I belong to a Jane Austen related group that meets every few weeks. In a recent discussion, a participant did a presentation about the use of the word “kind” in Emma. The word “kind” is used A LOT, and almost always to point out the condescending generosity of wealthy neighbors toward lower income “charity cases,” usually Miss Bates. Their roles are based on economics: the wealthy can assist the poor with random “presents” here and there, a joint of pork, a goose, offering to fix someone’s glasses, bringing in a meal to the sick, donating shirts to a poorhouse, befriending someone to improve her marital prospects by association, and whatever the gift given, the poor are obligated to scrape and bow, expressing gratitude and thanks for every little gift they receive. This pantomime must exist to preserve the illusion that the wealthy person is magnanimous, but in the novel (and in England at the time), whether one is wealthy or poor is not in the control of the individual. One is born into wealth. Women have no means of supporting themselves with an income. Miss Bates, as a single woman who is only getting older and older without male support is coming down more and more in society the older she gets.
This reminded me of a discussion I had with an Indian colleague who had relocated to the US, but as is customary, would spend a month back in India with family every winter. I mistook this for an indication that his residence in the US was not permanent and asked if he planned to move back when he could. He smiled and said that was not his intention. I asked why he liked it better here, and he explained, “In India, every relationship is master and servant. You are either the master or the servant in that relationship. Here it is not like that.” And it’s maybe not quite as obvious as that, but just how different is it?
Emma is set in the Regency period, during a time in England when the wealthy were involved in “enclosing,” or creating hedges and walls around their property to keep the commoners from hunting or fishing or picking berries on their property, activities that had always been allowed in previous English generations on anything that was “common” land (or land for the commoners).
The Enclosure Movement or inclosure is the process which was used to end traditional rights, and has historically been accompanied by force, resistance, and bloodshed. It has been referred to as “among the most controversial areas of agricultural and economic history in England.”
The Enclosure Movement was a push in the 18th and 19th centuries to take land that had formerly been owned in common by all members of a village, or at least available to the public for grazing animals and growing food, and change it to privately owned land, usually with walls, fences or hedges around it. The most well-known Enclosure Movements were in the British Isles, but the practice had its roots in the Netherlands and occurred to some degree throughout Northern Europe and elsewhere as industrialization spread. Some small number of enclosures had been going on since the 12th century, especially in the north and west of England, but it became much more common in the 1700s, and in the next century Parliament passed the General Enclosure Act of 1801 and the Enclosure Act of 1845, making enclosures of certain lands possible throughout England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.
The English government and aristocracy started enclosing land claiming it would allow for better raising of crops and animals (particularly sheep for their wool). They claimed that large fields could be farmed more efficiently than individual plots allotted from common land — and the profit could be kept by the aristocrats who now owned the legally confiscated land. Some claim this was the beginning of commercial farming.
Vagrancy (or begging) was a crime that could result in the petitioner being branded with a hot iron. Poaching (hunting or fishing on newly enclosed lands) could result in fines, prison sentences, or occasional worse sentences like transportation (being sent to Australia, for example, which sounds great now, but wasn’t considered a sunny holiday then). Not only were the wealthy creating the poverty of their neighbors and punishing the poor for trying to sustain themselves, but they also expected shows of gratitude for every little gift they gave to the poor, which they did on their own terms, giving what was convenient to them. Kind, indeed.
Regency England was built on these contradictions. If you were wealthy, your social status also depended upon being a “man of leisure” who did not have a profession (or married to one). Your family estate should be enough for you to live on. If you debased yourself by engaging in paid work or a trade (other than politics which was kind of a given), society would shun you as not being a “gentleman” (or a man of the gentry class, those who lived off their family inheritance. Lower in status were those whose family fortunes came from “trade,” meaning business. If your fortunes came from your success in business, your family connections were considered lower class than those whose fortunes came from ancestors sucking up to long dead kings and queens who had often gifted them Church properties that the crown took during the English reformation, turning the (possibly corrupt or at least inconvenient) nuns and priests out into the street, which is why Downton Abbey is an “abbey.”
Sorry for the history lesson. Most Austen fans or fans of English history (or Commonwealth citizens) probably know all this, but I have often found that Americans haven’t been given this context in our education system. The American system certainly started with a similiar ideology, since our government formed from the remnants of overthrown English colonies, although the English mostly looked down on their American cousins as tradespeople and worse. George Washington had a very elitist mindset. His letters make it pretty clear that he coveted an aristocratic title and wanted to be solidly accepted as a member of the landed gentry at least. We don’t think of the founders as enmeshed in these value systems, but of course they were! They were Englishmen first, and only Americans when they invented the term!
Is the American system any better? It’s definitely built on a slightly different set of assumptions than England, but it’s also not exactly a commoner’s utopia. In a recent interview I was listening to with a Swedish economist, she noted that the biggest shock to her when she moved to the US many years ago was that the assumption among Americans was that if you worked at McDonalds, you didn’t deserve to be able to afford rent or healthcare. The expectation was that these “low income” jobs should result in food, shelter, and health insecurity, whereas in Sweden, the system was built so that no citizen would have insecurity around these basics. Obviously, when you are in a system that’s been around for a few centuries, it’s not easy to change course.
Facebook reminds me I was in Boston a couple years ago. Have you heard of the Boston Common? Now it’s a large public park in the middle of the city, but when Boston was an English colony, this was “common land,” the place that anyone was allowed to hunt, fish or gather nuts and berries to live, or more commonly, put their cows to pasture. It was not privately owned. It belonged to anyone who wanted to use it to support themselves and their families. Well, not everyone.
The park was originally “out of bounds” for Black and American Indian people, a restriction that was fought by the Black community in Boston until it was lifted on July 4, 1836.
So, our English middle class roots were showing from the start. We embraced the idea that everyone could use common lands to provide for themselves. Eventually, the wealthy Bostonians ruined it, though, by hogging all the common for their larger number of cows.
During the 1630s, it was used by many families as a cow pasture. However, this only lasted for a few years, as affluent families bought additional cows, which led to overgrazing, a real-life example of the “tragedy of the commons“. After grazing was limited in 1646 to 70 cows at a time, the Boston Common continued to host cows until they were formally banned from it in 1830 by Mayor Harrison Gray Otis.
