Do taxes rob people of their free agency and subvert the Great Plan of Happiness?
Some quotes from members around the web:
“[Forcing] me to pay for the upkeep of another is simply the application of Satan’s plan here on earth.” (Comment from post on The Life I am Choosing…)
“Socialist policies and governments just result in greater economic extremes, i.e. greater poverty. More serious than that however, is the reduction of personal freedom and liberty… The Great Plan of Happiness is founded upon LIBERTY. Free Agency is the Lord’s plan, bondage (to any degree) is Satan’s.” (Comment from post on Welcome To My Soapbox)
“Capitalism… is the only economic model under which true charity may be performed. Any other method of government that compels its citizens to give up a portion of their money is practicing a false altruism that puts us on a slippery slope to absolute communism. Force should be shunned at all times, but especially when used as a method of supposedly helping those in need.” (Connor Boyack)
These beliefs seem to be quite common in the bloggernacle, and they often incite all kinds of vitriol. Simply put, many LDS people (don’t even get me started on Glenn Beck) are convinced that taxes used for helping the poor & needy take away our most valuable gift from God, our agency.
Elder Oaks asserted that while many laws and taxes necessarily restrict our freedoms to some extent, they can never take away our agency. Sorry about the length, it’s just really good:
The science of government is a consideration of the procedures by which and the extent to which the official representatives of one group of citizens can impose restrictions on the freedom of another group. Decisions on the extent to which government power should restrict the freedom of individuals are among the most difficult decisions we face in an organized society… How many taxes should we extract, and what compulsory functions should government perform with them? … These are all questions of freedom.
We have to accept some government limitations on freedom if we who live in communities are to have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A condition of uninhibited individual freedom would allow the strong to oppress the weak. It would allow the eccentric desires of one person to restrict the freedom of many. Interferences with our freedom do not deprive us of our free agency. When Pharaoh put Joseph in prison, he restricted Joseph’s freedom, but he did not take away his free agency…
The Lord… established the Constitution of the United States to assure “that every man may act… according to the moral agency which I have given unto him” (D&C 101:78). In other words, God established our Constitution to give us the vital political freedom necessary for us to act upon our personal choices in civil government. This revelation shows the distinction between agency (the power of choice), which is God-given, and freedom, the right to act upon our choices, which is protected by the Constitution and laws of the land.
Freedom is obviously of great importance, but as these examples illustrate, freedom is always qualified in mortality. Consequently, when we oppose a government-imposed loss of freedom, it would be better if we did not conduct our debate in terms of a loss of our free agency, which is impossible under our doctrine. We ought to focus on the legality or the wisdom of the proposed restriction of our freedom.
For those of you who think socialized medicine is the plan of the devil because it takes away our agency, Dallin H. Oaks, apparently, does not agree with you.
What do you think? Do taxes that are used for social purposes or individual welfare restrict our God-given agency? Is capitalism the only system under which “true charity” can be performed? Or should we vote to restrict some of our ‘freedom of the pocketbook’ for the benefit of others?
I agree with Elder Oaks that taxes do not take away agency. However, they do take away freedom. I do not believe in forcing people to contribute money to help the poor, because doing so is false charity. Also, I believe it is wrong to coerce people into helping others via taxation. Elder Oaks’ comment does not negate the fact that using force against others unjustly is wrong, even if that force doesn’t take away agency. Just because governments don’t take away agency doesn’t mean that coercive governments aren’t bad.
Also, in clarification, I do not believe Satan’s plan is to force everybody to be good. This contradicts written scripture that says he “persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one” (Moroni 7:17). Rather, as Bruce R. McConkie said, his plan was for us to come to earth and steal, kill, and hurt without consequence, for we would all be saved in the end, regardless of our actions (Without consequences, agency is meaningless).
In the end, it is the devil who entices us to use force upon our neighbors to get them to contribute… NOT because it takes away their agency, but because we do them wrong when we take their money unjustly, and the devil delights when we do wrong to others. Thus, I believe that socialistic policies are inspired by the adversary, but not for the reasons that many lds bloggers present. You are right that it has little to do with taking away agency, but it has everything to do with getting us to commit wrongs against others by taking their money unjustly.
If we were living the Gospel in general in our society, this wouldn’t be an issue. We aren’t, so it is.
Also, any “Christian” who decries taxes in general that are used to provide for the poor while simultaneously NOT giving a portion of their income directly to services that help the poor is a hypocrite. Imo, that’s a bright line, black letter moral obligation of any who claim to be disciples of Christ.
Government social programs replace humility with entitlement and cause the poor to look to government in their time of need instead of turning to God. The end result is that their belly is full, but their spirit isn’t. A comparison between missionary success rates among the poor in countries with giant welfare programs versus those with minimal welfare programs would be interesting.
