Abstract

In current research, there is a widespread idea that the history of the universal basic income proposal begins with Thomas Paine and his famous pamphlet Agrarian Justice, published in Paris in 1797 in the context of the French Revolution and under its intellectual influence. In this article, the author rescues a largely unknown text by Paine published without a title under the pen name “Amicus” in the Pennsylvania Magazine in 1775. The transcript demonstrates that he was already reflecting on the proposal at least twenty years earlier, shortly after he arrived in the American colonies. The debates and discussions in which Paine wants to intervene cannot be the same in Wilkes's England as in revolutionary France. Locating the proposal of a universal basic income in this context has important implications for the history of its conception. It compels us to highlight the importance of Paine's experience as an exciseman in England, as well as the context of popular radicalism and religious dissent that prevailed in the country at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

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