What Became of the Witty Pirate Then

Because taxes can be a form of theft, and because taxes need not be theft at all, a reasonable question to ask is how we can tell the difference.

The baseline, the starting point, is that property belongs to the individual. He is the one that Thou shalt not steal applies to. He is the one with the house, the vineyard, the lawn mower, the wallet, the smart phone, and so on. Whenever the Bible talks about property, it always talks about it two categories. The first is God’s absolute ownership of all things (Dt. 10:14), and the second is the relative ownership that you and your neighbor enjoy (Dt. 8:18). When we talk about the state possessing things, this possession is derivative. The state extracts value from the taxpayer, the appointed steward of God’s wealth, and this extraction can also be divided into two categories. This value can be extracted lawfully, or the state can play the role of the thief. So how are we to tell the difference?

We know that taxation can be done right because the Bible talks about paying taxes to the one to whom it is due (Rom. 13:7). These are taxes that we owe, and are not to be considered theft at all. We should no more chafe at paying our legitimate taxes than we do paying our bill for satellite television. There are taxes we do not owe, but ought to pay anyway, having more important things to do. This is the meaning of what Jesus teaches Peter — we don’t owe it, but go ahead and pay it (Matt. 17:24-27). And then there are other circumstances where the illegitimate taxes have become so onerous, and the justification for them so outlandish, and tax courts have beclowned themselves to such an extent, that the Lord raises up a left-handed means for the children of Israel to pay their tribute (Judges 3:15-19).

And I trust you brought your 1099s?
And I trust you brought your 1099s?

Now I am not issuing any kind of call to action, other than the action of understanding what the heck occurreth. It is long past time for us to be sons of Issachar, understanding the times and knowing what Israel should do (1 Chron. 12:32). In our circumstance, deliverance would be ours if most of us came to the simple recognition that our ruling elites are governing unlawfully. They are illegitimate.

So this brings us back to the question raised at the top. How do we tell what kind of taxation is challenging the law of God as opposed to the taxation that is in line with the law of God? There are three basic criteria.

First, the level of taxation must not rival God (1 Sam. 8:15). God claims a tithe, and if that is all God needs, and if God is a jealous God, then we ought to see any attempt on the part of civil government to go past ten percent as an aspiration to Deity. This is the perennial temptation for fallen man (Gen. 3:5), particularly for rulers of all kinds (Is. 14:13), and so that temptation must not be funded. Cutting off the government at 9% is like refusing a third Scotch to a wobbly tavern-goer at 1 am. Shouldn’t be controversial.

Second, the taxes need to be levied, in the main, so that the rulers can perform the functions that God requires them to perform. Coercion is a big deal, and so the government must only be allowed to exercise it when they have express warrant for what they are doing. If they have express warrant to hunt down murderers, and they do, then they have express warrant to collect money to pay for the men to do this. They are God’s deacon of justice, and the deacon of justice needs to be paid just like the rest of us (Rom. 13:4). They are not allowed to collect fees to pay for activities that are prohibited to them. If they are not allowed to do it in the first place, they are not allowed to tax us to pay for it. To do so would be theft.

Third, the taxes must be lawful and in accordance with the established constitution of the people. Arbitary and capricious government, when the constitution outlaws arbitrary and capricous government is hypocritical. It sits in judgment upon us in points of law, and contrary to the law commands us to be struck. Since I have no particular person in mind, I may feel free to echo Paul’s sentiment about this without overstepping any personal boundaries — the men who do this are a whited wall (Acts 23:3).

If a tax bill originates in the Senate, nobody needs to pay it. If a resident of North Dakota receives a tax bill from the state of Maryland, he may feel free to round file it, and to do so with a serene conscience. If a man is taxed by a body in which he has no representation, then it is an illegal tax, and it doesn’t really matter how many judges or congressmen were complicit in the illegality.

So then, in summary, taxes are theft when the government is aspiring to be god in the lives of its subjects, when the government is refusing to do what the real God requires of them and is doing something else instead, usually something very expensive, and when the government is not obeying its own legitimate processes for levying taxes.

Last point. Note that I am not arguing for any action other than the simple action of recognition. Our government is a thief, but the government is a thief that cares deeply and profoundly about respectability. They not only want to pillage with immunity, they want to do it with legitimacy. Sorry. It is not as though there is a certain number of pirate ships that magically reach the quorum of a nation state.

