I was driving to work last week and my thoughts drifted along into taxes, income, and work, but not necessarily in that order. Mark Wurzel, a very smart businessman, once told me that he was competing for that dollar in every man's pocket. You could apply that philosophy to businesses, religious institutions, and governments (Governments take). But the more I thought about it, I realized that money isn't the main driver here. When you look at money, it is the perception of what it can buy, rather than what it is that matters. In reality, money is worthless paper. Even in coinage, what are metals really worth? The commodity that businesses, churches, and governments want to monopolize is your time. In a perfect world, your labor on whatever you do, be that tilling a field to grow corn, running a bakery, or repairing cars, brings value to your product. The market defines that value, and depending on many factors such as supply, demand, quality, etc, will affect what your labor is worth. Still, it takes time to produce value. Time is a commodity that is limited for everyone and whose true quantity is never known. If you can control a person's time, you pretty much control their lives.
The idea of giving the product of one's labor away as a form of tribute started with the church in the form of tithes. Tithes have been around since the time of Abraham. Traditionally, Tithes were 10% of income, or worth, in whatever terms or commodity you have. This was not lost on governments, as they followed suit, and taxed its population accordingly. Over time, people have become accustomed to giving tribute, tithes and taxes. In fact, in some places today, the government for the purpose of religion taxes people and it is redistributed to the religious organizations of that country. For instance, in Austria, there is a 1% compulsory church tax. If you are catholic, the church can sue you if you do not pay it. If you refuse, basically you are excommunicated and cannot receive the sacraments. Members of the Church of Denmark (Denmark has the highest tax rate in the world at 56% income tax, which would be like working until July 23 for the government) pay a church tax that amounts to about 1%. Finland also exercises a church tax that varies from 1-2.25%. To be fair to Christianity, Islam also practices such things with Jizya, Pahlavi, and Dhimmi. In fact, in some Muslim countries, non-believers have inferior rights and have to pay tribute in greater proportion than believers.
All that being said, we've come a long way in this country. We have no official religion, no official church, and the church with the threat of any law cannot tax us. This sounds like a good thing and it is. The problem I have with taxes in general is that the government takes from you time for which you can never be compensated. I heard on the radio that the average Californian has to work until sometime in May to pay all of his federal, state, local and whatever taxes that they predate on people in that state. Our federal government did not have an income tax of any kind until 1913 and for most people; federal income tax wasn’t a consequence until after WW II. Since then, we have seen a steady ramp up in taxes, many of which are buried in utility bills, local sales tax initiatives, and fuel. I would ask by what right does anyone have to take your life, even if only bit-by-bit? Owning a human being is against the law, as is indentured servitude and/or peonage. Or is it? What is the debt? When is the debt paid? Socialists and communist will say this money serves a common or greater good. If that is so, why don't we fertilize our fields with the old, sick and infirm? That would serve a common good. The problem with common or greater good is that it creates unwanted obligations on people that infringe on their natural rights. No purported right of any man, group or government should be used to obviate the rights on any individual. The other problem with common or greater good is that it opens the door to create rights that should never exist; they are entitlements. What entitlements do you say? In the words, actions and deeds of the Obama’s and other socialists, it could be food, housing, healthcare, day-care, post secondary education, basically cradle to grave socialism.
In a current context, we find some promulgating a collectivist tone. According to Michelle Obama, "Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism, that you put down your division, that you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones, that you push yourselves to be better, and that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual - uninvolved, uninformed..." (Speech in February 2008). I find this an insult. What she is trying to say is that those that believe in individual rights and responsibilities, those that believe in self reliance, those that have pride in their own accomplishments and want to strive to better themselves on their own, are somehow broken, inferior, lazy, and ignorant. This is truly the shot across the bow to libertarians and conservatives everywhere, but it is not the first time I have heard this. It is preached in my church as well and I disagree with it there as well. When people are classified as broken, inferior (victims in the political context), in this political context, and possible a religious one, I think that the wanted, or needed end-result is a group of people that are co-dependent to some persons or organizations solution to the problem they define in individuals. Basically they are creating and/or defining their own customer demographic. This is heinous, if correct. In the political context, socialists wish to create a secular church of the government where people are no longer responsible for themselves, where the government provides their social, physical and spiritual needs. What is sad in a religious context is that politicians like Mike Huckabee think that certain Christian values need to be taken on by the government in terms of duties and obligations. He sees the government as an extension of what the church itself should accomplish. This is foolhardy and has no place in a free society. It is fine if churches aspire to help the poor and in need. In fact, that is what they should do, as it is not the government's place to do these things. These obligations should be voluntary, as a free will offering. If the left is correct in their assertion that we do not do enough to help the poor and in need, then the church has failed to make it's case to its members, as they obviously haven't responded in kind. May be members feel the government does this now, why should we bother? I don't believe that it is so conscious of a decision, but rather a dilution of message, values and moral direction. This happens through enculturation. At some point someone lowered the bar, and that standard was passed on.
The solution to this is laissez-faire capitalism. A further definition of what I like to call small c capitalism. Every man is his own free agent and the benefactor of his labor. He is not a slave, not a slave owner. He acts in his own rational self-interest without the violation of others. He trades with others with mutual self-interest in mind. The government's only relationship in this is that is acts as a force to protect people's natural rights to participate in this exchange. No one has the right of force through any means to take from one for himself or take from others. The final piece to this trinity is economics. As much as there must be a separation of church and state, to a great extent, there must be a separation of economics and state. In the context of today, capitalism has become institutionalized. It is as much a power like a government and at times as much a spiritual mover and fealty inspiring as a religion. There are corporations out there whose very purpose is to become involved in every part of your life, to infiltrate every aspect. Others just want your money, which uses up your time. Big C capitalism or Institutional Capitalism is just as dangerous as anything else with power, whether it is religion or government. According to Thomas Jefferson, "I hope we shall crush ... in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country". Even in that time, institutional capitalism was feared. Power may corrupt, but it also wants to perpetuate, in any guise. With religion, you can stop participating, at least in this country. With government in this country, you have some redress of grievances, and franchisement, but ultimately, it counts for very little on a larger scale. With the economy, you have even less control. So, at this point, someone may be asking, what's all the bother with tithing, taxes, government, religion and the economy? Ultimately, my goal is to stir the pot and get people thinking. People take their time on this planet for granted. They also take their freedom for granted. The most regrettable thing is to see people willing to trade their natural rights for security, or the perception of security. Humans have become so feckless that they will be bought and sold with their own capital, labor and time. I am here to tell you that there is no free lunch. Everything has a cost, in terms of capital and liberty. If you want to be free, you will incur costs of responsibility, vigilance, and self-sufficiency. Freedom may not be for those without courage. If you want to be taken care of, your freedoms will be curtailed, as will your capital, and you will be controlled. This is egregious, as those that would prescribe and proscribe every facet of people’s lives, as if they had the right. That is truly corruption and hubris. Problems all facets of power (Government, religion, and business if you will) fear are an independent, free, knowledgeable and enlightened populace.
I believe that the United States is now at a turning point. Once founded on the principles of natural rights and freedom, we broke away from our mother country, England to form our own country. The force behind this was the taxation from England and the lack of representation before the crown. I think we find ourselves at a point where we have taken much for granted and in the process have become less responsible. In this vacuum, politicians have rushed in to bribe us with our own money, and labor. This in turn becomes De Rigueur and we slide towards total incompetence and inevitable socialism. Will Americans take the bait? I hope not.
Thank you for reading this blog.