The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the tag “taxes”

The Battle in Bear Country » Sullivan v Wilson: Is Civil Marriage for Gay Couples Good for Society?

The University of Idaho hosted a public debate, to a crowd of over 800, on February 27, 2013. The debate was participated in by Andrew Sullivan, blogger and former senior editor of The Atlantic, and Douglas Wilson, pastor of Christ Church of Moscow, ID, author and educator. The topic of the debate: Is Civil Marriage for Gay Couples Good for Society?

Battle of the Beards

Battle of the Beards

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Death and Taxes

Death and Taxes: two things of which we can be absolutely certain we will experience.

Yesterday, I filed my taxes. As has been the case of late, I had to pay above and beyond what was collected from me throughout the year. I’m sure it’s simply a case of needing to perform some basic arithmetic so that more is collected with each paycheck and less, if any, will be due as a lump sum in April.

That is hardly the point, though, is it?

One of my favorite films is Will Ferrell’s Stranger than Fiction. In the film, there is a scene where Ana Pascal (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) explains to Will Ferrell (or Harold Crick, as he is known in the film) why she knew she’d be audited. She explains that she paid her taxes, but withheld a percentage of it, and attached a letter explaining that the percentage she withheld was withheld because she was not interested in supporting those particular government expenditures. Miss Pascal, as Harold addresses her, explains that she only paid 78 percent of her taxes because she’s not so big a fan of “national defense, corporate bailouts, and campaign discretionary funds.”

While I’m certain Miss Pascal is appropriately named “Pascal”–think Blaise Pascal–it is a different point to be made altogether. The point here is that Miss Pascal is identifying what we all seem to know: there are things for which we each believe the government to be necessary or at least desirable. And insofar as they work within those constraints, we are willing–generally–to support them financially. Miss Pascal is fine with potholes, swing sets, and shelters, but she is opposed to the government funding the other endeavors previously mentioned.

I, on the other hand, would oppose even what she supports, but I suppose I’d be less inclined to fight them if the only thing they wanted my taxes for were potholes and shelters. Instead, they want our money for everything, and so I am inclined–rightly or wrongly–to fight them on everything.

If only the government operated on market principles. If I believe them to build the best and safest roads, then I voluntarily give them tax dollars instead of another firm attempting to build roads. If I believe them to provide the best security services for my family, then I I voluntarily give them tax dollars instead of another firm. If I don’t, I withhold those dollars and give them to someone else.

Some might say this is untenable. Others wouldn’t compete for my money to provide those services because too many people could take advantage of the services without having paid for it. Miss Pascal, for example, lives in a country that is safe precisely because others are paying for the national defense she objects to. But is it true that companies wouldn’t compete for those funds anyway?

The objection, while seemingly sound, isn’t necessarily so. Men have written multitudes of books explaining how the most necessary and basic governmental services could be offered by the market. Books like Chaos Theory by Robert Murphy or Anarchy and the Law by Edward P. Stringham explain quite effectively how it could work.

The question shouldn’t be whether the government is the only one who can do it, but rather if the government has the duty to do it. Rights, after all, exist only insofar as they are connected to our duties. I have a duty to protect my family, therefore I have the right to bear arms. I once heard a Constitutionalist explain: I have the duty to protect my family, therefore I have the right to either perform it myself or delegate it (along with my neighbors) to an organization–the police department–to do it in my stead. I have the duty to feed the poor, therefore I have the right to perform it, but I do not have the right to make someone else do it for or with me. My question to the Constitutionalist is, “Why, though, do I have the right to make my neighbors help fund the police department to which I am delegating my duty to protect my family, but not to make them help me feed the poor?”

What are the government’s duties and what rights does it have in order to execute those duties? This is the question of the hour. So long as we aren’t answering that question–and maybe even if we do–the government will continue to assert its duty and right to do whatsoever it chooses. And so long as that continues, it will be death and taxes for us.

Inconsistent Conservatism

by Adam McIntosh

As the presidential election approaches us, evangelical Christians are rallying behind the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, as the conservative alternative to President Obama. Frequently, I’m told that Romney is better than Obama because he is against redistribution of wealth. Romney has recently criticized Obama for his redistributive policies and when conservatives call Obama a socialist, redistribution of wealth is generally what they have in mind. The two obvious assumptions at play here are 1) that redistribution of wealth is immoral and 2) that conservatives are staunchly opposed to it. But are these assumptions correct? The answer is yes and no, in that order.

Redistribution of wealth is a form of taxation whereby John Smith’s money is taken from him and then given to Jane Doe for a service that the government provides. He must pay the tax even if he never uses the service provided. Mr. Smith is forced to give his money while receiving nothing in return, violating the basics of economic trade. Put simply, this is theft. The principle of private property is clear throughout Scripture. The eighth commandment itself, “thou shall not steal,” presupposes private ownership. If there is no private ownership, there can be no such thing as theft. Redistributive taxation takes your property by threat of force and gives it to someone else, all in the name of charity. (Ironic, isn’t it? Charity is by definition a voluntary act. To force charity is to deny it.) Redistributing wealth is immoral, regardless of what service the government is providing. Christian conservatives – myself included – are correct in condemning the Obama administration and all groups that seek to preserve or extend redistributive taxation.

But as it turns out, Christian conservatives support redistribution of wealth just as much as anyone else. An overwhelming amount of evangelicals all over the country are perfectly fine with disability and unemployment benefits, Medicare, Social Security, public schools, foreign aid, and more. In many cases it is “conservative” Republican politicians who help enact these programs in the first place. And guess who was bragging about how much he wanted to improve Medicare, Social Security and public education during the first 2012 presidential debate? Surprise, surprise! It was Mitt Romney.

These programs are redistributive in the exact same way that government-run healthcare is. John Smith is forced to fund them with his tax dollars even if he refuses to use them. For example, if he never goes to public school, if he never sends his kids to public school, and if he never teaches in public school, he is still forced to pay for other people to attend and teach in public schools. This wouldn’t be a problem if each citizen was given a choice to fund these programs or not. Each citizen could choose which programs they want to use and fund them appropriately. No one would be forced to pay for something they do not want. But this scenario is pure fiction. If the government could not force redistribution of wealth it would be no different than a private agency, thereby defeating the entire purpose of these programs.

Conservatives condemn redistribution of wealth on one hand, but support and defend it on the other. We oppose it rightly when it is advocated by liberals, but turn a blind eye to it when it’s something we want to take advantage of. The inconsistency must stop. An inconsistent person has no credibility. The Republican Party – my party – will continue down the path of irrelevance as long as we refuse to acknowledge the planks in our own eyes. If we want to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and uphold his standards of private property, it must be applied across the board.

This article is not a condemnation of those who are dependent upon redistributive programs. People do the best they can with what is available to them. Many people in this country need charity where the Church has been absent. Ultimately, this is why socialistic policies are becoming the norm in America. When the Church becomes dormant in her duties, counterfeits always arise. Instead of pointing fingers, we should seek first the kingdom of God in our daily lives. We should be encouraging local churches to implement a presence of charity in their communities; to provide affordable schooling to low-income families; to help congregants find employment and assist in managing their finances if need be. We should work towards “opting out” of redistributive programs. Our purpose is to proclaim the lordship of Christ over every area of the political map and to live our lives in terms of that proclamation. Only then can we begin to end the welfare state. It starts with us – and our hypocrisy isn’t helping.

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