From Barack Obama’s Feb. 5, 2008 Speech
From Barack Obama’s Feb. 5, 2008 Speech

This is the third in a series of posts that proposes to answer the following question.

Can you name a single thing Jesus said which was genuinely new, original, or useful?

We had The Presentation Of The Question in part 1. If you wish to understand why we are considering this question and how we intend to answer it, please visit part 1.

With respect to the question above, here we will examine the following.

Why Did He Do It?

This is the thing unbelievers have trouble with. This is the thing that leaves believers in tears.

Philippians 2:5-11 New King James Version (NKJV)

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What the unbeliever has difficulty understanding is Philippians 2:8. How could anyone, much less God, could humble himself so much? For what? What troubles some believers is Philippians 2:5, the impossibility of ever matching such love. What angers other believers is the notion they should love anyone else more than they love themselves. You see, even the demons believe (James 2:19).

Why did He do it? Because it states the reason so concisely, John 3:16 is the most popular of Bible verses. John 3:17 reminds us that this is only the first coming of Christ. John 3:18 reminds us that we will be judged and those so judged will perish.

John 3:16-18 New Living Translation (NLT)

16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.

The unbeliever wonders. What did I do to deserve such judgement? What does Jesus’ death on a cross have to do with me? What is this foolishness?

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”

20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

We like to think “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Such words appeal to our pride. We like to think that our fate depends upon our own merit, but in God’s eyes “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

We are God’s children, and just like our own children we too need to be made respectful and obedient. Yet here the analogy breaks down for we need God far more than our children ever need us.

Ephesians 2:4-9 New King James Version (NKJV)

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Consider the problem God has with us. He is holy. We are not. He loves us and wants us to spend eternity with Him, but He will not tolerate our rebellious nature, certainly not for all eternity. Moreover, justice requires that we pay the price for our sins, and that we cannot do. What sacrifice could we offer that would atone for disobedience to God? Therefore, unless we repent and pay the price for our sins, what is God to do with us?

Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection solved our dilemma. Jesus did what we cannot do. He lived perfect life, and He allowed Himself to be sacrificed in our place for our sins. When we accept the grace and mercy Jesus offers us — when we repent for our sins and commit ourselves to following in Jesus’ footsteps — His sacrifice covers our sins. We become acceptable to God. Instead of being permanently separated from God (consigned to Hell), we can be in His presence.

Was Jesus trying to do anything new, original, or useful? With respect to what passes for the wisdom of this world, probably not. The Jews understood the notion of original sin, and Gentiles could see the human race is flawed, but consider what pride demands. Don’t we all want to believe that whatever needs to be done “I can do myself”?

What Jesus explained is we cannot do what needs to be done. We must have faith in Him.

John 14:6 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Was this teaching a new idea? I think so. Is this teaching useful? That depends upon whether we believe.

Some References


  1. Again, Tom, you have gathered much useful material and references into one easy to read location. And your description of our sin problem and how Jesus solved it was great. Seems to me that what you described is, in fact…new, original, and quite useful. But, you are also correct when you say the for a non believer, it is hardly useful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well said. I really cannot bear those words, “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” There is just something so wrong there and I think I now understand why I have such a strong reaction to them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I cringed when I first heard them too. When I first heard them, I think what bothered me was the pride it took to think he could deliver on all those promises. Now it is just the pride to believe we don’t need God.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Tom,

    Thanks os much for this posting and the entire series. I appreciate your clear explanation of the Lord’s work in our salvation and the motivations that drove Him to do these wonderful things for us!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I would simply like to offer this caution to anyone that seeks to interpret the purpose of Christ: unless and until we can accomplish things such as are recorded of the Apostles in Acts, we must humble ourselves to the knowledge that we do not understand fully.
    God put before us a purpose in the Garden of Eden. We chose that path of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But part of Jesus’s goal must be to see us able to fulfill the purpose of Eden. What does that mean? Is it only passive waiting for the Savior? Or is it to actively accomplish something for the rest of humanity and the creation that sustains us?
    I am certain that it is the latter, and I find nothing wrong with Obama’s exhortation that we should aspire to that role. The Knowledge of Good and Evil is attained only through acting, and assuming responsibility for the consequences of our actions. To have the courage to act and be wrong is necessary to learning. The grace of God is to provide us the power to heal each other of our honest mistakes. It is to prove the power of that healing that Jesus went to the cross, and above all things, it is the courage of the lamb that we should gain from that demonstration.


    1. Thank you for your comment. Your caution is well-considered.

      The problem with Obama’s exhortation lies in how some have chosen to react to it. If we choose to take personal responsibility and make a personal decision to accomplish things such as are recorded of the Apostles in Acts, then we will do as those early Christians did. We will humble ourselves before God. We will see that personally trying to obey the Will of God is the proper source of change, that the real change must occur within us. If we choose to see ourselves as the source of change, believe that it is our own will that matters, then we will tempted to force others to bend to our will. Then we may do as has been done so much here of late and abuse the power of government. Instead of humbling ourselves, we will force our fellow citizens to “change.” We will try to humble others using the power of government.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The exhortation of Christ was “Render unto Caesar those things that are Caesar’s.” The point is essential: when we as individuals love each other and invest in each other’s healing, then the need for government will be diminished. Until then, we are to participate in the forms of government as model citizens.

        To do otherwise is to claim privilege from God over other men, which leads down the slippery slope of passing judgment on others that must be reserved only to Christ. The hypocrisy of that posture actually generates resistance to Christ. Does it say anywhere in the Bible “Do not comply with the Affordable Health Care Act”? No, it does not. To resist any government action without such clear direction is to assume the authority of God as our own.

        It is not the words of men that move the unbeliever or the hypocrite, but the experience of feeling the forgiveness of Christ that originates from the heart of the believer. Jesus himself understood the magnitude of the difficulty we face: on the cross, he says “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He did not call fire down on his oppressors. He let them experience the consequences of their actions, and learn from them. We should do no different.

        Is it hard? Yes, it is hard. It takes enormous courage to face destruction armed only with faith. But it is in those moments that the hearts of rulers are turned, as we know from several examples in the Old Testament.


        1. @brianbalke

          I appreciate the reply, but I get the impression that you wrote to someone else.

          I also don’t exactly agree with what you said. The Bible is actually quite clear that some forms of government are bad. Read 1 Samuel 8. God wanted the people of Israel to reject government by a king. He wanted them to accept His leadership.

          When are we led by God? Ultimately, that is an individual matter. However, as a nation when we render to Caesar what we should render to God, we make government our god.

          As citizens, particularly in a republic or a democracy, we have a responsibility to voice our concerns and decry immoral acts by our government. When our government demands that we do something immoral, we must refuse to participate. Yet at the same time, we should pray for our leaders and do our best to keep the government the people have instituted functioning as well as we can. Rarely is an absent government better than a bad government. Therefore, in spite of the Roman Empire’s tyranny, Jesus did not urge rebellion, and neither did the Apostle Paul.

