Please see my previous posts on this topic for more important background. In the course of those posts I have tried to lay out a couple of important principles. My audience was strictly Christian in those cases. In this post, nonChristians are potentially included, too. Here are the earlier posts in sum:
- Taxation always has some impact on the liberty of those taxed.
- Using government/taxation to provide important and necessary social programs differs from using private individuals, organizations, or churches to do so on a very important point: the funds that the private entities use are freely given within the private organization itself… while the funds the government uses comes by coercion and threat of punishment.
- Christians should not abrogate to the government the tasks and duties given to them.
- When Christians use the government to advance their social causes this requires taxation, and thus a diminishing of liberty to some extent within the community taxed. Importantly, Christians are then using someone else’s (coerced) funds to do their good deeds.
And some important clarifications were required.
- None of this implies that anyone, and certainly not Christians, should be indifferent to the plight of those with various needs around us.
- None of this is to say that even within the Christian world view there is no proper place and function for the government.
- None of this is to say that Christians shouldn’t pay taxes or that governments shouldn’t tax.
- However, since in this country all citizens, Christians included, have the right under the rule of law to participate in and even change the government and how it operates, Christians should think very carefully about how to proceed.
It is possible to be enslaved within a tyrannical system without actually being locked up in chains. Nor does there need to be an identifiable tyrant at the top for it to be tyranny.
In yesterday’s post I gave the example of the married couple who can’t afford to have one parent stay home to watch the kids. Then I pointed out that if all of the taxes withheld automatically by the government were returned to the family, they could in fact afford it. No legislation is enacted requiring both parents to work in order for them to survive and have a relatively comfortable standard of living but that is the net effect of the tax burden on the family.
And of course, if both the father and mother have to work, then they have to pay childcare. And when it comes time for the decision, their hand is practically forced in regards to education: they will likely have to choose against homeschooling and will have to choose secular education. One thing leads to another and before you know it, just by virtue of the fact that both parents need to work in order to survive, the next generation finds themselves embedded in the same tyrannical system. Again, no law was passed. No legislator said, “Let’s make it illegal to have a parent stay at home…”
Probably, no legislator said, “Let’s make it difficult for a parent to stay at home…” but this was the effect.
I give this example only to illustrate that slavery can take many different forms. Nor of course am I forgetting that a great many parents decide to live quite uncomfortably in order to have one of them stay at home. It certainly can be done, but it needn’t be as hard as it is. Nor am I condemning the family where both parents do work. I am merely pointing out that the tax burden virtually requires it.
(I have to issue all these clarifications because even though I already said that I was merely trying to illustrate a concept readers will ignore the point I am explicitly making and leap to the points they think I am implicitly making)
It is important that freedom loving individuals, and Christians in particular, recognize all the different ways in which our lives are affected by this or that program, policy, endeavor, etc. We certainly should consider it before instituting measures, no matter how sincere our motivations and important and necessary the desired outcome is.
For example, certainly we should care for the poor. That does not mean we can find a random rich person and put a gun to his head and demand that he pay up. That would be wrong. We may satiate our consciences by using the government to go around doing the robbing but isn’t it still robbery? Let’s say we find ways to justify it. When the rich people stop doing what made them rich (close their businesses, fire workers, leave the town, send jobs overseas, etc) aren’t we being a little… silly is the nicest word I can think of… at not expecting such an outcome?
So we rob a rich guy to help 5 poor people. The rich guy turns around and lays off 10 people. Now, twice as many people are poor as there were before. Hence, a need to rob more rich people! Never mind that this seems to be the general tact of those who actually want to expand the government, I want to focus on the obvious and predictable consequence.
I will say it again in order to be clear. If you take money out of the system in order to accomplish your good and noble purpose, there will be other consequences. We have a responsibility as intelligent, thinking, compassionate individuals to take these into account when we act to justify the coerced extraction of funds from the general population or specific segments within it. It is one thing if people are giving up their resources willingly- they do so out of freedom and full awareness of their own particular set of circumstances. It is quite another when it is extracted blindly, against people’s wishes, to be re-distributed in a way that you think is more important then how those people themselves would have spent it.
