Tom Paine and the Ironies of Social Democracy
Elizabeth Anderson, professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan, considers how Thomas Paine, one of the Founding Fathers of the U.S., grounded the justification of social insurance in a theory of private property rights. She explores the ironic inversion of social insurance from a bulwark of to a perceived assault on capitalism.
The first realistic proposal to abolish poverty by means of universal social insurance was Thomas Paine, who explicitly sought to defend private property against socialist revolutionaries. The first actual social insurance scheme, introduced by Otto von Bismarck, was opposed by the German Social Democratic Party. Now, however, critics of every social insurance proposal in the U.S., including recent health care reform, have called them socialist attacks on private property.