Mar 14 2009

Does Christian Love call for taxes to fund social programs?

Category: economy,government,politicsharmonicminer @ 9:10 am

John Mark Reynolds thinks not, in Love Your Neighbor and Don’t Tax Him

Key graphs, more at the link.

Moral men have a duty to help their neighbors, but nobody has the right to force other people to help.

Jesus told a story of a Good Samaritan who crossed difficult social and cultural barriers to provide relief to an injured man. This is a good model for our own behavior. We should help the hurting neighbor even if he is a pariah in our community. The mortgage broker who has lost his job is also my neighbor and, when he is hurting and repentant, should receive pity, charity, and care—not just sermons about his errors.

Moral behavior is most valuable when it is not easy to do. The temptation is to avoid doing our moral duty by ignoring it or passing off the dirty work to somebody else.

The Scroogish Samaritan ignores his moral duty to help his neighbor. He assumes everybody should care only for self and destroys common culture by his selfishness. The Statist Samaritan forces everybody else to help the injured man and so gains a cheap feeling of virtue, but undermines any real virtue.

Sadly, it is so much more blessed to give than to receive that the Statist Samaritan tries to give all the blessings to the state. He loves the state and so wishes to turn everyone’s appreciation for charity to it.

Not surprisingly charity that is coerced does harm to everyone. The injured party may be helped at first, but only at the cost of doing injustice to others. Taxing Peter forces Peter to help Paul, often does little for Paul, and almost certainly will make Peter resent Paul. Peter should help Paul, but making him do it will teach both men bad lessons. The taxed feels resentment as the object of his charity lacks a human face—he gives his coerced taxes to faceless bureaucracy—and the recipient becomes the ward of government.

When we pass our moral duties over to the state, we lose the power to do charity ourselves, turn an act of charity into coercion, and give the state too much power. People are habituated to look to the state to meet their needs and not their communities, churches, and family. This weakens every non-state institution and risks tyranny.

Forced charity is inefficient because it rarely distinguishes between worthy and unworthy attempts at charity. ….

Forced charity is bad for us because in removing our liberty to choose between goods it makes us perpetual dependents. No good person wants to be perpetually dependent on his neighbor, because his neighbor has a face and knows him. It is much easier to become a perpetual dependent on the government, because the government is faceless.

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