Besides, I find the whole discussion of government social programs to be misleading. Advocates act as if we are voting about whether or not the poor should get health care, free school lunches, etc, but that is not really the core issue. What we’re voting on is whether or not we should make *someone else* pay for a moral obligation that we ourselves hold. We feel all warm and self-satisfied after voting in favor of government programs since now we’ve done our part to ensure that poor kids can go to the doctor, and best of all it won’t cost us anything because *someone else* is going to pick up the tab! But we’re being dishonest with ourselves. There is nothing virtuous about caring for the poor with someone else’s money.
I’d like to see all government social program contributions be made entirely voluntary. That way instead of having politicians talk about taxing the “rich” to pay for the poor they will have to say: “It is your moral obligation to ensure that the poor are cared for, we need *you* to contribute to this program.” That is an approach I would respond to. Being asked to force others to care for the poor? No thanks, you can’t outsource charity.
In addition to the fine responses made previously, I would like to point out that government social programs are based on the false premise that the unequal distribution of wealth is a moral issue. The false conclusion derived from this false assumption is that if poor people had more money the social ills of the world would be greatly reduced.
Thus some argue that the good ends justify the evil means of governmental force.
My conclusion is that God doesn’t care much about who is rich and who is poor.
God cares about a lot of different things. He cares about his people having enough to eat and having clothing, and having shelter. He cares a lot more about people developing the godly character that is necessary for exaltation.
When one man voluntarily shares his surplus with another man that is in need, the increase in good in the world does not come because the distribution of wealth is more equal. The fact that the first man now has less, and the second man has more is insignificant. The increase of good in the world comes from the fact that the wealthy man is developing charity, mercy, kindness, compassion, and brotherhood, while the poor man now also has an opportunity to develop godly traits such as gratitude and thrift.
In fact, it does not need to go in the direction from the wealthy to the poor. When a poor man voluntarily gives to the rich man, it can create just as much good if not more.
Thus it is no wonder that when we look at the actual results of these programs rather than their intention, that the results are just as evil as the means. Has the distribution of wealth become more equal since the start of all these redistribution programs? It has not, in fact the opposite has occurred.
Our country is not becoming morally decedent because of the unequal distribution of wealth. Rather wealth is becoming unequally distributed because our countrymen are failing to develop good moral character. Employers mistreat and abuse their employees. Employees slacken their labor, and cheat their employers. Salesmen lie and deceive to sell product. And worse of all, everybody acts like it’s just something to be expected. If you refuse to participate you are considered odd. Some employers actually seem to prefer ambitious employees to honest ones.
Is it any surprise that as we become less of a Zion people that we move farther away from Zion?
We can not rely on government programs to compensate for our personal moral failings. Yet people talk as if it is natural and reasonable to expect exactly that.
Even members of the church present a bizarrely skewed way of viewing the world.
I have been suffering from a chronic illness for a long time. I mentioned to a few people that I felt guilty about having become such a burden financially to my family. Their response was to urge me to qualify for Medicaid.
I find this thinking bizarre. Do they really think it is less shameful to use governmental force to steal from a stranger then it is to accept charity from your family? Better that I die young as a cripple, then become a thief.
Yet anytime I point this out to people they look at me like I’m crazy. And but two generations ago, I would have been considered making an obvious point.
Do you pay Medicaid taxes? Do you have a choice to not pay them? Do you get to choose how much? How would you feel if the Salvation Army, or the Red Cross got to set a certain percentage of your income to be devoted to the charitable cause they think worth? How about if I come around and personally collect my share from each of you? If it was anybody but the government we’d all call it theft.
Do you really trust the Federal Government more than the Red Cross? Then why do we give the government power in an area where we would never give those powers, even to the experts!
At least in the cases of war and law enforcement, the government is arguably the expert at killing and imprisoning people, so you might think it reasonable to restrict such powers to the government.
I find it impossible to believe that the government is more effective and efficient at providing charity then regular Americans. So why not let Americans keep the money and let them be in charge of providing the charity?
And even if there was some government efficiency (which I have never seen any evidence of), it could not hope to offset the loss of moral development that occurs when individuals care for each other, rather then sloughing the task off on a government program.
Simply amazing. The tax protester fringe is a fascinating and bizzare part of the right wing.
Taxation is paying your portion of the expenses of the country. If you disapprove of how those expenses are handled, vote for somebody else. It is morally reprehensible, however, for you to just be a free rider on the social and infrastructure ‘bank’ that has been built up through tax dollars. Please go find your libertarian paradise somewhere else, and let us get on with the business of muddling through actually trying to run a country. Government is stunningly more efficient now than it was 100 years ago. That’s not perfect, but most western liberal democracies have made huge strides in ensuring the correct flow of funds through the tax system. They do this far better than corporations, and with more public oversight, as their usually run like bananna republics. Furthermore, tax policy is moving towards more of a consumption based model (VAT’s) than an income tax model, which I agree is counter-intuitive to encouraging innovation.
