King Noah and Burdensome Taxes

July 7, 2011 | 113 comments
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A strain of popular Mormon thought appears to hold that a significant message derived from the story of King Noah is that taxes in excess of 20% are per se immoral, and drawing whatever inevitable conclusion follows from the current U.S. marginal tax rates. [fn1] It’s a fair application, I guess, of Nephi’s apply-the-scriptures-to-ourselves philosophy.

Still, I can’t believe that this is Mormon’s, or, for that matter, God’s, purpose in relating this story. If it is, it’s a relatively sloppily-delivered point: for the most part, the rate of tax is irrelevant. [fn2] The rate only has relevance in relation to the base (that is, the set of things that are subject to the tax). Think about which tax would be more burdensome to you: (a) 35% of your income, less amounts you invest and save, or (b) 20% of your entire income (or, for some of you, (c) 15% of your net worth)? It’s not clear until we know your income and how much you invest and save, but there is the possibility that the higher marginal rate of tax will cost you less money.

Mormon, however, neglected to let us know what the tax base was. He just tells us that Noah “laid a tax of one fifth part of all they possessed.” [fn3] So was Noah’s tax a property tax? an income tax? a consumption tax? a value-added tax? Did it tax their imputed income? Could they deduct their charitable contributions? (It looks like some sort of wealth tax to me, although even if I’m right, there’s no indication of its frequency or whether it taxes assets that have already been taxed, or a whole host of other relevant issues.) If Mormon’s point was that at some level, taxes become burdensome, and that a just society shouldn’t impose burdensome taxes, it would be helpful if he gave us more details.

I don’t mean to suggest that the fact that Mormon neglected to let us know the details of King Noah’s tax means he was not a good man, a good historian, or even a good prophet. But there is nothing in his writing or in the rest of scripture that suggests Mormon had any particular interest in or knowledge of tax policy. And this is why I don’t think Mormon’s point was that a 20% rate of tax is per se burdensome. Instead, he was using the concept of a burdensome tax as one of a series of details to help teach something else.

At this point, it seems fair, per Grant Hardy, to step back and look at why Mormon included the details he chose to include. [fn4] Hardy believes that Mormon is generally constrained by the facts of history, but organizes his narratives to provide aesthetically interesting, if didactic, accounts of history. Ultimately, though, he wants to increase his readers’ faith. [fn5]

Hardy points out that, in some cases, Mormon uses contrastive series, in which one group succeeds because of their own hard work, but another succeeds, and more spectacularly, as a result of miraculous intervention. [fn 6] But that’s not the only contrastive series that Mormon plays with. Mormon seems very explicitly to be contrasting King Noah with King Benjamin. The stories are adjacent to one another, and many details line up nicely.  For example:

King Benjamin King Noah
Father Omni 1:12: Mosiah: leaves land of Nephi, finds Zarahemla Mosiah 9: Zeniff: leads a group from Zarahemla to reclaim land of Nephi
Taxes Mosiah 2:14: I labored with mine own hands that ye not be laden with taxes [fn7] Mosiah 11:3: 20 percent tax
Commandments Mosiah 2:13: I haven’t suffered that you commit sin Mosiah 11:2: Caused his people to commit sin
Work Mosiah 2:14: labored with my own hands Mosiah 11:6: supported in their laziness
Principal desire Mosiah 2:20-21: whole soul in praising Mosiah 11:14: heart upon riches
Self-image Mosiah 2:25: less than the dust of the earth Mosiah 11:14: Boast in their own strength
Priests 6:3: appointed priests to teach 11:5: consecrated new prideful priests
Prophecy 3:2: receives the words of an angel. Basically, he’s a prophet 11:28: wants to kill the prophet

At almost every step, King Benjamin and King Noah faced the same external decisions and challenges. But Benjamin, the good king, makes one series of decisions, while Noah makes another. Mormon seems to be using the juxtaposition to present a stark example of choices gone wrong.

(As a side note, it looks to me like Mormon isn’t only creating a contrast between Noah and Benjamin; he also subtly engages in a dialogue with the Brass Plates. My Jewish Study Bible tells me that 1 Sam. 8-12 are schizophrenic toward the idea of a king, with chapters 8, 10:17-27, and 12 thinking negatively toward kingship, while the other chapters think positively of a king. In Chapter 8, though, Samuel warns the Israelites of what a king will do to them. Among the litany of horrors is that “[h]e will take a tenth part of your grain and vintage and give it to his eunuchs and courtiers.” [fn8] But Noah is twice as bad–he takes a fifth part and gives it to his wives and concubines, his priests, their wives, and their concubines. So not only is King Noah bad as compared to King Benjamin: he’s objectively twice as bad as the king of which Samuel warned.)

—-

[fn1] The links all come from the first page of a Google search for “king noah burdensome taxes.” I assume that, if I were to go to the next page of results or were to vary my search terms, I could link a whole lot more like-minded analysis.

[fn2] This may not be entirely true: there appears to be some credible evidence that corporations respond to marginal tax rates, not effective tax rates, in deciding in which country they should invest their capital. See here; but see here for a slightly more cautious view. I suspect, however, that the multinational allocation of capital wasn’t a particularly pressing issue back in Book of Mormon times; moreover, I’m pretty confident that regulating and taxing multinational corporations wasn’t in the top, say, two or three goals Mormon had as he included these stories.

[fn3] Mosiah 11:3.

[fn4] Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide 9 (2010) (“[C]hoices were made by someone as to what to include and what to omit, and how to represent characters and situations.”).

[fn5] Id. at 91-92.

[fn6] Id. at 166.

[fn7] Note that King Benjamin doesn’t say that he didn’t impose taxes; moreover, he doesn’t tell us what his virtuous level of taxation was, or what the tax base was, or any other details about the taxes that his regime may have imposed. Another reason to believe that Mormon’s inclusion of taxes was meant, not to make a tax policy point, but to provide a contrast.

[fn8] 1 Sam. 8:15.

113 Responses to King Noah and Burdensome Taxes

  1. Kent Larsen on July 7, 2011 at 8:00 am

    To me, much of the question over King Noah and taxes can be resolved when you look at the governmental systems involved. Noah imposed taxes by fiat — he was a King and (we assume) didn’t have to pay as much attention to what the people wanted. In contrast, we today have a democracy, and have a voice in tax policy.