When you get lots of pirate ships, what do you have? This is not a trick question. You have a pirate fleet. You have lots of pirates.
Augustine records a time when a pirate was captured and brought before Alexander the Great. The pirate asked why he was styled a pirate for doing to ships what Alexander was doing to countries, and, despite this, Alexander was styled a great emperor.

History is silent as to what became of the witty pirate then, but his question did have a certain resonance. Secular man, with covetous loins, hands and brains, has not yet been able to answer it. There is,  however, a stiff fine for raising it in inappropriate ways.

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Matt Petersen
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Matt Petersen

“The baseline, the starting point, is that property belongs to the individual.”

Still assuming what you’re trying to prove.

Jeff S
Guest

Might I assume you include fees like licenses and registrations, et al. under the umbrella of taxes? What about costs imposed by regulations?

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

The pirate asked why he was styled a pirate for doing to ships what Alexander was doing to countries, and, despite this, Alexander was styled a great emperor. “I’m sorry Ms. Tax Auditor, ma’am. I’m afraid my charitable contribution records were lost when my hard drive crashed. And I have no backup. And I destroyed my blackberry after I found out I was being audited.” Along those same lines, I still don’t understand how in 2009 a man who owed $26k in back taxes became the Secretary of the Treasury. Either he didn’t understand the tax code, or he was… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

“God claims a tithe, and if that is all God needs, and if God is a jealous God, then we ought to see any attempt on the part of civil government to go past ten percent as an aspiration to Deity.” That strikes me as just a ridiculous logical leap. First off, I think that God claims far more of us than a tithe. Second of all, I don’t see % of income given as a measure of value at all – otherwise many people have elevated their mortgage above God. Claiming a Biblical basis for any tax over 10%… Read more »

Eric Stampher
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Eric Stampher

I recall reading how God claimed a tithe from the people of Israel way back when.

God still claims tithes?

And where do we send the check?

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

Either he didn’t understand the tax code, or he was a straight-up thief.

Let me rephrase. Either he didn’t understand the tax code, or he was a deliberately not paying his taxes. Either option (you would think) would disqualify him.

J
Guest
J

matt Petersen What are you talking about?? I keep reading your post and I keep asking that same question. “The baseline, the starting point, is that property belongs to the individual.” yes that is the assumption, I’ll give you that…if you want to call some pretty obvious truths from the Bible an assumption. But he is trying to prove that the government is stealing our money. Those seem to me to be two completely different points. He starts with an obvious fact from God’s word and then moves out from that point to make a different point based on the… Read more »

J
Guest
J

Whoops, if I had seen Doug’s post I would’ve just kept my keyboard shut. It wasn’t there when I read through all the comments and it bothered me that no one had engaged him yet. Especially since it was the first comment that people see.

mekt75
Member

I think that the OldTestament teaches that there is both private property and public property. Who owned the housing n the cities of refuge? The Levites lived in cities that were corporately theirs.cthoughts?

Seth B.
Guest
Seth B.

Matt: I would think the the fact that property belongs to individuals can be seen from other OT laws. “If a man borrows anything of his neighbor, and it is injured or dies, the owner not being with it, he shall make full restitution.” Exodus 22:14. The text clearly says that it belongs to his neighbor.

Matt Petersen
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Matt Petersen

Since you linked to an article that shows that that’s a false comparison, and and since I have also shown that’s a false comparison, and since, for instance, Augustine disagrees with you, and would call that a false comparison, no, that’s just empty rhetorical posturing.

Barnabas
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Barnabas

What state has historically met the conditions laid out by Pastor Wilson? I would say the incidence has been exceedingly rare. You say that you are not calling for action though you have written in a supportive manner on the American Revolution against a state arguably far less onerous to the people than our present one. In this case we should not take up arms but rather carry revolution in our hearts. There are many issues to take up here. 1. The temptation to find fault with any source (God given) of authority and thus to claim a freedom to… Read more »

Barnabas
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Barnabas

As an aside, the quest for individual autonomy, rather than harm our intrusive State, has served it well by driving out those sources of authority such as fathers or churches who do not have access to an army or a propaganda machine and has left the State as the sole remaining strong man.

timothy
Guest
timothy

Hi matt,

Let’s assume Pastor Wilson’s reasoning is terrible and that empty rhetoric abounds on this thread.

