Private property?

A responsive reading, in response to an astonishing comment by Pastor Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, as quoted by Jeff Sharlet in "Inside America's most powerful megachurch," in the May 2005 Harper's.

"They're pro-free markets, they're pro-private property. … That's what evangelical stands for."

– Pastor Ted Haggard

"All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need."

– Acts 2:44-45

"They're pro-free markets, they're pro-private property. … That's what evangelical stands for."

– Pastor Ted Haggard

"Thou shalt not turn away from him that is in want, but thou shalt share all things with thy brother, and shalt not say that they are thine own."

– The Didache

"They're pro-free markets, they're pro-private property. … That's what evangelical stands for."

– Pastor Ted Haggard

"Therefore all things are common; and let not the rich claim more than the rest. To say therefore 'I have more than I need, why not enjoy?' is neither human nor proper."

– St. Clement of Alexandria

"They're pro-free markets, they're pro-private property. … That's what evangelical stands for."

– Pastor Ted Haggard

"From those things that God gave you, take that which you need, but the rest, which to you are superfluous, are necessary to others. The superfluous goods of the rich are necessary to the poor, and when you possess the superfluous you possess what is not yours."

– St. Augustine

"They're pro-free markets, they're pro-private property. … That's what evangelical stands for."

– Pastor Ted Haggard

"If one who takes the clothing off another is a thief, why give any other name to one who can clothe the naked and refuses to do so? The bread that you withhold belongs to the poor; the cape that you hide in your chest belongs to the naked; the shoes rotting in your house belong to those who must go unshod."

– St. Basil

"They're pro-free markets, they're pro-private property. … That's what evangelical stands for."

– Pastor Ted Haggard

"The rich have that which belongs to the poor, even though they may have received it as an inheritance, no matter whence their money comes."

– St. John Chrysostom

"They're pro-free markets, they're pro-private property. … That's what evangelical stands for."

– Pastor Ted Haggard

"When you give to the poor, you give not of your own, but simply return what is his, for you have usurped that which is common and has been given for the common use of all. The land belongs to all, not to the rich; and yet those who are deprived of its use are many more than those who enjoy it."

– St. Ambrose

"They're pro-free markets, they're pro-private property. … That's what evangelical stands for."

– Pastor Ted Haggard

"Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: 'He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.'"

– 2 Corinthians 8:13-15

"They're pro-free markets, they're pro-private property. … That's what evangelical stands for."

– Pastor Ted Haggard

"'What should we do then?' the crowd asked. John answered, 'The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.'"

– Luke 3:10-11

"They're pro-free markets, they're pro-private property. … That's what evangelical stands for."

– Pastor Ted Haggard

"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?"

– Matthew 6:25

"They're pro-free markets, they're pro-private property. … That's what evangelical stands for."

– Pastor Ted Haggard

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

– 1 Timothy 6:6-10

"They're pro-free markets, they're pro-private property. … That's what evangelical stands for."

– Pastor Ted Haggard

"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter."

– James 5:1-5

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

The scripture quotes above are from the NIV. The quotes from the early fathers are mainly from Justo L. Gonzalez's invaluable book, Faith & Wealth: A history of early Christian ideas on the origin, significance and use of money. I could easily have gone on and on and on citing both the scripture and the saints in a similar vein.

Pastor Ted's embrace of "private property" as the badge. hallmark and signifier of Christianity is absurd. Christians do believe and always have believed in the right to private property, but that right has always, always been limited. And the insistence on those limits has always been just as important, or more important, than the insistence on the right itself.

Allow me to quote again from the late John Paul II's encyclical On Human Work:

The church's constant teaching on the right to private property and ownership of the means of production differs radically from the collectivism proclaimed by Marxism, but also from the capitalism practiced by liberalism and the political systems inspired by it. In the latter case the difference consists in the way the right to ownership and property is understood. Christian tradition never upheld this right as absolute and untouchable. It has always understood it as subordinated to the fact that the goods of this world are meant for all.

Christians cannot speak of being "pro-private property" without also insisting that any understanding of private property is subordinate to the common good, to what is often called "the universal destination of goods." Pastor Ted is wandering off and should take care lest he be pierced with many griefs.

N.B. Clearly, Christian thinking on wealth and property has "evolved" over the last 1,500 years. It is rather rare, these days, to hear a Christian assert or even defend the idea that "superfluity is theft" — yet that was the consistent and universal teaching of the church during the first four centuries of Christianity. This evolution or sophistication of Christian teaching is, likely, a concession — the gradual, frog-in-a-kettle process of accommodation to this world. Yet despite that, again, I'm willing to entertain the idea that this evolution is also in some ways reasonable and justifiable. But it is hypocrisy and nonsense when contemporary Christians who have sold off and abandoned every vestige of the traditional Christian understanding of wealth turn around and insist that the Christian understanding of sexuality is fixed, immutable and eternal. These people strain at the gnat of same-sex love while swallowing the camel of credit card usury. They are so obsessed with their mistaken belief that they live in the most promiscuous society of all time that they have failed to notice they live in the most affluent, the haughtiest, proudest and least concerned with the poor.

  • burritoboy

    Scott,
    We’re not talking about the government, but about Pastor Ted. Pastor Ted believes that capitalism is the core of his faith. Not his political beliefs alone, but his religious faith too. He also intentionally conflates his political/economic beliefs with his faith.
    Also, Pastor Ted encourages active political activity (unlike, as you point out, Jesus) and himself plays a not-insignificant political role. Pastor Ted speaks with the princes and the kings of Babylon, and offers aid and support to them. Unlike Jesus, who spoke mostly to fishermen and farmers and prostitutes, or St. Francis, who spoke to the birds and the homeless.
    Again, myself being Jewish, I wouldn’t find arguments such as “we should do X because it’s the Christian thing to do” particularly persuasive in terms of determining government policy. There are many things the government does that I support hopefully seperately from my religion. And I would not argue to Christians (or others!) that the government should do Z because the Talmud commands Jewish people to do Z.
    However, when the government, for reasons of it’s own, decides to do Z, (and assuming I agree with the secular and rational argument for Z as well), then I would support Z too both as a Jew and as an American citizen.
    Then, too, anyone’s faith influences what they believe is a good argument for a policy is. Is the consistent support of Jewish citizens for high levels of publically-supported secular education related to the long history of our religion’s strong support for Jewish religious education? Probably, to a not-inconsiderable degree.