          Your blog says you are a physicist and mystic. For the physicist I have an observation. For the mystic I have a question.

          Here is the observation: charity must be a personal matter.

          When we each run our lives and dispose of our property as we see fit, we have a manageable problem. That is, we each have a finite sphere of influence. We know the people we interact with, we know what we can produce, and we know what we own. If one of our neighbors needs assistance, because we know our neighbors, we have more incentive to want to help them. That incentive is called love. Yet we don’t want to waste our money. So we also have an incentive to help our neighbor help himself. We can either help our neighbor directly or through a local organization such as our church.

          On the other hand, when government taxes us with the stated goal of helping the poor, the children, the elderly, the handicapped, and so forth, we have a responsibility to monitor and manage what our leaders are doing in our name. That is because our government is taking money from other people in our name and giving it away. Unfortunately, in a nation with 300 million people where the government (Federal, state, and local) spends about 6 trillion a year (mostly on social programs), we have a difficult time grasping both what our government is doing and how effectively it is doing it. Even if we could grasp the full complexity of government spending, when we vote for our leaders, because our government is doing so much, we would be unable to get across our desires to the politicians we choose. When politicians redistribute the wealth, they only call it charity. What they do in practice is try to buy our votes. As a practical matter, politicians conduct “charity” outside the sphere of influence of the people paying for it.

          Here is the question. For what purposes is taxation by government morally justifiable?


        2. Tom:
          You say that charity must be a personal matter, but the reallocation of resources held in stewardship for God as private property is not an act enforced by God – it is an act enforced by government. The development of the rules for allocation of such property are thereby subject to negotiation among the signatories to the governmental process. When the allocation of resources has been unjustly contrived in the past by manipulation of governmental process, the people (through the government) have every right to reallocate those resources through the mechanism of taxation. They also have the right to use taxation to prevent use of money for destructive purposes (such as the foreign currency speculation that nearly destroyed several European economies a few years back).

          What are the moral criteria that serve to determine whether taxation is fair, or unjust? It is ultimately, in a democracy, the vote, and contrary to some opinions, the economic consequences of unfair taxation weigh largely in the popular mind when elections are held: when economic conditions are poor, current office holders are more likely to lose.

          Income tax in this country was quite low until the run-up to WWII, which is when the lend-lease program created inflationary growth in the money supply. To prevent the type of hyperinflation that destroyed European economies following WWI, the federal government instituted a broad and progressive income tax. It was felt at the time that this was a mechanism well suited to moderating business cycles, because when wages fell, so would taxes, which would leave more money in the hands of consumers, which would help to prevent cratering of the economy as occurred in the Great Depression.

          As for Samuel: you’ll note that he did anoint King Saul. He bowed to popular opinion as a form of “law of natural consequences” demonstration of the defects of monarchy. The courage and forgiving heart of David are an inspiration, and of course the wisdom of Solomon is exemplary. That the grace of these leaders was not sustained does not mean that we should not uphold God’s wisdom in providing them to us as examples.


        3. @brianbalke

          Thank you for the thoughtful reply.

          When people use the term “but” (as you did in your first sentence), that usually signifies disagreement. What did I say that was disagreeable? I doubt you have any trouble with model citizens striving to improve their government. I don’t think you expect good citizens to accept foolish and even unconstitutional acts in silence.

          So what is the issue? I take it from these words that you think taxation does have a place in redistributing the wealth.

          When the allocation of resources has been unjustly contrived in the past by manipulation of governmental process, the people (through the government) have every right to reallocate those resources through the mechanism of taxation. They also have the right to use taxation to prevent use of money for destructive purposes (such as the foreign currency speculation that nearly destroyed several European economies a few years back).

          Consider again what I said about redistributing the wealth. What is the practical problem when we get into that mode? When we make redistributing the wealth a permanent construct, how do we avoid unjustly contrived manipulations of the governmental process? We cannot. Even if redistributing the wealth were ethical, we still can’t properly manage the process of redistributing the wealth. If we want to return ill-gotten goods to their rightful owners, that is a problem for our system of justice.

          Does democracy, the vote of the majority, justify taxation? No, but I am not surprised by the reply. Once I would have said the same. Unfortunately, very few of the Americans alive today have even consider that issue.

          We have not been properly educated in civics. So I did not think of the question until I was in my fifties. We are unlike this nation’s founders, but I have started reading some of what they read and wrote. Maybe reading this post will help you. =>

          Consider this moral dilemma. We have ten castaways on a lovely island. Two of them are industrious, and they realize that the island is near enough to the one of the poles that spring will fade into summer, summer into fall, and fall into winter famine. So they begin cultivating crops with produce that they can store. The other eight ignore the advice of their wiser companions. They behave like the grasshopper in one of Aesop’s fables.

          Time passes. Winter comes. The two industrious castaways have bumper crops, and they are well prepared. The other eight castaways take note and decide to form a majoritarian tyranny with unrestricted powers of taxation. Is that moral?

          Of course, there is another problem. Winter will come again. Then what?

          What has our nation done about taxes? We have a big, complex mess, but our leaders are good at excuses.

          To prevent the type of hyperinflation that destroyed European economies following WWI, the federal government instituted a broad and progressive income tax.

          You do realize that to prevent hyperinflation the government had another alternative. Our leaders could have cut their spending?

          As for Samuel anointing King Saul, I am pleased you did consider the consequences. King Saul was a bad king. God punished the Hebrews by giving them what they wanted.

          Even Thomas Paine, a Deist, learned a lesson from 1 Samuel 8. =>

          Nevertheless, we too risk putting government before our God. When we use government to redistribute the wealth — when we wreck havoc on our Constitution to redistribute the wealth — that is a sign that our republic is not working, that we have slipped into majoritarian tyranny and that the factionalism our form of government was designed to prevent is running rampant.

          Redistributing the wealth is about the abuse of power, not love. I note on your blog that you are an advocate for love. When charity is personal, charity can be given in love. Government exists to provide impartial justice, and that it only does poorly. Government cannot redistribute the wealth in love, and that is why government provided charity inevitably produces unintended consequences.


        4. Tom:

          The tendency of many self-proclaimed moralists is to turn every ethical framework to the service of proving their perspective. I am glad that in this last post you have stepped away from religious justification and focused more narrowly on civics. That was my original point: keep religion out of politics.

          If we look at Acts, for example, the Apostles lived without private property, and those that tried to withhold died of shame. In my personal experience, when I surrendered my material concerns, I found, as Jesus taught in the parable of the Good Samaritan, that all men are my brothers, and I feel their pain across oceans and through time. This is obviously a terrible prospect, but comes with other rewards.

