Monday, April 16, 2012

Render Unto Caesar

THEN THE PHARISEES going, consulted among themselves how to insnare him in his speech. And they sent to him their disciples with the Herodians, saying: “Master, we know that you are a true speaker and teach the way of God in truth. Neither care for any man: for you do not regard the person of men. Tell us therefore what do you think? Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus knowing their wickedness, said: “Why do you tempt me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin of the tribute.” And they offered him a penny. And Jesus says to them: “Whose image and inscription is this?” They say to him: “Caesar’s.” Then he says to them: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God, the things that are God’s.” And hearing this, they wondered and, leaving him, went their ways.

Matthew 22:15-22 (Douay)
Here in the United States, federal income tax is due on Tuesday. I’m sure that many of my readers, if they have been doing their taxes, have been reminded of this scripture passage lately. Like the Pharisees of old, our leadership in the federal government likes to “heap up burdens” on the people — see Matthew 23 — without lending a hand, while all the time greatly enjoying the privileges of their offices.

However, this is a burden that we must accept — even if we ought to use reasonable means to change the situation. Tax evasion is a sin against the Commandments. Here is a little bit of what the magisterial teaching of the Church has to say about government and taxation [my comments are in bold]:

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997 edition):
1879 The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature... [Libertarianism is false. We need each other for a harmonious society.]

1881 Each community is defined by its purpose and consequently obeys specific rules; but “the human person . . . is and ought to be the principle, the subject and the end of all social institutions.” [Human person, and not ‘humanity’ in general. Modern ideology often despises individuals. This is the opposite vice to the ideology that exalts individuals.]

1882 Certain societies, such as the family and the state, correspond more directly to the nature of man; they are necessary to him. To promote the participation of the greatest number in the life of a society, the creation of voluntary associations and institutions must be encouraged “on both national and international levels, which relate to economic and social goals, to cultural and recreational activities, to sport, to various professions, and to political affairs.” This ”socialization” also expresses the natural tendency for human beings to associate with one another for the sake of attaining objectives that exceed individual capacities. It develops the qualities of the person, especially the sense of initiative and responsibility, and helps guarantee his rights. [Voluntary associations, not impositions.]

1883 Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good...” [The U.S. federal government ignores subsidiarity, even though it is explicitly found in the Constitution. It wants all the power for itself.]
1885 The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. It tends toward the establishment of true international order. [Get rid of the federal healthcare legislation, and untold number of other collectivist federal laws. See the article Health Care - an Alternative which does not require federal government interference.]
If we take the total tax burden in the United States as a percent of total income, and superimpose that on the calendar, then the first 108 days of the year are spent on taxes. By coincidence, the day this year when taxpayers start earning money for themselves also happens to be the same day that taxes are due, April 17th.

From Rerum novarum, the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on capital and labor:
Men always work harder and more readily when they work on that which belongs to them; nay, they learn to love the very soil that yields in response to the labor of their hands, not only food to eat, but an abundance of good things for themselves and those that are dear to them. That such a spirit of willing labor would add to the produce of the earth and to the wealth of the community is self evident. And a third advantage would spring from this: men would cling to the country in which they were born, for no one would exchange his country for a foreign land if his own afforded him the means of living a decent and happy life. These three important benefits, however, can be reckoned on only provided that a man's means be not drained and exhausted by excessive taxation. The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man; and the State has the right to control its use in the interests of the public good alone, but by no means to absorb it altogether. The State would therefore be unjust and cruel if under the name of taxation it were to deprive the private owner of more than is fair.
Pope Leo proposed that individual families ought to directly own the means of supporting themselves, in cooperation with local government, and with low taxes.  However, the laws of the United States, from its founding, have aimed to break up the accumulated wealth of the middle class, and the burden of taxation on the poor can be overwhelming. Please consider that a poor, homeless, alcoholic bum, who only buys liquor, will pay the highest marginal tax rate of any American. Self-employment taxes are also exceedingly high, so that a sole proprietorship will have an excess burden compared to large employers. Likewise, high social security taxes prevent the working classes from accumulating enough wealth to support themselves.

The nasty and divided political climate in the United States today could be greatly lessened if the federal government follows the Constitution and leaves most decision-making “reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Presidential election races are so contentious only because too much power has been accumulated by the Presidency — if this power were limited to only foreign affairs and to moral leadership, then the electorate would more certainly elect the most-qualified person for the job, and do it in a more peaceful manner.

No comments:

Post a Comment