Socialism seems to provide us with the promise of a more peaceful, equitable, and compassionate society. Government uses tax dollars for special programs intended to help those who, for whatever reason, are unable to afford food, clothing, or shelter. It is a mission often championed by Friends; a mission that “corrects” the perceived inequalities generated by the free market. More recently, politicians like Bernie Sanders have garnered great popularity across the nation for promoting even more expansive social programs like free public college and a single-payer healthcare system. As Friends, these programs seem essential in shaping our society into one of love and compassion.
There is a problem, of course, with the socialist (and yes, even the “democratic” socialist) system as we know it. The entire system is predicated on what is little more than legalized theft. Unlike non-profit charities, government needs not rely on voluntary contributions to fund their social programs. Why? It’s really quite simple: guns. Imagine for a moment that instead of standing on a street corner with a red tin, ringing a bell, the Salvation Army Santa Claus walked up to passersby, stuck a gun in their ribs, and demanded one-third of whatever was in their pockets in order to clothe the homeless. As Friends, we would never, ever, stand for that sort of behavior, no matter the cause, no matter the ends it achieved. Unfortunately, this is exactly the kind of behavior that the government engages in year in and year out in America in order to fund its social programs. And sadly, not only do Friends stand for it, most are enthusiastic supporters of these government programs despite the violence and aggression necessary to fund them. My question is, why?
Why are Friends so willing to use government force? This is the same government force that which Friends have spent centuries opposing in its military interventions abroad; the same government force that which Friends have worked so tirelessly against in its treatment of minority groups and poor people. Do the ends justify the means? Sure, you might not think that the taxation of one’s income by the government is as violent or threatening as I make it to be, and in the vast majority of cases you’d be right. But what happens if someone decides to stop paying taxes?
Of course, Friends who have refused to pay taxes as a means of conscientiously objecting to military operations know exactly what can happen in that instance; you go directly to jail…you don’t pass go…and you most certainly do not collect $200. Most Friends fully expect to go to jail for their beliefs and are incarcerated willingly, as resisting arrest would not be consistent with the pacifism of Friends. However, what would happen if a person refused to go willingly? The government would use physical force to literally drag them into prison. What if that same person resisted further? As we have seen on television far too often of late, law enforcement often does not hesitate to use violent or even deadly force on someone who is resisting arrest.
Police officers placed Eric Garner in a chokehold for 15-19 seconds because they believed he was resisting arrest and as a result, Eric Garner died from strangulation. What did Eric Garner do to warrant being arrested? He was selling tax-free cigarettes on a street corner in Staten Island. He wasn’t even selling them out of a storefront, heck, he wasn’t even selling them by the pack. Eric Garner lost his life due to a confrontation with police that stemmed from him selling individual cigarettes tax-free while standing on a street corner. Did police kill him intentionally? Probably not, but intentional or not, the force used turned out to be quite deadly.
All tax collection is predicated on the threat of force on the part of the government. Some taxes, like stamps or tolls, are paid voluntarily and can be avoided if necessary. Don’t want to pay taxes to fix the highways? You don’t use them. Don’t want to pay taxes to fill postal trucks up with gas? You don’t send letters. However, the income tax is an involuntary tax that cannot be avoided. And, just to make sure there is no funny business on your part, the government goes ahead and collects its taxes before you even receive a paycheck. This action on the part of government is backed up by a lot of lawmakers, judges, and government agents with guns.
A recent report stated that the IRS spent almost $11 million on guns, ammo, and other military style equipment between 2006 and 2014. And, just in case you are thinking, “well, we’ve always had an income tax, so we might as well use it for something good,” you’re wrong. Up until 1913 and the passage of the 16th Amendment, the taxation of income was illegal. One could even argue that the drastic expansion of our military industrial complex and our current status as a global military empire is largely due to the legalization of the income tax.
Are these the kinds of behaviors we want to endorse? Are we really willing to use a violent and aggressive government in this way? A government that takes peoples money, without asking, and against their will (stealing), and one that is willing and able to kill you if you refuse to oblige is not a partner we as Friends should seek to procure in carrying out important charitable work. As an alternative, we should continue to support non-profit organizations that rely on donations and other gifts of the heart when it comes to fulfilling the need for social welfare programs in society. Better yet, and God willing, we could even do some of that work ourselves.
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