          As for government aid being charity: I believe that government aid is designed to ensure the stability of the civic order. When people have no hope, they tend to go out and buy fertilizer and blow things up, or just riot in the streets, and they certainly lose their capacity to be productive members of the workforce. Almost all government aid was motivated by concerns for creating wealth, and the agreement of the wealthy to participate in taxation programs reflected that understanding: they make money when people are engaged and eager to create value for each other.

          This is your forum, and I will not engage in further dispute with you here. I would just suggest that people that engage in discussion with you here would be more inclined to continue if you responded to what they said, rather than attributing to them statements that allow you to reason to the conclusion that they are in error.



        5. Thank you for the reply.

          Self-proclaimed moralist ( Doesn’t that expression cover just about everybody?

          Can we keep religion out of politics? Conventional wisdom says we should, but what puzzles me is that the people who promote this wisdom want innumerable social programs. These same people also provide moral justifications for these programs.

          Since our religious beliefs provide the basis of our beliefs about morality, I think there is no way to avoid mixing politics and religion. In fact, it seems to me the objection to mixing politics with religion is politically motivated.

          Does Christianity justify the Socialist tendencies of our government? I don’t think so. What the Book of Acts demonstrates how church members should help each other. Did the apostles form a government or organize a church (see

          The Apostles received what they received as voluntary donations. When you say “those that tried to withhold died of shame,” I assume you are talking about the deaths of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). Please go back and read that passage. If they died of shame, that shame came from lying to the Holy Spirit, not for withholding their property.

          Several years ago I wrote a serious of posts on “Christianity and Socialism” (starts here You are welcome to read it, but I expect you will take what C. S. Lewis has to say more seriously.

          Here is an excerpt from part four of that series I wrote on “Christianity and Socialism.”

          In Mere Christianity (Chapter 3 of Book 3), C. S. Lewis considers the subject of Social Morality. He begins by observing that what the Bible teaches about social morality can be summed up by the Golden Rule (Do as you would be done by). Otherwise the Bible does not offer any detailed social program. Lewis observes that while the Bible may seem to support socialism, the Bible defines charity as something we give individually — until it hurts.

          To create a Christian society, Lewis says there is only one solution.

          A Christian society is not going to arrive until most of us really want it: and we are not going to want it until we become fully Christian. I may repeat ‘Do as you would be done by’ til I am black in the face, but I cannot really carry it out til I love my neighbour as myself: and I cannot love my neighbour as myself til I learn to love God: and I cannot learn to love God except by learning to obey Him.

          When we set up our government, we have a choice. One alternative is to trust our neighbors and keep our government small. We can just use government to protect the rights of the People, resolve disputes, and keep troublemakers under control. The other alternative is to trust our leaders, but that choice has never worked. When men are given power, that power tends to corrupt them. So it is that given enough power those who lead us become the worst of troublemakers.

          You seem concerned that I am not responding to what you said. I regret that, but I am doing my best. Try considering the matter from my perspective. Because we each have different worldview, I have the same concern. What we see depends upon where we stand.

          So we dispute what we see and the conclusions we reach. I won’t say that disputes don’t bother me; they do, but it does not help to get angry. So I thank you for visiting. Please feel free to visit any time.


  5. Tom – do you oppose all government taxation? If not, where do you draw the line between legitimate and non-legitimate use of government taxation powers?


    1. You and other progressive statists tend to think of Constitutional conservatives holding the notion that “all taxes are theft.” This is not a position held by us in general, and it is instead a strawman created to attack us. Citizen Tom will have his own thoughts on this, but I’d wager they will be similar to my own.

      First of all, the Constitution is the highest law of the United States, having been ratified by the people in state ratification assemblies. It outranks all other laws. The Bill of Rights added shortly thereafter in a similar process documented and endeavored to protect citizens’ rights from encroachment by government. A non-theist conservative like myself uses the phrase “natural rights”; Citizen Tom would say “God-given rights.” That distinction (as explained by Thomas Aquinas) is not crucial. What IS crucial is that these rights are NOT created by or granted by government, and not instantiated by being mentioned in the Constitution as amended.

      The unfortunate practical effect has been that if a right is not mentioned there, it doesn’t exist … with exceptions that suit progressives from time to time, such as the right to kill a developing human in the womb or to take money from citizens for various social engineering boondoggles.

      So, what was this Government supposed to do that We the People created and approved? Only a limited set of things, all of which are enumerated in the Constitution. Things outside of that list are relegated to the States, or are not the business of government at all.

      There are provisions for example to set up courts, to raise an army and navy, to build forts and to build post roads. There is no provision for setting up a conduit to extract money from some citizens to give this money (after a substantial government cut) to other citizens. Nor is there a provision for any federal executive-branch bureaucracy writing regulations to control the activities of citizens within their states.

      Paying for what was agreed to does not trouble Constitutional conservatives. But progressive statists have found an ever-increasing list of new things that should be paid for by an ever-decreasing proportion of the populace. Much of this has been in the general category of vote-buying.

      The United States made it roughly a century without doing this, generally, but Grover Cleveland in the 1880s saw it coming and argued against it, when Congress wanted to take $10,000 out of the Treasury and give it to farmers whose crops had been damaged in a disaster:

      I can find no warrant for such an appropriation [giving money to farmers whose crops had failed due to drought] in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people. The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.

      As I wrote years ago, Cleveland’s argument prevailed, though Congress was busily trying to vote itself new power and create new agencies to dole out money to potential voters. The above quote is from the veto of such a bill, which planned to put most of the money into the hands of local politicians to give to constituents they liked.

      Congress, of course, did not give up. Once the very first one made it through, the trickle became a flood: it was now a precedent. And what the government can support, it can control: One half century after Cleveland’s veto, the federal government outlawed a farmer growing wheat in his own backyard to feed his own family — a case that went to the cowed Supreme Court in the 1930s and was determined to be within the scope of the federal government to regulate “commerce” “among the several States.” The logic ran that if the farmer fed his own family, he’d buy less wheat from the market, which could conceivably affect imports of wheat from one state to another. Hey presto! It’s interstate commerce, and thus under federal jurisdiction, and the federal “wheat quota” system was Constitutional.

      Now, you’ve grown up with this level of government interference and control. You’d have a hard time imagining a world in which the US government was not the benefactor of billions of dollars to people in want, having taken much more than this from those who the government considers “rich” (i.e., people who are net positive taxpayers).

      And yet the appetite for spending is rapacious, and even the productive US taxpayers cannot rise to the level of ambition of Washington. So the US is going into debt it may never repay, and taking positions it may never recover from, to accomplish a mission it should never have undertaken. We are stuck with it as a “modern” thing, leaving US charities to devote hundreds of millions of dollars per year on less-worthy efforts such as promoting communism and “studying” the massive failures of government in education, healthcare, and other areas, to support increasing those failures.

      Social Security, to me, is not quite in this class. Had it been structured properly, the concept of giving your own money back to you is not an unreasonable one, and it is not the same as a “tax” to be distributed to others. But the government is involved, and as a result the program is unsustainable. Were a law passed that said that it much be privatized tomorrow — that the US government must hand over assets to a separate entity to run this program — we could not afford to do it.