Cicero, the unequal distribution of wealth is not primarily a moral issue, but it contributes in a huge degree to moral issues. Furthermore, it is one area that can be controlled. We can provide funds, through social programs, to allow people to help themselves. We cannot change their hearts.
I gain significant benefits from paying taxes even though I’m not poor. The infrastructure of my city, with police, fire, gas and electric services, the upkeep of roads and bridges, encouraging festivals, maintaining parks and playgrounds all contribute to my quality of life.
Tax protesters are fundamentally childish. Grow up. Contribute to society. Vote. Participate in whatever political party you feel like. Just quit whining and come out into the real world.
I have to agree that paying taxes is a privilege that those who live in a country with active police forces, fire fighters, roads, electricity, water, sewerage, natural gas and other utilities, and laws to protect us from theft in various forms are lucky to be able to pay. I do believe that there’s an optimum tax rate, and that we as citizens have a duty to keep the government from growing so large that it consumes the rest of society. The reason communism fails is because it’s an inferior system. Zion does have to be voluntary. But anyone who has lived under anarchy for any length of time knows what a tremendous blessing it is to have stable government. The BoM is full of stories about what it’s like to live in small city-states, constantly at war with one another. We’re amazingly lucky to live in the U.S. now. The stable government of the U.S. is what makes it possible for us to earn what we do, to live in what is opulent wealth compared to some random badly-governed country worldwide. The fact that we have to give some part of it back to maintain the state is not a bad thing.
I do totally agree with voting for lower taxes. The only difference between Communism and Capitalism is the tax rate. But the idea that the state has NO right to compel its citizens to pay taxes is indeed foolish and childish.
As a CPA, I seen many different attitudes about paying taxes. I can’t tell you how many anti-government speeches I have heard over the years.
I share two stories. One client is from another country. He makes a lot of money. He pays a lot of taxes. He says he is glad to pay taxes because this is the greatest country in the world and if he is paying a lot of taxes it is because he is successful in his business.
I prepare tax returns for a bishop in our stake. His “tithing income” is more than double his “taxable income”. He hates the government and he hates taxes. Do you think he is being honest as he files his return?
Leaving social programs to voluntary efforts would simply mean that millions of needy would go without. We are not as charitable as we think. Let’s not kid ourselves. If it took contributing 1% to get a temple recommend, we would pay 1%.
I agree; I see no difference in the effect on agency between paying tithes and paying taxes. Granted, one is more voluntary than the other, but both serve a greater good and without either, people would suffer.
So we pay a little fast offering every month and expect that to be the only charity we need to perform. Hey, we are obligated to do that as part of the practice of our religion. So is that not also “coerced” to some degree? Perhaps we should do away with F.O. and all depend on our individual ability to provide charitable assistance. Then, because we all live in such pleasant little happy valley cocoons where we do see much need, so we can spent our money on our own toys and not worry about the impoverished or the disasters in the world. To those of you who think that you need agency to truely be charitable, when did you last drop by your local food bank and give a donation (without the scouts coming by to pick it up at your house for you?)
Fast Offerings and other organized programs of donations are more effective ways to collect and then distribute aid than any of us could do alone. When we, as citizens, use our agency and vote to do things as a group through taxes, we extend that organization through our society and can do even more good. I disagree with the concept that taxing interferes with agency. As a society we need to act responsibly and take care of our needy. That is exercising our agency for charitable ends. And for any of you who enjoy the benefits of employment that comes with really good health insurance coverage, you are only a few steps away from a disaster in your own life that might make you hope for some collective charity. So put the shoe on the other foot and see how it feels.
Opposition to social welfare programs in America, with our heterogeneous population, is often a veneer not only for selfishness, but racism. There is little opposition to social welfare in more homogeneous societies (France, Sweden, etc.) because the recipients all “look like us”. Only as Muslim immigrants to these nations are seen to be major beneficiaries of the social safety net does noticeable opposition occur.
I would like my taxes not to fund the killing, even accidentally, of innocent people in Iraq. Can I opt out of that?
I am inclined to think that offerings, esp. F.O., are HARDLY required. I have not yet been asked personally by anybody whether I give any fast offerings. I have heard talks encouraging it, but if I decided to withhold fast offerings, no one would bring it up to me. They certainly couldn’t withhold a temple recommend.
Yet with taxes, they have the power d’etat. In other words (to indulge in some cliche), we’re talking apples and oranges.
When it comes to healthcare, which is based on the collective knowledge of the scientific community, largely government funded and then applied for our benefit in the form of medicine, I think freedom of the pocketbook should absolutely be applied to take care of the weakest among us and distribute our resources equitably. In this sense, medical knowledge is commonwealth. It is an asset too big to be owned by one person. In most cases, bad health is unrelated to agency. Of course there are exceptions here and there in regard to weight or smoking and high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Certainly patients need to be responsible for maintaining their health. But the allocation of this resource belongs to the community of the entire nation and should be distributed to the entire nation equitably.
