Tiberius Gracchus resolved to set the situation to rights. And since as we have considered, the democratic-republican model of government depends upon the existence of a large, independent middle class, the Gracchan legislation could have but one goal in view: to restore a large and independent middle class. To do this, Gracchus had to find some way way to fragment concentrated fortunes and get property into the hands of the common people. It doesn’t have to be communism. It doesn’t have to be socialism. But it does have to be government intervention of some sort.
The form of intervention that Gracchus employed was simple. Ration public lands. Maximum caps of 326 acres, minimum caps of 20 acres. It is not like he was the first person to think of rations. We are told by the historians that these key provisions of the Lex Sempronia Agraria were reenactments of the nearly 200-year old lex de modo agrorum of the Licinian-Sextian rogations, which had already established similar caps. And even that older law was the culmination of centuries of agitation over land. Indeed, the historical record confirms that some form of agitation over land occurred in 484, 483, 482, 477, 474, 472, 468, 454, 453, 440, 434, 422, 419, 418, 412, 411, 409, 407, 397, 384, 383, and 379 BC.
Many writers impute Gracchus’ legislation to ambition. Many blame him for violating the ancient constitution by the methods he employed to get his legislation passed. Some even call him a socialist. But the constitution was already wrecked, and it wasn’t the smallhold farmers, the citizen-soldiers, or the Gracchi who wrecked it. It was the wealthy plutocracy. Moreover, Gracchus’ rationism is not socialism. And compared to the goal of restoring a republic – whether he knew the import of his actions – motive is insignificant. For he sought out to restore the very definition of a republic, as conceived by the founder of ours, John Adams: