January 14, 2011

There's Nothing Generous About Forced Benevolence

From the Amy Writer's Syndicate:
By William Cripe

When is enough, enough? Senator Bernie Sanders posed the question in reference to keeping the "Bush tax cuts" in place, wondering for how long, to what extent and for whom. Sanders' followed up his question stating, "The billionaires of America are on the warpath; they want more and more." The Vermont Senator's rhetoric is a familiar rant of those who want to satisfy their desire for charity through the legislated benevolence of everyone but themselves.

Wall Street Journal "Main Street" columnist, William McGurn notes that Sander's comments raise another question; "How come Republicans have such a hard time speaking…about the moral underpinnings of their side of this argument?" Good question--I fronted the same query to my wife the day before the article came out while watching the news about the pending tax-cut extension.

Since I have never heard a politician make a reasoned argument for the immorality of coerced benevolence--called excessive taxation of the rich--I will.

While taxes can certainly be used for immoral purposes, and can be imposed in an immoral manner, taxation is not inherently immoral. When Jesus was asked if it was lawful to pay tribute to Caesar He wisely took a coin with Caesar's bust on it and somewhat sarcastically said, "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's…" The question was disingenuous but Jesus, never-the-less, endorsed some notion of citizens helping fund the benefits they receive.

But when an individual or institution assumes the authority to dictate when one's level of income is "too much," then seeks to extract a portion of that income through a system of imbalanced taxation, an immoral act has just taken place. It is this simple: When person "A" chooses to divest themselves of a portion of their money giving it to whatever cause, person "A" has exhibited a charitable act. But when person "A" extracts person "B's" money and uses it for a charitable cause, person "A" is not being charitable; he is being immoral.

Charity, by definition, must issue forth from an act of free will, not legal mandate. Even the Bible is clear on this point. Concerning giving to charitable causes, the Bible instructs, "Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7)

What is especially poignant is the grandstanding politician decrying the "greed" of the "wealthy," railing against those who have "too much," and want to keep it to themselves. What is typical in my experience is that in every situation, the one excoriating the "wealthy" are themselves wealthy AND notoriously stingy!

In 1998 as one presidential candidate was railing against the other candidate for his opposition to endless entitlements to the "poor," it was revealed that the grandstanding--multi-millionaire--candidate had given a paltry $353 to charity that year. The candidate he was berating for his "lack of generosity," gave away a generous 10% of his income. So who was behaving immorally?
I don't know about any billionaires "being on the warpath" but I know plenty of cheapskate politicians always on a crusade to satisfy their spirit of generosity vicariously.

It is every person's responsibility to disburse their own money--if they like--to whatever causes they choose. At the end of the road we will all give account to the One who judges accurately for what we have done with every aspect of our lives.

In a free society it is not the role of politicians--especially hypocritical politicians--to determine what level of income is "too much." Every attempt to do so is inherently immoral.


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