Monday, August 10, 2015

another excerpt from John Keane's TOM PAINE: A POLITICAL LIFE

Paine was no believer in self-regulating "free markets."  He was not an "ideological spokesman for the bourgeoisie."  He certainly believed -- in this he was remarkably modern -- that market mechanisms for structuring decisions about investment, production, and consumption through anonymous monetary exchanges could never be eliminated from the heart of civil societies without destroying the vitality and what Paine sometimes called "civil independent pride."  Industry, commerce, and agriculture regulated by means of money-based private exchanges were essential for a free civil society, if only to protect it from meddlesome state power.  But -- the qualification was of the utmost importance to Paine -- he refused to draw from this the conclusion that the various institutions of civil society should be ruled by impersonal "market forces."  Within this sphere, individuals should not be treated as private entrepreneurs whose talents and powers are presumed to be natural and whose conduct is guided by the bourgeois principle of differential cash rewards for workers and owners of property.  He was adamant that market exchanges must be controlled and nurtured politically.  A self-regulating market is undesirable.  It motivates individuals not on the basis of commitment to serve and be served by their fellow citizens, but through a mixture of greed and fear.  Market competition encourages citizens to see each other as threats and as sources of private self-enrichment.

p. 190, Chapter 6 (Public Insults), "Men of Wealth" section

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