We no longer have a “common” system in the US, and haven’t for a long time. Instead, we have a system based on private property, in which land used to sustain life is owned by individuals (some of whom rent it to others). If you don’t own or rent, you have nowhere to live, and you have no right to reside anywhere. If you use social programs to support yourself or your family, you are viewed with suspicion and disdain, as “living off the wealth of others,” similar to how poachers were viewed when the wealthy enclosed the common land, cutting off their means of self-support. This is a conservative viewpoint, in that it upholds rather than challenges the status quo, but it is by no means only held by Conservatives. Private property (as opposed to common land) has become the entire basis for our socio-economic system. In fact, it was exposed rather clearly during last year’s George Floyd protests that many, including Kyle Rittenhouse, believed that private property deserved more protection than human life did. Even Pres. Nelson hinted at this, as pointed out here. Those who focused their ire on “looters” and “destruction of private property” tended to be part of the privileged owners. Those who noticed that the focus on human life was secondary to “law and order” were initially those from the group that has for generations been forced to rent from and work for others, often disdained as undeserving because in the prosperity gospel of the American system, the “haves” have what they have because they deserve it (or as the Book of Mormon puts it, they are blessed for their righteousness). Those who don’t must be idle, lazy and loathsome (like the feckless Lamanites in the Book of Mormon, also charges laid at the feet of non-whites since the country’s inception and before).
Conservative Christians in particular like to make the argument that charity is great, so long as it’s on their terms. “Charity” through social programs is decried as Marxism or communism, not just a normal part of living in a society. Despite this libertarian stance, we have public parks, public roads, public schools, public transportation, and so forth. We just prefer to deride public programs and housing that are specifically geared to benefit the poor. Studies in Arizona have shown that the poorest parts of Phoenix are also those lacking public parks (particularly parks with green spaces and trees) which provide natural cooling to neighborhoods, not just beauty. Even charitable work done at Church is often focused on helping those least in need, our fellow ward members that we suppose are more deserving, rather than the unfamiliar poor, those living outside our ward boundaries, our religion, and our wealthy country. Instead we want to keep the pantomime going that paints those who give charity as benefactors, giving according to personal convenience rather than the needs of the recipients, and requiring gratitude for what we choose to give on our terms, never questioning our own deserving to be in a superior position. We believe we’ve earned our privileged position, and they’ve deserved their deprivation through bad choices. But maybe as Austen points out, the modern-day Miss Bateses are unable to better themselves because of societal restrictions. Maybe we are the modern-day enclosers, concerned more with protecting what we have while being seen as charitable when we give away convenient presents.
- Is this the type of talk you are hearing at Church? Why or why not?
- Do you find the idea that you don’t deserve what you think you’ve earned disconcerting? Why or why not?
- What do you think charity means?
- Should we be challenging our ideas of charity more at Church? If so, how would you do this?
 If you haven’t read Emma, 1) I envy you the experience because it’s a delight, and 2) get with it!
What an insightful post. I believe we are a wicked and idolatrous people who love our possessions more than we love the poor and the needy. This is definitely not what I am hearing at church.
As someone who tends towards “conservative” views and certainly values private property rights (including land ownership), I have to say that I REALLY enjoyed your post. I found it insightful, informative, and thought-provoking. Thank you for spending the time to craft this content…I feel I learned something and that my heart was softened a bit because of it.
Given it’s holdings, the Church appears to believe that, at some point, it will be able to simply throw money at whatever emergency happens instead of investing now in human capital. It is intent on remaining wealthy and doling out “charity” to others when it’s most convenient and public. So, no surprise, I’m not impressed with the Church’s example.
Also, excellent post. Thank you.
Great post and quite appropriate around the holidays when charity and giving are given their brightest spotlight. In my experience the church has preached the general principles of charity and giving but clearly requires we put the institution first (tithing and offerings before all else, magnify callings, use own resources for church events).
Now that I am less involved/engaged with the church compared to just a few years ago, I can see how both my time and my resources were typically used up by the church, leaving me little if anything to give outside its constructs. I don’t think the church is trying to deprive other individuals or organizations from our members’ help, but the average person is limited or empty after fulfilling all the church asks for. I also see how I was more judgmental of people I did give to in the past, making sure it was going to be used what I considered to be appropriate or righteous.
I have been extremely concerned and frustrated with the church’s spending and assets acquisition over the past two decades. Maybe there is a benevolent purpose and good intent, but the church doesn’t seem to offer any explanations that are satisfactory to me. As a church, we are not as charitable or as free from the trappings of material wealth as the Jesus of the NT seems to have preached. So this apparent contradiction leaves me feeling our top leaders are either condescending (we know better than you, just trust us), uninformed (we are saving it for Jesus and the Millennium), or uncaring (our resorts are more important than starving children).
“Conservative Christians in particular like to make the argument that charity is great, so long as it’s on their terms. “Charity” through social programs is decried as Marxism or communism, not just a normal part of living in a society.”
Speaking as a very libertarian-leaning individual, I have to disagree with this statement.
To me, my opposition to many (note: not all) government-run social programs is rooted in many factors. First, I advocate charity and generosity on an individual level, but I oppose compelled generosity. The difference there is Agency. Christ commanded us to share what we have, but He does not compel us to do so. That was Lucifer’s plan, to force us to do good, rather than letting us choose. Everything the government does comes with an implicit threat of force. It’s one thing to ask me to donate my time or money to a worthy cause. It’s another thing entirely to tell me that if I don’t, I could face legal consequences, such as fines or imprisonment.
Second, most government social programs are ineffective or inefficient. Private charities are often far more efficient and have lower overhead costs while providing similar services. I had a debate years ago over welfare programs, where I pointed out statistics on the number of homes receiving welfare assistance who also had cable TV, which is generally a non-essential service. Most welfare programs do not even look at the budgeting (or lack thereof) of families that receive the benefits. Because money is fungible, giving something like food stamps means that every dollar of food assistance allows a family on welfare to spend another dollar elsewhere. If they are then using that for non-essentials, it creates significant inefficiencies. If you took the cost of the average bottom-tier cable TV bill from half of the families receiving EBT benefits, it would be enough money to send tens of thousands of people to community college or trade school and help lift them out of poverty. If we are going to offer government welfare programs, then they need to be constantly re-evaluated, asking the question of “is this the most effective use of taxpayers’ money?” Too often, the answer to that question is “no”.
Finally, government programs rarely are able to take into account the totality of circumstances. For example, I earn a comfortable upper middle class income. On paper, you would think that I don’t need to make as much money as I do, or that I could afford to give more than I do (even though I have given significant amounts in both time and money to charitable causes beyond the church and tithing in the past several years). At the same time, I have 5 special needs children, all of them with so-called “hidden” disabilities. Because of that, our family maxed out our insurance out-of-pocket expenses in about 4 months this year, and there are many more costs that simply aren’t covered by insurance. When our oldest was identified as needing a psychiatric service dog earlier this year, we were looking at a $30k expense, with half of it needed up front just to get on a waiting list that could last upwards of 3 years. Fortunately we have been able to find other options to both reduce and spread out those costs (we got a beautiful puppy last month and will be able to work with a local trainer over the next year and a half so our son will do most of the training himself), but it starts to add up. What our family situation looks like on our tax returns doesn’t reflect the reality of the situation as it is actually lived.