      That’s another unfortunate aspect of using the government to accomplish something with money. It makes no sense, it is executed badly, but the federal government makes laws so that we have no choice.

      There IS a choice, an Article V Convention for Proposing Amendments, which can re-establish some of the original controls and unwind some of the statist “reinterpretations” of the document that is the highest law of our land. It is time to do this.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Keith – you are doing yeoman service as Tom’s spokesman. I think that works out pretty well all around. Tom tends to wander off.

    My question to Tom, which you answered, was based on the fact that I have never heard him talk about taxes without implying that they are a kind of theft. This tendency is undifferentiated – in other words, he has not, to my knowledge, made distinctions between legitimate taxation and what he regards to be illegitimate taxation (which, from his posts and comments that I have read, is everything or durn near everything)).

    All taxes are redistributive to some extent. I may benefit more from a post road or a court than you, while you may benefit more from an F-16 than I. There’s no way to keep those benefits equal. That’s why I suspect that Tom’s line may be in a different place than yours, although he has recently taken to kind of a “What he said” endorsement of your comments when you interpose between him and some of my curiosity-motivate queries to him.

    I think I would generally agree with you, however, that once We, the People, form a national government by mutual consent, the legitimate taxes at the national level are those that the processes we construct to run that government authorize, and that the illegitimate ones are the ones that either are imposed to fund things our agreed-upon processes have not authorized or that are, ab initio, beyond the powers of the government we established. If that is what you are saying, that strikes me as an intelligible line of demarcation and one that has been used throughout our history to challenge programs and the tax financing of those programs.

    At the state and local level, things get more complicated, because the source of those governmental powers is less bounded – some of those powers existed at common law under the previous British government (or, in your part of the world, the previous Spanish and Mexican governments – assuming I have you geo-positioned correctly).

    As for what charities support (your Eleventh paragraph, if my old eyes are not too blurry to count), I would think that should be up to them, even if the subjects are silly or unproductive.

    BTW, is “progressive statist” now a synonym for “constitutional conservative.” I can never keep up with these language fads that turn old concepts upside down. I will try to be more hip about these things in the future. After 50 years of constitutional conservatism, please understand that it’s hard for me to catch on to the new terminology.


    1. @scout

      If I said I don’t have a jealous bone in my body, I would lying. Nevertheless, your first two sentences say far more about your own priorities than they do anyone else’s.

      When we compare ourselves to others we should remember Jesus’ words to Peter: “You follow me.” (John 21:20-23). If we follow Jesus Christ as well as we can, then isn’t that all that matters?

      When I look at what you just wrote, I noted the usual legalistic mumbo-jumbo, including your usual effort to obscure the forest with trees.

      All taxes are redistributive to some extent. I may benefit more from a post road or a court than you, while you may benefit more from an F-16 than I. There’s no way to keep those benefits equal.

      I don’t doubt some congressmen consider the defense budget a means of redistributing the wealth. We really do elect some bad people, but the defense department does not exist to redistribute wealth.

      Anyway, it is easy to be a critic, but it is much more difficult to explain our own ideas and beliefs. Therefore, before I answer one of your questions, I think it only fair for you to answer one of mine. If brianbalke had the guts to answer this question, it seems to me you ought to have the guts to do it and to defend your answer.

      Here is the question. For what purposes is taxation by government morally justifiable?

      You say you have already answered? Not in plain language you didn’t. What do you personally believe?


    2. @scout,

      When I suggested that Citizen Tom’s thoughts on this issue were likely similar to my own, it was based on my simply reading what he has written here. But your understanding of this, as evidenced by your statement here: “… I have never heard him talk about taxes without implying that they are a kind of theft,” mirrors your level of understanding evidenced by your statement here: “BTW, is ‘progressive statist’ now a synonym for ‘constitutional conservative.’ I can never keep up with these language fads that turn old concepts upside down.”

      You spend hours here in a pretense of positions that, were someone so foolish as to believe you, would invert the notion of “constitutional conservatism” that you’ve oft proclaimed as your own ideology. You do this, with no evident trace of irony, when you assert that the Constitution’s plan to provide for defense of the nation is a form of redistribution of wealth. Such Marxist double-talk, which has the evident goal of making redistribution of wealth seem palatable since it’s in the Constitution, is the sort of thing you utter so frequently here.

      I don’t think you are a Marxist, nor do I believe that you think of yourself as one. But you have no difficulty writing in support of the same sorts of short term goals, as if unaware of the long term ends. You are the eternal big government progressive statist who thinks that Colin Powell is the ideal Republican, who likes big government programs, favors redistribution of wealth, and doe not like conservatives because they are, to you, too religious. But in between your espousing of statist progressive goals, you say (with nothing in your written ideology to support it) over and over again that you are the quintessential constitutional conservative.

      You’re a funny guy — but your goals are poor ones for the country.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Keith – I’m not sure Colin Powell considers himself a Republican any longer, particularly after this past week, but you are correct that I was very proud and pleased to have him in the Party. I think he represents the best of GOP traditions and is, as a human being, the kind of disciplined, industrious, public-spirited, knowledgeable leader who projects an excellent face of the Party. As a religious person myself, I have no concept of how a person becomes “too religious”, so I don’t accept that particular characterization of my views that you offer. I have never met anyone that I consider to be “too religious.”

    My point on taxes is that all taxes are redistributive in that they use the coercive power of government to take wealth from citizens and ration it back out in ways that create new surpluses and deficits of value, depending on the content of the government programs financed with the taxes and the nature of each individual’s benefit from those programs. Given that starting assumption, I don’t find Tom’s “theft” theory analytically useful, as what he calls stealing is, as I understand him, essentially geared to the redistributive effects that I regard as unavoidable in any tax on anything.

    @ Tom – I anticipated your question in my earlier comment to Keith. He offered what strikes me as a workable template for assessing the validity of taxation and it is one I can accept (It also echoes Brian’s thoughtful comment): Where the People join to form a government, taxes lawfully enacted pursuant to the processes and within the powers of their agreement about the role and function of government are legitimate, those that are exacted in contravention of those powers and processes are not. I use the term “legitimate” as opposed to your formulation, “moral” because of my tendency to weigh government constitutionally. (your exact phrase was “morally justifiable” – if you press me on this, I would say that my use of “legitimate” is synonymous, in this context with your phrase, “morally justifiable.”)

    Obviously, as you would agree, there are moral considerations in addition to practical considerations that go into the formulation of a constitution and the processes it describes. But I could imagine up a situation where there might be a legally enacted, constitutionally authorized tax that some people, because of religious or ethical beliefs, consider to have immoral impacts. If, over time, the cumulative impacts of lawful, legitimate taxes reaches a point where a majority of the citizens finds them to have net immoral effects, it suggests that the constitution has become inadequate to the political will of the society and should be changed. There are rumblings in certain sectors that we have reached that point in this country, but my sense of it is that these sentiments are still somewhat marginal and are not yet widespread enough to support wholesale constitutional revisions.

