Study Guide


“The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust…The contrast of affluence and wretchedness continually meeting and offending the eye, is like dead and living bodies chained together.”

“Man did not make the earth, and though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it; neither did the Creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first title deeds should issue.” 

Thus, “Every proprietor, therefore of cultivated lands, owes to the   community a ground rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea)... Each individual attaining the age of 21, should receive the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural in heritage, by the introduction of land property…and 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.” 

Excerpts from Agrarian Justice selected by Tom Paine Friends Bulletin, Vol. 13, No. 2, Summer 2002


Each individual has a natural and equal right to some form of a guaranteed annual income provided by the government.  An annual, guaranteed income effectively eliminates poverty and its accompanying miseries.  It also allows the average citizen the opportunity to more effectively mesh education, skills, and civic life.  In addition, it would allow more leisure to independently cultivate science, art, and literature that are often at the core of cultural renewal.


  1. How do we define “true wealth”?  Is there more than one criterion such as “material acquisition” or “influence”?
  2. Does a man-made economic system, which generates the contrasts Paine refers to, really live up to the values, like liberty, equality, and fraternity, that are widely thought to be central to the democratic project?
  3. Would a form of guaranteed annual income create a social contract of moral virtue between government and its people (a caring and “holding/nurturing” expression of public good)?  Would such a basic income without categorization enhance universal justice and reduce poverty while radically expanding individual choice and freedom?
  4. How do we insure intergenerational justice relative to the governmental led distribution of benefits and private initiatives for young and old alike in a world of seemingly greater inequality?