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Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson Were Opposed to Capitalism

Why True Property Rights Today Mean Socialism

An Open Letter to the Tea Party Patriots

Photograph by Luca De Vito, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 License
Image: Photograph by Luca De Vito, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 License

Date: August 5, 2011

Info: TeaPartyPatriots.org Page


     After spending some time reading your primary documents, it came to me that I should send you some of my thoughts. Your mission statement is given perfectly here...

"Tea Party Patriots, Inc. as an organization believes in the Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets. Tea Party Patriots, Inc. is a non-partisan grassroots organization of individuals united by our core values derived from the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States of America, the Bill Of Rights as explained in the Federalist Papers."

     "Fiscal Responsibility," though, like the phrase "Free Markets," are just slogans, and they don't really represent any specific, identifiable train of thought. They're just mild trends that appear in certain social ideas. You go a little bit further, though, in your estimation of the important parts of these documents...

"We hold, as did the founders, that there exists an inherent benefit to our country when private property and prosperity are secured by natural law and the rights of the individual."

     There are curious parts of this. Thomas Paine, for instance, wrote an essay against Capitalism and in favor of Socialism titled "Agrarian Justice." To quote him...

"It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal."

     Thomas Jefferson, like Paine, similarly was full of Socialist ideas when it came to economic issues. To quote him...

"It is too soon yet in our country to say that every man who cannot find employment but who can find uncultivated land shall be at liberty to cultivate it, paying a moderate rent. But it is not too soon to provide by every possible means that as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land. The small land holders are the most precious part of a state."

     The world is the common property of humanity and private property owners have no right to exclude others from the right to work. This was the ideal of Paine and Jefferson. These were the true predecessors of Marx and Socialism.

     The history of the US government does not reflect these values, though. Governments have subsidized massive, corporate entities, favoring Capitalists with top-down hierarchies instead of cooperatives that were worker self-managed. Tax funding is directed towards wars that get munitions and land development contracts for Capitalists, but with a greater burden on the shoulders of the working class. A capitalist that embezzles millions from employees gets served a two or three month sentence, while children are thrown into prisons for stealing $0.50 worth of bread from the local grocery store.

     Every form of government that has propped up Capitalism has done it the only way government knows how to do anything -- with force, violence, coercion, prisons, police, soldiers, and tanks. Given the past two hundred years of the United States, there is only one just form of private property: giving to every individual an equal share in the land below their feet, in the tools that they work with and depend upon. If you believe in "property rights," that a person has a right to property even if it was taken from them, then you must believe in worker self-management as the only economic solution.

     No? No worker self-management? No autogestion or workers' councils or industrial congress or labor delegation? None of that seems to be pointed to on your website. Instead, you just assume that the form of "private property" believed in by Capitalism is the only form of private property. Why even argue what Thomas Jefferson and John Adams thought about private property? That would probably divide your ranks and disrupt your campaigning activists. Just assume that "private property," as far as Thomas Paine talked about it, is the same thing as Capitalists today want us to believe about it -- that it is exclusively owned by a few, and nobody else has a right to it.

     You prop up a form of "private property" that relates to Capitalism today, not the Socialism of the original founding fathers. Anything else would probably radicalize the minds of your listeners. Besides that, you've got a very lucrative business in politics -- your tea party movie, which costs roughly $0.10 per copy, is available for $30 for two copies at your store. That's right: two copies for $30, and below that is an option to buy three copies, and below that, an option to buy six copies. (http://www.teapartymovie.com/store/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=1) Because whenever I buy a ridiculously overpriced film, I like to buy several copies of it at the exact moment. I normally go around asking, "Do you have five copies of the film X? I can't really enjoy it without five copies."

     At the very bottom is the option to buy one copy for $20. You love this country so much, that you're willing to make 10,000% profit off of repairing this broken nation through conservative zeal. Of course your concept of private property relates to what Capitalists and the media explain it as. How could you ever possible promote the anti-exclusiveness of property of Jefferson? How could you promote the Socialism of Thomas Paine? How could you describe the system of Capitalism, which you live off of, in terms that Paine used? For instance...

"The state of civilization that has prevailed throughout Europe, is as unjust in its principle, as it is horrid in its effects; and it is the consciousness of this, and the apprehension that such a state cannot continue when once investigation begins in any country, that makes the possessors of property dread every idea of a revolution." ("Agrarian Justice," by Thomas Paine.)

     You're stripping everything that Paine and Jefferson said about Socialism from your "American tradition." You're like a Soviet historian, ripping out every page where Marx said something in favor of Democracy, and presenting your "official view" to the public. But like a Soviet bureaucrat, you're sit on the profits of others' labor, while telling them that this makes them free.

Andy Carloff


1. "Small Land Holders Are the Most Precious Part of a State," From Thomas Jefferson, From a letter to James Madison dated 28 October, 1785, CooperativeIndividualism.org .

2. "The Jeffersonian cyclopedia; a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.," by Thomas Jefferson, Edited by John P. Foley. Books.Google.com

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