And it cuts both ways, going back to my second point. For example, we received (unsolicited) pandemic EBT cards for two of our children earlier this year, with hundreds of dollars a month (retroactive for about six months) of benefits on them we didn’t need, because of specific diagnoses our children have received over the years. When I reached out to the state about the cards, they encouraged me to use them EVEN IF WE DON”T NEED THEM, because otherwise their budget would be cut for next year. (We cut the cards up unused, and let the funds expire after 6 months of non-use.) Even before the federal government started funding school lunches for all children during the pandemic, we repeatedly were notified that our oldest was eligible for free lunches because of his ASD diagnosis while at the same time saying that he doesn’t qualify for an IEP to get the educational services he actually needs. Because the government approach doesn’t look at the totality of our circumstances, our son is receiving benefits (on paper) he doesn’t need, while our resources are being drained to provide the benefits that he actually does need.
Charity and welfare are “a normal part of living in a society”, but that doesn’t mean that it should primarily be the government’s role in society. Society encompasses far more than just government. It includes churches, businesses, families, clubs, and many other elements that are often a better fit for providing charity and welfare services than the government is. Just because I oppose the government doing it doesn’t mean that I don’t think it is “a normal part of living in a society”.
I had not made these connections, and will be thinking about this over Thanksgiving. Thank you! (Also, dear fellow Austen fan, have you read Jane Austen, The Secret Radical by Helena Kelly? It will make you the happiest of persons.)
I know plenty of people (especially Church members) who believe charity performed by the Church is righteous and noble, while claiming that government-administered “charity” (i.e. social programs) amount to evil and represent everything wrong with society.
While either one is vulnerable to corruption, government social spending is transparent, generally has built-in public oversight, and those who are responsible for spending public funds are accountable to the public. If we disagree with how public funds are spent, we can complain to our elected officials; if we still aren’t satisfied, we can elect new officials. By contrast, the Church’s finances are totally opaque, have no accountability to the tithe-paying membership, and there are no avenues for providing feedback to leadership or replacing bad leaders.
When I was a ward clerk, I had to co-sign financial assistance checks which my bishop approved. He tended to err on the side of generosity, which is fine, but there were a handful of semi-active members in the ward who’s rent was being paid entirely by fast offering funds, month after month, year after year, the same people. The supposedly righteous Church welfare system, I learned, is just as capable of cultivating life-long dependency as government programs are. And in order to get Church assistance, a needy person must prostrate themselves before a friendly neighborhood orthodontist who knows nothing about administering social services or dealing with systemic poverty, and the results may vary wildly from one ward to the next. Government welfare systems, at least, have well-defined criteria for who qualifies for what programs and for how much.
“Is the American system any better?”
Well, your friend from India thinks it is better.
The subject of charity seems to arouse passionate, often unreasonable debate. I am familiar with the arguments in favor of faith-based charity, and there are many good points to be made for religious charity. Religious charity certainly covers some ground that government charity does not reach to. But having served as a finance clerk in my Ward three times, and as a Counselor in a Bishopric, my personal assessment is that Church charity is a crapshoot, and works about 50 percent of the time.
My daughter works as a manager in a charitable foundation, and is often frustrated by what she refers to as “donor egotism.” The company or the individual wants to donate money in a certain way, even though my daughter’s foundation already has that need covered, or is prevented by state law from taking the money, the way the would-be giver wants to donate. Then when asked, would you be willing to donate in another area, where we could use some help, the willingness vanishes. “Charity on my terms” is a bit of a red flag into the mindset of the would-be giver.
From John Wesley: make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.
Wow, this post offers a different view of giving to others than what we often hear at church. I have long grumbled about the church confusing the kind of charity Jesus taught with Republican politics. Starting some 60 years ago during a strike at the local steel mill, when the ward we lived in gave church welfare to the middle management of the steel mill who were ward members and left the lowly workers to go hungry because in the bishop’s reasoning the lowly workers had caused the strike. The Union had voted to strike, and the Union was made up of hourly employees, therefore all hourly employees had wanted this strike and were just greedy for more money. Nobody cared that not all hourly employees were Union members, or that many union members voted not to strike, or that the strike was not even asking for increased waged, but asking for safety measures to be put in place after 3 recent deaths of workers. So, the church ended up helping the wealthiest ward members and letting children go hungry because a self righteous bishop believed that those children deserved to go hungry because of their father’s supposed greed. Didn’t matter that reality differed from his thinking. Politics dictated the “charity” given. Not love, not need, and not who deserved help.
Now that church leaders are known to be sitting atop a hoard of gold that would be the envy of any self respecting dragon, do I think that “charity never faileth”? Or do I think that we have the story of Robinhood jack*ss backwards, and our church and our political system believes in “rob from the poor to give to the rich”?
I saw a report on Fox News a couple of weeks ago that listed the most “charitable” states. If I recall correctly, Utah was #1 out of 50 and it was based on charitable contributions in terms of time (volunteering) and money. My first thought was that this #1 finish had to be based on all of the LDS folks in Utah who pay tithing and serve in LDS callings. The next day a Salt Lake Tribune article about it confirmed my suspicions.
I think the average TBM believes he or she is indeed engaged in charity when they pay their tithing. That’s easy to understand since the IRS basically treats it that way. But if a TBM believes that tithing is a commandment from the Lord (via the Church of course), how charitable is that behavior? If you’re compelled to do something is that a reflection of charity or a reflection of obedience?
Likewise, is serving Church callings really an act of charity or volunteering? I guess at some level the answer is yes but again, there are TBMs who believe it’s a sin to turn down a calling. And it’s a social thing. I wonder how many active LDS have ever served in a soup kitchen. And what about temple work? We like to label temple work as “serving the Lord” or “serving our ancestors” but it seems like such a waste of time and money to me (of little faith). We have so many needs all around us yet we enter these opulent buildings to serve ancestors and we’ll never catch up until the Millenium anyway.
I don’t mean to be dismissive of my fellow LDS who pay their tithing, serve in callings, and spend time in the temple. Those are all good things (arguably) but how do they compare to the real charity that goes on around us? Is Utah really #1?
