Defending Paine's Agrarian Justice and the "Ground-Rent"


  • Michael Weber Bowling Green State University



Thomas Paine, Agrarian Justice, Resource Taxation, Left-Libertarianism


Thomas Paine’s Agrarian Justice deserves more attention than it has received, for in it Paine provides a foundational case for a broad social welfare program that is absent in his better-known Rights of Man.  In this paper, I explain Paine’s case in Agrarian Justice, and consider the objection that the main revenue source Paine proposes – the “ground-rent” – is insufficient to fund the social welfare program he proposes because in the production of value the contribution attributable to natural resources is insignificant.  I argue that the ground-rent justifies levying a tax not just on the value of the natural resources used in the production of value, but on a portion of the value of the labor applied to those resources, and therefore can be a significant revenue source.  Similar considerations apply to resource-based taxation schemes suggested by others, including Henry George, Thomas Pogge, and some modern “left-libertarians”.






2022-04-13 — Updated on 2022-04-13


How to Cite

Weber, M. (2022). Defending Paine’s Agrarian Justice and the "Ground-Rent". Ethics, Politics & Society, 5(1), 1–27.