Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Why You Should Support the 2A Even If You Don't Like Guns

 The Freedom To Own Firearms Benefits Everyone 

By Robert E. Wright 


Joe Biden has again threatened to “defeat” the NRA and pass blatantly unconstitutional gun regulations. Even if you don’t hunt and are willing, despite the events of the summer of 2020, to entrust the lives of your loved ones to law enforcement, you should still oppose gun control. 


Why? The same (il)logic used to justify gun laws was used to justify the lockdowns that locked up your family and wrecked your business or job, or at the very least destroyed your favorite small business haunts. Americans need to oppose specific bad policies but also the patterns of thought that make them possible. Specifically, Americans need to make clear to policymakers that the misdeeds of a few do not justify the punishment of all. 


The illogical train of thought runs like this: only X does bad thing Y, so all X needs is to be punished to prevent Y. So we hear arguments like: only gun owners commit gun crimes, so punish all gun owners and there will be no more shootings. Only commoners spread Covid, so punish all commoners (while elites play all night and day) and Covid will go away. Only sinners sin, so punish all sinners and sin will disappear. The same twisted logic could be employed on anyone, for anything, at any time.


That sort of “logic” used to earn first year college students a solid F but because universities have used dirty pool tactics to denude themselves of their best professors, such “reasoning” is now passed, and even applauded. Every day, Community looks less like a comedy about fictional Greendale Community College and more like a documentary about U.S. higher education. 


Thankfully, the mob that attacked the Capitol was almost completely unarmed. Only a handful of firearms were recovered and I haven’t found any reports of the rioters brandishing guns much less firing any. Apparently, there were more Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs about than firearms, likely because DC’s strict and unconstitutional gun laws made explosives more attractive alternatives. Thankfully, nobody yet wants to more fully regulate distilled liquors, rags, match heads or plumbers, or to ban Class C Motorhomes, the “assault rifle” of bombers. (Nashville on Christmas. Remember?) 


“Other” states, like Massachusetts and New Jersey, also greatly restrict gun ownership and carry. What is gained from locking down law-abiding gun owners? About as much as is gained from “quarantining” people who aren’t sick! Evidence comes from the same quarter, too.


For decades, South Dakota was a permissive “shall issue” state when it came to pistol permits. A few years ago, after people like me kept asking why any permit at all was necessary, the state adopted “Constitutional carry,” which allows anyone to carry pistols and/or long guns concealed and/or openly in public spaces without a permit. 


Constitutional carry has not turned South Dakota into the Hollywood version of the Wild West. In fact, firearm murders in the state are relatively rare. The state ranks 5th best in the country according to this study, with much lower gun homicide rates per capita than either Massachusetts or New Jersey. That’s remarkable considering that South Dakota is home to six of the 50 poorest counties (the big Indian Reservations) in the country, and according to RAND ranked ninth in the country in per capita gun ownership between 1980 and 2016.


Note the parallel to Covid lockdowns. In both cases, the eastern states push authoritarian, unconstitutional policies that do not even do what they purport to do. And why should they as they are based on the base illogical moralism laid bare above? Some citizens fulminate, and a few sue, but mostly they just obey or, seeing the writing on the wall, turn on their neighbors and become unpaid tools of their oppressive states.


South Dakota, by contrast, while far from perfect, sticks much more closely to the Constitutional baseline that ensured America’s prosperity and its once well-deserved reputation as a beacon of freedom. Adherence to the hoary lodestone of the Republic has rendered the state’s economy and society resilient in the face of shocks; its well-armed citizenry deploy reluctantly but steadfastly when threatened with violence, as they did over the Memorial Day weekend when Antifa-types tried to foment a riot in Sioux Falls. 


A friend successfully protected his fast food restaurant after a local LEO encouraged him to use his Tokarev, a Soviet-made military pistol that shoots rifle-like rounds that can pierce body armor, if necessary. Thankfully, the wannabe looters did not test my friend’s resolve or marksmanship.


While South Dakotans work with LEOs to protect themselves during crises, the mostly disarmed citizens of Massachusetts and New Jersey (they rank dead last and second last, respectively, in the RAND gun ownership study cited above) must die, capitulate, or hope local LEOs are on their side when the stinky stuff hits the fan.