@Monya: Yes, I read Helena Kelly’s excellent book a few years ago! Here’s a blog you might enjoy. Its author shared some of his observations with her prior to her writing her book, and you’ll find some interesting parallels: http://sharpelvessociety.blogspot.com/
Josh H: I have mentioned a few times in the blog that when I was working for American Express in SLC, they had a charitable contributions matching program, matching all employee contributions dollar for dollar. The absolute lowest donations were in the SLC office for the reason you cite from the Trib article: Mormons view their tithing and fast offerings as doing more than enough. And it’s a lot! Almost nobody outside of Mormons is giving 10% away. But it is giving it to an organization that is not transparent about its uses, which is why we’re starting to run into some faith-questions in light of some of the news stories about the amount amassed and what it’s been used for. There are always misuses of charitable contributions which is why whistleblowing on charities is always worth reading about, but the core problem feels to me like the fact that we still believe we deserve what we have, that we’ve earned it, and therefore we are at our leisure to give it away and feel good about ourselves, but if we keep it we are free to also feel good about ourselves. There is a permanent second class conferred to the recipients, to the “rent from,” and to the “work for.”
I’d recommend listening to this adaptation of Emma sometime if you can.
Set in India during the British Empire.
Your opening put me in mind of it. I really enjoyed it.
Having only just been called to one of the few financial positions open to women at church, I will be very interested to see how things work at a local level.
All I’ve heard over my years of membership more generally when it comes to the church making charitable donations, they would seem to be total control freaks regarding precisely how they want any donations to be spent.
Which control they specifically deny to members making donations to the church, so I discover, on an initial reading of materials. I am not sure how true that is in practice if it comes to a particular wealthy individual making a donation directly to HQ for a specific purpose however.. I thought I’d heard something to that effect wrt the Nauvoo temple…
Donations to. churches should not be considered charitable contributions: they are membership fees. All religions should be taxed and treated like any other business entity.
Lots of additional thoughts, but I will keep them at three.
First, in response to the idea that “Well, your friend from India thinks “the American system” is better. The power structures in India are greatly, greatly influenced by the caste system, which, ironically, supports the point of the OP: we inherit a system of power and ideas of value and property from our culture.
Which leads to the second point: when Observer pushes back against the idea that conservatives in American don’t believes that “social programs . . . are not . . . a normal part of living in a society,” I think he is missing the context of the statement in the OP, which is about our cultural narrative of social programs as being normal, which, as the OP points out and we all know, conservatives don’t want to be part of our cultural narrative and fight against it. The OP isn’t arguing conservative don’t offer charity, that’s a straw man. We get that. The OP is suggesting we as Americans don’t currently have mandatory social charity as part of our cultural narrative. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Finally, there’s even a recent OP in Desert News that conflates Communism and Socialism–one of the most common mistakes/ploys of the right, especially in the Church thanks to a sloppy Benson inheritance. And thus people talk about ‘agency’ in relation to all this in terms that aren’t really accurate. Sure, believe that people in Norway and Denmark, etc, have less agency that you, but you’re simply wrong. Also, one could make a much stronger stronger argument that that part of “Satan’s plan” is really to get people to be so selfish and fixed on themselves that, as the OP points out, we focus on porters and money over people. But I stopped believing in a literal Satan a long time ago (and so should you), so I’m not really going to argue about that.
We should think about and examine our narratives. Thanks again, hwkgrrl for prompting us to.
“The OP is suggesting we as Americans don’t currently have mandatory social charity as part of our cultural narrative.”
“Mandatory social charity” is an oxymoron. Charity is, by definition, voluntary. If it is mandatory, it’s no longer voluntary and ceases to be done in a spirit of generosity.
To use an analogy, we live in a neighborhood with an HOA that is still controlled by the developer, but will soon be turned over to the homeowners (likely in the next year). This has led to a lot of discussions about what we want the HOA to look like once we take control. Some neighbors have voiced vocal concerns that unless we have strict rules, there will be all manner of problems, from parking issues (on public streets the HOA has no authority over, no less), to someone’s grass getting too high, or someone having the wrong holiday decorations out. They want the rules to enforce their idea of a model neighborhood, without concern for what their neighbors think.
Others in our neighborhood (myself included) have pointed out that there is a city code that covers such things as unkept lawns, parking, and so forth. Those are not major problems in other nearby neighborhoods that don’t have HOAs, and there’s no reason to expect that they would be significant problems for our neighborhood either. Instead of seeking yet another tool to control your neighbors, we’ve advocated getting to know them. If someone’s lawn is looking a bit overgrown, reach out to them to make sure they’re okay. In short, ask yourself “What would Mr. Rogers do?”
If you force people to do what you think is the “right thing”, all you will do is cause resentment and conflict. It’s not necessary to command in all things, nor do you need to use the force of government (or, in the case of an HOA, quasi-government) to compel others to do what you think is right.
Observer, that’s one definition. It also means an organization set up to help those in need. So, if you go by your definition, sure, it might be considered an oxymoron. But in the context of the OP, it’s also talking about “common” services, such as parks and land set apart for those in need, which, in the Old Testament, was also a thing. It was required that people leave part of their fields for those in need, for example. That was part of their cultural value system.
Also, I disagree that “forcing” people to do the right thing only causes resentment and conflict (though I realize it does do that in some). It might o that for you, but that says something about you and your cultural narrative, nothing about absolute truth. What you see as force, others might see as natural. Those people might see you as some sort of aberration to their system.
To offer my own counter-example, my first son was born in Ireland, which has a very embedded form of socialized medicine alongside their private options. My son’s birth cost us nothing. Contrary to the protestations of the political ‘right,’ that didn’t make me lazy or feel entitled or take the system for granted. Quite the contrary, it made me feel deep love and appreciation for a society that had as part of its narrative that it wanted to value birth and life in such a way. I have a strong devotion to Ireland because of it. Your examples, on the other hand, seem to show that your live in a very privileged, property focused culture. I’m in no way naive to your arguments. I grew up with a libertarian-leaning father with Benson and Skousen on the shelves. But your worldview is simply that. From where I now stand, I do see it as anything to write home about it. It’s a fairly basic world view (as, admittedly, most are) that simply values self and property over others.
@Brian “Given it’s holdings, the Church appears to believe that, at some point, it will be able to simply throw money at whatever emergency happens …”
Sadly, they may not be wrong, at least with regards to short-term fixes. Satan’s line about what money can buy you has a lot of truth to it.
Of all of the leaks published in the past decade, the one revealing the enormity of the church’s wealth dismayed me the most. Where is the church’s motivation for meaningful change when it has billions of dollars to protect itself with a hedge, a wall, or a supercolossal Potemkin village?