    It is frustrating how much of today’s political debates concentrate on how evil “Washington” is, as if we were subjects with no voice at all. The same people who make this complaint then turn around and praise our American democratic system as the one in which the people choose.

    Just because you are in the minority about what level of taxes we should have doesn’t mean that level of taxation is immoral or illegitimate. In a democracy, you usually have to go along with what the majority wants, or persuade the majority that it is wrong.

  2. Sam Brunson on July 7, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Kent,
    An interesting point. I still think that puts too much emphasis on the importance of taxation in the King Noah story, and I think it’s belied by a couple things: for example, there is no condemnation of taxes that King Benjamin, also a monarch, may or may not have imposed, much less any other Nephite ruler. (Again, the BoM doesn’t really spend a whole lot of time on tax policy, but, to the extent the BoM people had governments–and they clearly did–their governments needed to raise revenue.)

    Moreover, I don’t think it’s fair to say that non-democracies don’t have the right to impose taxes; all governments need to raise revenue in order to function, historically, non-democracies have imposed taxes, and some of those taxes have been fair, while others haven’t.

  3. Jason Hardy on July 7, 2011 at 8:24 am

    I think it’s definitely important to look at Mormon’s motivation for telling the story the way he does while also taking into account Mormon’s personal biases. Mormon lived at a time when the government was utterly corrupt and failed his people completely. With the notable exception of his account of King Benjamin, Mormon has a tendency to focus on government (and society as a whole) the most when it’s the worst. The political chaos at the end of the book of Alma and in Helaman are detailed, while the peace following the visit of Christ is skipped over quickly (partially, in my opinion, because it would have been too painful for Mormon to talk in detail about things being so good for the Nephites when he was living at the end of the line for them as a people).

    He also greatly emphasizes the personal over the political. When Alma decides to give up the chief judge seat and focus on being high priest, we are given a decent understanding of his thought process that led to that decision, but very little information on how the people reacted to it, or what ramifications it had on how the government functioned. Mormon is far more interested in whether people in power make righteous decisions as individuals than in looking at any broader social or political issues.

    I say all that to make what’s probably a simple point–by repeatedly emphasizing the personal over the political, and by having a mistrust of government borne of a deep knowledge of what harm government can do when it goes wrong, Mormon could easily be persuaded that taxes were burdensome if the people paying them said they were.

  4. SilverRain on July 7, 2011 at 8:26 am

    I always thought the problem wasn’t in taxing, it was in the purpose of taxing to support a decadent lifestyle of the officials. If you read your comparison chart, it seems to support the idea.

  5. Julie M. Smith on July 7, 2011 at 8:47 am

    I think SilverRain is on to something: to me the point of the story isn’t “one fifth part” but rather “and all this did he take to support himself, and his wives and his concubines; and also his priests, and their wives and their concubines.”

  6. Dave on July 7, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Interesting post, Sam. Nice chart contrasting Benjamin and Noah.

    I think somewhere between 99 and 100% of appeals to scripture to support a person’s opinions about politics and public finance are projection rather than application. How does consecration (100% tax) fit into the conversation?

  7. Jon on July 7, 2011 at 8:50 am

    On the tax issue. I think we need to look at the principles of the matter. What is the core principle? “Thou shalt not steal.” (Actually, even more core than that is the 2nd great commandment where stealing can be derived from.) What does it mean to steal? I define theft as the involuntary transaction of goods or services between two or more entities. So, really, any tax that is not voluntary for the individual(s) involved is corrupt.

    So once we realize that when we take property of others and transfer it to the state is a form of theft, we realize how sacred these funds are. We must then want to lower the tax burden as much as possible. The main principle being, if we are to say that it is fair, is to tax at the lowest level possible, i.e., at the community, or city level, where people can actually have a choice in the matter. When we are taxed increasingly at higher and more abstract levels it is a fallacy to believe that because it is a “democracy” (it is a republic, not democracy) it is OK for 51% of the people to vote away the wealth of the other 49% of the people, since, at the local level, one can simply move to avoid the taxes (as businesses do all the time, to avoid local taxes), but once it is at the national, or even state level in some instances it defeats the purpose of the “democracy” and the people truly don’t have much of a choice.

    Take AZ for example, the state taxes the people with an income tax and then, with an agreement with the cities that they don’t do an income tax redistribute the tax back to the cities based on population. Why was it done this way? To make it very difficult for the population to use the “democracy” to lower taxes.

    From my studies, that’s the logic I’ve used to try and understand taxes and how much is too much. I think there are things to be learned from the scriptures on the matter and we should try and understand them. But we also must not let them hold us back from learning more and greater truths by going to the foundational belief systems we have.

  8. Jax on July 7, 2011 at 8:51 am

    SilverRain beat me to my point. 20% wouldn’t be nearly as burdensome if used for wise and righteous purposes instead of squandered on wickedness (think currently). 5% would be burdensome when watching it go to people using it to waste – people would want that 5% back.

    Memory tells me that the early decades of this country had voluntary taxes, did it not? Both before and after the Revolution and then the adoption of the Constitution. Could it not be that King Benjamin’s gov’t, while needing to raise revenue, did it through voluntary taxation as well? When you provide a good useful service, people are willing to pay for it and the same goes for government. When gov’t is good, just, and useful, people see its usefulness and necessity in their lives and WILL pay taxes willing for it. When gov’t is rotten, then taxes stop getting paid willingly, which requires compulsive taxation to keep things going and leads to even more …. rottenness and waste.

  9. Sam Brunson on July 7, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Julie and SilverRain,
    I think, for our contemporary purposes, the message that we shouldn’t have a decadent lifestyle is the more important message. But I wrote about the tax side of things for a couple reasons:

    (1) I’ve heard the argument, not infrequently, that the King Noah story teaches us that taxes in excess of 20% are bad. I think that’s a specious argument, and it misses engaging with what the text is actually doing.

    (2) I’m a revenue-side guy. That is, professionally, I focus on the ways government raises revenue, not the way it spends its revenue. And this is one of those rare places where I can actually attach my professional interests with my religious ones.

    (3) I don’t know that the principal message is that a decadent lifestyle is bad. I think the principal message is, King Noah was a bad leader who contributed to the harm of his people. I think Mormon included both the decadence and the tax rate as details demonstrating why Noah was bad (and, in turn, why he dragged his people down).

  10. grego on July 7, 2011 at 9:12 am

    “A strain of popular Mormon thought appears to hold that a significant message derived from the story of King Noah is that taxes in excess of 20% are per se immoral, and drawing whatever inevitable conclusion follows from the current U.S. marginal tax rates.”