  • Scott

    We’re not talking about the government, but about Pastor Ted. Pastor Ted believes that capitalism is the core of his faith. Not his political beliefs alone, but his religious faith too. He also intentionally conflates his political/economic beliefs with his faith.
    But statements about govt relate to conflating political/economic beliefs with faith (by the right and the left). I just have a hard time accepting “all property is based on force” by people who clearly haven’t given up all their bloodstained property. All rights have been defended by force at one point or another, the right to property isn’t tainted by that any more than the right to free speech is.
    “Render unto Caesar” is more a statement that people who support the Roman occupation can’t complain that it costs them. That the coins had Caesar’s stamp on them was the first thing He pointed out – Caesar doesn’t own anyone’s home. Render undo Caesar what is Caesar’s implies pretty strongly that there are things that aren’t Caesar’s, and you cannot just assume all those things are immaterial.

  • Ray

    “What the widespread support for taxation means is that people will cooperate with the IRS (at least when it comes to taking someone else’s money) because they support the principle of taxation, not because they are afraid of federal guns.
    As I said above, there’s widespread support for keeping drugs illegal, that doesn’t translate into every WOD related search and seizure becoming magically OK”
    I’m not saying that you should support taxation because everyone else does, so this isn’t really relevant.
    “Ray, if I take someone’s house to house the homeless, whose house should I confiscate to house them?”
    Easy. Take a big house that houses a lot of people, and put the person who did live there into a smaller house. Housing according to need, not according to ‘ownership’.
    Think that’s ridiculous? Fine. How do you suggest society chooses between your ridiculous principles and mine? Or do you just want to impose your morality at gunpoint?

  • Scott

    I’m not saying that you should support taxation because everyone else does, so this isn’t really relevant.
    The ‘widespread’ support for taxation is the basis of your defense of it – how can you call it irrelevant?
    Easy. Take a big house that houses a lot of people, and put the person who did live there into a smaller house. Housing according to need, not according to ‘ownership’.
    And you, of course, are the philosopher-king who gets to decide who ‘needs’ what, and the cattle obey, based on forcing your own morality on the rest of us, just like the religious right wants to do.
    If you’re a pacifist who opposes enforcing right at gunpoint if necessary (after all, defending your right to free speech is also imposing your morality on others at gunpoint by your standards), then you have to be enough of a pacifist to oppose gunpoint enforcement of taxation.
    Ray, do you have more possessions than you ‘need’? Is there nobody on Earth who needs the clothes in your closet more than you?

  • Scott

    “enforcing right” above should be “enforcing rights” – sorry ’bout that.

  • Scott

    “enforcing right” above should be “enforcing rights” – sorry ’bout that.

  • Ray

    “The ‘widespread’ support for taxation is the basis of your defense of it – how can you call it irrelevant?”
    Its irrelevant to the question of whether you, Scott, should support taxation. I don’t think you should have to alter your opinions to fit the prevailing mood.
    Its very relevant to the question “would govt troops would have to draw their guns to get your bank manager to transfer money from your account?” Taxation is widely supported, therefore she is likely to support taxation.
    Its also very relevant to the question society asa whole has to answer, “Should there be taxation?”
    But widespread support for taxation doesn’t answer the question “Are you, Scott, okay with taxation?”

  • Scott

    Its very relevant to the question “would govt troops would have to draw their guns to get your bank manager to transfer money from your account?” Taxation is widely supported, therefore she is likely to support taxation.
    The govt wouldn’t get the support they need to raise the funds they want w/o the threat of drawing guns, that’s why they want the law to allow them that threat in the first place. That’s also the reason why you want that threat available. Even your attempt to blindly assert what goes on in everyone’s minds when they see others not paying is an admission that the threat to use force is necessary to collect taxes. You assert they don’t pay because they think it’s unfair to pay if others don’t, and reject without any evidence whatsoever the possibility they’d not pay because they saw others getting away with it and realize they could get away with it to.
    If it was just a matter of voluntary cooperation, I’d just move to an offshore bank. What would you do then, Ray?

  • Scott

    Its also very relevant to the question society asa whole has to answer, “Should there be taxation?”
    And it’s relevant to the question, “should there be a War on Drugs”. Most people support that. Do you, Ray? Do you support every violation of civil rights necessary to enforce the WOD, because people accept those violations as being necessary to enforce the WOD?
    Don’t try to use “majority acceptance” of your views to support them, Ray. You forget who has been winning the majority of votes lately.
    Ray, do you own anything that is needed by someone else more than it is needed by you?

  • Scott

    Ray, what would you do if I refused to pay taxes, but rented a furnished apt and leased my car (so neither belonged to me) – the best part is I could afford to lease a huge SUV and pay for the gas w/ the money I’d not be paying in taxes for your ‘compassionate’ social programs.
    What would you do then, Ray?

