Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Is Taxation Theft?

Underlying this question is one of legitimacy. Is taxation legitimate? Is government legitimate?

First, I would ask, “What does the Word of God have to say about that question?” The classic go-to passage in the New Testament on government and law is Romans 13. It specifically mentions taxes twice: “because of this you also pay taxes” (13:6) and “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due” (13:7). Jesus also condoned paying taxes. Combine this with theft being prohibited, and one can reasonably conclude, no, not all taxes are theft.

A question remains: Could some taxation be theft? If government acts beyond purposes described for any government in Scripture, could taxes to fund those activities be theft?

At a conference this summer one person equated “gov't subsidies and control” with “theft and tyranny.” Her reference to “theft” implies a reference to taxes used to pay government subsidies, specifically in this case to fund others' health insurance. This is a compelling point.

These taxes and subsidies are levied and paid based on a distorted view of justice that says everyone should have the same amount of health care access regardless of their output or need. Justice, however, is people getting what they deserve and that to which they agreed (Matthew 20:1-14).

Now, some may say, “This is a land with a government based on the consent of the governed” and “The Affordable Care Act is ‘the Law of the Land.’” There is truth in those statements (the latter hopefully temporarily), but that doesn't mean the Affordable Care Act or any other wealth redistribution effort was based on the informed consent and agreement of the governed. How many people knew ACA was passed with the express purpose of taking money from the one third of Americans with higher incomes to give it to the two thirds of Americans with lower incomes? Further, how many know that those with lower incomes never see that money because it is given to those involved in the medical industry (with higher incomes) on their behalf? Whose definition of justice does this match?

If people did not and do not agree with government collecting taxes or fees for purposes of giving to someone else, then this is injustice. No one deserves to have their money taken from them and simply given to or on behalf of someone else just because someone else doesn't have or make as much money as the person taxed.

The purposes of government are to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good (Romans 13:3-4; 1 Peter 2:14). Taxes for subsidies do not match either of those purposes. Making more money than someone else is not an evil to be punished. Making less money than someone else is not a good to be praised, much less subsidized. Therefore, government forcibly collecting money from someone and directly using it for illegitimate purposes of undeservedly giving that money directly or indirectly to someone else sounds a lot like theft.

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