“This life is slow suicide, unless you read.”Herman Wouk

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Marcus Tullius Cicero on Universal Basic Income

[Epicurus] does [praise virtue], and so too Caius Gracchus, after [Gracchus] had granted extravagant doles and poured out the funds of the [state] treasury like water, nonetheless, in his [own] words, [he] posed as the protector of the treasury. Why am I [Cicero] to listen to words, seeing that I have the deeds before my eyes?** The famous Piso, named Frug[al], had spoken consistently against the Corn-law [Lex Frumentaria, a/k/a Lex Sempronia, a/k/a Universal Basic Income]. When the law was passed, in spite of his consular rank, [Piso] was there to receive the corn. Gracchus noticed Piso standing in the throng; he asked him in the hearing of the Roman people what consistency there was in coming for the corn under the terms of the law which he had opposed. “I shouldn’t like it, Gracchus, to come into your head to divide up my property among all the citizens; but should you do so I should come for my share.” . . . . Read Gracchus’ speeches and [based upon his speeches] you will say he was [the] protector of the treasury.

Marcus Tullius Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, Book III, ch. XX (trans. J.E. King, 1971) (Ciceros authorship circa 45 BCE) (Lex Frumentaria enacted circa 123 BCE).

**Quid verba audiam, cum facta videam?

Seth Barrett Tillman, Marcus Tullius Cicero on Universal Basic Income, New Reform Club (Mar. 15, 2020, 3:47 PM), <https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2020/03/marcus-tullius-cicero-on-universal.html>; 

Alternate translation: But [Epicurus] commends virtue, and that frequently; and indeed Caius Gracchus, when he had made the largest distributions of the public money [to the people], and had exhausted the treasury, nevertheless [he] spoke much of defending the [public] treasury. What signifies what men say when we see what they do? That Piso, who was surnamed Frugal, had always harangued against the law that was proposed for distributing the corn; but when it had passed, though a man of consular dignity, he came to receive the corn [like everyone else]. Gracchus observed Piso standing in the court, and asked him, in the hearing of the people, how it was consistent for him to take corn by a law he had himself opposed. “It was,” said he, “against your distributing my goods to every man as you thought proper; but, as you do so, I claim my share.” Did not this grave and wise man sufficiently show that the public revenue was dissipated by the Sempronian law? Read Gracchus’s speeches, and you will pronounce him the advocate of the [public] treasury. 


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