  • Ray

    “If it was just a matter of voluntary cooperation, I’d just move to an offshore bank. What would you do then, Ray?”
    I brought up the bank in the first place as an example of how the govt could get to most of your assets without ever going near you (and so without initiating any force) If all your assets were either on your person or in an offshore bank, that would be harder. But they’re not, are they?
    “And it’s relevant to the question, “should there be a War on Drugs”. Most people support that. Do you, Ray?”
    I’ve repeated this often enough that you should know the answer. Most recently, “widespread support for taxation doesn’t answer the question “Are you, Scott, okay with taxation?””. No more does widespread support for the WOD mean that I, Ray, am okay with the WOD.
    “Ray, what would you do if I refused to pay taxes, but rented a furnished apt and leased my car”
    For example? Change the locks on the apartment while you were out, repossess the car while you weren’t in it. Bill the leasing companies for the trouble. Go to your employers and get your wages garnished. See how many more people rent to you. See how you like paying in advance for things you get to use for two days. Just for an example of how to deal with tax-defaulters without initiating force.
    “If you’re a pacifist who opposes enforcing right at gunpoint if necessary, then you have to be enough of a pacifist to oppose gunpoint enforcement of taxation.”
    Did I say I was such a pacifist? I don’t think so. But you started on this thread by complaining about people pushing guns in your face to impose their morality on you. I’m just pointing out that you would do exactly the same thing, using guns to enforce your idea of property rights.
    So is that really your answer to my question? You don’t think society as a whole should decide how to balance your morality and mine, you just want to impose yours at gunpoint? In which case, why are you wasting time whining? Just go out and buy some bigger guns.
    “It’s no less wrong, and no less ‘evangelical’ to impose leftist morality on people as it is to impose right wing talibangelical morality.”
    Its wrong, I see, because those moralities are wrong. But if you’re lucky enough to have figured out the one true morality, then its perfectly okay to impose _that_ at gunpoint.

  • Scott

    If all your assets were either on your person or in an offshore bank, that would be harder. But they’re not, are they? … Change the locks on the apartment while you were out, repossess the car while you weren’t in it. Bill the leasing companies for the trouble. Go to your employers and get your wages garnished.
    My assets aren’t offshore because that doesn’t get me out of taxes. Give me that incentive and that would change. Swiss banks have a good reputation for secrecy, Ray, you cannot assert that banks all over the world support taxation in the US all that much. There are such things as tax havens, and if I’m not threatened with violence if I use one, my odds of doing so shoot up.
    What would be your right to bother the person who owns the apartment I rent or the car I lease over my back taxes? Why would they cooperate voluntarily? You said earlier that others seeing me not pay would cause them not to pay, yet now you say others seeing me not pay would cause them to basically pay extra, because your threat that nobody would rent to me again only works if what you demand of my landlord costs him.
    Would my employer cooperate w/o threats? They would have a huge financial incentive not to themselves as we’d be splitting the $$ that goes to the govt now. And don’t forget, Ray, I work for an Evil Major Corporation. Evil, evil, eeeeeeviiiiillllll. Evil Corporations don’t voluntarily cooperate with govt. That’s what makes then eeeeviiillllll, right?
    Ray, defending my rights (whether to free speech or to property) isn’t imposing my morality on anyone. By your logic, fighting off someone attempting to kill you is “imposing your morality” just as much as the religious right wants to, which is silly.

  • CharlesH

    burritoboy, I think you are mistaken in your interpretation or memory of Jesus’s teachings. Jesus did not demand near total austerity or total charity (charity in the sense of charitable giving). He demanded that of some, such as the rich young ruler who was obsessed with money, but not all, such as not from Matthew, who was not so obsessed (and demonstrated with spontaneous giving).
    I’m not sure where you are getting your information on the economic regime of the Apostles. Judas did keep their common purse (and stole from it). I don’t know that any of the Apostles had independent sources of income; they left their (generally poor) livelihoods to follow Jesus, so the money they got after that was given by donors to the movement, not to indivduals. The little information we have fits a non-profit corporation as well as it does a commune.
    >>> a. Christians should support the government doing things that are in accordance with Christianity. That does not mean that the government should necessarily enforce all of Jesus’ vision just because it’s Jesus’ vision, but insofar as the government does accomplish some of that vision (i.e. giving funds to the poor, for instance, as well as enforcing law and justice), that accomplishment is a good thing. <<<
    There are several problems here. One is the that whereas giving one's own funds to the poor is in accordance with and required by Christianity, taking other's funds and giving them is not. Another is the question of whether Christian requirements should be enforced by the government, which has already been answered in a resounding no by the Constitution. If the government can enforce 10% of income for charity, why not 10% of time for prayer or worship? After all, Jesus puts loving your neighbor second, loving God is first.
    The are where Pastor Haggard is following the Bible and St. Basil is not is that in the Bible it is never indicated that your superfluity is not your property. It is indicated that it is yours and you must give it, which is entirely different than it is not yours and you must not keep it, or worse, must not be allowed to keep it. Though my familiarity with the Church Father's writings is limited, I suspect that most or all of those quotes are actually rhetorical flourishes from exhortations to give rather than economic statements.
    Again, Christianity tells you how to live, not how you should make others live.

  • Ray

    “My assets aren’t offshore because that doesn’t get me out of taxes. Give me that incentive and that would change”
    What, ALL of them? Your only assets left in this country would be about your person? Well then I’d have to wave a little white flag and grant you the victory.
    “What would be your right to bother the person who owns the apartment I rent or the car I lease over my back taxes? Why would they cooperate voluntarily?”
    As has been pointed out dozens of times on this thread alone, most people support taxation. That is why they would cooperate voluntarily. That’s why you’re moving to an offshore bank, remember?
    “Would my employer cooperate w/o threats?”
    Because your employers almost certainly support taxation. Evil corporations, given that they have so many assets themselves (including intellectual assets)that they want protected by state power, are perhaps even more likely to support the government in these matters. (By the way, you appear to have something stuck in your keyboard)
    “Ray, defending my rights (whether to free speech or to property) isn’t imposing my morality on anyone”
    Scott, when you say “Get off my land or I shoot” you are imposing your concept of property rights on me at gunpoint.
    “By your logic, fighting off someone attempting to kill you is “imposing your morality” just as much as the religious right wants to, which is silly.”
    First off, this equation of your property with your body is the kind of thing that gets libertarians laughed at, and with good reason.
    But if you want to put it like that, then yeah, any situation where you limit the actions of others because of your moral principles is “imposing your morality”. Stop a firing squad, protest at an abortion clinic, you’re imposing your morality on others. Sometimes I’d agree with the imposition, but that doesn’t change what it is.

