Liberty and justice go hand in hand. It is no accident that Francis Bellamy linked them in the Pledge: “liberty and justice for all.” Nor is it an accident that civil rights marchers demanded “Freedom Now.” Freedom and justice are partners; without justice, liberty for all is impossible — injustice requires repression: liberty must be compromised.
Thomas Paine feared authoritarian government. He believe that a just society would allow citizens to live together in harmony without repression, thus a small government would suffice.
In Rights of Man Paine suggests:
poor relief be removed as a local tax and replaced by central provision from government coffers; that pensions be offered for those advanced in age, starting at 50, and in full form at 60; that provision be made for the education of the poor; that maternity be benefit be granted to all women immediately after the birth of a child; that a fund be established for the burial of those who die away from home; and that arrangements be made for the many young people who travel to the metropolis in search of a livelihood to provide initial accommodation and support until they find work. Paine ends by identifying provision for those who have served in the army and navy, and suggesting that, as demands on the public purse from these sources declines, then items of indirect taxation might also be lifted, and the burden of taxation gradually shifted towards a progressive taxation on landed property, coupled with the abolition of primogeniture, and a progressive tax on the income from investments. (The Stanford Encyclopedia)
Modern libertarians, calling for small government, may adopt Paine’s conclusion without it’s premise: a just society. Paine wouldn’t have wanted a small government made small to allow forces of injustice and oppression to run rampant. Until we achieve a just society, we need a government capable of establishing justice.
© William Hungerford – November 2013