    Sam,
    First, thanks for being one of the only people to ever call me and my thinking “popular”, lol. :)

    With regards to taxes, I interpret my article to mean not that 20% taxes is immoral per se; but that (high) taxes, mixed with waste, lies, arrogance, lack of performing one’s duty, and corruption—all part of king Noah’s rule—is not cool.

    Here are BoM references to taxes, which I hope will add to the discussion:
    Mosiah 2:14 And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and *that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne*—and of all these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day.
    Mosiah 7:15 For behold, we are in bondage to the Lamanites, and are *taxed with a tax which is grievous to be borne*. And now, behold, our brethren will deliver us out of our bondage, or out of the hands of the Lamanites, and we will be their slaves; for it is better that we be slaves to the Nephites than to pay tribute to the king of the Lamanites.
    Mosiah 11:3 And he laid a tax of one fifth part of all they possessed, a fifth part of their gold and of their silver, and a fifth part of their ziff, and of their copper, and of their brass and their iron; and a fifth part of their fatlings; and also a fifth part of all their grain.
    Mosiah 11:6 Yea, and thus they were *supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes which king Noah had put upon his people; thus did the people labor exceedingly to support iniquity*.
    Ether 10:5 And it came to pass that Riplakish did not do that which was right in the sight of the Lord, for he did have many wives and concubines, and did *lay that upon men’s shoulders which was grievous to be borne; yea, he did tax them with heavy taxes; and with the taxes he did build many spacious buildings*.
    Ether 10:6 And *he did erect him an exceedingly beautiful throne; and he did build many prisons, and whoso would not be subject unto taxes he did cast into prison; and whoso was not able to pay taxes he did cast into prison; and he did cause that they should labor continually for their support; and whoso refused to labor he did cause to be put to death*.
    -=
    Mosiah 7:22 And all this he did, for the sole purpose of bringing this people into subjection or into bondage. And behold, we at this time do pay tribute to the king of the Lamanites, to the amount of one half of our corn, and our barley, and even all our grain of every kind, and one half of the increase of our flocks and our herds; and even one half of all we have or possess the king of the Lamanites doth exact of us, or our lives. (See also Mosiah 19:15; Mosiah 19:22; Mosiah 19:26.)
    -=
    And this:
    Mosiah 21:17 Now there was a great number of women, more than there was of men; therefore king Limhi commanded that every man should impart to the support of the widows and their children, that they might not perish with hunger; and this they did because of the greatness of their number that had been slain.

    To me the BoM says government/ ruling taxes = burdens.

    -=
    The comparison with king Benjamin is good.

    -=-=-=
    #3 (Jason Hardy) wrote: “I think it’s definitely important to look at Mormon’s motivation for telling the story the way he does while also taking into account Mormon’s personal biases. Mormon lived at a time when the government was utterly corrupt and failed his people completely.”

    And my guess is Mormon was at the top of the tax-supported payroll with his military position. ;)

  11. grego on July 7, 2011 at 9:16 am

    #10: I wrote: “To me the BoM says government/ ruling taxes = burdens.”

    (Not that anyone can’t figure that out in real life.)
    Whoops, put that quote above in context of what I first said about the article (“With regards to taxes, I interpret my article to mean not that 20% taxes…), and “some burdens must be borne”/ “it’s worth bearing some burdens”.

  12. Sam Brunson on July 7, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Jon, you’ll have to forgive me for not engaging with you, but the idea that taxation = theft is (a) not self-evident, (b) inaccurate, and (c) not interesting to me. If you want to discuss the proper level of taxation, or the allocation of taxation to local, state, or national governments, I’m happy to engage.

    And Jax, the early Republic didn’t have an income tax–the Constitution originally prohibited unallocated direct taxes and, in about 1894, the Supreme Court struck down a federal income tax as unconstitutional. (There was a federal income tax during the Civil War, but it disappeared after the war ended.) The 16th Amendment permitted income taxes in 1913.

    That said, federal taxes in the early Republic were not, to the best of my knowledge, voluntary. The government was primarily funded through excise taxes on goods. (In fact, during George Washington’s presidency, there was a whiskey rebellion spurred on by excise taxes.)

    Technically, though, our federal income tax is considered voluntary, because we self-assess our liability and self-report.

  13. Sam Brunson on July 7, 2011 at 9:25 am

    grego,
    First, you’re welcome. And I can totally get behind your statement “With regards to taxes, I interpret my article to mean not that 20% taxes is immoral per se; but that (high) taxes, mixed with waste, lies, arrogance, lack of performing one’s duty, and corruption—all part of king Noah’s rule—is not cool.”

  14. SilverRain on July 7, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Let me clarify, Sam. I’m not saying that the principle message was that decadent lifestyle is bad, but that when a person is in a position of power, to use that power for one’s own personal sin.

    To me, it ties into the principle of divine leadership.

    King Benjamin is held up as an example that secular leadership does not necessarily have to lead to aggrandizement.

  15. SilverRain on July 7, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Sorry, one’s own person GAIN IS sin.

  16. SilverRain on July 7, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Sorry, one’s own personal GAIN IS sin.

  17. SilverRain on July 7, 2011 at 9:47 am

    I give up. ;)

  18. Jason Hardy on July 7, 2011 at 9:52 am

    #10 (grego) wrote:

    “And my guess is Mormon was at the top of the tax-supported payroll with his military position. ;)”

    Quite possibly true. But it wouldn’t be the first time a general on the payroll expressed disgust with how everything else in the government was being run!

  19. Jax on July 7, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Sam,

    I know before the revolution that John Adam’s father was a municipal tax collector. He went from home to home and asked for taxes, if they said No then there was no pull to get them to pay, no leverage to use against them. They only real tool he had was to be likable and to be able to convince people that keeping gov’t running was a good idea.

    I don’t know whether this continued after the revolution under the Articles of Confederation, or after the Constitution. I think it did until the 1913 amendment, but I’m not sure. I didn’t suggest it was a primary for of financing, like you must of thought I was suggesting, but it was around for at least a period in our history.

    You say income taxes are voluntary, but what happens if I don’t pay them? Are they voluntary if I can go to jail for not paying?

  20. john f. on July 7, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Great post Sam.

    But, ultimately, the tax-related bit from the King Noah story has no application to the United States or any other representative democracy, whether in the form of a constitutional Republic, like the USA or a parliamentary democracy, like the UK.