Will you state the correct argument for or against private property for us?

thx.

t

Matt Petersen
Guest
Matt Petersen

Timothy: One problem is, as Pr. Wilson could tell you in some of his moods, individuals simply do not exist. We are interdividuals, not individuals. Another is that we do not even own ourselves. Another is that the Christian tradition denies it. Thus Basil accuses the rich of theft for acting as if property is theirs. As does Chrysostome. And Augustine says things are naturally common. (And this at least needs respected, not rudely dismissed as empty philosophy as his previous post did.) But that’s been argued in previous posts and you can go read them. Here, my point is… Read more »

Jonathan James
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Jonathan James

Matt Petersen,

Doug starts the article off saying that taxes can be a form of theft, but need not be. Just so I understand your argument better, do you disagree with that first point? Would you say that taxes can never be theft?

Matt Petersen
Guest
Matt Petersen

Yes. Taxes can be theft. Theft is not defined as taking someone’s private property, (this is why the posts are circiular: He defines theft as taking private property–without argument–and then uses that to ground private property. But “private property” was assumed in the definition, so all the argument shows is that if we don’t give private property the foundational role he gives it, we need a different definition of theft–one that can account for Chrysostome’s claim that misused private property is theft.) so there’s no reason to assume the magistrate cannot steal. But to know when, we’d have to first… Read more »

Andrew Kelly
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Andrew Kelly

matt Petersen

Do you own a house? A car? A computer? A bath mat? A pair of socks?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, please explain to us how it is acceptable for you to own these things while simultaneously disputing the fact that property belongs to the individual.

Matt
Guest
Matt

So do governments have “express warrant” to wage war? Because they have little control over the price tag of such and it is rarely going to come in under 10% of national income. Point 2 really seems like an ideological rephrasing of point 3 anyway, and point 3 is the only one of these that is valid. Other concerns would be that the tax code is levied fairly, that the resulting provision of whatever public service is distributed fairly, and that there is no embezzlement or bribery going on (though to what extent the government as a whole is culpable… Read more »

Paul
Guest
Paul

Matt:

Seeing as how you do not believe in private property can I come and get all your stuff. Since it is not your stuff anyway, but common goods. Please send address. I will pay for truck and gas. Thanx

timothy
Guest
timothy

Hi Matt. First, bear in mind this is an on-going series by Pastor Wilson. He has established some good groundwork that establishes his baseline as true. In “Liberty as Durable Goods” the good Pastor Wilson wrote established the baseline here: So how do I get off saying that property rights are human rights? I am required to love all men because all men bear the image of God, and it is not possible to love a man without simultaneously respecting his stuff. “For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not… Read more »

Kelle Swanson
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Kelle Swanson

Dear Mr. Wilson,
These posts on the current state of affairs in our civil government and how to think Biblically about “what the hecketh is going on” have been very, very helpful. Thank you so much for addressing these issues.

john b.
Guest
john b.

“last point, note I am not arguing for any action other than the simple action act of recognition”. IN OTHER WORDS, IF YOU DID IT MIGHT COST YOU! Aren’t we thankful that the church was not founded on such words? Are we thankful that our country was not founded on such words? Abortion, “I am not arguing for any action ; homosexual marriage. “I am not arguing for for any action. Tyranny, “I am not calling for any action other than the act of recognition. If anyone is reading this comment, look to men such as the apostles, Daniel, Shadrach,… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

I’m still perplexed by this ridiculous logical leap: “God claims a tithe, and if that is all God needs, and if God is a jealous God, then we ought to see any attempt on the part of civil government to go past ten percent as an aspiration to Deity.” 1) If this principle were true, it easily could have appeared at any number of places in Scripture, and yet nothing like it ever does. 2) I’m not seeing where God claims a tithe and says that’s all he needs. Even in Israel, the Israelites were told to give far more… Read more »

timothy
Guest
timothy

Jonathan Franzone you write: I’m still perplexed by this ridiculous logical leap: “God claims a tithe, and if that is all God needs, and if God is a jealous God, then we ought to see any attempt on the part of civil government to go past ten percent as an aspiration to Deity.” If we put it in the biblical context Pastor Wilson provided: First, the level of taxation must not rival God (1 Sam. 8:15). God claims a tithe, and if that is all God needs, and if God is a jealous God, then we ought to see any… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

john b, Your criticism is without merit. Nowhere within the series of posts has there been a statement that action is never to be taken. The premise is that zeal without knowledge is a deadly and losing proposition. If I told you (presupposing either knowledge, or ignorance) in a briefing that the IAD that we would use in a specific encounter would be a Australian Peel, you would either nod in understanding, or wonder what on earth it means. If the need or order came to execute the tunnel of love, unless your knowledge and expertise was reflexive, you place… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Timothy – you don’t answer any of the questions that I asked. On the Biblical exposition, Isaiah 14:13 and Genesis 3:5 don’t go anywhere towards supporting Pastor Wilson’s case. All humans are tempted to sin, which includes idolatry, yes. The king of Babylon thought he was greater than God, yes. I hope we don’t need to specifically quote scripture to know that people are sinful and that some of the most sinful think they are above God. But how do you get from “the king of Babylon once thought he was above God” to “any ambiguous entity of ‘government’ that… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

Jonathan,

” In fact, though having a king was a bad idea from the start, it was not a bad idea because the King would be above God.”

