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October 1985, Vol. 108, No. 10
Flexible and partial retirement
for Norwegian and Swedish workers
Nearly a century and a half before passage of the Social Security Act, Thomas Paine advocated a partial pension. All persons were to receive six pounds annually starting at age 50; a full pension of 10 pounds was to be paid annually from the onset of old age, considered by Paine to be 60 years.
Paine was not only prophetic in recognizing the economic problem posed by old age in industrial societies. Equally significant was his observation that the decade prior to what was considered the beginning of old age was often one of proliferating workplace problems:
At 50, though the mental faculties of man are in full vigor, and his judgment better than at any preceding date, the bodily powers for laborious life are on the decline. He cannot bear the same quantity of fatigue as at an earlier period. He begins to earn less, and is less capable of enduring wind and weather; and in those more retired employments where much sight is required, he fails apace, and sees himself, like an old horse, beginning to be turned adrift.1
Although Paine supported full pensions at age 60 because of the harsh conditions workers faced, he did not advocate mandatory retirement. Rather, the pension was to improve workers' freedom of choice of retirement age. "At 60 his labour ought to be over at least from direct necessity. [emphasis added]. It is painful to see old age working itself to death in what are called civilized countries, for daily bread...."2
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1 Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, pt. 2, 1792
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