  • Scott

    Ray, if renting instead of owning shields people from taxes, then people would start renting things. Change people’s incentives and you change their behavior. Major corporations can lease capital assets (from foreign companies if necessary) instead of owning if that gets them away from the IRS.
    You seem to just ignore the amount of tax fraud that goes on now, even with threats of a physical response from the govt. Do evil major corporations not ever cheat on their taxes now? We could save a lot of $$ on enforcement costs if that’s the case.
    Scott, when you say “Get off my land or I shoot” you are imposing your concept of property rights on me at gunpoint.
    When you say “stop mugging me or I’ll shoot” you are doing the same thing. If it’s “widespread acceptance” of a belief that makes it OK to impose it, I can get much more acceptance for stopping people from breaking into your house and stealing your TV than you can for having the govt control everyone’s retirement or healthcare.
    Would nationalized healthcare be immoral if you have to shove it down the throats of, say, 45% of the country if they want no part of it?

  • Scott

    Ray, read this about just how much people love to voluntarily cooperate with the IRS:
    It’s often said there’s nothing certain in life except death and taxes. According to two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalists Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, however, the latter part of that adage is now decidedly in dispute. The Great American Tax Dodge, the pair’s latest examination of U.S. systems gone awry, spells out exactly how massive tax fraud is currently costing the nation enough to provide health care for its 44 million uninsured citizens–and precisely why the problem will continue to grow at virtually all economic levels unless remedial measures are immediately employed. In their fully detailed but always readable style, Barlett and Steele authoritatively discuss multimillionaires who never file tax returns, Internet sites that can link anyone to shady tax havens, the use of “phantom children” and “invisible employees” to illegitimately shelter income, and evasive techniques like offshore accounts and holding companies that illegally keep money from reaching the government agencies to which it is owed….
    Or read this article
    Abusive tax-avoidance schemes — especially illegal offshore credit card accounts — may be proliferating considerably faster than the Internal Revenue Service expected for the last fiscal year, and the agency is not dedicating enough people and resources to combat the problem, the General Accounting Office has found.
    The GAO report, to be released publicly today, said the IRS recently told the White House that over the past two years it has linked more than 400,000 taxpayers to tax-evasion schemes that the agency says are likely to be found illegal. That number is considerably larger than the 131,000 the agency reported to congressional investigators this fall.
    Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), left, and member Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said the IRS needs to do more. (Ray Lustig — The Washington Post)
    More than two-thirds of the 400,000 taxpayers have established bank accounts in offshore tax havens and are using debit and credit cards to easily access money that has never been taxed, the IRS has found. …

  • Scott

    Ray, read this about just how much people love to voluntarily cooperate with the IRS:
    It’s often said there’s nothing certain in life except death and taxes. According to two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalists Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, however, the latter part of that adage is now decidedly in dispute. The Great American Tax Dodge, the pair’s latest examination of U.S. systems gone awry, spells out exactly how massive tax fraud is currently costing the nation enough to provide health care for its 44 million uninsured citizens–and precisely why the problem will continue to grow at virtually all economic levels unless remedial measures are immediately employed. In their fully detailed but always readable style, Barlett and Steele authoritatively discuss multimillionaires who never file tax returns, Internet sites that can link anyone to shady tax havens, the use of “phantom children” and “invisible employees” to illegitimately shelter income, and evasive techniques like offshore accounts and holding companies that illegally keep money from reaching the government agencies to which it is owed….
    Or read this article
    Abusive tax-avoidance schemes — especially illegal offshore credit card accounts — may be proliferating considerably faster than the Internal Revenue Service expected for the last fiscal year, and the agency is not dedicating enough people and resources to combat the problem, the General Accounting Office has found.
    The GAO report, to be released publicly today, said the IRS recently told the White House that over the past two years it has linked more than 400,000 taxpayers to tax-evasion schemes that the agency says are likely to be found illegal. That number is considerably larger than the 131,000 the agency reported to congressional investigators this fall.
    Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), left, and member Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said the IRS needs to do more. (Ray Lustig — The Washington Post)
    More than two-thirds of the 400,000 taxpayers have established bank accounts in offshore tax havens and are using debit and credit cards to easily access money that has never been taxed, the IRS has found. …

  • Ray

    “Ray, if renting instead of owning shields people from taxes, then people would start renting things.”
    But it won’t, unless 1)they can manage to get _all_ of their assets off-shore or about their person, and 2) govt plays the same ‘non-initiation of force’ game that I’ve been playing. Both are massively unlikely.
    “You seem to just ignore the amount of tax fraud that goes on now”
    Because its not relevant. We’ve been talking about the willingness of _other_ people to give _your_ money to the govt.
    “If it’s “widespread acceptance” of a belief that makes it OK to impose it”
    “Widespread acceptance” is the only grounds we have for choosing between competing and incompatible moral principles, which is not quite the same thing as OK.
    “I can get much more acceptance for stopping people from breaking into your house and stealing your TV than you can for having the govt control everyone’s retirement or healthcare.”
    When you say ‘people’ do you mean random people off the street or do you mean members of the IRS? When you say govt control of retirement and healthcare do you mean total govt control, as in single-provider, govt regulation, or govt involvement as a supplier of last resort?
    I think IRS seizures of property are widely accepted, as is govt regulation of r & h, as are social security and Medicare/aid. I haven’t noticed any massive demonstrations against any of those things. Unauthorised redistribution doesn’t seem to be favoured, nor does a nationalised health service in the US.
    “Would nationalized healthcare be immoral if you have to shove it down the throats of, say, 45% of the country if they want no part of it?”
    There are two questions here.
    “Would nationalised healthcare be immoral under a particular set of moral principles?” The answer there depends on the set of principles. Yes for yours, no for mine.
    “Should there be a limit on democratic decision -making, so that some decisions can’t be made, or can only be made with the support of a super-majority?” _I_ might support placing certain limits in a constitution, but the point of democratic decision-making is that it is a compromise. So, practically, the answer is “yes, if most people want there to be such limits”.
    You don’t seem to understand that I’m perfectly aware that democratic decision-making will often result in decisions that I personally dislike. Sometimes violently dislike. I’ll save you the trouble of coming up with hypotheticals, and tell you now that there are plenty of situations where I would break the law, even if that law had been democratically agreed, because I felt it was morally necessary. The difference between you and me is that I’m aware that just because I feel strongly about a principle, it doesn’t mean that principle is ‘right’, in any objective, over-arching way that everyone else must acknowledge. (Your disagreement on this point is something you share with the theocrats)

