This egalitarian is not up for grabs

The attempts by rightist apologists to land grab progressive thinkers and claim them as their own reached its nadir last week.

Richard Kelly of the Manchester Grammar School (Letters, 26 April) asserts that Tom Paine is closer to the new right than the left since he was a "libertarian rather than an egalitarian". Putting aside the argument that such beliefs are not necessarily in opposition in bringing about the good society, I wonder if Kelly has even glanced at anything Paine wrote on the subject.

Paine condemned gross income inequalities, comparing rich and poor to "dead and living bodies chained together". He also advocated that the rich had an obligation to contribute to a common fund through the raising of an inheritance tax for the alleviation of income inequalities. Developing his ideas further, he devised a scheme for a citizens' income payable at both 21 and 50.

I recognise that equality may be an uncomfortable subject in a grammar school, but Kelly and others should be more selective as to whose views they try to make-over.

Paul Simon
Hadleigh, Suffolk

This article first appeared in the 03 May 1999 issue of the New Statesman, The NS Essay - This country is not so special