    As you know, taxes in a representative democracy are the result of the voice of the people. Legislation in a representative democracy will always go against the grain for a minority of voters who would have preferred other candidates or policies to have held the day at election time. Arguing that taxation in a representative democracy is illegitimate or by force or evil because it essentially “forces” some people to pay who voted against the tax is actually an argument against democracy itself. And, frankly, in a representative democracy, all legislation of any kind, whether called a tax or not, is actually essentially a tax, and will always be against the will of at least some of the constituency. If republican or parliamentary democracy is illegitimate because of this taxation argument, then what is being suggested as its alternative? The stewardship based socialist/communitarian utopia described in 4 Nephi? In that situation, it won’t be a democratic majority deciding how much a particular person pays into the common pot — it will be a Mormon bishop.

  21. Jon on July 7, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Sam,

    That’s OK, I know it hurts people’s sensibilities to see truth for what it is. It’s hard to get at the core of our understanding and when that understanding is different from are presuppositions we sometimes wish they weren’t there and will continue on as if they weren’t since it changes are whole outlook on life, it can destroy our whole self image.

    I see nothing that is inaccurate and not self evident in my arguments, if you don’t wish to engage with me then I can’t see what you think is inaccurate and am resolved to believe the paragraph above is true. But to each his own, I cannot change your opinion or desires, neither can I change mine, I only seek for truth.

    For the record I was discussing the proper level of taxation, for local, state, and federal taxes from the principled standpoint of the gospel and universal truth (among all people of the world). If you wish to not look at the fundamentals then the whole conversation is null and void since you must take some axioms to be true, like we must be taxed, but I see nowhere where this to be self evident but an assumption that isn’t proven.

  22. Scott Armstrong on July 7, 2011 at 10:28 am

    I’m with those who’ve said that the use of the tax money was the egregious thing. If 20% got nice roads and public buildings, it might be a good deal. But we know that Noah was spending the money on expensive elf shoes and pet jaguars.

  23. Jon on July 7, 2011 at 10:31 am

    John F,

    That was my point. Once the government becomes so large at the national level there is no voice of the people any more since a large minority is forced to do things they otherwise wouldn’t. That is why I can see a local government being OK, but once the federal government becomes so large there is no voice of the people any more. Look at Obama’s promises. None of them have come true, we are in more wars, people are still tortured, the 4th amendment is dead, and more debt is accrued (a form of taxation), and inflation is predicted to rise (another form of taxation). There is no representation of the people since it is difficult for the people to understand what is going on at such a high level.

    Democracies and republics only work when the majority of governance is at local levels.

  24. john f. on July 7, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Jon, I think you’re saying the opposite of what I am saying. I am saying that taxation in the United States and all other Western representative democracies is effected through the democratic legislative process. This means that taxes that are enacted reflect the will of the people. Every legislative act, including acts specifically creating taxes, will run contrary to some portion of the electorate’s wishes. And yet, we live in a society based on the rule of law and therefore even those who objected to the legislation and voiced that objection through their vote have to comply with the legislation, including when the legislation in question is a tax. The consequence is a penalty from the government (which government is “we the people”), whether a fine or in extreme cases, prison.

    There is no comparison of taxes under our current system to taxes imposed by a tyrant like King Noah. There are at least two major differences that completely render King Noah’s taxation uncomparable to our situation in a representative democracy:

    (1) King Noah’s people had no voice in enacting those taxes. There was no democratic process, no elected representatives, no parliamentary debate, no free expression of philosophical and/or ideological differences or ultimate vote on the proposed legislation. Instead, King Noah mandated the tax and forced everyone to comply.

    (2) King Noah’s taxes were used to fund his riotous living and lascivious lifestyle, as well as those of his inner circle, and to build extravagant monuments and buildings for his own honor and personal use. The taxes were therefore truly oppressive. By contrast, in the United States, taxes are used for public purposes and though there is a considerable amount of wastefulness because of the nature of our system and because of the weaknesses of the bureaucracy (not to mention the influences of our corporate special interests), the taxes are not levied for the self-aggrandizing purposes of a particular tyrant.
    Not paying a tax

  25. Peter LLC on July 7, 2011 at 11:04 am

    For the record I was discussing the proper level of taxation, for local, state, and federal taxes from the principled standpoint of the gospel and universal truth (among all people of the world).

    Never let it be said that you do not aspire to great things.

  26. Sam Brunson on July 7, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Jax (19),
    You could well be right about Adams’s father–I don’t know a lot about historic local taxation. FWIW, the Constitution didn’t prevent states from imposing income taxes–or other types of taxes–if they wanted. But federal revenue came principally from excise taxes.

    You say income taxes are voluntary, but what happens if I don’t pay them? Are they voluntary if I can go to jail for not paying?

    Two things: first, you are very unlikely to go to jail for not paying your taxes, unless you really want to go to jail. You are far more likely to be subject to significant and punitive civil fines, penalties, and interest.

    Second, yes. Even though you can go to jail for not paying your taxes, ours is a voluntary system. Like so much legal language, “voluntary” in the tax context is a term of art. Like I said earlier, it means that the collection of taxes is “based upon voluntary assessment and payment, not upon distraint.” (cite). That is, you calculate and tell the government how much you owe, then you write the government a check.

  27. Sam Brunson on July 7, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Jon, the burden’s on you. If you want me to engage you, tell me (a) how you define taxation, (b) how you define theft, and (c) why taxation and theft are equivalents. You assume (c), but, unless you have some idiosyncratic definition of taxation or of theft, I have no idea how you get there.

  28. Sam Brunson on July 7, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Oh, I see (23) you’re treating debt as taxation. I still can’t make the connection between theft and tax, but your definition of tax is much, much broader than any standard definition.

  29. john f. on July 7, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Sam, in essence, all legislation in a constitutional republic or parliamentary democracy is taxation because it obliges at least some people to do something or refrain from doing something, and every such action or lack thereof has an opportunity cost. I can see why Jon is doing the mental gymnastics necessary to frame the alarming debt as taxation but I agree completely with you that there is no way to frame taxation as theft in a representative democracy. To claim that is to argue against democracy as a principle rather than specifically against taxation.

  30. Julie M. Smith on July 7, 2011 at 11:43 am

    “expensive elf shoes and pet jaguars”

    Scott Armstrong FTW.

