Secular and Religious Implications of Government as Robin Hood
The idea of helping the poor among us is noble and correct–a grand calling of good. Of that, I know no practicing Christian (and few secularists) who disagree. The only dissension is in how that should be accomplished.
I prefer that charity toward the less-fortunate be done on the individual level, as each person’s conscience and/or personal duty to the Lord shall compel, through either direct aid or through reputable charities. I also prefer charity that helps the poor to help themselves–rather than the equivalent of dumping money into enabling of destructive personal addictions and dependencies (including dependency on government).
Any of us who are not sufficiently charitable in this life (even if that includes me) will have to answer for it in the next. And for those who don’t believe in a next life, you had better hope you’re right…and even then, there’s still your own conscience (if any) to which you are nominally accountable.
By contrast, some leftist Christians (including our President, apparently), indicate that it is the believer’s duty to make sure government will take from one to give to another, sanctimoniously supposing they or the government best knows the needs of poor and rich private individuals, as well as how best to spend hard-earned money of others once it has been taken from them.
[Odd how it’s others’ money the left wants, isn’t it?]
Just because we are supposed to “render to Caesar” doesn’t mean we encourage Caesar to steal more. And by the way, Caesar is dead, and so is the Roman Empire. This entertaining gentleman puts it another plain-spoken way, which I certainly can appreciate. To his reasonable rant, let me add more food for thought…
Forcible or coercive taking of resources, money or time from a person, in any form, is called theft. Ever heard of “thou shalt not steal”? Does it say, “Thou shalt not steal except to give to the poor via government bureaucracies”? No. Question answered.
Governmental extortion via taxation has proved for decades not to solve poverty anyway, by virtue of the simple fact that poverty still exists. Making an idol out of big government isn’t the answer. Charity–especially small, locally-based charity, is.
Every dollar taken from us in taxes is one dollar less we have for charity. This is mathematically unavoidable fact–not opinion. Now, for some experience-based opinion: indeed, private charity and philanthropy are much, much, much better equipped, in terms of compassion, familiarity and efficiency, to handle solutions to poverty than distant Washington bureaucrats with their bloated overhead, wastefulness and policy inertia. Maybe there’s a good reason that conservatives are more charitable as a group (individual exceptions being averaged into the general trend)–whether with money, time or blood.
Far be it for liberal Christians to assume that there is something inherently, socially noble about using government as a vector to commit Robin Hood style theft. Again, read the Eighth Commandment: “Thou shalt not steal.” That commandment applies equally to governments as to individuals; for governments are composed of…you guessed it, people! This means that all the criminal ills that afflict society at large also are present within government–including extortion, embezzlement, bribery, kickbacks, favoritism, cronyism, and assorted anti-whomever prejudices.
Those who work in some form of government, including me, are bound by our ethics (and faith, if religious) to check any such inclinations at the door. Even if only a tiny percentage of government fails to do so, that’s still many tens of thousands of people on a national scale. Do you trust they won’t get their grimy paws involved? Do you trust them to deliver the goods with your money more efficiently and effectively than, say, a local charity that is more directly accountable to the giver than some distant, faceless, nameless Washington bureaucrats? If so, I’ve got some land between Key West and Havana to sell you.
For all who claim, “Taxes are a moral issue!”, I agree–they are–just not in the way you might think. And for all those who advocate higher taxes (again, typically for others): for years, I have offered one simple challenge that no higher-tax advocate–I mean not one single person–has had the moral wherewithal or courage of conviction to take up! That says something about those who push for higher taxes, their willingness to stop bellowing hollow ideology and instead put money in place of mouth.
For the very few who might include themselves in the request for more taxation: do you believe you’re being generous and charitable by paying more taxes? If you’re part of the Christian left, do you think that somehow will get you deeper into Heaven, or earn brownie points with the Big Man that somehow aren’t available to those anti-intellectual, heathen, backward-thinking right-wingers–the folks whom you look down upon while claiming some high-horse position of pseudo-egalitarian social-justice advocacy?
Or if you’re secular, answer this: how is forced altruism (i.e., you can’t back out or change your mind!) not an innately self-contradictory idea? The Soviets could tell you: “It is, and so what. We take, regardless.” If you get your wish, that’s your fate, and that of everyone else too. I suppose then we’re all equal, all right…equally screwed!
For more on poverty problems and straight-talk solutions, see my four-part series on poverty in America: (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4). Part 3 is especially pertinent to this topic, and contains the taxation challenge.