My least favorite Church discussion that occurs over and over and over again is whenever we study Mosiah 4 and someone inevitably has to pipe up with why it’s actually OK not to give money to the poor because “handouts”, they spend the money on drugs, etc. etc. etc. Bednar keeps resurrecting Benson’s rhetoric on that lately, too (taking slums out of the people instead of people out of slums – which is patently disproven by, like, research BTW). (Second place least favorite BoM perpetual discussion is Moroni 7, on why that means it’s OK to judge people.)
One of the things I’ve come to dislike about tithing is, as mentioned above, the fact that I think many Mormons view that as their “charity” and don’t think about giving more. I think this really disconnects us from our communities and from seeing the needs around us. The 100B+ news really woke me up to where all my “charity” was going and I direct my tithes and offerings elsewhere now.
Tithing is often understood as a financial accounting to the church, an obligation or duty in response to (divine) law. In turn, we then expect the church to “get its money’s worth” in how that money is spent. We work hard for that money and we expect the church to work equally hard and as prudently in deciding who and what are worthy of receiving it. As such, it’s all transactional. There is no room for generosity or grace. In other words, there is no room for God or acting in the way Jesus taught his disciples. In many Bible translations, “charity” appears in place of love. Perhaps there’s a good reason for that.
“Also, I disagree that “forcing” people to do the right thing only causes resentment and conflict (though I realize it does do that in some). It might o that for you, but that says something about you and your cultural narrative, nothing about absolute truth. What you see as force, others might see as natural. Those people might see you as some sort of aberration to their system.”
As I stated before, I’m not opposed to social welfare programs, but I do oppose inefficient or ineffective programs. I also oppose the idea of equating “government” with “society”. The former is part of the latter, but not the entirety of it.
What I do resent is being forced to pay into programs that are ineffective, that don’t make effective use of the resources I am forced to give them. For example, Seattle (where I work) has about 12000 homeless people. This year they are budgeted to spend $160 million on homelessness, or about $13000 per person. Next year, they are talking about a $1 billion budget for homelessness, or about $83000 per person. And yet, homelessness has continued to increase in Seattle, with many Homeless being shipped there from other cities and many more cycling in and out of homelessness. It’s clear that their approaches aren’t working, and yet they keep throwing more money at the problem, expecting to solve it.
I’m strongly libertarian-leaning, but I am also extremely practical. There are some things that it makes more efficient to be done by government, but I expect the government to be efficient at it, and be a good steward of the resources it forces me to provide it. As a society, we do not have unlimited resources, and so we need to make effective use of the ones we have.
Observer, I’m with you in the feeling that policy (and charity) should be as practical and efficient as possible.
Observer: “What I do resent is being forced to pay into programs that are ineffective, that don’t make effective use of the resources I am forced to give them.”
This pretty much sums up the way many of us feel about paying tithes to the Church. Hundreds of billions of dollars stockpiled and they still expect me to scrub their toilets and feel grateful to be doing it.
Observer: “What I do resent is being forced to pay into programs that are ineffective, that don’t make effective use of the resources I am forced to give them.” I think we all resent that on some level, or at least don’t like it when social programs are ill-designed, and honestly, I think most of them *are* poorly designed. The alternative of privately owned companies filling these gaps is also problematic because companies exist to make a profit which protects the investment of their board, their owners and the livelihood of their employees; their motives and mandates really have nothing to do with the public good (except that if they are extremely transgressive and get caught, they might have to weather some bad PR).
Unfortunately, in the US, these are our two primary methods to address societal needs. Charities fill a few gaps here and there, but they can only do so within the constraints of their own organizations. This entire system stinks, if you ask me, but I’m not sure I could design a better one either. Thankfully, that’s not my job. Every citizen in a democracy (or whatever we are calling the US now) has to come to grips with the fact that our one little vote only exerts so much power and control over this convoluted system.
For me, it’s a little easier to see what’s right and wrong with our system when we look at what’s right and wrong in other systems.
“I expect the government to be efficient at it, and be a good steward of the resources it forces me to provide it.” The longer I live, the lower my expectations on this front, but the more my engagement. Maybe that jadedness is a result of my increased engagement. But we all need to be realistic about our own contribution (that is a big sacrifice to us, but a tiny droplet in the bucket), and just how much we can control and hold our governments accountable, especially when we all disagree on priorities and methods. As Henry Kissinger said, “Every solution is a ticket to a new problem.”
“As a society, we do not have unlimited resources, and so we need to make effective use of the ones we have.” I am starting to disagree with this sentiment. For example, what we thought of as “resources” in the 80s bear little resemblance to what our resources are in the 2020s. Most of the tech companies and solutions that we take for granted now, weren’t even a twinkle in Gene Roddenberry’s eye 60 years ago. The output of society changes rapidly the more we become reliant on technology. In the 70s, everyone joked that cheap goods were made in Japan. Now we joke that they are made in China or Eastern Europe or Bangladesh (or wherever Walmart, which conceptually didn’t really exist as what it is now until a few decades ago, gets them). Global economies shift, creating new opportunities and shutting down others entirely. I don’t think we can confidently state that we have limited resources when we couldn’t accurately predict what new resources will be invented or emerge in the next ten years.
I have two cents’ worth to add to your mention of the debate in Church groups over Mosiah 4. This is a personally-experienced story, not a second-hand faith-promoting rumor.
In 1976, I was stationed with the US Air Force in Okinawa. Elder Howard Hunter, then of middle seniority in the Q12, came to visit the Church in Okinawa. On the Sunday morning, he met with the LDS Servicemen’s District, our version of a Stake Conference. I attended.
I will never forget his opening comments. As he left his hotel earlier that morning, to catch a taxi to go to the Mormon chapel off-base, he was accosted by a beggar who asked him for money.
Elder Hunter gave him money. He also said to the congregation, “I hope you would have done the same.”
Good enough for me! Whenever I come across someone in Church who says that he or she doesn’t think it is right to give to beggars, I always trot out my Howard Hunter story.
It always creates an awkward silence.
Hope this helps.
I don’t think there is any disagreement with wanting to see programs–both public and private–make efficient and effective use of funds. However, I’ve come to see opposition to public assistance programs on the basis of “inefficiencies” as resentment of the people being assisted. It is the inconsistency of the inefficiency argument that I find objectionable. Public funds are used inefficiently with great regularity, yet I rarely if ever hear libertarians express frustration when their tax dollars are wasted by the Pentagon on endless wars and worthless weapons programs. I don’t hear a libertarian opposition to the grand misuse of funds in the healthcare system, which is mostly publicly funded, mostly privately owned and still the number one source of personal bankruptcy in the nation. Health spending in this country is the absolute least efficient in the developed world, in part because too little regulation permits hospitals and health systems (ironically non-profit, for the most part) to gobble up competition and then increase rates. Oh, and we do permit people to die.