So even if you don’t own a gun, you should support your neighbor’s right to own them, even military-type ones. (When the Second Amendment was ratified, people, businesses, and nonprofit corporations owned military weapons, including cannon.) People tend to behave much more civilly toward each other when they are de facto equals, and nothing equalizes an uneven playing field like grapeshot, a sniper, or a derringer. That is why the nation’s first serious gun laws were put in place after the Civil War by Democratic white supremacists to keep Republican freed slaves from being able to defend themselves from hooded cross burners. You know the ones.


Today, Americans generally deprecate violence (most have a lot to lose) but sometimes, in the course of human events, self-defense becomes necessary, even admirable. As I recently pointed out, however, what one party contends is self-defense another may consider an unwarranted breach of the peace. Look, for example, at the way that Trump supporters responded to the George Floyd protests compared to the overrunning of the Capitol. 


Intense or widespread violent protest proves one thing: current leadership is incompetent and should resign. I don’t mean just Trump, I mean any and all politicians implicated in failed lockdowns, police brutality, extended rioting and CHOP zones, or election irregularities (which definitely did occur though the extent is still disputed). After all, only politicians cause bad policies, so all politicians should be punished. (See what I did there?) Seriously, if failed politicians don’t exile themselves, others may do it for them, via recall in Gavin Newsom’s case, but perhaps more gruesomely in others, even if all guns magically disappeared tomorrow. Nay, especially if all guns magically disappeared tomorrow.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Winter Catharsis: Try Hanging Politicians In Effigy

NOTA BENE: Not long after this posted, Cuomo started backpedaling on lockdowns! I take no credit, though, as I think Trump's concession and the hatred that Bills fans showed him were enough to wake him up. News that vaccines were being trashed in New York didn't help either. Anywho ...

Maybe you once believed in lockdowns but have kept an open mind, looked at the available data and commentary, and concluded that even if lockdowns extend the lives of some of the vulnerable elderly they are killing too many young people and maiming too many small businesses to be allowed to continue. 


Or maybe you would not support lockdowns even during a Bubonic Plague or are sick of wearing a mask of dubious sterility every time you need to interact with another human being. Or maybe you figure that with asymptomatic spread less likely than a false positive Covid test (PCR or rapid), excess mortality not being terribly high and not easily parsed into Covid and lockdown deaths, and a large number of vaccination vials available but unused, the pandemic, if it ever was an event worthy of the name, is over. 


Whatever the reason, you are probably wondering what you can do to restore some semblance of 2019 in 2021.


I have urged people to sue, sue, sue but apparently few have taken that tack, perhaps because Americans believe that most judges are in cahoots with the political parties that sponsor them. I agree that the election of judges is not a good idea but suing the government would be difficult even with nonpartisan judges on the bench. 


The weight of the evidence is so far against masking and social distancing, however, that I think Private Deep Pockets could be brought to heel right quick by even the lowliest ambulance-chasing pettifogger. It’s discrimination to force the scientifically and statistically savvy to wear a formerly illegal piece of clothing into a store and the damages are the differences in price between the retailer’s everyday low prices and the next best alternative … for every item purchased since March in many locales. 


If the biggest risk for getting Covid-19 is being in a confined space for a long period of time, why did stores reduce hours and limit entry and exit points? Why do airlines schedule more flights than they can handle, virtually ensuring tarmac delays? The list goes on and on.


Go class action and some serious money, for the lawyers anyway, could be made while reminding corporations that if they concentrate solely on that which is seen (Covid-19 and Karens), that which is unseen (the costs of imposing malarkey social distancing policies on smart people when not forced to by local governments) might still nip them in the bottom, the bottom line that is.


You might also try rioting in the name of social justice, specifically on behalf of all those poor people (literally) killed by lockdowns, suffocated, as it were, by ineffective state policies. Rioting was really popular last summer and can still be comfortably done in the same general way in Hawaii and the southern states. Instead of Black Lives Matter and Defund the Police, though, riot in the name of All Deaths Matter (Whether Caused by Covid or Lockdowns) and Defund Fauci.


In colder climes, I suggest reviving the custom of hanging and burning politicians in effigy. To be clear, this entails no physical violence, just dressing up a dummy to look like another dummy, say one of those many politicians who have broken their own social distancing rules, hanging the dressed up dummy from a tree, and lighting its ass, or other convenient body part, on fire. A really big dummy made of slow burning materials, like old tires, can keep hundreds of protestors warm for hours even in northern Minnesota. Just keep the flames away from the ice fishing sheds, you betcha.


Burning effigies constituted high sport in early America, right up there with bear baiting. After bringing back his unpopular eponymous trade treaty from Britain, for instance, poor rich John Jay claimed that he was burned in effigy in so many places that he could have crossed the country at night by the light of the fires.


