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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8046/the-sudden-emergence-of-tom-paine/

The Sudden Emergence of Tom Paine

April 23, 2008 by

One of the main stumbling blocks in the American colonies to a commitment to independence from British rule was personal loyalty to the British crown. There has always been a political taboo of almost mystical force against attacking the head of state, and always the convenient though emasculating custom of attributing his sins to his evil or incompetent advisers. Such long-standing habits impeded a rational analysis of the deeds of King George III. Furthermore, the old and obsolete Whig ideal of virtual independence under a figurehead king of both Britain and America could only be shattered if the king were to be attacked personally.

To rupture this taboo, to smash the icon, and so to liberate America from its thrall required a special type of man, a man fearless, courageous, and radical, an intellectual with a gift for dramatic and exciting rhetoric and unfettered by the many ties that bind a man to the existing system. At this strategic hour America found just such a man: Thomas Paine. FULL ARTICLE


Paul Marks April 23, 2008 at 9:29 am

This would be the Tom Paine who favoured a strong central government with an active welfare role.

For example, see “The Rights of Man” (Part II) where it is incorrectly claimed that the health, education and welfare stuff could be financed by getting rid of the Monarchy and so on. And “Agarian Justice” where large scale “progressive” tax schemes are openly called for.

By the way, as Murry Rothbard was told many times during his life, Edmund Burke’s “Vindication of Natural Society” was written as an attack on Bolingbroke’s support for “Natural Religion” (as opposed to scripture and church tradition). And far from only claiming this late in life, Burke actually explained the matter (for people who did not see the target of the satire) only a year after the original publication.

The closest Edmund Burke ever came to anarchism (of the anarchocapitalist type) was quite late in life in such writings as “Appeal from the New Whigs to the Old” where he states that property rights do not come from government and, far from everything going to the government to be shared out, if an entirely new system of government (and so on) were established by force, property owners would have no moral duty to pay taxes to it or to obey its regulations.

EMD April 23, 2008 at 11:59 am

“Murray N. Rothbard (1926–1995) was dean of the Austrian School.”

Really? More like renegade pupil.

Alex Peak April 23, 2008 at 3:28 pm

I absolutely love “Common Sense.”

TokyoTom April 24, 2008 at 1:14 am

Thanks for posting this, Jeffrey.

Jordan Bullock April 24, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Clarifying the difference between Society and Government was something Bastiat was also quite skilled at. I wonder if Bastiat was familiar with Paine’s work or was influenced by it. Does anyone know?

Paul Marks April 25, 2008 at 7:56 am

Bastiat had certainly heard of Thomas Paine, but his thought was very different.

Bastiat was interested in strictly limiting the power of government (as can be seen from such works as “The Law”), whereas Thomas Paine was mainly concerned that government be democratically elected.

The attack on government by Tom Paine, that Murry Rothbard quotes, is simply a stick to beat Kings and aristocrats with. However, the fault here is NOT with Rothbard (his quotes are quite accurate – he is not distorting what Paine wrote) the fault lies with Paine.

This can be seen with Paine’s famous line that “hereditary legislators are as absurd as hereditary mathematicians” (an attack on the House of Lords).

Of course this line provides no evidence that elected mathematicians would be any better (indeed they might be worse – as hereditary mathematicians would at least have mathematics as their family activity, whereas elected mathematicians might give whatever answer to a question that would gain them votes).

As for making distinction between government and civil society – that was a common practice long before Paine was born.

josh m April 26, 2008 at 11:16 pm

Is it just me, or do Paine and Peter Schiff bear a striking resemblance to each other? : )

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