By the beginning of February, almost every American worker will see a jump in their net income because of the recently enacted tax cut and reform legislation. While the tax bill (burdened with the unfortunate name “To provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018.”) is far from perfect, it is the first major reform in personal and corporate taxes in many years. We are already seeing an enthusiastic response from companies who are sharing the benefits of the tax bill with their employees, repatriating overseas profits, and investing in capital improvements and employee training.
Taxes are probably the most enduring contentious issue in any political body. The philosophical view of property rights and social obligations are ingrained in our political views and are most obvious in our positions on taxes. Who has a right to the fruits of my labor? What obligation do I have to share in the common needs of our society. What are the limits on how my tax dollars are appropriated? While we may revel in the passage of this bill, the battle for our wallets will continue unabated.
In “The City of God”, St. Augustine tells the story of a pirate who was brought before Alexander the Great. In defense of his crimes, the pirate points out the hypocrisy of one of history’s greatest plunderers.
“Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies?
For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms?”
All governments are inherently flawed, forced to take from its citizens to administer its works. They pretend that they have moral authority because they operate under the fabricated illusion of voluntary consent by its citizens. We know from almost every recent election, this authority is granted by bare majorities. Forty-nine percent have not consented. Lacking that consent, do they still have the moral authority to take our wages?
St. Augustine believed that the state was challenging the authority of individual free will and that of God. Yet, like us, he recognized the need for the state. This recognition did not blind him to the potential and likely abuse of the (mostly fictitious) authority of the state to tax. He understood that people joined by will or by force under a common cause allowed them to be robbed of some of the freedom.
In referring to the government, St. Augustine said:
“The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince,
it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy;
the booty is divided by the law agreed on.”
Unless we can find a piece of land on which to hermit ourselves for a lifetime, we have no choice but to concede that the state, with all of its flaws, is a necessary evil. As with any evil though, we should never falter in our resolve to keep it contained. The new tax cuts and reform will move us incrementally in the direction of restraining the government, but this win will be short lived. The state and its worshipers will be back for more.
It is our duty to stop these pirates.
Worcester Tea Party