God is a Capitalist

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Is the GOP tax plan moral?

Socialists complain that the recent tax reform package passed by Republicans in Congress and lauded by President Trump as America’s Christmas present is immoral because it provides some relief to the wealthy. Behind the complaint lies the offense to socialists that rich people exist at all. Unless a tax plan euthanizes the rich, socialists will consider it immoral.

It’s important to keep in mind that when socialists talk about morality they don’t mean what people have meant for two thousand years. For most of Christian history morality meant those principles that would cause humanity to prosper if we follow them. We got them from God because only our Creator knows what is best for us. Socialists murdered God in the Enlightenment and changed the definition of morality to mean whatever socialists prefer. That is the socialist MO: redefine words so that their arguments win by default.
Through much of the 19th century a few people wanted Congress to pass “progressive” tax laws, meaning that wealthy people would not only pay more in taxes because of their wealth, but that they would pay a higher percentage of their income as well. Congress refused to pass such laws because most Americans considered it immoral for the state to discriminate against citizens based solely on their wealth. Morality at the time required that all citizens be taxed at the same rate. The wealthy would still pay more in dollars, but the same rate as others. Part of the rationale for a flat tax came from the Old Testament tithe in which all citizens, regardless of wealth, paid the same 10% rate. Part of it came from the Christian doctrine that God treats all of his people as equals and does not discriminate so neither may the state.

Then Americans began jettisoning traditional Christianity like excess baggage and taking on board “liberal” Christianity that denied the deity of Christ. As a result, morality changed. Envy became a virtue so Americans embraced socialism. Instead of treating citizens equally, envy demanded that the state punish the rich for being rich. So yes, by socialist morality the GOP tax plan is immoral, but it is also immoral by traditional Christian morality because it preserves “progressive” tax rates.

Under socialist morality the state owns all of our wealth and merely allows us to use some of it to keep body and soul together. The Church held similar opinions through most of its history because it got its theology of wealth from pagans like Aristotle and Cicero instead of from the Bible. So through the middle ages taxation was oppressive, kept the people poor and the nobility wealthy.

Then the godly theologians of the University of Salamanca, Spain, in the 16th century asked how much of private wealth could the state take in taxes? To answer that, they needed to determine the role of the state. They, not John Locke, came up with the formula that the state exists to defend the life, liberty and property of its citizens. They reasoned from natural law, but they could have used the economic system that God had established for Israel in the Torah, or they could have seen the role of the state as limited by what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans chapter 13.

Paul’s delineation of the role of ruling authorities, to punish evil doers, limits state authority because of Christ’s exaltation. Paul’s statement, then, would be one of the first declarations of limited government since the Torah. Paul is telling rulers they have no authority to do anything but punish evil doers who violate God’s laws, the same authority that he gave the judges and people in the Torah government. Oliver O’Donovan, Regis professor of moral and pastoral theology at the University of Oxford and Canon of Christ Church wrote in The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the roots of political theology,

That must be the primary eschatological assertion about the authorities, political and demonic, which govern the world: they have been made subject to God’s sovereignty in the Exaltation of Christ...
No government has the right to exist; no nation has a right to defend itself. Such claims are overwhelmed by the immediate claim of the Kingdom. There remains simply the rump of political authority which cannot be dispensed with yet, the exercise of judgment. 
The theologians of Salamanca determined that if the state takes from the people through taxes more than it needs to perform its “night watchman” duties, the state is committing theft. For the many levels of government to end their theft, we would need to return to the size of government the US enjoyed under Calvin Coolidge.

Even under Christian morality the GOP tax law is immoral because it perpetuates the sins of “progressive” and excessive taxation. But it takes baby steps toward repentance.

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