It’s not very efficient to give massive corporations huge tax breaks they don’t actually need and then subsidize their employees’ lives through welfare and Medicaid programs. Is it efficient to allow the Walton family to amass more money than God but not demand that they provide healthcare and a living wage? They certainly could. And if efficiency is the goal, should corporations be permitted to invest in new product and service lines and then write them off when they fail? That’s not efficient, but in the private sector it’s considered an act of innovation; in the public sector it’s government waste.
Is it efficient to forego increased tax revenues through a wealth tax that could be used on numerous public programs and investments so that Jeff Bezos can play with rockets? Is that a good use of funds if one rejects the idea, ala Grover Norquist, that virtually no one should pay hardly any taxes at all?
In terms of enabling an equitable, healthy society, this is all very, very inefficient.
I think Observer is correct that government is part of society, not the inverse. But it is a mistake to think that this society we live in is built on someone’s definition of efficiency or even liberty. Liberty is for those who live a life we approve of. The lack of liberty that accompanies poverty, addiction, and mental illness is the perceived reward for a life lived poorly, even when it’s not. It would be great if local charity were sufficient to meet demand, but it isn’t. When you ask people to be charitable, their giving is often attached to the worthiness of the recipient. Yes, we still provide skeletal services for the most destitute in American society, but only because we want to think we’re too civilized to permit corpses regularly showing up on the street. We’re not too civilized, however, to make sure people don’t die for lack of health insurance, because they should have gotten a better job or made more money.
American society is built on competition and the accumulation of power, not efficiency and not community. Legitimacy in every society is predicated on the governed accepting the decisions of the government. That legitimacy may be at it’s lowest ebb since the founding, but I would argue that this fact is determined more by the constant assault on legitimacy by certain ideologues than any measure of actual efficacy and efficiency. Again, some wastes are tolerated if not glorified while others are used as misleading examples of a government run amuck, e.g., Solyndra was individually a failed solar energy company, but it was one of around 30 Department of Energy grant program recipients, including Tesla, that received seed funding. Almost all of those companies succeeded and are still in business today. OANN won’t tell you that.
If efficiency and efficacy are the goals, then apply the standards equally. Also, the public programs most often cited as a waste of money are those that cost very little AND that the private sector is doing only when they can gouge taxpayers and milk public coffers, e.g., retirement homes, substance abuse treatment centers and the like. The ultimate loser in the current scenario is the law-abiding taxpayer who has to deal with rising costs annually for healthcare, child care, education, housing and retirement–who has the freedom to go broke–because almost every one of these sectors operate in a fractured, inefficient manner. At least somebody’s getting rich, though. Ayn Rand would be proud.
Great post as usual. I fear that anti-government phobia has eaten the brains of a good chunk of the US electorate. Nevermind that this very same electorate wants the government and its military to bomb the living daylights out of Iran and Afghanistan and feels that there is never enough military spending even when military officials say that they don’t actually need all this military equipment. It wants the police (a big part of local governments) to exercise brutality and engage in provocation and harassment to crush mostly peaceful protests against, well, police brutality. Nevermind the fact that when this electorate’s favored candidates gain control of the government, they conspiracize about this deep state that is secretly controlling the real government. Nevermind the fact that some members of this electorate have been found with protest signs that read, “hands off my Medicare, government.”
Observer , You have bought into a philosophy that says individuals and corporations can do things better than governments. And that if a government does something you are being FORCED to support it. With this belief governments can do 99 good things but if you can find one you disagree with you can keep depriving the poor of the help they need from government. I expect small government is part of this philosophy.
I live in Australia where we have government run universal healthcare, which costs about $4000 per person v the US system which costs $8700 per person. https://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&client=tablet-android-samsung-rev2&source=android-browser&q=cost+of+healthcare+australia+v+usa So is it an inferior system? Life expectancy Aus 83, USA 78.4 . So it is more efficient and more effective, but it is government run.
It sounds as though you live on one of those subdivisions where there are rows of mc mansions that all look the same. We don’t have those in Australia, we like to express our individuality. I was amazed when I saw them in California.
On the common land one, all beaches in Australia are common land, and government bodies usually develop the land behind the beach with picnic areas including free electric BBQs, foot washing and showers as you come off the sand, and toilets, and parking, all free. Whenever I go to the beach I am impressed at the benifits of big government, to community. We of course have parks in the suburbs usually with exercise areas, sporting fields and public BBQs.
My wife and I went to to Mooloolabah for a few days last week. It is a beachside town. There is the beach then pavilions and viewing, then the road and then shops mostly restraunts, and icecream and dress/ swimwear shops. Families were playing on the beach, and strolling on both the beach, and on the prominade in front of the shops. The hotels are behind the shops, and out of town behind the road. Big government regulation.
In Florida we stopped at a tourist info office, and were told the next public beach was 26 miles on. We went there and there was 200 yards of beach packed with people, with a fence at each end. Past the fence the beach was empty. Thats what small government looks like.
Bidens chilcare payment is believed to have reduced poverty by 50% 20 million people. Can that be bad? Or should the children have to work to earn their way out of poverty. The minimum wage if it were determined by business would be what? $7.0? The minimum wage in Australia is $20.33, paying workers a better wage helps the economy because lower income people spend every penny. Employees are also customers.
Some years ago we had a labor government that bought in a National Disability Employment Scheme. To help people with disabilities be assesed and given education so they could be employed, become contributing menbers of society, and have financial independence. The scheme was to be self funding by the taxes that would be payed by the disabled entering the workforce. Obviously there is a delay between assessing the needs and getting the return that pays for the next generation. We now have a conservative government who have cut funding to the assessment and education parts of the scheme thus undermining it before it could achieve its purpose. Small gov v government in action. Consequences of small gov philosophy!
When an issue affects the whole country or even world, a pandemic, or climate change for example; small government is not an assett. The conditions contributing to climate change were created by unregulated business; they are not likely to fix it, though some are working to. A shortage of community togetherness has contributed to the death rate from the virus in America. My state in Aus, has a population of 5 million, and so far 7 covid deaths, we only got general access to the vaccines in june 21, and now have 85.3% with 1 shot and 75 with 2. My wife and I got boosters yesterday. We have other states with over 90% vacinated, and that is where we are headed. Until the whole world is vacinated the covid will not be under control.
We have very few libertarians, because the benifits of government are obvious,and we support willingly. We had a state election last year and the government was returned with an increased majority. Would a state governor in the US with 7 covid deaths be reelected?
I am not trying to attack USA just this conservative culture. Small government is bad for society particularly those in need!
“ The difference there is Agency. Christ commanded us to share what we have, but He does not compel us to do so. That was Lucifer’s plan, to force us to do good, rather than letting us choose.”