I don’t recommend some other early American protest tactics like tarring and feathering or pulling down houses. Even when done over the clothes instead of the naked body, tarring and feathering entails physical violence that could easily get out of hand and leave permanent scars. And most of the cost of a destroyed house will fall on the public, if a government building, or an insurer, if a private one. Plus, presumably, houses are better constructed now than in the eighteenth century and somebody might “accidentally” confuse pulling down with burning down, especially on a cold winter’s night.


A more modern way of protesting at low cost would be to join a flash mob. One protesting mask restrictions at a Target in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in September looks fun. I just turned fifty two so I have no idea how one goes about creating or joining such an event but it seems innocuous enough. Just remember to buy the costume for the dummy you intend to burn (safely of course) that night when there. 


This is all a bit cheeky, of course, but only because nonviolent alternatives are so few. Few people with much skin in the game dare to get arrested because that leads to fines, anal rape, and/or the inability to get a job, license, mortgage, etc. in the future. You might even get put on a list as a subversive whose taxes obviously stand in need of serious auditing. 


Some worry about the formation of re-education work camps but such camps are soooo, like, twentieth century, not really efficient at all in a modern knowledge economy. Best to allow the subversive, liberty-loving types to keep their jobs but to overpay their taxes out of a rational fear of invoking the horrible wrath of the IRS. Enslave people physically and you might attract unwanted attention, unless you enslave Chinese Muslims of course. Enslave people virtually and it’s all good, no matter what.


And why should the government invest in re-education camps when seemingly millions of Twitter trolls stand ready to do the work, just for the fun of it?


The root problem is that, except for one day every two, four, or six years (and even then with caveats), we apparently have no recourse against our leaders, even if they behave very badly. They are personally responsible for nothing and no court or police force will stop them from breaking the Constitution they swore an oath to uphold, so they do as they wish, when they wish, to whom they wish. Try to explain to others that the politicians’ policies are irrational and their social media minions now censor your message. 


But I would like to see Silicon Valley or New York State Troopers try to stop tens of thousands of New Yorkers from expressing their First Amendment rights by burning thousands of effigies of Governor Cuomo some night soon. Just don’t threaten to burn or hang the actual Cuomo, or anyone else, and don’t break any local ordinances and you should be able to enjoy a nice catharsis. And for goodness sake don't storm any capitol buildings! May I suggest Friday the 15th as the moon will then be a thin waxing crescent


And not to pressure any nationalists out there but did you hear what happened in France over New Year’s? A whole town held a rave while holding off cops for over a day. One world for that: EPIC! Did I mention they were French?


In any event, Google may turn its satellites away from the effigy spectacle but news of it will spread. Sure, some old clothes and ropes will be destroyed but it will be nothing compared to the lives destroyed by heedless, needless Covid lockdowns. And fear not being accused of snow-flakism, as effigy burning is not mere virtue signaling, it is anger signaling. Don’t buy a copy of Cuomo’s ridiculous book specifically for the event, but if one happens to be on hand, it would really round out his effigy’s policy clown costume. 


Finally, be sure to flash mob Facebook with your pics at midnight so we can all revel vicariously until The Fact Checkers pull them down on the pretext that New York Times staffers locked down in Manhattan claim nothing much really happened and that Cuomo is the best Duce ever.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

The Best of Thomas Paine

 

The Best of Thomas Paine

By Robert E. Wright

AIER

For the Bastiat Society of Jacksonville, Florida

Perhaps Paine’s most famous words are “THESE are the times that try men's souls,” part of a paragraph in the first of Paine’s American Crisis pamphlet series that stirred George Washington’s troops to cross the freezing Delaware River at night to strike the Hessian mercenaries encamped outside Trenton, New Jersey. That daring counterattack saved the nascent rebellion, part of an independence movement that Paine himself had given voice to earlier that same year, 1776, in his pamphlet Common Sense, of which more a little later. 

“To try” simply means “to test,” but connotes something more visceral and Biblical than a quill pen and paper examination. Stated in a more gender neutral way, “these are the times that try the human soul,” and anyone today, Right or Left, would be happy to apply it to 2020. 