The biggest problem I see with freedom of the pocketbook arguments is that they all buy into the big lie that we “deserve” what we own. I am sorry, but the last time I read Mosiah, I could swear we were all beggars before God.
I have worked at the city hospital that the insured patients moved away from and saw the inevitable decay in the quality and morale and oversight. It was repulsive and frankly made me ashamed of my country I live in. We do have the agency to create tiered healthcare based on socioeconomic class. That doesn’t mean we are making a correct choice with that agency.
If our governmental system is working then we are not “forced” into paying taxes. The people vote, either for the tax itself or for the representatives, so in principle we as a community choose to support our people. If tax decisions reached via this method are akin to Satan’s plan, then perhaps so is Prop 8?
Whatever happened to ‘give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s?’
“if we all vote that you should spend all your free time at the food bank then it’s no harm no foul right?”
That is a totally over-exaggerated example. The kinds of social support taxes that are being debated are nowhere close to “all your time” or “all your money”. Is the goal of a discussion to come to understanding? If so, lets at least be reasonable in our arguments.
Imagine if a whole community were willing to share a tiny portion of their increase, and then multiply that by the massive numbers of the community. Much more good could be done than by the few people who care enough to give much bigger portions of their time and money in a private endeavor. When we share the load, the load is lighter for all. I’m talking about “teaching to fish” stuff as opposed to “giving fish” stuff.
Will redistribution of wealth as a community law be considered Satan’s plan when we are all living the Law of Consecration?
That’s terrible, forcing people to pay taxes to help the poor! Taxes should only be used to provide armies to invade other people’s countries, torture prisoners, and spy on those ungrateful so-called Americans who don’t support such efforts.
Alright, so you’re obviously not ok with giving up all your free time to help the starving poor. This probably comes from greediness on your part but that’s alright, no one is perfect. Let’s analyze the situation then:
We need people to volunteer at the food bank. There haven’t been enough volunteers lately so we decided to change the definition of volunteer to include having a bag thrown over your head, being put in a truck, and being dropped off at the food bank for your assigned duty. This way we ensure that the end result, enough volunteers at the food bank to assist the poor, is achieved while ignoring any complaints about the means of achieving those ends. Because you wants to waste time with such selfish complaints?
So let’s figure how much you will be “asked” to contribute. You work forty hours, sleep 56 hours a week, and just generally waste the remaining 72 hours a week. Now 72 hours a week of free time is pretty good don’t you think? I mean that’s more than plenty for you to spend some time with your family, waste time posting on blogs, etc. I’d say that you’re pretty time wealthy in fact and should be dedicating more to assist the needy in your community. So we’re going to assess you with a 18 hour a week food bank duty. Now that might sound like a lot but it’s only 25%! I’m pretty sure that any objection to this on your part stems only from some uncovered character defect rather than a legitimate complaint.
*Yawn* (Sorry, I fell asleep reading arguments – on both sides – I’ve heard over and over ad nauseum over the last few decades.) *grin*
Can all of us agree, at the very least, that we have a moral obligation to help those who cannot help themselves – or help children who are starving or in dire need through no fault of their own? Can we agree that there is an element of Christian discipleship that includes caring for the poor and needy? All other issues concerning level of required support aside, can we agree at least on that basic idea?
The comparisons and creative writing are interesting, but can everyone please lay off personal insults? **That’s NOT directed at the last comment, but rather at multiple comments thus far.**
” Advocates act as if we are voting about whether or not the poor should get health care, free school lunches, etc, but that is not really the core issue. What we’re voting on is whether or not we should make *someone else* pay for a moral obligation that we ourselves hold. We feel all warm and self-satisfied after voting in favor of government programs since now we’ve done our part to ensure that poor kids can go to the doctor, and best of all it won’t cost us anything because *someone else* is going to pick up the tab! But we’re being dishonest with ourselves. There is nothing virtuous about caring for the poor with someone else’s money.”
Two thoughts- first, I think to people who don’t have food or health care, those are the core issues.
Second, How is a tax making someone else pay for my moral responsibility? Last time I checked I had just as much taxes taken out of my paycheck as everyone else.
I’m not saying that we should allow the welfare system to go on the way it does. I think the way our system is set up makes it easier to stay on welfare than to become self supporting again. Welfare ought to be set up to include some kind of job training, and then have a phase out period so people can learn skills to support themselves. We need to vote for people who will make the changes we want to see, and we need to stop complaining about making sure the least of those among us are cared for. Even viewing it from a strictly selfish view- making sure that the poor have a safe place to live, food to eat and basic health care saves all of us money in the way of crime, and health insurance rates which go up for everyone to pay for the uninsured to get care at an ER.
“Second, How is a tax making someone else pay for my moral responsibility? Last time I checked I had just as much taxes taken out of my paycheck as everyone else.”
Unless your real name is Bill Gates I doubt it.
