Two arguments for basic income : Thomas Paine (1737-1809) and Thomas Spence (1750-1814). Academic Article uri icon


  • 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.

publication date

  • 2006