But the rest of the paragraph that Washington read to his beleaguered troops does not fare so well today and hence is seldom quoted, let alone considered. Let’s analyze it, one sentence at a time:

The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

While a Neocon or Trumper might applaud this line, Paine is not calling on Americans to serve the State, he is calling on them to aid American Society, i.e., other Americans, not the government. That is because 

Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; 

 

This is a great line that partisans can turn against against a Jackson or a Lincoln, an Obama or a Trump, but as we will learn, tyranny for Paine comes from government overreach, not the overreachings of a particular bad man.

yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. 

This truism is increasingly disputed today and something that Paine himself later forgot when he suggested a Universal Basic Income scheme later in his life in Agrarian Justice.

Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated. 

Freedom is of course no longer considered celestial by many, who seek to force others to accept their view of the world.

Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOVER, and, if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. 

Today, everyone purports to disdain slavery, but only when it refers to American chattel slavery. Other slaveries, including the political slavery Paine invokes here, is glorious if “woke.”

Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.

What is this God of which Paine speaks? I jest, of course, but fear many today have little recollection, much less fear, of God. Another word starting with the letters “g” and “o,” the government, is their Deity.

It is important to note here that Paine was raised a Quaker and in Age of Reason espoused a form of Deism. He was no atheist and, if fact, angered Christians not for denying the existence of God but rather for chastising them for idolizing Jesus and Mary at the expense of Him, with a capital H.

For Paine, that was just common sense, the title of his most famous work. After a brief preface to that clarion call for American Independence, Paine immediately juxtaposes “society” and “government”:

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

By society, Paine makes clear that he means voluntary association, so the economy plus what is sometimes called “civil society” and is represented by what we today call the non-profit sector. Voluntary association arises spontaneously from our very nature, our “species being” as Karl Marx would later call it.

Humans seek each other out because they have minds “unfitted for perpetual solitude” and material wants that exceed their individual capabilities. Working together, however, they can fulfill many social and economic desires. 

As their spontaneous society flourishes, however, some individuals will raid rather than trade for what they want, taking rather than making. The makers and traders will then band together for mutual support but as their society continues to grow larger and more complex, they can no longer attend to every piece of public business and still conduct their own business. So they delegate their powers to government officials, some of whom use those powers, ironically enough, to take and raid.

To prevent that unhappy outcome, Paine argues, governments should be run by a group of people elected from the general population at frequent intervals, with incumbents few. “Freedom and security” were the sole proper ends of government, and who better to secure those ends than the people themselves?

From simple government would come simple solutions to governance problems, Paine pointed out. “Not bewildered by a variety of causes and cures,” the people could fix any problems. The British government then, like the American government today, however, “is so exceedingly complex, that the nation may suffer for years together without being able to discover in which part the fault lies, some will say in one and some in another, and every political physician will advise a different medicine.”

He then dissects his homeland’s unwritten constitution, with many keen insights and delightful turns of phrase sprinkled throughout. He dryly notes, for example, that “the fate of Charles the First, hath only made kings more subtle - not more just.” Charles literally lost his head in 1649, a powerful check on the monarchy for sure, but how did kings achieve such power that needed checking in the first place, Paine wondered, often literally aloud as Common Sense was read to illiterates in taverns and public squares to hasten the spread of its message of liberation.

“A French bastard landing with an armed banditti, and establishing himself king of England against the consent of the natives, is in plain terms a very paltry rascally original,” Paine noted, adding coyly, “It certainly hath no divinity in it.”

To those fearful that an independent America could not thrive without Britain, Paine retorted that “America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no European power had any thing to do with her. The commerce by which she hath enriched herself are the necessaries of life, and will always have a market while eating is the custom of Europe.” He correctly predicted that a free America would be peaceful and prosperous, practically invoking Adam Smith’s famous adage that all that is requisite to raise a country from the lowest barbarism to opulence is “peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice.”

Paine also saw through the political spin that posited Britain as the colonists’ “Mother Country.” “Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America,” he noted, adding that “This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every Part of Europe. Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster.”

It is difficult not to see the modern American presidency as a sort of monarchy, and not just because of family dynasties like Bush and Clinton and potentially Obama and Trump. POTUS simply has too much power, upping the electoral stakes so much that those who would hold the throne will play all sorts of deadly games to seize it. Some wish to upend the Constitution by eliminating the electoral college or the independence of SCOTUS in order to own the powerful post, which can be controlled by the same person for up to ten years, and perhaps longer as we have no restrictions on the election of spouses. Paine recognized the disruptive power of power, arguing that fighting over the throne destabilized nations. “The crown itself is a temptation to enterprising ruffians at home,” he noted, while pointing out that the cause of war was political power, period. “The republics of Europe are all (and we may say always) in peace. Holland and Switzerland are without wars, foreign or domestic.” Modern America, though putatively a republic, has been at war, literally or metaphorically, almost constantly since Pearl Harbor.