    A final point on this, one that I made in this thread obliquely and have made elsewhere on this site – the system we have now strikes me as one that works reasonably well. The constitutional structure we have providentially inherited tells us what powers the national government has, what rights cannot be abridged, establishes procedures for action by the representatives of the people in Congress, empowers an Executive to see that the government runs in accord with the will of the people, provides for periodic elections to reward or punish elected officials, and a court system to act as an umpire where disputes arise about whether the system has worked as planned. Every citizen probably takes issue with this or that action under that system by all of the various actors, but, in the aggregate over time, the system generally works, in my opinion.


    1. @scout

      Government requires funds to operate, some mechanism must be provided to fund any government. However, human beings are almost never wholly in agreement about anything, especially taxes. Therefore, significant numbers of people will not want to pay their taxes. To get these people to pay their taxes, they must be coerced. Otherwise, if you cannot morally justify punishing people when they don’t pay their taxes, there is no point in taxing anyone. That’s why I asked the question. For what purposes is taxation by government morally justifiable? I don’t really think you answered that question. You talked about the legal issues.

      Did you adopt Keith’s position? Not really. By the time you finished qualifying what you had said, all what you said amounted to is that “it is all so complicated.”

      Did you adopt Brian’s position? Not really. Brian clearly justifies taxation based upon the will of the majority. If that is your position, then why don’t you just say so?

      As it is, you appear happy with the current situation, but I have no idea why.


  8. “happy” is a rather odd word for you to apply here, Tom. I do think that the American constitutional republic is about as good as it gets, in terms of organizing humans into a society that protects individual liberties while permitting some degree of cooperation for the purposes of securing security, safety, and public welfare. “Happy”, however, has little to do with it. Perhaps that is what the Declaration was alluding to when it used the phrase, “Pursuit of Happiness” (or “Purfuit of Happinefs.”) One pursues, but never quite attains. But we have the unalienable right to engage in the pursuit.

    I have the feeling that Brian, Keith and I are saying much the same thing – that humans can agree to govern themselves in ways that attempt to strike a balance between individual liberties and collective enterprises that provide shelter for those liberties.

    I think my answer was pretty clear. If a tax is enacted by an entity to whom the People have granted power to tax, and the tax is enacted pursuant to the processes they have established, it is morally justifiable. If circumstances create a condition in which the People feel that a tax is no longer legitimate, they can use the processes they have created to change it.

    But, since I have given it a few shots, let’s now hear from you: Given that taxes employ the coercive power of the State to transfer wealth from some individuals to others, is there any tax that you believe is legitimate? Do you have a position that differs from Keith’s, Brian’s or mine?


    1. @scout,

      The Constitution called out those activities for which the federal government was authorized to spend money.

      An amendment to it subsequently opened up an income tax to replace/supplant the tariffs that had been used for those activities.

      But now new activities, non-Constitutional ones, have been added. These should never have been authorized. The fact that they have passed muster is due to a half-dozen or so unelected lawyers implementing their social programs through creative justification, backed by uncounted thousands of unelected bureaucrats. This violates the structure and limits to the government ratified by We the People.

      I object to this. You think it is fine. That is the difference between us.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

      Liked by 1 person

    2. @scout, who wrote “Given that taxes employ the coercive power of the State to transfer wealth from some individuals to others”

      This premise is false. The activities of the federal government authorized by the Constitution do not do this, and in fact this poisonous practice was kept out of the federal government for its first century.

      By “poisonous,” I mean that the practice:
      • is on track to absorb more income than could be generated;
      • incentivizes politicians to use this practice to buy votes;
      • is implemented in the wasteful style concomitant with central-plan bureaucracies; and
      • saps the will of those it was intended to help.

      Thus, the practice harms Americans at the wholesale and retail level at the same time.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not sure what is “false” about the premise, Keith. The government takes money from me every quarter and uses it in ways, even ways that are expressly authorized by the Constitution, that, were I to be making charitable contributions with the same money, I might not support. This is true whether the tax mechanism is a tariff, an excise tax, customs duties, or any other pre-income tax device. The points you enumerate don’t seem to undermine the premise (that taxes are redistributive), but reflect your concerns about the impacts of government programs that you consider to be ill-conceived.

        RE your prior comment, it strikes me that you are voicing disagreement with the outcomes of certain cases where federal programs have been challenged on constitutional grounds, as opposed to opposition to the constitutional structure itself.


        1. Mr. Defoe, Mr. Franklin, and Ms. Mitchell astutely noted that death and taxes are inevitable. The word “tax” derives from the Latin taxo, which means to charge, to value, to assess the worth of something. Taxes are assessed and levied on the person or property of a citizen by government and then collected for the operations of that government. From 1788 to 1913, the General Government was successfully financed owing to a brilliant tax plan inscribed into the Federal Constitution. Alas! the sixteenth amendment, which was influenced by “progressive” philosophies of that time, perverted this brilliant tax plan. The difference between a tax and a bill is the former is assessed and charged by government, and the latter is assessed and charged by business. In both cases, the money collected is to finance the operations of the respective entity.

          Scout, you claim that taxes are redistributive, which is a precept of collectivist philosophies (e.g., socialism, communism, or fascism). If all taxes are redistributive, then they involve taking money from one individual and giving it to another individual. Your argument claims that taxes are a special burden only for some people, and are distinctly not so for others. It does not follow that taxes are a distinct burden for the nation as a whole. In essence, your argument is saying this: rob Peter to pay Paul’s welfare or benefit — redistribution. “Progressive” taxes are redistributive policies, all of which have nothing to do with financing the operations of government. Currently, nearly 50 percent of productive people in these United States pay for the parasite class in the name of “redistribution” and “fairness.”

          You and I view the intention of taxation differently. The intention — and true purpose — of taxation is to finance the operations of government. According to you, the intention of taxation is redistribution. You ought to read the true story about Davy Crockett’s unexpected lesson from a farmer on the meaning of the Federal Constitution and taxation. Is it proper to give away other people’s money (tax dollars) for the welfare or benefit of others? According to you, this is permissible since taxes are redistributive.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Actually, Matthew, you and I view taxation very similarly, I would think. You completely missed the point of my query to Tom, and my subsequent discussion with Keith. I oppose the use of taxation to redistribute wealth and am probably very close to Tom’s view that there is a moral illegitimacy to using governmental powers to achieve that goal.

    The discussion emanates from many statements of Tom over several posts and comment threads that equate, without much or any refinement, that taxes are a kind of stealing from the taxpayors. To the extent he has elaborated on that, he often refers very generally to government programs that he doesn’t like (public schools are frequently mentioned, for example). I’ve been kind of intrigued by where he draws lines on this, given the way he has expressed himself on the issue many times in the past. Hence my question of whether there are taxes that he find legitimate (he tends to speak in terms of morally justifiable, as opposed to legitimate, but for present purposes, those words and phrases are probably two ways of saying the same thing).