“making sure that the poor have a safe place to live, food to eat and basic health care saves all of us money in the way of crime, and health insurance rates which go up for everyone to pay for the uninsured to get care at an ER.”
Now this is a line of discussion that I would welcome. I might not agree with the conclusion, but at least know we aren’t pretending that moral virtue has anything to do with forcing others to care for the poor.
““Second, How is a tax making someone else pay for my moral responsibility? Last time I checked I had just as much taxes taken out of my paycheck as everyone else.”
Unless your real name is Bill Gates I doubt it.”
Unless everyone else is as rich as Bill Gates, I’d imagine my taxes are pretty close to the average citizen.
And I didn’t say that I didn’t feel a moral duty to care for the poor, I was just pointing out a different way to look at it if you don’t like the moral duty perspective.
(And you are still talking as if people who are supportive of government social services are not also themselves paying taxes to support those programs… )
the idea that the state has NO right to compel its citizens to pay taxes is indeed foolish and childish
It seems that this conversation is focused on the extremes of the spectrum (anarchy and tyranny). I don’t think that those who are want private (instead of government) welfare are therefore advocating anarchy. And those who want government-sponsored charity are trying to advocate tyranny. Obviously, the fact that there exists a form of government at all means we can’t go around doing whatever we want without consequence- so there is no complete freedom under our system- (but this is a good thing because our neighbors aren’t free to go around killing us 🙂
The Founding Fathers were well aware of the dangers of both extremes on the effect of liberty:
“There are two extremes equally dangerous to liberty. These are tyranny and anarchy. The medium between these two is the true government to protect the people. In my opinion, the Constitution is well calculated to guard against both these extremes.” Iredell
The question is then, to what degree do we want to give up some of our freedoms (i.e. tax money here) in order to gain the protection, stability, etc we all enjoy? Since the constitution doesn’t appropriate the powers of government for the implementation of charity, that’s what I’m going with.
Btw, the first comment in the post itself shows an absolutely appalling lack of understanding of Satan’s plan. Just sayin’.
Granted the arguments that programs enacted by the vote of the legilature have the approval of society in some degree and are thus to some extent voluntary, which somewhat weakens the argument that this is an infringement on free agancy, and granted that it’s possible to argue that the inequality between rich and poor is indeed a question of justice and morality, as various passages in all founr standard works suggest that it is, it’s still possible to argue that government social welfare programs are the best way to achieve it.
For one, since taxation is backed by force or the threat of force, it’s hard to argue that it’s the same as true charity. There is reason to suspect that legislators are willing to attempt to buy popularity and votes by supporting largess from the public treasury. There is a question of whether filtering social aid through government bureaucracies (with a staff whuch must be supported) with elaborate (and sometimes astonishingly stupid) rules to prevent cheating is really more efficient than encouragement of direct contribution to those in need: There’s something to be said for cutting out the middleman. There is also possibility that these programs and their associated rules may have pernicious side effects, discouraging marriage, employment, and savings.
Admonitions to “grow up and quit whining”; suggestions that most opposition to government social programs is a product of selfishness or racism, and suggestions that if one opposes government social welfare programs, one must then support invastion, torture and domestic espionage, are all both fallacies and insults.
In the original post, Elder Oaks was quoted as saying, “we ought to focus on the legality or the wisdom of the proposed restriction of our freedom”. As to the wisdom of it, maybe some attention should be given to how character would be affected by expanding these programs… rather than just how society would benefit TEMPORALLY from more government handouts. Marion G. Romney said this:
“The practice of coveting and receiving unearned benefits has now become so fixed in our society that even men of great wealth, and possessing the means to produce more wealth, are expecting the government to guarantee them a profit. Elections often turn on what the candidates promise to do for voters from government funds. This practice, if universally accepted and implemented in any society, will make slaves of its citizens.” In Mine Own Way, Ensign, Nov. 1976, 123
Was he right? Will this trend of relying on the government to take care of us lead toward tyranny with us becoming “slaves”? Of course there will always be exceptions, some are truly grateful for help and don’t take advantage of it, but as a whole- what is the effect on character when more and more government benefits become common entitlements? Temporal welfare and security aren’t the only things that matter when considering what to do.
Every spring our neighborhood holds an Easter egg hunt. Every family contributes some candy to a central committee that chooses a yard and hides all the candy. When it comes time for the hunt we turn all of the neighborhood kids loose to find the candy. The fastest and biggest boys come prepared with large bags. They amass a great wealth of candy. Often they give some of this candy to the smaller children who don’t have any. They don’t mind giving away the less desirable candy, and besides it makes them feel good to be generous with their wealth. Every now and then a misguided parent will attempt to force some of the larger children to share of their wealth in a more equitable fashion. Of course such obvious thievery is called out for what it is.
Of course we don’t do this.
Of course we are adults and create a framework of rules to ensure the equitable distribution of limited resources.