To limit the power of POTUS, Paine wanted to combine lottocracy and democracy. Every year a randomly-chosen state would supply the president that year, to be elected by national legislators from the chosen state’s national delegation. No state could supply a POTUS until all others took their turn. No Virginia dynasty on Paine’s watch! Moreover, Paine’s POTUS would simply lead the executive branch of the government, not a potent party phalanx. 

“For as in absolute governments the king is law,” Paine explained, “so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other,” be he called His Majesty or Mr. President.

Speaking of laws, Paine also called for a 60 percent supermajority for their passage. That would have worked because the sole goal of his entire national government would be “securing freedom and property to all men, and above all things the free exercise of religion.” “He that will promote discord, under a government so equally formed as this,” Paine wrote with his usual panache, “would join Lucifer in his revolt.”

Paine was of course a brilliant writer and rhetorician but also a deep thinker. The guy engineered steam engines and iron bridges as side hustles! He also knew a lot about finance, helping to establish and then defend the Bank of North America, the continent’s first joint-stock commercial bank, from legislative assault. Unlike government fiat paper money, that bank’s liabilities, its notes and deposits, were convertible into real money, gold and silver, upon demand at fixed rates. Nevertheless, jealous Pennsylvania politicians revoked its charter.

Presaging the decision in the 1819 SCOTUS Dartmouth case, Paine distinguished between laws, which legislators could change when they saw fit, and contractual acts, which were binding agreements, like deeds and contracts, between two parties, one of which happened to be the government. If any subsequent legislature could annul or change contractual acts, the government could never borrow on advantageous terms or induce investors to supply the capital of corporations like the Bank of North America. “It will lead us,” Paine wrote in his 1786 pamphlet Dissertations on Government, “into a wilderness of endless confusion and insurmountable difficulties.” Nothing short of the “glory” of the Republic was at stake, because if the government could renege on its promises individuals could become “the prey of power” as “MIGHT” overcame “RIGHT.”

Properly understood, Paine’s political economy was Hamiltonian, or perhaps we should say that Hamilton’s political economy followed that of Paine. Already in 1776, while Hamilton was still an artillery officer, Paine argued “No nation ought to be without a debt. A national debt is a national bond; and when it bears no interest, is in no case a grievance.” Of course Hamilton while Treasury Secretary called the debt the cement of the union and argued that a national debt that was not excessive would be a blessing.

Paine and Hamilton also shared an affection for efficient government. Harvey Flaumenhaft has a lovely book about Hamilton’s views and actions called The Effective Republic. Paine quoted a now too little known Italian thinker named Giancinto Dragonetti, who wrote “The science of the politician consists in fixing the true point of happiness and freedom. Those men would deserve the gratitude of ages, who should discover a mode of government that contained the greatest sum of individual happiness, with the least national expense.”

All of Paine’s best writings are about liberation, not just from cruel and monstrous political parents, warmongering monarchs, and spendthrift policymakers, but from all forms of arbitrary authority, including “the” scientists and purveyors of fiat paper money. Reason and reality alone should rule humankind, he argued in multiple contexts. All agree, until it comes time for implementation. Then more “buts” appear than in a nudist colony. That is because most policies, and policymakers, are partisans, the tools of political cartels, not public servants.

“Every constituent,” Paine reminded readers of his 1786 Dissertations on Government, “is a member of the Republic, which is a station of more consequence to him than being a member of a party, and though they may differ from each other in their choice of persons to transact the public business, it is of equal importance to all parties that the business be done on right principles; otherwise our laws and Acts, instead of being founded in justice, will be founded in party, and be laws and Acts of retaliation; and instead of being a Republic of free citizens, we shall be alternately tyrants and slaves.”

I fear the circumstances that led Paine to pen those words has repeated itself, and will repeat itself again and again until our republic is but a farce and its democracy as hollow as an old log. Ignorant jealous lawmakers repealed the charter of the Bank of North America because supposedly somebody alleged that the Bank was not consistent with “public safety” and the lawmakers, without any understanding of the Bank’s operations and without calling on the bankers to explain, repealed its charter. “Why should not the House hear them,” Paine wondered, “unless it was apprehensive that the Bank, by such a public opportunity, would produce proofs of its services and usefulness, that would not suit the temper and views of its oppressors?”

