Common Sense #4


The title of Paine’s next section is something hardly considered as a problem in the US today.  I am interested to see what, if anything does apply.

MANKIND being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance; the distinctions of rich, and poor, may in a great measure be accounted for, and that without having recourse to the harsh, ill-sounding names of oppression and avarice.  Oppression is often the consequence, but seldom or never the means of riches; and though avarice will preserve a man from being necessitously poor, it generally makes him too timorous to be wealthy. These sentences are the foundational ideas for this section.  The first sentence does not explicitly address personal responsibility, which I think is the greatest dictator of social status and “equality” today.  It allows personal responsibility to be implied.  Paine is addressing something that is rampant in American society today – blaming someone else for your particular situation.  The whites/blacks/asians/immigrants/Mexicans/rich/frat boys/society/courts are responsible for why I can’t find a job/keep a job/get pulled over/got audited by the IRS/have to pay more taxes. (The list could go on and on.)  Paine posits that oppression comes from having riches, not that people truly get rich from oppressing people.  “The man” does not have you down.   I had to think a long time about this second assertion.  I will grant Paine the point – that the truly wealthy do not get their wealth by hoarding and oppressing others – they get it by being productive, providing value to people, and being assertive.  Perhaps Paine’s point is that a man can make $200,000 per year oppressing people, but earning the money that way will make him too scared of others to make $2 million by providing something valuable.

His next argument is that the distinction of King and Subjects are a construct of man.  They were first introduced into the world by the Heathens, from whom the children of Israel copied the custom. Payne continues to assert that rights of nature and the law of God do not support the right of divine kingship.  Monarchy is ranked in scripture as one of the sins of the Jews, for which a curse in reserve is denounced against them. A history of how Israel eventually chose a king then follows.  He continues to prove how Scripture demonstrates that God disapproves of kingship.

Paine then broadsides heredity succession as a degradation and lessening of ourselves, so the second, claimed as a matter of right, is an insult and an imposition on posterity. Now, his last phrase certainly has application today.  America does not have a hereditary king or ruling family (notwithstanding the Kennedy’s – but they did not have a large enough influence over the national government over time to be considered “hereditary”).  But what we are doing today is most certainly “imposing upon our posterity” – Social Security, the national debt, and welfare, to name a few of these impositions upon our children and grandchildren.

Paine continues on at length to dismember and lambast the idea of kingship and hereditary succession.  While this is compelling and interesting reading of his thoughts on the subject, they do not apply as directly to America today.   Please feel free to delve in on your own, though.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s