  31. Last Lemming on July 7, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Like so much legal language, “voluntary” in the tax context is a term of art.

    When it comes to taxes, you would be well advised to avoid terms of art if you wish to be understood.

    Similarly, right-wingers should not assume that everybody understands their code words.

  32. Sam Brunson on July 7, 2011 at 11:46 am

    john f., your definition of taxation is broader than mine: I see taxation as having two parts, the obligation aspect that you mention and a revenue aspect. Moreover, the revenue side of things generally needs to be the collection of income without a market transaction (that is, when I pay my taxes, I don’t receive a particular, tangible return; if I received a particular, tangible return, I’d just be paying for services). But I understand why Jon wants debt, etc., to be taxes and, in fact, the government’s incurring debt currently theoretically leads to higher future taxes. Or at least it should.

  33. john f. on July 7, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Sam, of course taxation literally means what you say in # 31 — and not just because you’re a tax law professor! I was just speaking conceptually because arguments denouncing taxation as illegitimate per se in a representative democracy apply equally to all legislation in a democratic society. The logic is the same — if taxes are illegitimate because some people who did not want them have to pay them to be free from penalties, then all other legislation in a representative democracy is illegitimate for the same reason.

    This is just to say that my broad definition of taxation was merely an aside and my comments do not rely on that being a literal or working definition of taxation.

    As you note, the point remains that it will require a major effort to establish that taxation in a representative democracy is theft.

  34. Jax on July 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Oh come on. You can’t see how taxation could be equated to theft? I can’t come into your house and demand your money. Neither can any of your neighbors. How can a group of people, none of whom have the right to perform an act, delegate to the government power to do it? If they don’t have the authority (taking funds in this case) then they can’t give it to someone else.

    I can’t hire a Realtor to sell my neighbors house, I can’t authorize a mechanic to alter their car, I can’t ask a person to take money from anothers accout – without committing a crime. I cannot convey to government authority I do not possess. Since NOBODY possesses authority to take money from another without his knowledge and permission, the power to impose an involuntary tax system, which is what we have, does not derive from the governed. The only way to justify non-voluntary taxation without calling it theft is to view the government as supreme and that the governed and granted rights from it, rather than the individual as supreme and goverment drawing its power from them. A just government CANNOT draw power from people that the people do not possess.

  35. Jon on July 7, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    I would think the onerous would be put on the person that says just because the majority vote for something that it magically becomes OK to do things that otherwise wouldn’t. But, since you must, I will quote someone else, who is more elegant than me, on this subject. BTW, I consider taxation anything that the state takes from an individual for the continuation of itself without giving direct return of services that were voluntarily asked for by the individual.

    It is also contended that, in democratic governments, the act of voting makes the government and all its works and powers truly “voluntary.” Again, there are many fallacies with this popular argument. In the first place, even if the majority of the public specifically endorsed each and every particular act of the government, this would simply be majority tyranny rather than a voluntary act undergone by every person in the country. Murder is murder, theft is theft, whether undertaken by one man against another, or by a group, or even by the majority of people within a given territorial area. The fact that a majority might support or condone an act of theft does not diminish the criminal essence of the act or its grave injustice. Otherwise, we would have to say, for example, that any Jews murdered by the democratically elected Nazi government were not murdered, but only “voluntarily committed suicide”—surely, the grotesque but logical implication of the “democracy as voluntary” doctrine. Secondly, in a republic as contrasted to a direct democracy, people vote not for specific measures but for “representatives” in a package deal; the representatives then wreak their will for a fixed length of time. In no legal sense, of course, are they truly “representatives” since, in a free society, the principal hires his agent or representative individually and can fire him at will. As the great anarchist political theorist and constitutional lawyer, Lysander Spooner, wrote:

    they [the elected government officials] are neither our servants, agents, attorneys, nor representatives . . . [for] we do not make ourselves responsible for their acts. If a man is my servant, agent, or attorney, I necessarily make myself responsible for all his acts done within the limits of the power I have intrusted to him. If I have intrusted him, as my agent, with either absolute power, or any power at all, over the persons or properties of other men than myself, I thereby necessarily make myself responsible to those other persons for any injuries he may do them, so long as he acts within the limits of the power I have granted him. But no individual who may be injured in his person or property, by acts of Congress, can come to the individual electors, and hold them responsible for these acts of their so-called agents or representatives. This fact proves that these pretended agents of the people, of everybody, are really the agents of nobody.

    Furthermore, even on its own terms, voting can hardly establish “majority” rule, much less of voluntary endorsement of government. In the United States, for example, less than 40 percent of eligible voters bother to vote at all; of these, 21 percent may vote for one candidate and 19 percent for another. 21 percent scarcely establishes even majority rule, much less the voluntary consent of all. (In one sense, and quite apart from democracy or voting, the “majority” always supports any existing government; this will be treated below.) And finally how is it that taxes are levied on one and all, regardless of whether they voted or not, or, more particularly, whether they voted for the winning candidate? How can either nonvoting or voting for the loser indicate any sort of endorsement of the actions of the elected government?

    Neither does voting establish any sort of voluntary consent even by the voters themselves to the government. As Spooner trenchantly pointed out:

    In truth, in the case of individuals their actual voting is not to be taken as proof of consent. . . . On the contrary, it is to be considered that, without his consent having even been asked a man finds himself environed by a government that he cannot resist; a government that forces him to pay money renders service, and foregoes the exercise of many of his natural rights, under peril of weighty punishments. He sees, too, that other men practice this tyranny over him by the use of the ballot. He sees further, that, if he will but use the ballot himself, he has some chance of relieving himself from this tyranny of others, by subjecting them to his own. In short, he finds himself, without his consent, so situated that, if he uses the ballot, he may become a master, if he does not use it, he must become a slave. And he has no other alternative than these two. In self-defense, he attempts the former. His case is analogous to that of a man who has been forced into battle, where he must either kill others, or be killed himself. Because, to save his own life in battle, a man attempts to take the lives of his opponents, it is not to be inferred that the battle is one of his own choosing. Neither in contests with the ballot—which is a mere substitute for a bullet—because, as his only chance of self-preservation, a man uses a ballot, is it to be inferred that the contest is one into which he voluntarily entered; that he voluntarily set up all his own natural rights, as a stake against those of others, to be lost or won by the mere power of numbers. . . .