Such “unfair proceedings and despotic measures,” perpetrated under the guise of public health and safety again threaten to upend reason and bolster tyranny in the name of public safety. To justify their extreme actions, Pennsylvania lawmakers resorted to a set of self-contradictory claims “never made, heard of, or thought of before.” They assumed their constituents dupes and were proven correct in the assumption. Much the same happened in most states across America this Spring in reaction to a dangerous, novel virus that was not novel and dangerous only to a small percentage of the population.

The core problem, hinted at by Paine, is that a welfare state is by definition corrupt because recipients dare not question their legislators. “To hold any part of the citizens of the State, as yearly pensioners on the favor of an Assembly,” Paine noted “is striking at the root of free elections.” So, too, I would add, is eliminating the secrecy of ballots by allowing large numbers of people to vote by mail.

I fear a return to what Paine calls rule by superstition in his 1791 The Rights of Man:

When a set of artful men pretended, through the medium of oracles, to hold intercourse with the Deity, as familiarly as they now march up the back-stairs in European courts, the world was completely under the government of superstition. The oracles were consulted, and whatever they were made to say became the law; and this sort of government lasted as long as this sort of superstition lasted.

Today, “the” science has replaced superstition, but the effect on liberty is just as deadly. To be ruled by pseudo-scientific superstition may be superior to being ruled by the sword, but rule by “force and fraud” irritated Paine, a student of the Enlightenment who sought rule by reason.

What would rule by reason look like? Paine leaves us many clues, like keeping POTUS and legislators on a short leash. One particularly powerful one, that I also espouse, is a 20 or 30 year sunset clause on every law. In other words, laws should automatically expire unless explicitly renewed. “Such as were proper to be continued,” Paine explained, “would be enacted again, and those which were not, would go into oblivion.”

Ridding ourselves of political parties would be a big help too. “As to parties,” Paine professed that he was “attached to no particular one. There are such things as right and wrong in the world.”

Paine also understood the power of what would later be called Pareto improving policies. “The plan here proposed,” he argued in defense of his UBI plan, “will benefit all, without injuring any.” He was wrong about that but at least he invoked a key principle that should guide the policies of all governments rightly called limited, or not despotic.

I leave you with some of the pithier quotations from this Best of Thomas Paine book:

 

However our eyes may be dazzled with snow, or our ears deceived by sound; however prejudice may warp our wills, or interest darken our understanding, the simple voice of nature and of reason will say, it is right.

 

He may accomplish by craft and subtlety, in the long run, what he cannot do by force and violence in the short one. Reconciliation and ruin are nearly related. 

 

The more men have to lose, the less willing are they to venture. The rich are in general slaves to fear, and submit to courtly power with the trembling duplicity of a spaniel.

 

Immediate necessity makes many things convenient, which if continued would grow into oppressions. Expedience and right are different things.

 

The despotic form of government knows no intermediate space between being slaves and being rebels.

 

Where knowledge is a duty, ignorance is a crime.

 

A committee of fortune-tellers is a novelty in Government.

 

Where the treasure is, there will the heart be also.

 

The evils of paper-money have no end. Its uncertain and fluctuating value is continually awakening or creating new schemes of deceit. Every principle of justice is put to the rack, and the bond of society dissolved.

 

A body of men, holding themselves accountable to nobody, ought not to be trusted by anybody.

 

To reason with despots is throwing reason away. 

 

We are astonished when reading that the Egyptians placed on the throne a flint, and called it their king. We smile at the dog Barkouf, sent by an Asiatic despot to govern one of his provinces. ... The flint and the dog at least imposed on nobody.

 

No kind of labor, commerce, or culture, can be prohibited to any one: he may make, sell, and transport every species of production.

 

Every man may engage his services and his time; but he cannot sell himself; his person is not an alienable property.

 

Public credit is suspicion asleep.

 

Poverty ... is a thing created by that which is called civilized life. It exists not in the natural state. On the other hand, the natural state is without those advantages which flow from agriculture, arts, science, and manufactures.

 

The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It is absolutely the opposite of what it should be, and it is necessary that a revolution should be made in it.

 

Governments consider man merely as an animal; that the exercise of intellectual faculty is not his privilege; that he has nothing to do with the laws but to obey them.

 

In every other light, and from every other cause, is war inglorious and detestable. 

 

War never can be the interest of a trading nation, any more than quarrelling can be profitable to a man in business. But to make war with those who trade with us, is like setting a bull-dog upon a customer at the shop-door.