  • Scott

    Because its not relevant. We’ve been talking about the willingness of _other_ people to give _your_ money to the govt.
    Every bit of fraud relies on other people not giving the money of the person doing the fraud to the govt. Nobody commits fraud w/o the help of others.
    “Widespread acceptance” is the only grounds we have for choosing between competing and incompatible moral principles, which is not quite the same thing as OK.
    And there is much more acceptance (from the hard, “law and order” right thru most of the left) for making it illegal to break into someone else’s house than there is for ever increase govt welfare programs, even if those programs don’t result in mass demonstrations.
    “Would nationalised healthcare be immoral under a particular set of moral principles?” The answer there depends on the set of principles. Yes for yours, no for mine.
    But if too many people don’t want nationalized healthcare, your one and only argument in favor of govt activity, that people generally support it, goes out the window.
    Ray, it’s you who wants a theocrat-level of control over the day to day lives of others. At worst, you can claim I want to control specific actions of the minority who want to commit crimes against people and property. You want much more control over others than I do.

  • Ray

    “Nobody commits fraud w/o the help of others.”
    ???
    Hey Scott, the argument’s over here.
    “And there is much more acceptance for making it illegal to break into someone else’s house than there is for ever increase govt welfare programs”
    And there was me arguing that “Unauthorised redistribution doesn’t seem to be favoured, nor does a nationalised health service in the US.” Well, you sure told me!
    “But if too many people don’t want nationalized healthcare, your one and only argument in favor of govt activity, that people generally support it, goes out the window.”
    Oh, it looks like I’ll have to change my argument completely then. Maybe I should say something like “You don’t seem to understand that I’m perfectly aware that democratic decision-making will often result in decisions that I personally dislike.”
    “At worst, you can claim I want to control specific actions of the minority who want to commit crimes against people and property. ”
    You agree that most people support taxation, but then say that describing taxation as a crime would only be controlling a minority.
    You want to decide what actions are crimes, and then say “hey, I’m not controlling _people_, just _criminals_”.
    You want to decide who can walk where, live where, eat what, drink what, read what, write what, pray where, etc, etc, etc – all things that are determined by property rights – and then you say you don’t want any control over people’s day-to-day lives.
    Scott, your lack of self-awareness is truly miraculous.

  • burritoboy

    CharlesH,
    “I’m not sure where you are getting your information on the economic regime of the Apostles. Judas did keep their common purse (and stole from it). I don’t know that any of the Apostles had independent sources of income; they left their (generally poor) livelihoods to follow Jesus, so the money they got after that was given by donors to the movement, not to indivduals. The little information we have fits a non-profit corporation as well as it does a commune.”
    Since they didn’t have non-profit corporations in those days, what they had was a commune. A commune, by the way, that generally fits into the theoretical models of classical Greco-Roman communist utopias. It’s also similar to the way the philosophic schools (especially Stoicism) operated.
    “The are where Pastor Haggard is following the Bible and St. Basil is not is that in the Bible it is never indicated that your superfluity is not your property. It is indicated that it is yours and you must give it,”
    I would see St. Basil as being within the tradition of Christianity. As slacktivist notes above, not only St. Basil, but St. Ambrose, St. John Chrysostom and St. Clement all have similar opinions.
    Pastor Ted does not merely support limited rights to private property, which would be permissible under Old Testament law at any rate. He instead makes capitalism (not merely limited private property and limited private trade) the very essence of his evangelism. As I argued before, capitalism is very difficult under Old Testament law and essentially impossible to justify from what we know of Jesus.
    Since Pastor Ted’s religion seeks both religious power and political power, we cannot simply argue that “Christianity does not force us to give charity”, for example. Pastor Ted wants to make the US into a Christian (Pastor Ted’s Christianity, anyway) country, which he believes also inherently makes the US simultaneously a capitalist country. He wishes to use political power to force capitalism onto others who may not accept either capitalism or his version of capitalism.
    And Pastor Ted has been noteable in using force and intimidation against opponents. The main activity of his early ministry was to abuse the right to assemble to harass fellow citizens of Colorado Springs and literally drive them out of town.
    Thus, Pastor Ted does not agree with your interpretation of Christianity’s political role. If he did, then he would be much less objectionable – the members of [Pastor Ted's religion] are certainly free to worship capitalism. What they cannot do, and precisely the thing they do with the greatest insistence, is to make the worship of capitalism into something they insist we pretend is Christianity.
    Finally, Pastor Ted’s massive congregation conspicously fails to donate charity even to the most minimal level. I have scoured the New Life website pretty thoroughly, and there is no indication that New Life engages in very much charity whatsoever beyond essentially giving money to itself for additional personnel, addition missions, additional buildings and so on. For example, the monthly calendar of May for New Life has precisely zero charity events – no feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, helping the ill and so on. None, zero. The same with April.
    There is, however, a Murder Mystery dinner and a Guys Night Out event (which features gambling, of all things). In March, there was a skiing event and, in April, two days of speeches by Dinesh D’Souza. So far as I can tell, New Life rarely does charity at all except for fund-raisers (for itself).
    In March, several pages of the monthly newsletter were devoted to New Life patting itself on the back for sponsoring Afghani immigrants. Great, except that there were a grand total of……get ready for this……three refugees that New Life sponsored. Three. Remember, New Life is a congregation of 11,000 people. This sponsoring of three refugees received 2 whole pages of the 16-page monthly newsletter (which was also the amount given over to pleading for investments in New Life’s financial services arm).
    The Jewish community in the United States sponsored hundred of thousands of refugees from Russia in the period 1975-1989. The Jewish community in the US numbers only 6 million. Tom Trier at the UCopenhagen believes roughly 250,000 Russian Jews emigrated to the US during that period. Thus, 25 American Jews sponsored 1 Russian Jew. Conversely, 3,666 members of New Life sponsored 1 Afghani immigrant. American Jews were approximately 900 times more generous than new life. For another example, in a two-page history of Praise Mountain, a mountain retreat affiliated with New Life, never once mentions any charitable activity by people retreating at Praise Mountain beyond them volunteering to build……..additional buildings at Praise Mountain.
    Not that I’m praising the American Jewish community, but merely comparing only a small part of the charitable work of one of American’s religions to New Life – many other of America’s religious groups are equally charitable. But not New Life.