Agency is not the same as freedom. God granted man living on earth, agency. Agency is the condition on earth. When we break commandments or laws, there are consequences. That there are consequences to not paying taxes does not mean you have lost your agency. Even people in prison have agency, though they do not have freedom.
Some years ago I was the assigned visiting teacher of a young woman with multiple sclerosis.
She received disability checks and had Section 8 housing vouchers which helped pay her rent. She did not qualify for food stamps, unless she had custody of her daughter (which she lost).
Occasionally she would get some food assistance, but I remember when I called the nearest Bishop’s storehouse ( which was more than 100 miles away), to inquire about a food order I was told that food assistance was only for temporary situations— not a long term situation. Apparently she was supposed to be healed from her MS?
Eventually she ended up in long term care which I imagine we taxpayers are footing the bill for.
I don’t think I “earned” what I have. I think I was just darn lucky to have been born and raised where and how I was.
“most government social programs are ineffective or inefficient”
Flat-out wrong. The US, the world, is a better place because of government programs. Our modern societies owe so much of their development and fluorescence to such programs. Your libertarianism is a pure delusion. I dread living in the world you want to live in.
Well said jaredsbrother.
The sole purpose of the federal government to to protect against foreign invasion, combat crime, and provide infrastructure. The Founding Fathers never intended for it to provide welfare.
@JCS, what about the preamble: promote the general welfare.
@Geoff-AUS, love so much of what you wrote about AUS. Wish that was the case here.
@JCS, what about the preamble, “promote the general welfare?” Seems to me it is included.
@ Geoff-AUS. I love what you posted about Australia. Wish we had that here
JCS, if you believe that the 18th century men were the end all of thought and knowledge in relation political, economic, international relation, and security, and aren’t willing to entertain the idea that perhaps progress and development has been made in these areas, then you might have a point. Be aware, however, that even they knew they weren’t. In way were they uniform in their thinking or their policy. An appeal to them is hardly convincing.
Edited from previous post and all those typos!
JCS, if you believe that 18th century men were the end all of thought and knowledge in relation to political, economic, international relation, and security understanding, and aren’t willing to entertain the idea that perhaps progress and development has been made in these areas, then you might have a point. Be aware, however, that even they knew they weren’t. In no way were they uniform in their thinking or their policy. An appeal to them is hardly convincing.
Well-said, jaredsbrother and Geoff-Aus. Lois tells a compelling story too. Government is supposed to help the poorest and most vulnerable. Christ didn’t teach self-sufficiency. He said to consider the lilies of the field, who toil not neither do they spin. God gave this earth enough resources and wealth for everyone, and government needs to do a better job of evening out the distribution of resources so people don’t suffer for lack of medical care, housing and food.
I enjoy Emma as much as the next dude, but the real story is found in Clueless. To wit, and to quote Cher on charity: “How fabulous! You got Marky Mark to find time in his busy pants-dropping schedule to plant a celebrity tree. Josh, why don’t you just hire a gardner?” Also, “I give back to mankind all the time. I only wear faux fur, I have donated many designer outfits to Lucy the maid, and once I get my driver’s license, I fully intend to brake for animals.” Classic!
Why does everyone want life to be so damned efficient anyway? It’s the inefficiencies of life that make it worth living. I mean sure, when I’m at Disneyland, I’d rather spend more times on the ride than in the lines for the rides, but still. Sometimes waiting in line sparks the best conversations with friends.
Do you know which government agency is the most inefficient of all? Infrastructure. If we need to fix a road, we should just close the road, travellers be damned, and fix it. But we don’t. We work on off hours, close the road only at night, divert lanes, and take ages to accomplish what we set out to do. Why? Because being efficient would be very, very bad. Imagine if I-15 was completely shut down for a month in Salt Lake County to expand it. Our local roads would be overrun. Clearly, being efficient isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Count me as one that is PROUD that our welfare system is inefficient. That means it isn’t run by robots, but by human beings doing the best that they can.
And please, spare me the rhetoric that the church’s welfare system is efficient. Dude, like anyone can even know that. Cuz lack of transparency.
Otherwise, I loved these comments:
Josh h: “But if a TBM believes that tithing is a commandment from the Lord (via the Church of course), how charitable is that behavior? If you’re compelled to do something is that a reflection of charity or a reflection of obedience?” Yes. If tithing is tied to a temple recommend, then it ain’t charity.
Vajra2: “Donations to. churches should not be considered charitable contributions: they are membership fees.” This comment wins the discussion for me. I mean, how charitable is it to give money to a church YOU belong to that builds the chapels and temples you use, and funds the university your kids attend? That’s not charity.
Also everything Elisa, Jaredsbrother, and Geoff Aus said.
Happy Turkey Day!
“’As a society, we do not have unlimited resources, and so we need to make effective use of the ones we have.’ I am starting to disagree with this sentiment. For example, what we thought of as “resources” in the 80s bear little resemblance to what our resources are in the 2020s. Most of the tech companies and solutions that we take for granted now, weren’t even a twinkle in Gene Roddenberry’s eye 60 years ago. The output of society changes rapidly the more we become reliant on technology. In the 70s, everyone joked that cheap goods were made in Japan. Now we joke that they are made in China or Eastern Europe or Bangladesh (or wherever Walmart, which conceptually didn’t really exist as what it is now until a few decades ago, gets them). Global economies shift, creating new opportunities and shutting down others entirely. I don’t think we can confidently state that we have limited resources when we couldn’t accurately predict what new resources will be invented or emerge in the next ten years.”
In the long run, this is true, but in the short term resources really are limited, particularly when looking at money supply (as that is the source for taxes that support government programs).
A government that taxes 100% of GDP will quickly shrink its tax base. A government that taxes 0% without having another source of revenue will have no revenues. There is only so much that the government can tax within a certain year before they do far more harm than good. Most people aren’t going to toil to earn another $1 if they only get to keep $0.10 (or less) of it. That, in turn, will cause a reduction in GDP as more people reduce their output because they don’t find value in producing more. We could argue over what the optimal tax rate would be, especially depending on what services the government offers, but there absolutely is an upper limit to how much the government can raise through taxes. At the same time, you can’t borrow an unlimited amount that you can’t pay back without devaluing your currency.
This applies to other resources as well. There are only so many trees you can cut down to make lumber to build housing, and even if you cut all of them down the lumber mills can only process them so fast. You can only pump so much oil out of the ground at once, and pipelines and refineries can only transfer and process it so fast. While you can scale up production capacity over time, that doesn’t change the current limits on resources (and can, in turn, cause more problems when demand changes in the future).