    My point to Tom (actually more to Keith, who is carrying Tom’s load on this) was that the net result of all tax inputs/outlays is a kind of monster crazy quilt of unequal benefits and burdens. I cited some simplistic examples – I need a post road or a canal for my business, Keith doesn’t benefit at all, but we both are taxed, whether through tariffs, excise duties or customs imposts. Keith has marauding aboriginal tribes devastating his herds and needs the cavalry to protect his homestead. I’m sitting in Boston and get nothing (at least not very directly) out of having the government relieve me of funds to pay for horseflesh, fodder, ammunition, boots & saddles. It was in this sense (you can bring it up to date with other examples if you prefer) that I was making the point that all public revenue intake and outgo is redistributive. Everyone taxed is part of a bilateral disequilibrium with everyone else who is taxed in terms of what comes back as benefit. I certainly was not advocating that the tax structure be used to redistribute wealth, but I was noting the reality that all taxes and all public programs supported by taxation do, to some variable extent, take more monies from someone than the benefits that return. If you doubt this almost axiomatic proposition, just take a look at periodic studies that track individual states that are net gainers or net losers in terms of monies in to the federal government versus monies received (or on other levels, you can see this on a county-by-county level within individual states – in Virginia, there is much spirited discussion about how Northern Virginia counties subsidize Southside and western counties in state programs).

    So, given that I take Tom at his word that he views taxes as theft given that they often fund things that he doesn’t much care for and that he wouldn’t contribute to if everything were a matter of personal charity, but adding to that view that, at some level of quantification, every tax has an element of that characteristic (and one can always find someone who doesn’t want to pay for any public benefit), I queried him on where he would draw the line – i.e., is there any tax that he would support. That’s what was going on here.

    I do not claim that the “intention” or legitimate purpose of taxation is redistributive. I do, however, recognize that taxes do have redistributive impacts. Your last sentence is, at best, a non-sequitur.


    1. @scout

      Keith and Matthew had to pin you down. Otherwise you would have never answered. What is it you have against giving a straight answer?

      Anyway, the way I take it you too much enjoy rationalizing matters. We humans like too much to do what we want to do not look for some rationalization to excuse our bad behavior.

      Because we are imperfect, what we do we do imperfectly. Hence, we cannot run a government perfectly. If we were perfect, we would not need a government to coerce people to do the right thing. Madison put it this way.

      But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. — James Madison from The Federalist No. 51

      Because you are all knowledgeable, I am certain you all have heard that quote before, but I want to emphasize a point. We don’t have a government to do great things. We have a government to keep us from harming each other.

      Government exists to protect the rights of the People, to provide an orderly means for resolving our disputes, and to keep troublemakers under control. When we try to use our government to accomplish more than that, our government becomes a threat to our rights.

      So what sort of spending by government do I think justifies taxation? If the only way we can guarantee the rights of the People is with a government, then we must tax the People, the beneficiaries, to pay for that government. Therefore, we must have taxes that everyone must pay to finance the police, the courts, the military and other such organizations.

      Will such taxation and spending result in a redistribution of wealth? Yes, but that is not the intention; it is a side effect, a necessary evil. If a doctor gave you a medicine to cure a cancer growing in your body, that medicine would probably have side effects that would make you sick. However, the fact that some medicines can make us sick does not justify giving people drugs to euthanize them. Intent does make a difference.

      I am going to give one more example. Will it be extreme? Yes, but we don’t want to go to this sort of government incrementally, and that is what our country is doing.

      To pay for concentration camps where they killed millions, the Nazis taxed the German people. Wasn’t there something questionable about that tax and the way the Nazis spent the money. After all, all it did was redistribute some wealth to ……

      Besides protecting the rights of the people and maintaining public order, are there other reasons that justify taxation? Yes. Sometimes we must use government agencies and private monopolies to provide services. That includes necessities like roads, electricity, water, natural gas, communications, and so forth. To avoid the robbery that ensues from redistributing the wealth, we must not let politicians use general funds to subsidize such utilities. Instead, such utilities should be paid for by user fees and tolls.

      @Keith and Matthew

      I don’t see you guys as carrying my load. I think you both realize that making our government work is everyone’s problem. Nevertheless, I very much appreciate your help and the great value you add to my blog.


  10. I always give straight answers, Tom. I just had to repeat it and draw pictures for Matthew, who had managed to really confuse himself. My answer did not change: Taxes that are exacted to support powers that we have agreed to grant the government, if established pursuant to the procedures we require for imposing those taxes, are legitimate. I’m not sure you quite get it, because, in your example about the Nazi concentration camps, you suggest that I would justify those camps because the tax collections used to finance them were “redistributive.” Again, my reference to redistribution effects was borrowed from you, and I did not take the position that, because all taxes redistribute wealth, they are all justified. I did ask whether your objection to taxes because they take wealth from some people for the benefit of others had limits, given that all taxes, to varying extent and when measured against varying groups, have that effect.

    But let’s get to your answer, such as it is dimly emerging. It appears that you are on board for taxes to “protect the rights of the people” (police, courts, and military) and to maintain “public order.” But you also suggest “other reasons” that “justify taxation and mention “roads, electricity, water, natural gas, communications” but say that these justifiable reasons for taxes should not be subsidized by “general funds.” That answer strikes me as a bit statist-tinged (I’m not sure I want the Government entering all those fields) and, practically speaking, posing some difficulties for such programs as the interstate highway system, air traffic control and aviation regulation, food safety (FDA), securities regulation, just to sprinkle a handful of examples out of hundreds. I wonder if perhaps what you are hinting at is that you think personal income taxes would be acceptable to fund Police, courts, military, but that all else should funded on a pay-as-you-go basis by direct users as they use the service.

    I do note that you have taken a stand against using taxes for concentration camps (or at least Nazi concentration camps – not sure where you would stand on the hospitality we extended our Japanese fellow citizens during the 1942-45 period or our Native American hosts in an earlier period), and I am glad to hear it.


    1. “I always give straight answers, Tom.”

      You are hilarious, scout. And the world inside your mind is evidently an interesting place, unique in its distance from reality.

      If you honestly think that a nation assembling a military for national defense is redistributing wealth to individuals, as you asserted above, you are using words and phrases native to your private world in a way useless to convey meaning to sane people.

      The Constitution has been, after its first century, reinterpreted in ways to support such wealth redistribution, taking money from people in the form of taxes and doing the previously unheard-of federal action of handing out money to individuals. It had never done this previously. In so doing, the federal government jealously drives charities and other levels of government out of this process and, of course, does this redistribution at great waste and inefficiency. And rewards itself for doing so. You have made abundantly clear that you are in favor of this new interpretation of the Constitution.