  • Scott

    “Nobody commits fraud w/o the help of others.”
    Ray, you said tax fraud stats don’t matter because you’re talking about others turning you in. My point is that tax fraud cannot happen w/o the help of others who don’t turn you in even w/ the threat of jailtime from the govt. Finding people who won’t turn you in won’t be difficult if they’re not under threat of jailtime. If you pay them not to turn you in, then there is a price they have to pay for turning you in. You keep trying to ignore how everyone’s incentives, and thus actions, would change after something as huge as no jailtime for nonpayment of taxes comes into play.
    Oh, it looks like I’ll have to change my argument completely then. Maybe I should say something like “You don’t seem to understand that I’m perfectly aware that democratic decision-making will often result in decisions that I personally dislike.”,
    Ray, your personal dislike is totally irrelevant. You claimed society-wide support made something acceptable, whether you personally like it or not. Lacking the same amount of widespread support jailing burglers has (both parties support jailing burglers, how many evil Republicans oppose your social programs?), your social programs are less legitimate, by your own standards than protecting property.
    Ray, your standards would make everyone, including you the moral equivalent of the talibangelicals – you’re not accomplishing anything by trying to single me out w/ that accusation.
    Ray, it’s your refusal to see that your ‘compassionate’ social programs are founded on widespread threats of violent reprisals against those who don’t pay that is “truly miraculous”.

  • Derval

    Scott, I’m tired of the obvious attempts to insult. Quit calling me by name – an obvious attempt to belittle me – or fuck off and find someone else to argue with. Try to play the innocent on this and again, you can fuck off.
    Now, the ‘argument’. I don’t think cooperative fraud, or even turning a blind eye to someone else’s fraud, is at all the same thing as refusing to pass someone else’s taxes over to the government. One is a decision not to act, the other is a positive act. As a libertarian,I’m sure you know the difference.
    “Lacking the same amount of widespread support jailing burglers has your social programs are less legitimate, by your own standards than protecting property.”
    But the support for protection of property goes hand in hand with support for taxation. The obvious conclusion is that people think private property should be protected, but that this protection shouldn’t be absolute. Which is the kind of protection that most of the people on this thread have said they support too, so you shouldn’t be too surprised by the idea.
    “Ray, your standards would make everyone, including you the moral equivalent of the talibangelicals – ”
    An important difference, as far as I’m concerned, is that most people are more conscious of their fallibility. They are not as insistent on the obvious and indisputable correctness of their position. The idea that there is only one correct moral perspective – all others being wrong at best, evil at worst – that you are perfectly entitled to force everyone else to live by, at gunpoint if necessary… I’m sure you can see the commonalities.
    If compassionate programs are founded on widespread threats of violent reprisals, what do you think it is that founds property rights?

  • Derval

    Scott, I’m tired of the obvious attempts to insult. Quit calling me by name – an obvious attempt to belittle me – or fuck off and find someone else to argue with. Try to play the innocent on this and again, you can fuck off.
    Now, the ‘argument’. I don’t think cooperative fraud, or even turning a blind eye to someone else’s fraud, is at all the same thing as refusing to pass someone else’s taxes over to the government. One is a decision not to act, the other is a positive act. As a libertarian,I’m sure you know the difference.
    “Lacking the same amount of widespread support jailing burglers has your social programs are less legitimate, by your own standards than protecting property.”
    But the support for protection of property goes hand in hand with support for taxation. The obvious conclusion is that people think private property should be protected, but that this protection shouldn’t be absolute. Which is the kind of protection that most of the people on this thread have said they support too, so you shouldn’t be too surprised by the idea.
    “Ray, your standards would make everyone, including you the moral equivalent of the talibangelicals – ”
    An important difference, as far as I’m concerned, is that most people are more conscious of their fallibility. They are not as insistent on the obvious and indisputable correctness of their position. The idea that there is only one correct moral perspective – all others being wrong at best, evil at worst – that you are perfectly entitled to force everyone else to live by, at gunpoint if necessary… I’m sure you can see the commonalities.
    If compassionate programs are founded on widespread threats of violent reprisals, what do you think it is that founds property rights?

  • Derval

    (and no, I didn’t post with my wife’s ID to make a point)

  • Scott

    I don’t think cooperative fraud, or even turning a blind eye to someone else’s fraud, is at all the same thing as refusing to pass someone else’s taxes over to the government.
    The amount of cooperative fraud, even with the threat of jailtime, proves your claim (that w/o that threat of violence everyone but a handful of malcontents would voluntarily do whatever the govt needs to collect taxes) to be totally baseless. Enough people clearly refuse to cooperate w/ a govt that can throw them in jail to be a noticable revenue loss even now.
    But the support for protection of property goes hand in hand with support for taxation
    My argument was about how nobody can claim a govt program is compassionate and wonderful w/o acknowledging what the govt has to do to get the $$ to pay for it. Anyone who shoots a burgler would be “imposing his morality at gunpoint” w/o any use of taxpayer $$ – those aren’t necessarily identical issues.
    An important difference, as far as I’m concerned, is that most people are more conscious of their fallibility. They are not as insistent on the obvious and indisputable correctness of their position. The idea that there is only one correct moral perspective – all others being wrong at best, evil at worst – that you are perfectly entitled to force everyone else to live by, at gunpoint if necessary… I’m sure you can see the commonalities.
    Being conscious of ones fallibility would argue for a minimal state, at best, since that would have the least amount of “forcing to live by at gunpoint”. Protecting property vs protecting property combined with a massive welfare state, which one has the least amount of armed force, Ray?
    If I’m no different than the religious right for ‘imposing’ property rights, and just about everyone supports jailing burglers, then just about everybody, by your standards, are no different than the religious right. So what?
    If compassionate programs are founded on widespread threats of violent reprisals, what do you think it is that founds property rights?
    By your standards, all rights are founded on threats of violent reprisals, Ray. Why should I care if your standards taint property if they also taint free speech?