John Charity Spring,
“The Founding Fathers never intended for [the government] to provide welfare.”
I invite you to read Thomas Jefferson’s letter to James Madison, Oct. 28, 1785: https://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2010/12/thomas-jefferson-on-wealth-inequality.html. He is hardly the proto-libertarian that the modern US right-wing have imagined him to be:
“The property of this country is absolutely concentrated in a very few hands, having revenues of from half a million of guineas a year downwards. These employ the flower of the country as servants, some of them having as many as 200 domestics, not laboring. They employ also a great number of manufacturers and tradesmen, and lastly the class of laboring husbandmen. But after all there comes the most numerous of all classes, that is, the poor who cannot find work. I asked myself what could be the reason so many should be permitted to beg who are willing to work, in a country where there is a very considerable proportion of uncultivated lands? These lands are undisturbed only for the sake of game. It should seem then that it must be because of the enormous wealth of the proprietors which places them above attention to the increase of their revenues by permitting these lands to be labored.”
“I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable, but the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property, only taking care to let their subdivisions go hand in hand with the natural affections of the human mind. The descent of property of every kind therefore to all the children, or to all the brothers and sisters, or other relations in equal degree, is a politic measure and a practicable one. Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions or property in geometrical progression as they rise.”
Here Jefferson argues that the government should tax the rich for the benefit of the poor, to give them opportunities to own and develop land. Very different from the modern right-wing who foolishly believe (well, promote, I have my doubts that many actually believe) that we should slash taxes on the wealthy in naive hope that their wealth will magically trickle down on the poor and that they will be incentivized by tax cuts to create more and more jobs.
Historically charity for poor but we should now be talking about social and financial justice/ equity.
In 1970 the top tax rate was 70%, and the top 10% owned 50% of the wealth, and the rate of growth in income was similar across income levels. Reagan reduced the top rate of tax to 50% then 28%. Republicans continue to reduce tax and increase inequality, which is already highest in developed world.
Now the top 1% own 39% of US wealth, the top 10% own 78% of the wealth which leaves, 12% for the next 10%. So top 20% have 90% of wealth. Next 40% (middle class) divide 10%, and the bottom 40% have no wealth or have debt. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/12/06/the-richest-1-percent-now-owns-more-of-the-countrys-wealth-than-at-any-time-in-the-past-50-years/
It would seem that when the top tax rate was 70% incomes increased together. Stability? Biden gets resistance trying to increase it to 35%
If wealth were divided evenly in the US it would amount to $63,000 per person.
Observer. As you say technology is changing. European car makers will only make electric or hydrogen cars after 2035. I already live in a house that has no timber, except in the kitchen cupboards, and superinsulated walls and roof. And with solar water heating, and solar PV most electricity bills are credits. Forget fossil fuels like oil or gas or coal.
It appears from histort the ideal top tax rate should be about 70%. So the poor soul on $1million only keeps $300,000 and has no incentive to work, like the other 90% of the population that live on less than $200,000 a year. https://www.statista.com/statistics/203183/percentage-distribution-of-household-income-in-the-us/
Taxation is also a way to redistribute wealth. Since 1970 it has been transferring it from the average American to the wealthy ones. Most civilized countries are trying to redistribute it from the wealthy downward. Not as charity but justice. Do the super rich really work harder, or in some way justify being paid 30 or 40 times the average?
Even countries with universal healthcare, and a social safety net, still have a place for charities.
this has a chart that shows the proportion of the population in each wealth category by country. I would think you would want the most people with assetts between $100,000 and $1m and the least in the less than $10,000, for a healthy society.
In Australia we have a tax free threshold of $18000, and different tax rates up to over $180,000 is 45% https://www.superguide.com.au/how-super-works/income-tax-rates-brackets so we tax the poor less and the rich more than you do. We do have universal healthcare, and a social safety net, and a universal superannuation scheme, to help the average worker create wealth.
What we really need are pro ownership policies. The wealthiest individuals avoid many taxes by keeping most of the income and assets in corporations, which have lower tax rates and more tax deductions available than individuals. So part of the problem is the privilege of corporations.
One Idea I’ve had is to tax corporations at rates that are proportional to the proportion of employee ownership. A corporation that is equally owned by all employees would enjoy a zero tax rate. A corporation that is wholly owned by a single non-employee individual would be taxed at 95%. Most businesses would then be somewhere in the middle depending on % of employee ownership and the equality of the ownership distribution.
I choose to pay my taxes. I wonder if this is a way out of the libertarian’s dilemma?
Such an excellent post and insightful comments.
I’ve also heard the cries of “Hands off my Medicare,” but at least Medicare participants (or an employed family member) paid taxes into the program, so it is not something for nothing. It is a bit like what Pres. Oaks said in last conference: “Most humanitarian and charitable efforts need to be accomplished by pooling and managing individual resources on a large scale.”
However, there are people who seek out a lawyer specializing in Medicaid asset protection, so that a person needing long-term skilled nursing can pass their assets to heirs and thus qualify for a “free” (to them) nursing home. (Harder than it used to be, which is why a lawyer is likely needed.) The catch is that many are seeking this care in a state where they retired (Florida, Arizona) but did not pay taxes while they were working, and unlike federal Medicare, Medicaid is a state-federal program. So taxpayers in those states are funding care for people paid most of their taxes in other states, and whose family members inherited funds that could have been used to support their elders needing care.
I am not a fan of giving cash to beggars, because I’ve seen people adversely affected by substance abuse. We do keep a supply of $10 gift cards to give away, for a popular store that will allow them to purchase food, sundries–just not alcohol or tobacco. I realize this comes across as judgmental, but it is a compromise that I can live with.
Richard J. Foster said “the flesh whines against service but screams against hidden service. It strains and pulls for honor and recognition. It will devise subtle , religiously-acceptable means to call attention to the service rendered.”
So, this being the case and me being pragmatic, I fully support the concept of charity on any terms. I simply fear that super-rich folk will stop giving to anything unless there is plenty of recognition and tax write-offs associated with it. We all look down on the Pharisees because Jesus said that they were only giving alms to the poor for the recognition it brought them, but, hey, they WERE giving alms! My sources tell me that not one poor person ever turned down coins or food because the person giving it was not doing it for the right reason. So it’s fine with me if the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation gets their name plastered on every PBS documentary I watch. I just wonder about myself and how much service I give hoping that I will accidently overhear someone whisper “man, that dude’s at every service project.”
Ah, yes, then I will have my reward.
(some of the above is tongue-in-cheek, but I ain’t saying which parts)
Oh, and Anya Taylor-Joy (Emma, above) is my choice as the most exciting and talented new actress out there.