Of course if we left the rule-making up to the biggest and strongest kids what I described is what we would get.
Of course I am still waiting for the day our society is run by adults.
I think giving people a hand up (temporary welfare- job training-) is different than a hand out, and I don’t think it would make people rely too much on the government. Rather, it would help people learn to be self-sufficient. I see wisdom in that.
“That’s terrible, forcing people to pay taxes to help the poor! Taxes should only be used to provide armies to invade other people’s countries, torture prisoners, and spy on those ungrateful so-called Americans who don’t support such efforts.”
I don’t believe in that either. I hate when people assume that because someone doesn’t like socialism, then they are obviously a republican and support the war. Let’s stop ALL misuse of tax funds, not just those that are socialistic.
I see wisdom in that too. I think that government aid collected through taxes is more likely to be seen as an entitlement (I have to pay for this so I deserve it) whereas aid from voluntary donations is less likely to be seen as an entitlement.
It’s fine to say that government social programs reduce the spirituality charity. I agree with that theory.
People should think hard about how much they pay now for a broken government version before they want liberation from taxes. We do a terrible job of taking care of people. If there’s no government to blame anymore, then the only one left is the person we see in the mirror. It’s less expensive to point fingers at “the government” and pretend it’s beyond our control.
Taxes are the price we pay for civilzation– Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
If paying taxes makes it safe to send my kids to school and safe to ride the subway, I’m all for it. If it provides state-specific pork barrel spending, not so much. But not all taxes equate to the welfare system, and not all welfare is charitable. Getting everyone to a level enough playing ground where they have options other than criminal behavior to achieve the American dream benefits us all. And taxes pay for law enforcement as well.
Kind of late in responding, but here goes…
Jeff #2 “we do them wrong when we take their money unjustly”
I don’t think it’s that simple. All taxes involve taking other peoples’ money, and I think what Elder Oaks meant is that we need to consider how much and for what purpose should money be taken. Whether it is just or not is relative. I think it is just to tax for the purposes of getting people quality mental health care, others do not.
Ray #3 “Also, any “Christian” who decries taxes in general that are used to provide for the poor while simultaneously NOT giving a portion of their income directly to services that help the poor is a hypocrite.”
Agreed! What really gets me (in a similar vein) is when people rant about socialism, while accepting pell grants and food stamps and all kinds of government handouts. If one is against socialist-type policies, it is completely hypocritical to accept these free handouts.
Holden #8 “a bishop in our stake. His “tithing income” is more than double his “taxable income”. He hates the government and he hates taxes.”
Did you see the article about McCain and his tax breaks on his 9 mortgages? While he’s getting 25k back, others are living on the streets. Granted, some people just want to be lazy, but there are MANY who have just had a bad hand dealt to them in life, and would do a lot better if they had more help. It’s one thing to support businesses that keep jobs for the middle and lower classes, but so many “rich” people have so much of their income in business that they don’t get taxed like they ought to.
Russell #12 “I am inclined to think that offerings, esp. F.O., are HARDLY required.”
Are fast offerings not a commandment?
Allie #29 “I think giving people a hand up (temporary welfare- job training-) is different than a hand out, and I don’t think it would make people rely too much on the government. Rather, it would help people learn to be self-sufficient.”
Agreed. And I am all for forcing people to pay, through taxes, for programs (hopefully that are reasonably effective, and some of them are) that are a “hand up.” Of these programs that have shown to be effective, there needs to be more funding. Perhaps we can repeal some of McCain’s tax breaks on his houses to pay for them. I have to add though, some people just don’t have the mental capacity or health to take advantage of a hand up, and may need more.
I agree, Adam, that some people will need more, but even those people can do SOMETHING to help support themselves. Maybe they won’t ever be totally self-supporting, but all people should be given the chance to work for their own support.
My first job as a child was cleaning the door knobs, and I took great pride in those clean door knobs.
My friend’s cousin lives in canada- she has an illness that prevents her from working full time. The way our system is set up, if she lived in the US, she couldn’t work, because then she wouldn’t qualify for medicaid. And she is unable to work enough hours to pay for medical coverage here.
In Canada, her health issues are covered, so she is able to work part time and be a contributing member of society.
We’ve got a seriously messed up system.
That issue really drives me crazy. I’ve had a client in a similar situation, he is trying to get a meaningful job that will support his family, and to do this, he is getting help from a government sponsored work program. However, this is taking some time, and if he takes a part-time job while he waits, he gets booted off the list.
I thought about jumping in but I don’t think I can add any new thought except for this:
If you take welfare from the system- the system should own you, until you choose NOT to be on welfare. Example: Birth Controll and Drug Testing.
You should sacrifice your agency when you force others to pay for your poor choices.
What if you are on welfare or some other type of assistance, but not due to poor choices?
My perception has been that folks who are already asked to give up 10% of their income to church are much more frustrated with taxation.
TJM – even with 10% added on top of our US income tax, we’re not coming close to the taxation in socialist countries.