  • Ray

    “The amount of cooperative fraud, even with the threat of jailtime, proves your claim (that w/o that threat of violence everyone but a handful of malcontents would voluntarily do whatever the govt needs to collect taxes) to be totally baseless.”
    Have a look up-thread, and find where I made that claim, and then I might agree that its totally baseless.
    “My argument was about how nobody can claim a govt program is compassionate and wonderful w/o acknowledging what the govt has to do to get the $$ to pay for it.”
    What does this have to do with the levels of support for private property and taxation we were just talking about?
    “Anyone who shoots a burgler would be “imposing his morality at gunpoint” w/o any use of taxpayer $$ – those aren’t necessarily identical issues.”
    So shooting burglars = okay, because you don’t have to pay for it. I’m not surprised, but I am wondering why you feel you have to spell this out.
    As a matter of interest, what about jailing burglars? Is it okay to tax people to pay for prisons? Doesn’t that lead to the situation where someone who refused to pay taxes would be thrown into the prison he refused to pay for? Do you really support an _absolute_ right to property, where no taxation at all is legitimate, or are you just arguing about the level? If so, there’s an old joke that springs to mind…
    “Being conscious of ones fallibility would argue for a minimal state, at best, since that would have the least amount of “forcing to live by at gunpoint”.
    Not really, no. If this minimal state is enforcing property rights, and is backed up by a lot of property owners waving their guns around, then it won’t be short of “widespread threats of violent reprisals”. Just because you happen to believe those threats are just doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
    “Protecting property vs protecting property combined with a massive welfare state, which one has the least amount of armed force, Ray?”
    There’s no way of knowing, in advance. The optimistic view is that the state’s armed forces reduce a little, and nothing much else happens. The pessimistic view is that in a society so nakedly based on the principle of ‘each man for himself’, respect for other people’s property diminishes, and more force is required to enforce those minimal rights.
    “If I’m no different than the religious right for ‘imposing’ property rights”
    As I’m sure you read, the similarity I was pointing to was in your absolute certainty that your moral principles were right, not in the particular content of those principles.
    “By your standards, all rights are founded on threats of violent reprisals, Ray”
    Ultimately, yes, the protection of any right comes down to the threat of violent reprisals. What else do you think guarantees a right?
    “Why should I care if your standards taint property if they also taint free speech?”
    I wasn’t the one who started by complaining about guns being stuck in people’s faces, you know. I didn’t realise you thought it was controversial to point out that private property is also protected by waving guns. And yeah, of course it also applies to free speech – there are times when you get to speak freely because you have (a) the right to speak freely and (b) guns to counter the guns of those who want to silence you. This is news?

  • Scott

    Have a look up-thread, and find where I made that claim, and then I might agree that its totally baseless.
    You made the silly claim that no force is particularly necessary to collect taxes because just about everyone else voluntarily cooperates w/ the IRS out of support for taxation. The amount of tax fraud now even w/ the threat of force proves that’s false.
    Everything you’ve claimed on this thread, Ray, argues for a minimal state. If everything the govt does is armed force, then keep govt actions to a minimum. If everything the govt does is “imposing morality”, then keep that to a minimum.
    If govt action is validated by general acceptance, then stick to what has the most widespread acceptance (and jailing burglers has a level of acceptance no single govt welfare program the evil Republicans oppose has). Unless you plan to legalize robbing houses, your options as a welfare state supporter are catching burglers vs catching burglers combined w/ a massive welfare state. Violence against burglers is less violence than violence against burglers and tax dodgers.
    A libertarian minimal state best fits what you argued in defense of welfare, Ray. Minimum force imposing the minimim amount of ‘morality’, because nobody imposing morality is morally infallible. You’re just too wrapped up in your own socialist moral self-righeousness to see that.

  • Scott

    Have a look up-thread, and find where I made that claim, and then I might agree that its totally baseless.
    You made the silly claim that no force is particularly necessary to collect taxes because just about everyone else voluntarily cooperates w/ the IRS out of support for taxation. The amount of tax fraud now even w/ the threat of force proves that’s false.
    Everything you’ve claimed on this thread, Ray, argues for a minimal state. If everything the govt does is armed force, then keep govt actions to a minimum. If everything the govt does is “imposing morality”, then keep that to a minimum.
    If govt action is validated by general acceptance, then stick to what has the most widespread acceptance (and jailing burglers has a level of acceptance no single govt welfare program the evil Republicans oppose has). Unless you plan to legalize robbing houses, your options as a welfare state supporter are catching burglers vs catching burglers combined w/ a massive welfare state. Violence against burglers is less violence than violence against burglers and tax dodgers.
    A libertarian minimal state best fits what you argued in defense of welfare, Ray. Minimum force imposing the minimim amount of ‘morality’, because nobody imposing morality is morally infallible. You’re just too wrapped up in your own socialist moral self-righeousness to see that.

  • Scott

    Here you go, Ray, here’s the argument you made that’s refuted by ongoing tax fraud:
    What the widespread support for taxation means is that people will cooperate with the IRS (at least when it comes to taking someone else’s money) because they support the principle of taxation, not because they are afraid of federal guns. Which was my point….
    Posted by: Ray | May 29, 2005 09:36 AM

  • Scott

    A minimal state is also a cheaper state, meaning lower taxes, meaning less tax evasion (people will make more effort to avoid 30% tax then they’d make to avoid 5%, particularly if they see those taxes going to general purposes like catching rapists instead of going into the pockets of other individuals – you admitted yourself that others benefitting at taxpayer cost discourages paying taxes). Less tax evasion means less violence toward tax dodgers.
    So to minimize the violence (which is what we both want), minimize the state.