Do you even know what impact this extraction will have? For all you know, you may be hurting more than you are helping.
I do not think we appreciate the tax burden on our society or its impact on our freedom and liberty. For example, I mentioned the taxes withheld from the paycheck but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Allow me to illustrate.
Let’s take Gadget X. Family Z buys Gadget X priced at $10. There is a 5 percent sales tax. Family Z’s actual price, once taxes are factored in, is only fifty cents, right? $10.50. But it is not so. Gadget X is being sold by Store Y. Store Y has to pay taxes, too, and it must charge accordingly. Let’s say that Store Y bought the gadget at $5.00. Y makes a profit of $5.00, right? It is not so. The tax on this profit, conservatively, is 15%. This 75 cents is also passed along to the consumer. Behind the veil, Family Z’s tax burden is $1.25 for gadget X.
But we aren’t done. The profit of $5.00 is only the gross profit. Y purchased the gadget from Wholesaler W. Wholesaler W bought the gadget from Factory V. Wholesaler W had to pay to have Gadget X shipped to it, and likewise Store Y had to pay to have it shipped to them. Both the factory and the wholesaler are taxed. Let’s use our conservative 15% figure (actual corporate tax rates are probably going to be much higher.
If hypothetically the factory made, net, $1 off of Gadget X and the wholesaler made $2 off of Gadget X, 15% of this $3.00 is another 45 cents. But from their gross profit they each had to pay the shipping company. The shippers between the factory and the wholesaler and the wholesaler and the retailer each made 75 cents, let’s say, for a net profit of $1.50. Again another 15% adds another 22 cents to the actual tax burden Family Z is covering. We are currently at a tax cost of $1.92 for Gadget X.
We thought we were only paying 5% tax on the gadget but in reality we are closing in on 20%.
But of course, the shippers each netted 75 cents for the product but that only comes after paying for their fuel, which is also taxed at the state and federal level. Let’s say each paid 20 cents in taxes on the fuel used to get the product from one location to the other. Buried into the profit and expenses for the final $10 retail price is the compensation for this extra 40 cents in expenses, too.
We have reached about $2.32 in our conservative analysis. The tax burden on this family for Gadget X will probably come in at 40 or 50 percent after we take into account the tax burden at all the levels involved here. The factory has supplies shipped to it and must pay those who in turn pay taxes, and so on and so forth. Could it be that $5 (or more!) of the price of Gadget X actually goes to pay taxes somewhere down the line? Yep.
But it is argued that all these taxes are necessary to help Family Z. Perhaps Family Z wouldn’t need the help if 50% of its costs were trimmed back. But even so, a justification that ostensibly was meant to help poor people actually comes back to hurt them the most, for $10 for Gadget X out of a poor person’s budget is much more on a percentage basis then it is out of a rich person’s budget. The attempt to help the poor ends up sticking it to them the worst.
We can go on and on and on. You buy a house, the seller is taxed. He takes these taxes into account. You buy a car, the seller is taxed. He takes these taxes into account. Who then is paying for the tax? The seller? Nope, the buyer. The end user, if you will.
Meanwhile, all these corporations up and down the line are hiring and firing and compensating based on what they can afford and what they can afford is as impacted by their tax burden as it is for us, the final consumer.
The truth is that it is a very small thing to say that if our hypothetical family wanted a parent to stay home with the kids they could easily do so if so much wasn’t being automatically withdrawn from their paycheck. In reality, if we looked at how much governmental interference was costing the family at every level of its existence… fuel taxes, cell phone taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, etc, etc, etc, we may find that the actual tax burden is beyond stifling.
I said at the beginning that there is a proper place for government and there certainly is a proper time and mechanism for taxation. However, it is important that we understand the actual impact and consequences of government and taxation and alert ourselves to the very real possibility that tyranny, actual outright tyranny, can be foisted upon a society- indeed, is already upon us- with that society’s ‘consent’ and without even their knowledge.
But now you know. Now what are you going to do?