"Taxation without representation." Even those whose only knowledge of history was gained in government schools have heard that this was the primary impetus behind the Revolutionary War.1 Anyone in the Washington, DC area who can read is familiar with the phrase, due to it being imprinted on DC license plates. (Of course that number does not include all government school students, or even graduates, but that is a different topic.)
But, aside from that notable exception, that is not the situation we face today. We have, theoretically at least, representation. And we definitely have taxation. So the question that must be asked is, "Is there a limit to taxation with representation?"
Thomas Jefferson would not hesitate to answer. In fact, he wrote in the Declaration of Independence that governments derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed." So any tax beyond what we consent to is unjust. You will often hear various government officials and members of the MSM declaring that we have a tax system based on "voluntary compliance." Well, I guess you could say that is true, if your definition of "voluntary" includes confiscation of property or imprisonment for failure to pay, and injury or death if you resist being taken into custody.
Now I don't know about you, but I have not known anyone who felt he was not paying enough in taxes. (Although there are many who think someone else should be paying more taxes.) So it would seem that we have already passed the point of consent. So now the question becomes "To what amount of taxation should we consent."
Many of you will answer "None!" And I will not venture to say you are wrong. Chodorov has written the book on the subject, Taxation is Theft. And how many times has Gary North written, "The 10 Commandments do not say, u2018Thou shalt not steal, except by majority vote'"?
But for the sake of those who are not ready to concede this point, what can we say is a "reasonable" level of taxation? After all, if you are choosing to use government services, not just using them because there is no option (e.g., highways, Medicare) or because you are required to pay for the service anyway (e.g., schools), then you should expect to pay for the privilege.
Please allow me to refer at this point to the account of the 7-year famine in Egypt, recorded in the book of Genesis. Even if you do not believe this is factual, can we at least agree that these "stories" are intended to teach lessons and not just entertain? Jefferson did refer to "the laws of Nature and of Nature's God."
For those of you who may not be familiar with the account, here is a brief recap. Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, has had a pair of dreams. Joseph, the son of Israel, interprets the dreams in this manner: there will be 7 years of abundant harvest, followed by 7 years of famine. Joseph recommends that Pharaoh store up grain during the good years to make provision for the bad times to come. As a result of this wise counsel, Pharaoh appoints him as commissar.
Picking up the story in chapter 47 verse 13 of Genesis, the famine has been going on for some time, and the Egyptians and those from surrounding areas have been buying grain through Joseph. Now the money is gone. So they come to Joseph and he says "Bring me your livestock, and I will exchange it for food." That gets them through another year. The following year they approach Joseph again, saying "We have nothing left but our bodies and our land. Take our land and make us slaves to Pharaoh. Why should we die?" Joseph agrees to the exchange and thereby acquires all the land of Egypt (except that belonging to the priests) in the name of Pharaoh. And the people acknowledge that they are slaves.
This is where it gets interesting, because these are the terms of slavery that Joseph establishes: he gives them seed to sow the land, and says that when they harvest they must give a fifth (20%) to Pharaoh. The remaining 4 parts (80%) are to be food for them and their households, as well as seed for the following year.
So here they are, slaves with no property of their own, share-croppers if you will, and they are allowed to keep 80% of the harvest. Actually if you go back earlier in the story (chapter 41 verse 34), Pharaoh has exacted 20% of the bountiful harvest to accumulate the store that he is now exchanging for all the money, land, livestock and people of the nation. So according to these terms, they were already slaves, they just did not realize it at the time.
Now 20% is probably sounding pretty reasonable to many of you. But I want to refer to another Biblical account to put it into a different perspective. In the book of I Samuel, chapter 8, the people of Israel come to Samuel and demand that he set a king over them "that we may be like all the other nations around us." Samuel does not like this idea, but God tells him to give the people what they want. But he is also to give them warnings, among them that the king, when he comes to power, will demand 10% of the produce of their fields and flocks. Again you may ask, "What's the big deal? 10% sounds like a bargain to me." Well here's the big deal, as I see it. God only demands 10% (that's the definition of a "tithe") for Himself. For the king to take the same amount is to make himself equal to God. So what does it mean when our various layers of government take 30%, 40% or more of the product of our labor?
To go into various other explanations of how the government is acting like a god is beyond the scope of this brief letter. But I hope it has caused you to think about this one aspect of life as we know it today.
You may not agree with Ron Paul on every aspect of his platform, but he seems to me to be the only candidate that realizes that government is not supposed to be our god.
- For a full listing of the causes of separation, please read the full Declaration of Independence. Not just the somewhat familiar "We hold these truths" introductory section, but the following enumeration of the "long train of abuses and usurpations."
January 12, 2008