    Doubtless the most miserable of men, under the most oppressive government in the world, if allowed the ballot would use it, if they could see any chance of meliorating their condition. But it would not, therefore, be a legitimate inference that the government itself, that crushes them, was one which they had voluntarily set up, or even consented.

    – Murray Rothbard

    See http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/twentytwo.asp

  36. Sam Brunson on July 7, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Jax, you’re analogizing the government’s imposition of tax with your selling your neighbor’s house, etc. Those analogies aren’t self-evident and, in fact, don’t seem to me to work. Maybe you can convince me otherwise, but it’s going to take more than asserting the analogies.

  37. Casey on July 7, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    I think that basing modern public policy beliefs primarily off any 1600+ year-old source (let’s set aside BoM authorship issues and lump the Bible in with that as well) is a little silly. But that’s just me ;)

  38. JKC on July 7, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    “I see nothing that is . . . not self evident in my arguments”

    That’s going to make having a conversation very difficult.

  39. Jon on July 7, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Sam, #26,

    “Even though you can go to jail for not paying your taxes, ours is a voluntary system.”

    That use of the word as voluntary seems like a bastardization of the word voluntary.

    Here’s the definition of voluntary:
    1. Done, given, or acting of one’s own free will.
    2. Working or done without payment.

    So I guess you could say under the 2nd definition it is voluntary. But I think the implication is that you give that “free” work of your own free will, which, I don’t think many people do.

  40. Jon on July 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Another question. If we don’t look at the basic principles of the matter and say we just rely on voting, then, principally speaking, there is no limit to how much you can tax, since it is all “voluntary”, which I don’t accept, but this whole argument doesn’t make since in this context since the percentage of tax doesn’t truly matter, it just matters how much people are willing to vote from others (and themselves). In this context there is no such thing as too much or too little taxation.

  41. H.Bob on July 7, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Jax, you said (#19): “You say income taxes are voluntary, but what happens if I don’t pay them? Are they voluntary if I can go to jail for not paying?”
    Couldn’t you posit this same argument about speed limit laws? Are they truly voluntary if you can go to jail for breaking them? Aren’t you giving up some of your “liberty” by abiding by them, or allowing others to write laws that can or should take away your freedom if/when you drive your car at 110 mph in a school zone? Seems to me that the social contract that democracy entails is what you’re arguing against.

  42. Jon on July 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    H.Bob,

    Your assuming the “social contract” is voluntary. It’s just a nice way to get a slave to do what you ask.

    If a slave on a plantation said, “Masta, I’m not free, let me be free.” Then the master says, “You are free, son, I give you food to eat, a place to live, entertainment, trails to walk on, tools to work with, all I ask for in return is that you work for me. Don’t think for a minute that you can not work for me, because, if you don’t, I’ll throw you in the black box in the back for a week.”

  43. Jax on July 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Sam, maybe the analogy doesn’t work for you. But I didn’t just give an analogy, I gave the argument supporting the analogy. I wasn’t comparing the house sale to theft – I was showing that I can’t give someone else authority to do what I cannot. If I can’t sell the neighbor A’s house than I can’t authorize a Realtor to do it for me. Maybe both neighbors B and C agree that A should sell his house, still that does not mean we can do it. It is his house and his authoriy alone required for it to be sold. It doesn’t matter how many people, how great a majority agrees with us that A should sell his house, for us to do so without gov’t would be a crime. We cannot therefore pass on to our government the authority we do not possess, the authority to sell his home without it likewise being a crime.

    The same goes for taxation. I cannot compel another to give up his money, it is his property. I cannot give gov’t authority to compel him, because I don’t have the authority to give. No individual has that authority to give to gov’t, so where does gov’t get it? To be sure it is not from the governed! There are a great many things that I think would be useful for government to do, that I can authorize them to do. But taking money, or any form of property, is NOT one of them.

    If government draws it power from the people (as is contained in our founding documents and the foundation of our government) how can government possibly draw power from people that the people don’t possess?

  44. Mark Brown on July 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Jax, there are all kinds of things the government can do which you cannot. You can’t imprison your neighbor, but under the right circumstances the government can. There are so many other examples of the state legitimately exercising power where citizens can not that is is kind of mind-boggling to me that you and Jon continue to derail what could otherwise be an interesting discussion with this bizarre comparison of taxation to theft.

  45. Sam Brunson on July 7, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Jax, it’s a common libertarian argument (although technically, libertarians grant government the right to tax real property), but it rests on the assumption that the power to tax isn’t a natural power of government.

    As a matter of fact, one of our founding documents (as you say) expressly gives Congress the power and authority to “lay and collect Taxes.” And since the Constitution has legal force, whereas the Declaration of Independence probably only has rhetorical force (I have a friend who argues that the DoI does have legal force, but that’s a minority view and I’m a tax guy, not a con law guy, so I can’t really speak to that argument), my guess is my founding document trumps your founding document.

    In any event, though, the belief that government doesn’t have the authority to collect taxes rests on an implicit–and not unchallenged–belief. Historically, legally, and documentarily, government has both the authority and the responsibility to collect taxes in order to provide the services a government needs to provide. We can argue about the best form of those taxes, the best rate for those taxes, and the things that such revenue should be spent on, but claiming that taxes are illegitimate theft because we haven’t acquiesced to them is wrong.

    And Jon (40), watch the racist language. And the your comparison of taxpaying to the abuses of involuntary African slavery is both weak and hugely offensive to the vast human suffering that slavery entailed.

  46. Sam Brunson on July 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Sorry, as Mark points out, debates over the morality of tax law don’t have a lot to do with reading and understanding King Noah, and frankly, I’m more interested in your thoughts about how we should read this passage. So maybe sometime later I’ll put up a cage match for different takes on tax legitimacy, but let’s not play that game here anymore. Thanks.

  47. Jax on July 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Mark, I can protect myself, my property, etc. I can use deadly force to do so. Because I have the right (God given and moral, not Gov’t given) I can pass that authority to my gov’t to do it for me, or in collaboration with me. The imprisonment of people who commit crimes is the way the gov’t protects people to are considered unsafe to be in public. It is how they exercise the authority they derive from the people, they authority to protect themselves. They protect us differently than we would ourselves, but it is the same authority used, usually, more effectively.

    Do you not agree that government gets it powers from the governed Mark? You are right that there are many examples where gov’t exercises power that citizens don’t have, but you are wrong to conclude it is legitimate.