      It’s time for you to trot out your standard litany of what a wonderful Constitutional conservative you are, scout, because it’s wearing off again.

      ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

      Liked by 1 person

    2. @Keith
      Thanks for pointing out scout’s rationalization.

      Frankly, if at all possible, I would happily keep the government out of the interstate highway system, air traffic control and aviation regulation, food safety (FDA), securities regulation, just to sprinkle a handful of examples out of hundreds. But we need such programs to protect our lives, our liberties, and our property. Therefore, to the extent possible, we should make the people who use these programs pay for them. If we insist the people who directly benefit pay, then we will for the most part avoid the lunacy of politicians trying use the public’s money just to benefit themselves and their supporters.

      Can I perfectly describe what I believe? No. There is always that devil in the details. Nevertheless, as Keith, Matthew, and I have made quite clear, the Constitution does not justify programs to redistribute the wealth, but our government is doing it anyway. If you don’t support redistributing the wealth, what is your complaint?


  11. I just had to repeat it and draw pictures for Matthew, who had managed to really confuse himself. My answer did not change: Taxes that are exacted to support powers that we have agreed to grant the government, if established pursuant to the procedures we require for imposing those taxes, are legitimate.

    I am confused, eh? Which is it, Scout? Are taxes used for financing a government (as you seemingly indicated above), or are taxes used for redistribution (as you said earlier, “Taxes are redistributive”)? Do you want your cake and eat it too? Make up your mind. It appears that you want both, that is, let taxes fund the necessary functions of government while legally plundering Keith, Tom, and I through taxation to give to another individual’s well-being, and that, by definition, is redistribution. You need to re-evaluate your position, definitions, and reasoning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Matthew,

      Taxation that takes the wealth from those who earned it and gives it to those who did not earn it, is stealing.

      It is unethical to commit evil in order to do good.

      A government that steals from its wealth producing citizens is committing oppression.

      Oppression my be defined as institutionalizing, in the government, an unethical behavior (stealing) for public “well-being” or the “common good.”

      President Johnson institutionalized government oppression through stealing in his signature “War On Poverty,” back in the mid-1960’s.

      Revealing the true purpose of his “war,” he proclaimed, “I’ll have the niggers voting Democrat for the next 200 years.”

      In fact, the purpose of Federal welfare programs is to institutionalize the Democrat Party as the single party ruler of America.

      All the hoaxes, War On Poverty, ObamaCare, Social Security, global warming, Net Neutrality, over population, DDT pollution, alternative energy, the 1%, the income gap; all have nefarious political purposes, not the public “well-being” as their purpose.

      All of those hoaxes are unethical not only because they commit evil in the name of the public good but because their purpose is to institutionalize single party, government rule over the American public.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. @silenceofmind

        Welcome to the party.

        With 40 plus comments, this thread is getting rather long and complicated. Sorry about that.

        scout views are rather confusing and ambiguous, but it is apparent he favors the existing order, that is, big government. His problem is that he can’t pass himself off as a Conservative and at the same time favor big government and redistributive taxation.

        Matthew added his challenge here => To understand where Matthew stands, please read that.


        1. Citizen,

          Matthew indicated in his last comment, the Progressive view that government welfare, aka the redistribution of wealth, is an ethical function of the federal government.

          It is simple to understand that stealing is wrong, even if done for some good end.

          If I robbed the earning of a local business in order to help a starving old lady, I would still go to jail because I committed a criminal act.

          Likewise, a government that redistributes wealth is committing a criminal act that has become legal.

          Legalized criminality is oppression at its sneakiest best.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Matthew,

      I forgot to include some other hoaxes of extreme importance that are really government oppression and unethical because they institutionalize evil for some “good” purpose:

      1. Abortion
      2. gay marriage
      3. Amnesty
      4. Gun control
      5. Affirmative action

      Let’s have other commenters add to the list of unethical, oppressive, unethical hoaxes that have been instituted into the federal government for some “good” end.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Poor Matthew. Taxes have redistributive effects (even taxes that pay for F-22s and M1A1s, Keith). When I describe those effects, I am not advocating them any more than when I describe metallurgical oxidation, I am advocating for rust. It just happens. You failed to read my earlier comment where I said that I my views on this are no doubt fairly congruent with yours and Keith’s and Tom’s – I oppose government programs whose purpose is to enrich some at the expense of others. I don’t particularly care to take money from the three of you and I don’t particularly want you to take mine. However, if we had gobs of time, I probably could find an example for each of you where you have benefitted from my tax contributions more than I have and vice-versa.

    One of the problems you fellers have is that you are ideological thinkers. This means that you very quickly categorize or type-cast people in ways that make you think that if this guy has this view on one issue (say the literal translation of the creation story), he must have this view on all these others. That’s why Keith and Tom get so wrapped around the axle about labels. You’ve wasted a great deal of time trying to construct a disagreement here where one probably does not exist.

    Back to Tom (@ 1615)- I have voiced no complaint. Why do you think I have one? The nature of my participation in this thread is not to advocate taxes or programs designed to redistribute wealth among the citizens. I said above, about as clearly as can be said, that I oppose such programs. The purpose of my participation was to determine whether, given Tom’s frequent general reference to taxes as “theft”, there were any taxes he felt were legitimate. He has said that he regards taxes to support the police, military, and the courts as legitimate. He has also said that, in his view, we must use government services and private monopolies to provide roads, water, electricity, natural gas, communications and from context, he apparently regards taxes related to those functions as OK. I’d like to hear more about that, because I’m not sure I would go that far. He also says food inspection, highways, securities regulation, FAA stuff should be user fee’d.

    And Keith, I have never claimed to be a “wonderful Constitutional conservative.” I am, however, an engaged defender of that document. I have taken an oath several times to defend it, and have been true to that oath. The Constitution has occupied a substantial portion of my professional career and is a matter of continuing intellectual interest to me. “Wonderful” is a word, however, that would never be applied to me in that (or perhaps any other) context, so I see no benefit in applying it to myself. It strikes me as a bit vainglorious.


    1. @scout

      When you have to belittle people, that just means your argument is not working. So you resort to targeting the people you are debating instead of their arguments.

      When we start talking about taxes to pay for a military, police, courts, jails, and so forth, we don’t really know how to measure who benefits the most. We can talk about the redistribution of money, but that is not an accurate measure. Consider the folks in the military. There are actually quite a few people in the military just because they love their country, and those people would be financially better off elsewhere. Furthermore, in order to serve, these people give up many of the benefits of living in a free country. Instead, they spend much of their lives away from their families. What they earn does cover what it costs them to be in a combat zone.

      Ironically, this sort of argument, our inability to accurately measure who benefits, is also used to defend wealth redistribution. Supposedly, we all need to pay for the roads because we all benefit. Therefore, we are just suppose to give our money to politicians.

      While it may be true that we all benefit from roads, that still is just a smoke screen, an excuse for allowing politicians just to take our money and spend it on on roads and other things we may not want.

