obama is clearly in support of it. Our topic isn’t economics, but clearly, at root, the spending we are now doing (and yes, have been doing for a very long time) is taking money from one or more classes and giving to another. Even if we are just increasing our national debt, eventually it will be paid for by those who pay taxes. Which if it continues as it now is, will be the middle and upper class. Healthcare reform will inevitably funnel even more money to those without. I’m not saying that is bad, I’m just saying thats the way it is. It is redistribution.

    My biggest problem with Communism is that it doesn’t work. 🙂 You can cite everything that went wrong with the USSR, China, Cuba, anywhere. But these failures make it clear that Marx didn’t know how poorly the communist system balances power. It is far too easily consolidated to the leadership and bureaucrats.

    • Wow. Let’s have a look: “level the playing field, verses (sic) choosing groups of people based on race and history and giving them handouts”. I see what you did there, ‘handouts’; that’s the sole point of that clause.
      How do we level the playing field in a system where money is what counts? (Not money, surely. :D) That’s what you use to flesh out the bones of ‘handouts!’? Seriously?

      “[Anita Jones} named [Mao] as one of her two top favorite political philosophers.” And this is problematic because…
      ???? Why not make an argument vis a vis some actual point, in Mao? You assume that to consider an ideology you don’t agree with amounts to what, a logical case against the person’s fitness to… I’m not sure; it’s a given as far as you’re concerned, but you fail to elucidate anything. “Skeletons in the closet”. Hey, I think Ayn Rand is a garbage philosopher, but to pretend to indicate a person is wrong because they agree with some of it, or even favor it, I would argue some actual points to demonstrate my thought on it. If I were talking to someone who shared the same ‘database’ or ideology as myself, yeah, it would be a given.

      “Don’t put your rubber stamp of approval on the guy’s leadership by without further explanation saying he’s the one you turn to for political thought.” Well, that’s false: that she said ‘One of my favorite philosophers’, to you, = ‘This is who I turn to above all others’. And implicit in this is ‘this is who I turn to for concrete policy’. That’s you. That’s conjecture. It suits your rhetoric, is all. And it’s bogus. I think Marx was at times a pretty good *philospher* if we limit that to ‘political philosopher’. I don’t think he had it down to a science. I don’t think a system that’s pure Marxist is a good idea for a number of reasons. I think Hegel was a very good philosopher and a brilliant mind. I do not extrapolate that into a system of governance. What you want to show is that “Anita Jones believes Maoist governance must be applied to our system”. But you don’t. You have a talking point that the right-leaning individual will accept without looking at it much.

      All you’ve got is some rhetoric.

  6. Edward,

    On this note Van Jones is a great proponent of giving the American Indians “the wealth”.

    Like I said, I haven’t studied the Van Jones controversy all that much—not at all frankly. Where does this Native American stuff come from? Is that just your analogy?

    He was ousted because it was so clear that he supported revolutionary Marxist ideals.

    Let’s just be clear. He wasn’t ousted. He resigned so that attention wouldn’t be on him. It was a good move. It lets conservatives crow over a “victory” but it lets him and the White House move on to enact good change.

    As for Anita Jones–yes she was “just” a Communications Director, but most ironically she is THE Communications Director that was tasked with the responsibility of attacking Fox News.

    You mean Anita Dunn? Yes, yes, I know, easy to get communists confused. 😉

    Again, I see absolutely nothing wrong with her or her remarks. I say let her continue attacking Fox News. Let Fox News take the bait and attack her back. It allows, once again, for the White House to move forward with the things they want to do. It’s yet another great move. Andrew Sullivan frequently compares Obama to the Road Runner and his conservative opponents to the coyote. Very accurate.

    As for quoting Mao, even conservative blogs highlight the video of John McCain quoting Chairman Mao. Wow, John McCain sure looks like he knows quite well what Mao said. Surely John McCain could have quoted George Washington in his darkest times just before the light. But no, he quotes Chairman Mao. (note the difference as well. Anita Dunn quotes and is impressed with the guerrilla Mao whilst John McCain quotes “Chairman” Mao). It sure seems like McCain approves of Mao’s thoughts and philosophies.

    When you look at redistribution for what it really is, it is obvious that Obama is clearly in support of it.

    Dude, do you even know what redistribution of wealth is? It is literally taking money from one group to give to another for no reason other than to make things more equal. Certainly from the quotes above, Thomas Paine was just such a man. Obama isn’t though. He hasn’t raised or proposed to raise the taxes of one group in order to give it to another. Bailing out Wall Street is not redistribution of wealth. Taking part ownership in GM is not redistributing wealth.