  48. H.Bob on July 7, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    I’m beginning to see the wisdom in not engaging. #s 40 and 41 remind me why extremism on either side of the political aisle is so toxic: It’s based in fantasy. On the one hand, we have Jon, apparently an anarchist, arguing that democracy is slavery (using an unsavory and racist stereotype to do so). Taking that example to its natural conclusion, wouldn’t we end up in a state not unlike that of the modern nation of Somalia? Even if you take the “master” analogy at face value–who is it that you want to work for instead? If the money you’re taxed wasn’t spent as it is on national defense, crop subsidies, space exploration, and a host of other federal programs, what would you spend it on? And, taking the analogy to its absurd extreme, how will you like it when the benevolent master you’re currently serving is replaced by the totalitarian master who will take over if/when you stop working for the benevolent one?

    On the other hand (maybe it’s the same hand) we have Jax, whose whole analogy is built on quicksand. I mean, doesn’t the whole idea of “property,” public or private, depend on giving someone else authority to decide what is mine and what is someone else’s? I don’t see how, in the face of the fact that, yes, we DO give other people authority to do things in our name that we don’t have individually, that you can argue that we can’t. Maybe you could argue that we shouldn’t, but that gets us back in the fantasy camp. We DO. That’s the basis for all government–agreeing to live with some limitations on our ultimate freedom to do as we wish in return for some measure of security and, ultimately, the freedom to prosper within that system.

  49. H.Bob on July 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Sam, sorry about my #46–I was writing as you were posting. I’m done engaging that argument anyway. I’ll just point out that railing against the perceived injustices of modern-day democracy seems wildly ignorant of the actual injustices that were perpetrated throughout history (including the OP topic of King Noah). Not to mention ungrateful.

  50. Jax on July 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Sam, I think the gov’t has the authority to collect taxes, but that voluntary collection, as was historically used and argued for with income taxes, or taxes attached to products or service I willingly purchase and know are taxed, not compulsory taxation where if I don’t pay, all of my physical property can be seized and my liberty in jeopardy. That is not voluntary – they take our money by the threat of force, and if that doesn’t work they use that force. They collect taxes at the barrel of a gun, for that is exactly what I would be facing if I resist their collection when they come to get my home from me to force payment. No individual or non-gov’t group has the authority to take my property by physical means, so where does that gov’t get it?

    Does not the Constitution say that no person shall be deprived of their property without just compensation? Well, how can they give just compensation for my money without just replacing it with an equal amount of money? Does not forcing anyone to part with their money violate the constitution UNLESS it is voluntary?

    That is how I view the Noah v Benjamin tax codes. As was pointed out, Mormon isn’t very clear on the tax structures, but I view it as Benjamin providing legitimate services that people gave their authority to, so the tax rate didn’t matter because they were willing to pay for the services of gov’t. Noah however forced people to pay for his riotous living and waste and took the money by force. I think this country was founded upon something resembling the first, but has drifted quite close to the second.

  51. Raymond Takashi Swenson on July 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    One of the featured aspects of the abusive use of the taxes was set out by Mormon in Mosiah 11:8-13, which Hugh Nibley (I believe) called Noah’s “edifice complex”:

    And it came to pass that King Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings [Mormon has read Lehi and Nephi’s vision of the Great & Spacious Building and expects us to get the reference];

    and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of precious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper; And he also built him a spacious palace, and a throne in the midst thereof, all of which was of fine wood and was ornamented with gold and silver and with precious things. And he also caused that his workmen should work all manner of fine work within the walls of the temple, of fine wood, and of copper, and of brass. And the seats which were set apart for the ahigh priests, which were above all the other seats, he did ornament with pure gold; and he caused a breastwork to be built before them, that they might rest their bodies and their arms upon while they should speak lying and vain words to his people. [I love these little comments by Moroni]

    And it came to pass that he built a tower near the temple; yea, a very high tower [clearly harking back to the Tower of Babel],

    even so high that he could stand upon the top thereof and overlook the land of Shilom, and also the land of Shemlon, which was possessed by the Lamanites; and he could even look over all the land round about. And it came to pass that he caused many buildings to be built in the land Shilom; and he caused a great tower to be built on the hill north of the land Shilom, which had been a resort for the children of Nephi at the time they fled out of the land; and thus he did do with the riches which he obtained by the taxation of his people.

    In line with your table, and Grant Hardy’s thesis that Mormon is contrasting King Benajamin with King Noah, the only structure that is featured in the Benjamin narrative is the temporary tower he had built so that he could impart the words of angelic prophecy about Christ to his people. Contrast this with the imposing permanent structures King Noah built so he could glory in how much territory he controlled.

    Noah is also described as taking possession of vineyards so he could become a wine-bibber, in contrast to Benjamin’s humble labor in the fields with his own hands.

    In King Noah, we have the perfect exemplar of the “natural man” indicted by King Benjamin (and the angel) in Mosiah 3:19, in contrast to the humble servant of God and man whose only purpose in gathering wealth is to help others.

    No doubt Noah told his people that the building program would provide jobs and stimulate the economy. ;-) (My company got a billion dollars from the ARRA program, but now we have to lay off half of our work force.)

  52. Sam Brunson on July 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks Raymond. I like that addition to my chart (although, having spent much of the last month in Italy, I have to admit that I really like beautiful ornamented buildings).

    I should clarify: I’m using Hardy’s framework, and was inspired to look at this by him, but he doesn’t expressly contrast Benjamin and Noah. His interest is in contrasting similar experiences, like the escape of Limhi and his people (through their own hard work) and the escape of Alma’s more-righteous people (through divine intervention).

  53. Dan on July 7, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    fascinating how the comments seem to miss the point of the OP, that “taxation” in the King Noah story was not really about taxation itself, but about the wickedness of the king. And it is nice to see that someone else sees that Somalia is about the type of paradise for those who believe in anarcho-libertarianism.

  54. Jon on July 7, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Hey Sam,

    If you don’t want to argue principles of the matter that’s fine. You can do platitudes (#44) but they don’t amount to arguments. I’m just seeking for truth, if the truth offends I can stop commenting on the truth. Since you have this will be my last post on the matter.

    The comment on slavery wasn’t racist by the way, but was meant to convey a point.

    Racism:
    1. The belief that each race has distinct and intrinsic attributes.
    2. The belief that one race is superior to all others.
    3. Prejudice or discrimination based upon race.

    None of these applied to my comment and therefore, not racist. Just a warning, don’t watch any old movies and read old books (unless they have been edited for content), you’ll get offended.

