October 24, 2012

Ethics, Ideologies and Election Day

I am publishing a quick essay for all readers today…to ponder the ideas of Communism, Socialism, Conservatism and Libertarianism before that grand ceremony of Election Day in the United States of America’s great experiment with Democracy.

It is my humble opinion based on conversations and online posts (that include Facebook), many are too easily swayed by media propaganda on both the right and the left and do not really think for themselves. It sorely needs to be understand that the philosophy and underlying principles that make the machine of politics run are financial. It is not so much the moral underpinnings of the candidates. The bottom-line is that most are steered by their pocketbook and wallet. Bill Clinton said it the best when he tactlessly said, "It's the economy stupid." In most cases, underneath political philosophies are economic ones both on the Right and the Left. It's essentially how government regulates business and how your taxpayer monies get allocated that defines the difference between the political ideologies, sides or positions. Liberals believe in growing government through higher taxation and leans towards socialism. At its extreme end we find Marxism/Communism. A moderate Libertarian believes the opposite. The extreme end of Libertarianism is anarchy. Somewhere in between lies the Republican and a marginal form of capitalism or something similar. There are a load of other variations but you get the picture.

Now that we understand that it is primarily economic principles that shape one's political ideology we must then understand what is done with the money within that respective political ideology. It has been said that “money is the mother’s milk of politics.”  I couldn't agree more heartily. Most people don’t realize that in the United States and even more in Europe, about half of what they really earn is taken in by the government in taxes. As in federal, state, and local income taxes; Social Security, taxes on products such as gasoline, “pass-along” taxes such as the tax on the electricity that keeps your food cool at the grocery store and so on. These are taxes passed along to you by your government because of wrangling (or lack thereof) on both sides of the aisle. 

This then brings me to my first question: Should rich people pay a higher percentage of their income or wealth in taxes? Although I do not believe we should lower their taxes, I certainly don't agree they should be taxed more or penalized for their wealth. This appears to be the liberal philosophy to solving many of the deficit ills we currently face in our nation from inordinate overspending by the government itself.

The idea that the rich should pay a higher percentage of tax based on their surplus of their wealth is nothing new. According to my research and reading I will need to give my answer on why they should or should not pay more taxes based on deontological ethics or the idea that people are obligated by duty to do something ethical. My answer also needs to be based on utilitarianism which says the thing that does the most good for the most people is the proper ethical thing to do.

To do this we must first understand why people are taxed or what the ultimate good or goal is of government taxation. Regardless of the ethical or unethical purposes the tax money is used for, more often than not they are to be used in public services such as health care and education and other useful or benevolent purposes. Many of these purposes are utilitarian and based in virtue also. We see pieces of Romans 13 in this too. These things seem to add, not take away from society as a whole. Is the money usually mismanaged by the Government in the process of doing this? Of course it is but more often than not, a lot of it is funneled to the proper channels.

In a deontological (duty) manner it can be understood to be a good duty to care for the poor. As for the idea of equality I have already sort of reviewed this in my series of posts on the Kingdom of God called: The Least of These. God wishes us to be equal, the first will be last and the last will be first. Surprisingly though, in terms of wealth this seems an awful lot like “redistribution” to equalize money on individuals. The fact is that not all are really created equal in terms of money and this is more or less what we are asking of the rich when we do purposely over-tax them to distribute their wealth to the “less fortunate”. Although the Bible encourages this it appears to be a conditional proposition. When we see the redistribution we see it for the purpose of perpetuating the Kingdom of God, not a human kingdom or hegemony and it is being asked of people that wish to be Christian or are searching in those quarters or that area. When we redistribute for the sole sake of giving all equal economic footing we are doing it without Biblical intent.

The question then becomes: Is equality through taxing rich proper or ethical? The reality is that taxation of any form is still redistribution of money. If we redistribute or tax the wealthy too much we redistribute money to thinly…then many suffer not just the few at the bottom. There is balance that needs to be maintained.

This then leads to the deontological thought (duty): Do we have a duty to help society as a whole even when many will not help themselves? It’s one thing to allow people to work and never get ahead, it is another to tax rich people just to support the “lazy” poor who voluntarily refuse to work or do not try to change their station in life because they know they will get a hand-out from a heavily socialized government. The truth is that the 2nd Plank in the Communist Manifesto actually advocates a disproportionate tax for the rich or what is called a heavy progressive or graduated income tax. This creates an incentive for people to stay in a lower tax range and stunts economic growth. In the end it encourages mediocrity. Reminder: This is continually pushed and encouraged by the liberal philosophies. This is not the equality we properly understand in the Constitution as “all men are created equal”. Nor is the equality we read of in the Bible because it is a forced equality...not a voluntary one. This is economic equality to level the playing field for all is much too close to socialism for my taste.

Although many will claim that the Bible caters more towards this socialistic governmental or economic philosophy (spreading the wealth around so that all are equal and comfortable), what they are missing is the main underlying point on is: That the governmental and economic ideas like in the Bible were meant to under gird a rule by God directly. It was supposed to be a Theocracy in the Bible not a Socialist Democracy or purely socialist arrangement. Once you supplant God at the top we set ourselves up for a whole host of evil and malevolence. Power without influence and sway of God always turns to corruption in the end (Romans 1-3).

