Taxation, Charity, and Robbery

Taxation, Charity, and Robbery July 27, 2012

I’ve heard the argument made that the government taxing the wealthy and redistributing that wealth to those less fortunate than them is not taxation, but robbery.

I wonder how many of those who say such things are Christians or Jews , and would also think Deuteronomy 26:12 was robbery. Israelites had to set aside 10% of not only their wealth but their crops and everything they produced. Most years the tithe of 10% was given to the Levites, who were religious functionaries. But every third year this tithe was to be given not only to religious functionaries but also the poor and destitute. This was not a request or a suggestion, but a national law.

It is ironic that those Americans who are most likely to insist that the Bible is the basis of American laws, and that the Ten Commandments should be displayed publicly, treat most of the laws in the Bible as though they were given as suggestions which an individual could take or leave as they saw fit. On the one hand, they are adamant that specifically religious laws be displayed (and paid lip service to publicly) even though this violates the spirit of the establishment clause in the first amendment. On the other hand, when those who share the Bible’s concern for social justice want to see laws enacted which are not based on or limited to a particular religious view, but which nonetheless are consonant with Biblical principles, they are up in arms. I find this extremely confusing.

I am even more puzzled by the rhetoric of taxation as robbery, used to object to programs to help address issues of poverty and equal access to health care and other necessities in the U. S. population, when I consider that the United States gives billions in economic as well as military aid to other countries every year. Why is taxation to give to others in far away lands OK, but not to help people closer to home?

And if paying to help others when you do not really want that to be done is robbery, then surely pacifists and many others can object that they are taxed to pay for wars and military expenditures that they don’t want. If one were to follow this logic, all taxation would be robbery, since there is bound to be someone somewhere who objects to each and every thing done with that money.

We need to have rational discussions about what justice means, and what our nation should be doing in order to accomplish it to the extent possible. I think important conversations need to take place about how to address issues of poverty effectively, because simply throwing money in the general direction of the poor – whether done individually or through a national system – is not a long-term solution.

But I find it disturbing and ironic to hear people make the claim that being taxed is a form of robbery, if that money will be used to help others. You are already taxed to help others. If you object, then by all means stop paying your taxes, because it is already happening. But know that you will be violating not only American law but also Biblical teaching. The irony is that those who make these objections claim to be eager to respect both, and yet their actions suggest otherwise.


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