I love how “socialist” is tossed around so lightly here. It’s like watching Faux News! We are far from socialist in this country and probably never will be. Even most of Europe is only partially “socialist”.
Carissa makes a good point. We are not to any one extreme, but to certain degrees this or that. For every argument you want to make that these are “socialist” programs, it is just as easy to point out “fascism” and even “ism”s in this country. Instead of trying to use scare tactics like the pundits on tv, let’s use facts to back up our claims.
But Steve, isn’t the definition of socialism: taxes that are used to help poor people? 😉
I agree with those opposing taxes that provide greater benefits to some than to others. For example, taxes that pay for educating children of parents who pay no (or little) taxes. The scriptures place the obligation of educating children squarely on the parents. It is wrong for government to coerce citizens without children to pay for education of the children of others(either through public schools or through “school choice” vouchers).
Similarly, it is wrong for government to purchase books and other materials for people to read who pay no taxes. Ben Franklin was clearly a Fabian pinko socialist for establishing a public library. Providing books to read to unpaying masses of humanity is clearly outside of government’s sole purpose of providing for the common defense against criminals and foreign powers.
While we are at it, I think we should return to the predecessors of modern fire departments–privatized fire companies run by fire insurance companies that put out fires only for those who have paid the premium. The government has no business coercing people to pay taxes for fire departments when there is a preferable alternative–voluntary payment of fire insurance premiums.
And don’t get me started on Social Security, or Medicare, or Veterans Hospitals.
David H – How is it “wrong” in an LDS sense? I think a better argument, rather than right or wrong, is to focus more on the wisdom (as Elder Oaks was suggesting) behind such taxes. You may not like paying for libraries that homeless or poor people use, but if their kids can’t go to school nor read books like us, what will that do to society? I think we pay taxes that provide benefits to others because it benefits society, and in the long-run, prevention is a heck of a lot cheaper than more prisons (e.g. there is a strong correlation between lack of education and later being a criminal).
I don’t think it’s “wrong” because 1-it is in the best interest of society that we educate those who can’t afford it, and 2-we actually care about people who have less than us, and private charity doesn’t cover all of it. We do give up some freedom (not agency) to do this, but it is worth it, imo.
OF COURSE, many people are in bad situations because of their own stupid choices, but Mormons cannot refuse to help them:
If the program is effective, I don’t have a problem with the government using my money to pay it. If we were all Libertarians, and most of us (especially the rich) donated enough to fund everything, there wouldn’t be a need for taxes. But there is, and again, as Elder Oaks said “uninhibited individual freedom would allow the strong to oppress the weak.”
David is doing exactly that. He isn’t dismissing all government restriction, but rather evaluating a particular kind of taxation, declaring it to be “unwise” or “wrong” (I see little difference between the two). He is basing his arguments upon the merits and philosophy of particular kind of program.
Go DavidH! I agree.
I wonder how many people responding to this post live in government subsidized housing and are feeling just fine about it? I know I am. When I get that big ol’ refund check from the US Treasury for all the interest I paid on my mortgage, I think, wow, the government is helping me pay for my house by using taxes that have been collected from somebody else, just like I’ve helped to pay for other people’s houses with my taxes even before I ever owned a house. So if you don’t think it’s fair to be coerced to pay for your neighbor’s house or their children’s education and so forth, the only moral thing to do is to return all the benefits of your itemized deductions lest these ill-gotten tax benefits corrupt your soul.
Jeff T – perhaps where I disagree with David is (while he may not disagree with ALL government restriction) in how extreme his views are, e.g. public schools and libraries. Politics or charity aside, I don’t understand the wisdom of not allowing the poor (i.e. those who pay little or no income tax) to attend school or read library books. How are the poor supposed to ‘rise up and live the American dream’ without access to books even? We need to give them the chance, and often it takes a lot of tax dollars.
Emily – well said. In fact, there is a great quote I have from Ezra Taft Benson (talking about pell grants and etc.) related to that:
David- what do you think society would be like if your ideas were implemented? Just curious.
allie – I hope David is not a hit and run on this one, it sounds like we could have an interesting discussion.
I disagree with any kind of “closed door” policy on the poor, but I do agree that the government shouldn’t be funding education. Thus, I don’t share his attitude that sounds like “let the poor suffer,” but I do believe that government services should be kept to a minimum for everyone.
I think it is a fallacy to say that because a service is either necessary or good, that the government ought to be the one to provide it. Education, I think is best handled in the private sector, when it isn’t funded by tax money. And I am especially curious about how a privatized fire department would work. Would their be competition? If so, then we may see cheaper and better ways to extinguish fires. Public libraries? I don’t know on that one. I tend to think that if Franklin did it, it must be good (founding father worship), but at the same time, what is the difference between that and a tax funded school? Simply that there are no teachers to hire, just the books. And I am no fan of public education right now. I think an open door library is perfectly fine if it is privately financed, same with school.