Conversely, John Rawls in A Theory of Justice argued that social inequalities should be arranged so that the greatest benefit is gained by the people with the fewest advantages. As I said before, although this seems inherently fair and appears as justice/just, the idea of divesting oneself of wealth and giving it to the poor works well in the context of God’s Kingdom--but we are not fully in God’s Kingdom yet, are we? Jesus’ exact statement in Matthew 19:21 said what?

“Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

It is specifically in reference and framed within the idea that (1) Jesus is immediately to be followed and (2) The return is salvation (i.e.: treasure of heaven). Sinful man devoid of the mind of Jesus Christ does neither. We therefore have a corrupt social system supported by a corrupt political system. This applies to both sides unless under girded by Biblical ideals and obedience to Scripture...which many do not.

Doing this based on Rawls' philosophy (therefore godless) is neither and it appears purely secular. Men with power and a limited moral compass never ended well in history…even in the Bible (or should I say especially in the Bible?). What’s even more interesting is that we see specific instances of people doing God’s will accumulating wealth like Abraham. Sometimes enormous amounts are mentioned such as that of David and Solomon. It is when Solomon and David go rogue of God’s will and stray from God’s plan in disobedience that corruption, and other nasty side-effects enter the fray not only individually and personally but by proxy to the nation through their governments and social systems. We even see the same of the priesthood and religious elite of the Old and New Testament.

I guess, in effect the only way I can see my way clear to accepting more stringent taxation on the rich is if it is going for the purposes of God or the plans of God. In today’s day and age, determining that would be difficult as we are so far out of touch with the Bible and Biblical principles. We certainly cannot trust the Government. I am thinking more along the lines of a church appropriation of the money in a tax/tithe situation. Then again, the Roman Catholic Church did this until the Reformation (and after) and it corrupted them also.

In the end, the resources I read point me towards the idea of virtue ethics or the building of a human’s or person’s character. Until we build people up morally and ethically there will always a discontinuity. Corrupt constituents vote for corrupt politicians. We need only look at modern politicians and their constituents.

Conversely, in terms of taxes, if rates are moderate it encourages competition or an environment in which to compete or better yourself. If a person is encouraged through this method to improve their character by working to get ahead, it can be construed as a virtue ethic. The Bible does not encourage sloth, it encourages work.

Proverbs 6:6 ~ “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!”

Proverbs 12:11 ~ “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.”

Proverbs 14:23 ~ “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”

Work improves one’s character by encouraging them to improve by working harder. In working we mimic God in His work of Creation and the things He does in the Creation every single second of every single day. Be Holy for I am Holy. As for taxing someone more for having worked harder to gain an advantage, where is the justice in this? If one knew they would be penalized for succeeding, where would be the incentive to even try to succeed? High or penalizing taxation would virtually eliminate this mentality.

As for the pass along tax…all I can say is, “out of sight, out of mind”. People do not even know they are getting a “back door” tax. It is invisible to them. Taxing people for every single purchase they make hardly seems fair unless it is done all to the glory of God as a form of offering/worship to God first. "Pass Along Taxes" eventually force a tax on everyone and anyone that makes a purchase regardless of size. The Government already imposes taxes like this on many things and some are more visible than others. The higher the tax becomes the more visible it becomes.

Interestingly...In the case of taxes on things like cigarettes, it is actually punishment taxation (strangely similar to a Muslim: Jizya or even a Zakat) for an unhealthy addiction. You can have the addiction/belief but you will be penalized for it. This I am actually not opposed to as it would deter people from pursuing a deadly habit that killed people like my father. As for the religious aspect of this type or tax I would be against it as it would favor one religion over another. I simply bring up this comparison of Cigarette taxation to Islamic taxation because the parallels of “punishment through taxation” struck me odd at the time of writing.

So when you go to vote, keep these things in mind. These are realities we contend with everyday an rarely realize we do. Instead we allow people to manipulate us because they think we’re stupid. In some cases this might be true…hopefully not in yours. Do your homework. You need to know what your candidate believes and doesn't believe. Understand that just because they are a Democrat or Republican does not make them a good or bad person per se but it is a good indicator where their economic philosophy lies. If you know where their economic philosophies lie you know where their priorities because money makes the world go 'round. Therefore their political/economic philosophies directly influence your life and that of your family's for better of for worse.

Contrary to the mindless and vapid mantra of the MTV generation to get out and "Rock the Vote". I encourage you to intelligently pick you candidate based on the facts, not mindlessly chase a cardboard cut-out character because of media stoked emotions about a manufactured personality (which is what most politicians are anyway).


"Jizya - Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jizya>.

"Philosophy-Ethics-Deontological." Philosophy-Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. <http://www.sevenoaksphilosophy.org/ethics/deontology.html>.

"Progressive tax - Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_tax>.
"The Communist Manifesto - Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Communist_Manifesto>.

"The Ethics of Taxation | Issue 90 | Philosophy Now." Philosophy Now | A Magazine of Ideas. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2012. <http://philosophynow.org/issues/90/The_Ethics_of_Taxation>.

Wessel, David. "The Numbers Behind the Tax Debate - WSJ.com." Business News & Financial News - The Wall Street Journal - Wsj.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 23

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...