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Two Arguments for Basic Income: Thomas Paine (1737-1809) and Thomas Spence (1750-1814)


  • J. E. King

    () (La Trobe University - Department of Economics and Finance)

  • John Marangos

    () (Colorado State University - Department of Economics)


In the 1790s the radical thinkers Tom Paine and Thomas Spence were among the first to advocate the payment of a Basic Income as a right to all citizens. In this paper we outline Paine’s position, as set out in The Rights of Man (1791-1792) and in Agrarian Justice (1795), and compare it with the case made by Spence in The Rights of Infants (1797). We show that their arguments were surprisingly complex, and included utilitarian grounds for supporting Basic Income in addition to an assertion of the individual’s right to existence and to a share in the produce of nature.

Suggested Citation

  • J. E. King & John Marangos, 2006. "Two Arguments for Basic Income: Thomas Paine (1737-1809) and Thomas Spence (1750-1814)," History of Economic Ideas, Fabrizio Serra Editore, Pisa - Roma, vol. 14(1), pages 55-71.
  • Handle: RePEc:hid:journl:v:14:y:2006:1:2:p:55-71

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    Cited by:

    1. Gassmann, Franziska & Martorano, Bruno, 2019. "The future of work and its implications for social protection and the welfare state," MERIT Working Papers 2019-039, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).

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