      Anyway, whatever your supposed original purpose you have conceded the point. It is just a shame you could not do so more graciously.


  13. Are you backing away from your earlier support for government roads, Tom? Would you favor a system where each of us builds our own private roads? And which point did I concede?

    I “targetted” Matthew’s gross misapprehension of my position, Tom. Don’t know how else to set someone straight if one doesn’t go right at it. He seemed to have picked up the idea that I was cheering for using taxes as wealth redistributors, even though I expressly recorded my opposition to that concept. Sometimes people just don’t read carefully, or even at all.


    1. @scout

      Toll roads. We still have them, and you claim you have acquired more than a few years. If that is so, then you should remember when toll roads were more common.

      Why don’t you quit sowing confusion and just be clear as to where you stand? When you get cute, you just waste your time.


  14. Would not a gas or mileage tax dedicated to road maintenance construction be a type of user fee or toll? Do you distinguish between tolls and taxes if the latter are directly geared to use?

    My original question to you (11 March @ 0902) was simple enough: are there any taxes that you consider legitimate and, if so, where do you draw a line between legitimate and illegitimate taxation? Instead of answering, you asked me a related question, although framing it in terms of moral justification (11 March @ 2211). I had already signalled my view on that in my earlier response to Keith, but, just for good measure, restated and expanded on it in my comment of 12 March (@ 0747). I just re-read that and I think it very clear as to where I stand on the issue, particularly since I have repeated it several times since in this particular thread, and have taken some pains to try to get Matthew back on track after his mis-description of my views.

    What is missing here, however, is your response to my original question. You have mentioned programs that you believe are legitimate functions of government, leaving us to infer that you regard taxation for things like police, courts, military and even water, roads, natural gas, communications, are OK by you, although you have caveated this by saying you prefer user fees (I’m still trying to puzzle out how user fees for food safety inspections would work, given the near universality of most citizens’ use of food). But what you have not offered, is some sort of principle that, for you, defines legitimate governmental taxation.

    I’ll leave it at that, because it frequently happens here that my curiosity about your thinking on these subjects is never really satisfied (still waiting for your views on whether a believing Christian must interpret the Creation story of the OT literally and whether you think a liberal Democrat can be a Christian – although I intuit on the latter point that your answer is “No”, but that you just can’t bring yourself to say it).


    1. scout

      Can I be “perfectly clear”? No. Nobody is perfectly clear. Even in one of those rare cases when someone uses exactly the right words, the rest of us don’t listen perfectly.

      Would not a gas or mileage tax dedicated to road maintenance construction be a type of user fee or toll?

      Stop blowing smoke. I answered your question.

      You really cannot tell the difference between a toll or a user fee and what you propose? I don’t believe you are that stupid, at least I don’t want to.

      Imagine the Federal Government collecting these fees (and they already have a gas tax). Then what is to prevent the Feds from collecting funds in Virginia for bridges to nowhere in Alaska?

      Instead of being satisfied with the principle that tax monies should only be collected and spent to protect the rights of the people, you are practicing legalism. To justify twisting the principle until it serves your purpose (redistributing the wealth), you are just trying prove that we cannot apply the principle perfectly. So? We are just suppose to give up on our principles? Isn’t that like saying that because I might have to kill in self-defense, it is okay if I murder someone?

      So no, I am not going to waste my time considering every possibility of how the principle might be applied. As you said, your curiosity would never be satisfied.


  15. It would seem to me that the “more generalized question” would be “is there taxation without representation”? I can best answer this, in my own small way and within my own example, and experience, [of] “my not possessing a car nor having an operators license authorizing me to drive one [mostly I ride a bicycle].” Therefore, would I be construed, by any of you gentlemen, as a beneficiary of a road tax, or user fee, when it seemingly does not apply, or benefit me, generally?

    Some may see this as a dilemma, at least in regards to me and my personal situation [and those likened unto me]. I however, do not see it as such, nor do I see such imposed taxation for road repair or construction, as applied to myself and my situation, as a particular offense against me and/or my wealth (as meager as it is). The micro economics, of my meager contribution in the form of taxation, and; of my person situation upon it’s face, might seem as no benefit to me. In that assumption one would be wrong.

    Imagine, if you will, the furtherance of my dilemma were I in need to go somewhere upon my bicycle and the roads were unpaved. Imagine further if my need to travel were during or after a rain storm, or the melting of a winter’s snow. At this particular point, in my life, I am unconcerned as to whether government has redistributed my wealth to the majority of licensee holders or car owners or not…… I receive the benefit of a paved road for ingress or regress upon my then much needed exodus or departure.

    In much the same way one could equate this situation [my situation] to that of the little boy whose sack lunch was redistributed to the 5,000 of whom Jesus fed. If one could make such a comparison. And I think one could.

    It is never about being conservative, liberal or progressive. It is about doing the work of God first and foremost. Each of you men seemingly are professing to be of God. Moral in your own right – yet – “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power;” 2 Timothy 3:5. Let us be content then to be of One Mind when it comes to the poor, the needy and the down trodden….. Let us be of One Mind that, whether through government aid to others, or through our church and it’s charitable giving, Christ tells us:
    “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.” Acts 4:32-35 ESV ……

    May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless and keep you and yours.


    1. @altruistico

      Thanks for the comment. I appreciate you taking an interest.

      Taxation without representation is not the issue. Even though you may not drive, you still have a vote. The problem is one of factionalism, pitting countrymen against one another. Because people like James Madison worried about such things, that is why we are suppose to have a republic =>

      The issue robbery. That may seem harsh, but look what politicians are doing. So they can buy their votes, our leaders are trying to import poor people. That’s crazy, but that is how out of kilter our republic has gotten because of government-run social engineering programs.

      Some people may elect politicians to dispense charity (with other people’s money), but Politicians don’t dispense charity. They buy votes. Our Federal officials are doing so even though the Constitution does not authorize the Federal Government to provide charity.

      Consider the problem I posed to brianbalke =>

      Consider this moral dilemma. We have ten castaways on a lovely island. Two of them are industrious, and they realize that the island is near enough to the one of the poles that spring will fade into summer, summer into fall, and fall into winter famine. So they begin cultivating crops with produce that they can store. The other eight ignore the advice of their wiser companions. They behave like the grasshopper in one of Aesop’s fables.
      Time passes. Winter comes. The two industrious castaways have bumper crops, and they are well prepared. The other eight castaways take note and decide to form a majoritarian tyranny with unrestricted powers of taxation. Is that moral?

      Of course, there is another problem. Winter will come again. Then what?

      If you interpret the Constitution with the same care you give to the Bible, you cannot help but see that our Federal officials have no right to give away our tax monies. They are violating their oath of office.

      There is also a logical problem, an inherent conflict of interest. We depend upon government officials to protect our property rights. If we give those same officials the power to redistribute the wealth, how can we trust them to protect our property rights?


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