Monday, February 4, 2013

Warning about civillization by Thomas Paine, 1795

Agrarian Justice
by Thomas Paine

To preserve the benefits of what is called civilized life, and to
remedy at the same time the evil which it has produced, ought to
considered as one of the first objects of reformed legislation.

Whether that state that is proudly, perhaps erroneously, called
civilization, has most promoted or most injured the general happiness
of man is a question that may be strongly contested. On one side, the
spectator is dazzled by splendid appearances; on the other, he is
shocked by extremes of wretchedness; both of which it has erected. The
most affluent and the most miserable of the human race are to be found
in the countries that are called civilized.

To understand what the state of society ought to be, it is necessary
to have some idea of the natural and primitive state of man; such as
it is at this day among the Indians of North America. There is not, in
that state, any of those spectacles of human misery which poverty and
want present to our eyes in all the towns and streets in Europe.

Poverty, therefore, is a thing created by that which is called
civilized life. It exists not in the natural state. On the other hand,
the natural state is without those advantages which flow from
agriculture, arts, science and manufactures.

The life of an Indian is a continual holiday, compared with the poor
of Europe; and, on the other hand it appears to be abject when
compared to the rich.

Civilization, therefore, or that which is so-called, has operated two
ways: to make one part of society more affluent, and the other more
wretched, than would have been the lot of either in a natural state.

It is always possible to go from the natural to the civilized state,
but it is never possible to go from the civilized to the natural
state. The reason is that man in a natural state, subsisting by
hunting, requires ten times the quantity of land to range over to
procure himself sustenance, than would support him in a civilized
state, where the earth is cultivated.

When, therefore, a country becomes populous by the additional aids of
cultivation, art and science, there is a necessity of preserving
things in that state; because without it there cannot be sustenance
for more, perhaps, than a tenth part of its inhabitants. The thing,
therefore, now to be done is to remedy the evils and preserve the
benefits that have arisen to society by passing from the natural to
that which is called the civilized state.

In taking the matter upon this ground, the first principle of
civilization ought to have been, and ought still to be, that the
condition of every person born into the world, after a state of
civilization commences, ought not to be worse than if he had been born
before that period.

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