    Our topic isn’t economics, but clearly, at root, the spending we are now doing (and yes, have been doing for a very long time) is taking money from one or more classes and giving to another.

    What spending? Be specific. Unemployment assistance perhaps? Social Security? Medicare? Health Care? What items do you consider part of this conspiracy to redistribute wealth?

    Even if we are just increasing our national debt, eventually it will be paid for by those who pay taxes.

    This is the kind of time that you increase national debt, when the economy is going south. The only actor capable enough to stimulate an economy out of a slump is the government. When the economy goes south, the government must not tighten its belt. The time to tighten the belt is when the economy is doing well. Like say 2001 when Bush was given a surplus. Instead of giving out a tax cut to the richest Americans, thereby removing all sorts of revenue, that would be the time to start paying down our debt and reduce the burden we will be sending to our children. We have to blame Reaganomics for the massive debt our nation has to pay right now. Since Carter, our national debt has increased by 8 trillion dollars. Most of that during the Bush II and Reagan years. Interestingly our debt was not increased by Clinton. After World War II, this nation’s citizens were responsible enough to raise taxes tremendously in order to pay down the debt incurred during the war. Where are the responsible Americans today willing to have their taxes raised in order to pay our debts? Or are we so irresponsible, this generation, that we are willing to send our debts to our children to pay?

    My biggest problem with Communism is that it doesn’t work.

    How can you say that? We’ve not yet seen real communism implemented anywhere. We’ve seen Leninism. Read it up, dude. Everyone who has studied this topic will tell you what we saw in Russia, and therefore everywhere else, was not what Marx intended. I don’t think Marx’s real system works best, but I, as a student of international politics, would be curious to see it actually implemented.

    Capitalism is a highly unjust system, because it has no heart. I’d love to see an economic system that cares for the poor who mean nothing to capitalism.

  7. We are reading Paine’s Agrarian Justice in my American Political Thought class today.

  8. nice. which class is that?

  9. Political Science 322: Early American Political Thought. This essay reflects Paine’s move towards a political philosophy more in line with Rousseau and a move away from Locke. If only everyone could make that adjustment.

  10. “We the People” = Socialism

  11. We The People = armed rebellion

    By the way, Payne died dead broke and shunned by his fellow man. It’s what he deserved.

  12. It was inevitable that they would turn on Paine.

  13. I believe it’s called Georgism.

  14. If you look at the origional article written by Thomas Paine, it has less to do with redistribution of wealth and more about reparations. The article was addressing Native American land loss during colonial expansionism and not set to apply to all citizens. The closest thing that we talk about today would be reparations to all americans who are descendents of slaves. This would be labeled more of a social justice thing instead of socialist econimics.

  15. Michael,

    Whether that is the case or not, the first quote is quite clear. Paine considered the earth a common property of the human race.

  16. To be fair, whether you like Beck or not, I have heard him discuss what Think Progress has “uncovered” about Paine.

    Daniel, I like some of your points. However, I would have to say that simply attacking the “other side” – i.e. saying McCain quotes Mao, or Bush ran up the debt, while true…won’t work. Party politics is, hopefully, dying. What I mean to say is, if Anita and McCain both admire Mao, then I could do without either of them. Bush ran up the debt and I didn’t like it as I don’t like what the Obama administration is doing now. I don’t really care what political “team” a person is on.

    But it has been like this for a long time; when one side is attacked the other simples says “well your guy did it too.”
    We are almost conditioned to argue that way.

    btw, you can not blame reaganomics for the debt we have now without providing much more evidence. Even if you are right, it is quite a conjecture. As if all future spending policy was held captive by reaganomics. I suppose Reagan decided to invade Iraq and pass the first stimulus under Bush.

    I am not defending Bush in the following, just comparing. Some economist defend increase in national debt if it remains a constant percentage of GDP. It is not hard to find this data. You will find that from about 2000-2008, gross national debt as a percentage of GDP increased about 10% points with 5% points of increase occurring from 2007-2008. The increase from 2008-2009 is estimated at 16-18 percentage points.

    Specifically why do you believe that a government needs to go into debt when the economic is going south?

    It is an interesting debate – while many economic indicators improved during the Reagan administration – the debt sure did grow, but, to be fair slower than what we are seeing now. Forecasts show a 30 percentage point increase in the gross national debt as a percent of GDP from 2008 – 2012. To be fair, this is only a forecast. However, if accurate, it is a much fast growth in the debt than what happened during Reagan’s Administration.

    btw, in the beginning of Reagan’s term, unemployment was at %10.8 and decreased monotonically through his two terms to below %6.

    However, it is an interesting debate.
    i.e. Denmark – large welfare state, yet very economically free, and one of the best countries for business. Then there is singapore etc…


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