  • Ray

    “w/o that threat of violence everyone but a handful of malcontents would voluntarily do whatever the govt needs to collect taxes”
    is not the same as
    “What the widespread support for taxation means is that people will cooperate with the IRS (at least when it comes to taking someone else’s money) because they support the principle of taxation, not because they are afraid of federal guns”
    Not reporting someone else’s tax fraud is very different from refusing to cooperate with the government when they come to you to help collect someone else’s taxes. For one thing, most people who know of an instance of tax fraud are going to either benefit from it or have a close relationship with someone who benefits from it.
    “If everything the govt does is armed force, then keep govt actions to a minimum.”
    Have I ever suggested that it is only govt actions that are armed force? I have made a point of mentioning gun-waving property owners on several occassions, haven’t I? Do you think govt armed force should be given a higher weighting, so it doesn’t matter if the total armed force goes up or down, as long as govt armed force goes down?
    Similarly, why do you think it is only the govt that can impose morality?
    “If govt action is validated by general acceptance, then stick to what has the most widespread acceptance”
    Why? Would you stick to the level of property rights that is most widely accepted? Or only those property rights that are most widely accepted (ie, if less than 90% of people accept that you own something, you don’t own it)?
    “Violence against burglers is less violence than violence against burglers and tax dodgers.”
    As I said above, its highly debatable whether you could remove one large element of society and not expect a lot of other things to change. It may well be that some level of violence against tax dodgers is needed to keep the number of burglars (and so burglar-related violence) down.
    And again, of course, you’re implying that the only violence is state violence.
    “A libertarian minimal state best fits what you argued in defense of welfare, Ray.”
    Again with the names. This time I’d like an apology, given that I’ve made myself clear on the subject.
    “Minimum force imposing the minimim amount of ‘morality’”
    How many times do I have to repeat the point? This is not, in any sense, ‘a minimum amount of morality’. Its just a morality that you don’t pay attention to, because you take it for granted.
    “A minimal state is also a cheaper state, meaning lower taxes”
    I take it you support these taxes being collected at gunpoint?

  • Ray

    To sum up -
    You oppose people imposing their morality by waving guns in your face, but you defend your right to wave guns in other people’s faces to protect the property your morality says you are entitled to.
    You oppose govt using the threat of violence to collect taxation – a violation of the absolute right to property – except where you agree with the purpose of the taxation, in which case everybody had better cough up.

  • Scott

    Not reporting someone else’s tax fraud is very different from refusing to cooperate with the government when they come to you to help collect someone else’s taxes. For one thing, most people who know of an instance of tax fraud are going to either benefit from it or have a close relationship with someone who benefits from it.
    Which is why your claim that people going ahead and cooperating w/ the IRS means that eliminating the threat of jailtime won’t hurt govt revenue collection enough to matter is bullshit, Ray. Complete and utter bullshit. Take away the threats from the IRS, and your ‘compassionate’ govt programs would never be funded. That is the truth you refuse to acknowledge in order to protect your self-image of moral superority, Ray. Ray, people who wouldn’t want to pay taxes could find people who wouldn’t voluntarily cooperate w/ the IRS, no matter what delusions you suffer.
    I take it you support these taxes being collected at gunpoint?
    No, but I prefer $X being stolen from me to $10X being stolen from me. Ray, you have tried again and again and again to minimize what needs to be done to collect the taxes necessary for the social programs you wish to impose on others – don’t cry foul when I simply don’t accept your fairytales about people giving voluntarily for your welfare state w/o threats of violent reprisal if people don’t do what Ray wants.
    However, given your admission that govt actions are violent actions, Ray, then there’d be less govt violence w/ 1/10 the govt revenue collection.
    Ray, do you intend to legalize robbing houses? If not, what business do you have complaining about my opposition to something you oppose, too?
    Ray, any 8 year old knows the difference between stopping someone from stealing $20 from you and you just not giving them that $20, despite the fact that the other person is $20 poorer in either case. It’s a shame you don’t.

  • Scott

    Not reporting someone else’s tax fraud is very different from refusing to cooperate with the government when they come to you to help collect someone else’s taxes. For one thing, most people who know of an instance of tax fraud are going to either benefit from it or have a close relationship with someone who benefits from it.
    Which is why your claim that people going ahead and cooperating w/ the IRS means that eliminating the threat of jailtime won’t hurt govt revenue collection enough to matter is bullshit, Ray. Complete and utter bullshit. Take away the threats from the IRS, and your ‘compassionate’ govt programs would never be funded. That is the truth you refuse to acknowledge in order to protect your self-image of moral superority, Ray. Ray, people who wouldn’t want to pay taxes could find people who wouldn’t voluntarily cooperate w/ the IRS, no matter what delusions you suffer.
    I take it you support these taxes being collected at gunpoint?
    No, but I prefer $X being stolen from me to $10X being stolen from me. Ray, you have tried again and again and again to minimize what needs to be done to collect the taxes necessary for the social programs you wish to impose on others – don’t cry foul when I simply don’t accept your fairytales about people giving voluntarily for your welfare state w/o threats of violent reprisal if people don’t do what Ray wants.
    However, given your admission that govt actions are violent actions, Ray, then there’d be less govt violence w/ 1/10 the govt revenue collection.
    Ray, do you intend to legalize robbing houses? If not, what business do you have complaining about my opposition to something you oppose, too?
    Ray, any 8 year old knows the difference between stopping someone from stealing $20 from you and you just not giving them that $20, despite the fact that the other person is $20 poorer in either case. It’s a shame you don’t.

  • Scott

    The world according to Ray – the only action the govt does that doesn’t involve violence is collecting taxes for social programs. Everything else it does, particularly things that involve private property Ray doesn’t get to control, is an act of violence. But, God forbid, not tax collection.

  • Ray

    “Ray… Ray…Ray…Ray… Ray … Ray… Ray…Ray…Ray … Ray”
    Bye.

  • Scott

    Bye, Ray. Enjoy your fantasies about how everyone cooperates w/ the IRS purely out of love, while I only threaten anyone who chooses to break into my house.


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