All in all, I think that the government’s use of tax money should be kept to the list of enumerated powers, and no more.
Jeff – thanks for explaining a bit more. I agree in the sense that I don’t think government is the answer for everything. I think what bothers me is binary thinking (i.e. conservative or liberal, gay or straight, black or white) when really a lot of us are on a spectrum. In this case, we probably disagree on how much government should be involved in.
Am I the only one who thought DavidH was being sarchastic? Maybe so.
As to libraries, I think they are fine. All citizens have access to them, even those who don’t know how to read can learn by way of resources from a library and the cost is minimal (compared to many other things). Public schools- I think the idea behind providing an opportunity for everyone to be educated is wonderful. I’d prefer as Jeff says, though, that government services be kept to a minimum for everyone. The way the government used to finance public education was in providing the land and the money for the building and that was it. Local communities had to come up with the rest. A low tuition was charged in order to pay the teachers, utilities, and the up-keep of the building and grounds. In this way, there was more local control, stewardship, and responsibility- and less burden on members of society who would not use that particular service for whatever reason (private school, no children, etc). I think it’s a fair compromise. Whenever something is completely “free” by way of taxation, individuals will always have less control over what they get.
I hoped he was being sarcastic, but I’ve heard too many similar statements lately.
Re: sarcasm – maybe, but I have to agree with allie. Check out this (non-sarcastic) gem that I read a few days ago: “there may be a lot of people who may THINK they are going to vote for Obama, but when they get in the booth, the hand is going to start to shake.” Point being, sarcasm or not, there is not a dearth of LDS people who believe some interesting stuff.
Good point about the difference between agency and freedom, & I agree with you that we still have our agency, however our increasingly socialistic gov’t continues to restrict our freedom, & this seriously affects the consequences of our agency. If you enjoy basing opinions and arguments on Semantics perhaps instead of Psych you might consider pursuing your PhD in Language, Rhetoric or Law? Most of the Psychologists I have known in my past 45 years (& I was married to one for 34 of those years) are seriously disturbed individuals.
Your implication is that because socialized medicine does not take away our agency, that it is, therefore, not part of Satan’s Plan. However, I seriously doubt Oakes would appreciate your implication that it therefore follows he (Oakes) approves of, or would promote, socialized medicine, or socialized anything. I believe he would point out that regardless of the loss of even all freedoms, we still have our agency, and I agree. Read Tolstoi on this subject. Do a word search on Liberty & Freedom in the 4 standard works of scripture, and see how valuable these conditions are to our agency. I believe that Oakes would take a strong stand on the importance of our safeguarding these principles. Do a word search of “Power” in the same works and see how consistently Satan chooses force and enslavement. Then ask yourself where socialism fits in.
Yes, Oakes said, “We have to accept some government limitations on freedom . . . Freedom is obviously of great importance, but . . . when we oppose a government-imposed loss of freedom, it would be better if we did not conduct our debate in terms of a loss of our free agency, which is impossible under our doctrine.” I am not an anarchist and with this I cannot argue.
However, I believe Oakes would agree that Satan *would* utterly destroy our LIBERTY and FREEDOMS. That is the essence of this very real earthly battle. We have a corrupt gov’t. With the loss of every freedom and the restriction of every choice, he gains a victory. I pray you are correct that “there is not a dearth of LDS” or other persons who share this point of view. Interesting stuff? You bet! Do not kid yourself that force of any kind is justified. It is not the Lord’s plan.
Oakes also said, “We ought to focus on the legality or the wisdom of the proposed restriction of our freedom.” Legality–read the Constitution. Wisdom–read the scriptures. .That is *exactly* where my focus is in this debate.
Linda – thanks for coming by and dropping some of your acerbity! I thought it was only fair that I let you know about the post know as I did quote you here.
“Most of the Psychologists I have known in my past 45 years (& I was married to one for 34 of those years) are seriously disturbed individuals.”
Hah! Wow, look what I have to look forward to, lol. Thanks for the compliment. May we all have happy and fulfilling marriages in the future.
“Your implication is that because socialized medicine does not take away our agency, that it is, therefore, not part of Satan’s Plan.”
I didn’t support socialized medicine anywhere in the post, (nor do I think, fwiw, it is the best answer). You a reading your own stuff into this. Or maybe I am, lol. Really though, I was going to say the same thing about right-wing zealots (and left wing zealots!), i.e. they may be a part of Satan’s plan too!
“Do not kid yourself that force of any kind is justified. It is not the Lord’s plan.”
I thought this when we invaded Iraq. But I imagine, as you are a Ron Paul Revolution supporter, that you don’t agree with the war either, so perhaps we can agree on quite a bit! Isn’t it grand?
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Thanks for sharing information. Government has no eye for the poor people to see their griefs. Poor people are dying daily in lack of help and support… But politicians are really no hearts to see this..