Monday, October 10, 2011

Paying Taxes is Not Compassion Nor Charity

First, thanks to the Examiner for encouraging public discourse regarding issues that are particularly critical at this time in the history of our nation as we enter the 2012 election season. Lee Stephens letter of October 7, 2011, presents a great opportunity to compare and contrast two stark philosophical differences surfacing in the current political debate, that could affect our nation for years to come.

Stephens has unwittingly bought into the socialist mantra that the payment of taxes is equated to compassion and fallen prey to the false doctrine of charity through government programs. Stephens’ letter parroted those views being espoused by President Obama and the liberal socialists, that those of us who advance the idea of a more limited government and less confiscatory taxes are somehow “heartless” without “a hint of compassion - much less Christian compassion.”

In contrast stand those of us who believe that real charity and compassion come from the individual, not the government. In Jesus’ repeated entreats to care for the poor, not once did He advocate the use of the Roman spear to enforce a social welfare system. We are called individually and as part of the body of Christian believers to care for widows and orphans and remember the poor. Never are we instructed to contribute to Cesar so that Cesar can maintain a social welfare system, which propagates generational dependency and destroys the human spirit; to which people will look for their support, rather than God, themselves or their neighbor.

As Frederic Bastiat a French thinker from the middle nineteenth century, pointed out, socialist confuse the distinction between government and society. As a result “every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialist conclude that we object to it being done at all.” If we object to federal welfare, then they say we are opposed to helping the poor, that we are “heartless”. If we disapprove of federally run schools, then they argue we are opposed to education.

Liberals and politicians have somehow gotten this egocentric idea that only through taxation and government spending, can we achieve progress in health, science, welfare and prosperity; that the needs of society will not be accomplished by self-interested individuals; that people do not have within themselves the means of discernment, the morality nor the motivation to action without government.

We could all agree that it would be wrong for me to grab your purse and take all of your money, even if I promised to do wonderful things with it. In fact, I would be arrested as a thief. However, for some reason, we do not object when the government does the same thing. Bastiat called this “legal plunder.” He wrote that legal plunder is based partially on philanthropy, even though it is a false philanthropy using other people’s money. And, as Margaret Thatcher said, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

Today it seems that we default to government to take care of every societal need. What a strange paradox: While we apparently do not trust the people themselves to take care of such things as education, the arts, science, health care, welfare and distribution of wealth, we trust politicians to do so. Corruption and politics are almost synonymous, yet rather than allowing the benevolence and ingenuity of individuals to take care of the poor, we default to welfare; rather than relying on society to take care of education or the arts or the egalitarian needs, we look to government. How long until the people reclaim such power to themselves, and let it be known that they are better able themselves to take care of such things?

Contrary to Stephens’ beliefs, payment of taxes and more government programs is not “Christian compassion”. The payment of taxes is not charity. The federal government taking money from me and giving it to another is not charitable. Forced charity is not charity at all. True charity and compassion is found in us as individuals, great private philanthropic organizations and the local churches; not taxation for ever expanding government programs.