Really?

“And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.”

“But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’

Katecho
Member

Jonathan wrote: “3) I don’t see how anything that covers more than a tithe is aspiring to deity. To shift the analogy a little, if you give more than 10% of your income to your mortgage, are you worshiping the mortgage? If you spend more money on your mortgage than you give to your church, have you placed your mortgage above God? If that relation doesn’t hold there, then why should it hold for taxes?” There are greater concepts than being good little capitalists and consumerists. Many in our culture look at tithes simply as payment for pastoral/counseling services rendered,… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Regarding our government’s aspirations to Deity, it’s not a great mystery. You can find the god of a system by looking for the highest appeal of authority in that system. When all appeals have been exhausted, whatever is the court of final appeal is the god of the system. In our current secularized government, that highest appeal is the Supreme Court. Nine judges in black robes will justify themselves by referring to prior precedent and/or will occasionally nod in the direction of the Constitution, but the authority cited in all cases is a human authority. God’s authority is simply not… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

katecho,

Thank you for using terms such as King, subjects, duty, honor, loyalty and fealty.

I think that the Church has been diminished by the seeming Ichabod of this type of language.

When God said “act like men”, I do not think that the recipients of that admonition said “my heavens, what possibly could He mean by that…”

timothy
Guest
timothy

Timothy – you don’t answer any of the questions that I asked.

I tend to stop reading after the first straw-man, red-herring or genetic fallacy; my time is valuable.

cheers.

t

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Timothy – our conversations are becoming increasingly more useless then. You used to insult me by misquoting and misinterpreting me. Now you just insult me without even bothering with quotes or interpretations.

I’d love to get somewhere with this. But it takes two.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

RFB – The people’s failure to obey God and accept his decision to be their only king certainly constituted a rejection of God as Lord. But that is the rejection of God by the people, not the aspirations of the one taking the role. God still, from the beginning, asked for the king’s obedience, He didn’t assume that the act of being a king would set himself above God. Looking through Israel’s history of kings, it was clear that the very existence of a king did not mean that that king would reject God as being his Lord – for… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Katecho – I agree with you that a mortgage is different from a tribute tithe. You’re attacking the wrong part of the argument. The problem is that income tax is also quite different from a tribute tithe. However, for his sake, a tribute of fealty is not a purchase, as in a mortgage. In the case of a mortgage, the purchaser receives a house of similar value, and isn’t rendering a sacrificial offering at all. There is equivalent material compensation. But the tribute tithe is truly sacrificial. The loyal subject isn’t getting goods of equal value in exchange. It is… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Jonathan wrote: “If this is how a tribute tithe is different from a mortgage, wouldn’t it also be how a tribute tithe is different from the current tax system? Our taxes are not a tribute of fealty, and they are indeed a payment for many services rendered. The money simply does not go into the pockets of the king and his cronies – it goes to programs that serve us, which our elected representatives have chosen.” I already addressed this in detail. I pointed out how the culture has come to see taxes as simple payments for social services and… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Jonathan suggests that a tribute to a king was simply for the purpose of enriching the king and his cronies. Why doesn’t Jonathan have this same view with regard to the tribute rendered to God as King? Perhaps Jonathan is simply being consistent with his expectations of impersonal capitalistic consumerism? Gone is the notion of honor and duty and obligation. Taxation is a straight up purchase. I didn’t think I’d see Jonathan towing the line for naked consumerism. Katecho, where did you come up with sentence 1, and how do you jump from there to sentence 2? Your assumptions about… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Jonathan wrote: “I was asking when (which administration) and who (which figures within that administration).” Any civic administration that persists, indefinitely, through wartime or peacetime, with a standing claim on more than 10% of the productive output of its citizens is usurping for itself more than the sphere of responsibility and power that God has rightfully given to it. Such administrations have outgrown their britches and effectively (though perhaps not consciously) aspire to a higher tribute and position than God. If they can’t do things normatively, under 10%, they are demanding to cover more than they have jurisdiction and responsibility… Read more »