I have been seeing this quote from Thomas Paine being circulated by leftist groups, particularly Occupy Wall Street groups.
Many Occupy groups are trying to use this phrase to say “see, you should pay taxes to the government!” Nothing could be further from the truth. Thomas Pain was not talking about government, he was talking about SOCIETY. These are two completely opposite animals. A society helps a culture and its people flourish. A government is an evil that destroys, robs, steals and kills a society. This is what Thomas Paine thought about the difference between the two when he wrote it in Common Sense.
Of the Origin and Design of Government in General, with Concise Remarks on the English Constitution
SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.
Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.
And further he writes:
I draw my idea of the form of government from a principle in nature which no art can overturn, viz. that the more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the easier repaired when disordered; and with this maxim in view I offer a few remarks on the so much boasted constitution of England. That it was noble for the dark and slavish times in which it was erected, is granted. When the world was overrun with tyranny the least remove therefrom was a glorious rescue. But that it is imperfect, subject to convulsions, and incapable of producing what it seems to promise is easily demonstrated.
Absolute governments, (tho’ the disgrace of human nature) have this advantage with them, they are simple; if the people suffer, they know the head from which their suffering springs; know likewise the remedy; and are not bewildered by a variety of causes and cures. But the constitution of England is so exceedingly complex, that the nation may suffer for years together without being able to discover in which part the fault lies; some will say in one and some in another, and every political physician will advise a different medicine.
That is where I believe we find ourselves today. We live with a government so complex it can rob, steal, kill and we have no idea where to lay the blame. We fight amongst ourselves pointing the finger at one party or another. We point our finger at the poor, the rich, the bankers or Wall Street, when I truly believe that the blame should be given wholly to the fact our government has become too big, too complex and too powerful.
We need to shrink the size of government so we can have a stronger society. One where contracts between parties are upheld, charities flourish and school systems are sound.