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. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    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.

      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.

          1. Trying to figure out where scout is coming from is difficult. He may not use tobacco products, but clouds of smoke issue from him just the same.

    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.

  6. 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

    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?

  7. 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.

  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

    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

      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.

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