    H.Bob,

    Somalia is an interesting case, unfortunately we will not discuss it here, and no, it is not a reflection on how anarchy would be in the US if the US went over to ordered anarchism.

    Some would think extremism would be created a highly centralized state that exercises violence over others for benign things, like keeping their money.

    Sorry Sam, I felt compelled to defend my position before it ended. I’ll keep my silence now on this subject as long as others do to (as Dan showed, he didn’t wish to respect your desire).

  55. Dan on July 7, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Since you have this will be my last post on the matter.

    Please let it be so.

  56. Anon this time on July 7, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Oh, yes, please let it be so. Not just on this matter, but on all matters. And let Jax follow the example.

  57. H.Bob on July 7, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    If “ordered anarchism” isn’t actually an oxymoron, it’s certainly a synonym for tyranny.

    There’s a lot to be learned from the King Noah story. I also was intrigued by Hardy’s discussion of Noah’s father, Zeniff–there’s an interesting story there, too: He decides to mend fences between the Nephites and Lamanites, leading a peace mission to live with the Lamanites, but his group fractures midway there, and end up killing each other. By the time he’s “King Zeniff,” he’s learned some lessons from real life (employing spies, not underestimating the venality of the Lamanite leadership), but still turns the kingdom over to his son, who (reading between the lines) is not ready for prime time. Noah then goes on to prove his father’s fears about him were correct. That’s Shakespearean-level tragedy right there, nevermind the taxation non-sequitur.

  58. Jax on July 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Why is Anon’s position so popular? “Everyone who doesn’t see things like I do should keep their mouth shut and go away so I don’t have to hear it.” Amazing to find these type of thoughts from people who think of themselves as respectable and fair. Disappointing

  59. Raymond Takashi Swenson on July 7, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    By the way, my guess is that the tax describes an assessment of 20% of all existing wealth (property tax), and then a new assessment each year. My guess is the taxed gold and silver was used directly in construction, while the grain was used to feed the workmen and traded for other materials. I also propose that, since the citizenry were expected to grow their own wealth each year, the assessment of 20% would be against their total accumulated assets each year (so much easier than trying to calculate income), so that the only way to keep up with the taxes would be to earn a 25% return compared to one’s remaining assets. In effect, it could amount to a 100% income tax. In that way, it could be pretty oppressive.

  60. JKC on July 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Sam,

    Do you think Limhi’s forced redistribution of wealth after the loss of a large percentage of men among his people and the corresponding excess of widows and fatherless is at all relevant to the Noah/Benjamin comparison?

    Two questions: First, can Limhi’s actions fairly be called a “tax” or is it something more like eminent domain (or, is there a difference? Some commenters apparently think “tax” amounts to any governmental action that a minority subject to it didn’t vote for).

    Second, why does Mormon not call Limhi’s tax “grievous to be borne”? Seems like an indication that the percentage is not the issue.

  61. Jon on July 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Yes, Jax, I look at their ignorance too, they think ordered anarchy is an oxymoron. They don’t even know what anarchy is, ordered chaos would be an oxymoron, but not ordered anarchy, and they think that it would lead to tyranny, when the current government they live under is headed that direction yet they just sleep on through it as if it isn’t even happening. Just like the Germans did under Hitler as described in the book “And We Thought We Were Free” (or something like that).

    Yes, people don’t like it when you point out the truth and it doesn’t jive with their world view so they either refuse to argue the point or use name calling/slander/jest to over come the thoughts but they are not intellectually equipped to make an actual argument to the contrary. That’s why I like the libertarians, they at least say, well, this is the truth but I’m going against it for XYZ reasons.

    Also, don’t know why people keep bringing it up when they don’t want more of it, if they don’t want more you think they would just let it drop.

    One thing I’ve found of liberals in general (not all of course) is that they say they are open to new ideas and different thoughts but once you introduce a new idea that turns their world tipsy turvy (sp) they become extremely antagonistic and hateful, look at Dan’s posts when I’ve conversed with him over at Wheat & Tares, he’s an incredibly angry and hateful person yet you would thing the progressive in him would lead to being nice. But I’ve found this amongst many so called progressives. I know they aren’t all like that but it does amaze me. I suppose that is why more conservative states tend to be freer when it comes to civil liberties.

  62. Dan on July 7, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    so much for “last post on the matter”…

  63. Dan on July 7, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    H.Bob,

    Noah then goes on to prove his father’s fears about him were correct. That’s Shakespearean-level tragedy right there, nevermind the taxation non-sequitur.

    I’ve thought so too. Truly if one were to write a fictional story based on Book of Mormon characters and events, this incident here provides the juiciest and richest underlying conflicts and characterization. It really is a fascinating event.

  64. John C. on July 7, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Jon and Jax,
    I hear that some idiot compared Korihor to Ron Paul. You should go to this post and give him whatfor! He’ll be happier to have you there than Sam is to have you here, missing the point of his post.

  65. Jon on July 7, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    If you want to the post to stay on tract why do you and your buddies keep derailing it? So much for loving to have different thought on different ideas.

    FWIW, I was on track when I was talking about different ideas on taxation and the scriptures since the first paragraph of the OP stated that some mormons thought this because of the scriptures in this area of the BoM. Well, I’m mormon and look to the scriptures to understand taxation, and I demonstrated my thoughts on the subject. Sam has asked us not to discuss this branch from the post but to focus on a different part of the post.

    John C, if you wish to respect Sam’s wishes, you should stay on the direction of the topic that Sam has desired to stay on. Otherwise making wisecracks doesn’t build anyone or anything up.

    If you guys want me to go into more detail on taxation and its implications I can. Because it doesn’t seem like many of you wish to stay on the topic Sam was hoping we would discuss.

    Only 36 comments to go so make your decisions wisely instead of wasting them on wisecracks.

  66. John C. on July 7, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Jon,
    Not to steal you away from Sam, who, I’m sure, loves you hanging around spouting irrelevancies, but your points (bizarre as I find them) would actually be relevant on the other post. Go there and opine. And don’t worry about my taking the truth to be hard; I’ve been doing that for a long time.

  67. Julie on July 7, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Jax/Jon,

    I interact closely with several LDS friends who share your adherence to ideas perhaps best championed by the French theorist Frederic Bastiat. I know they are people of genuine good will and will assume you are too.

    Accordingly, I am sincerely interested in understanding the foundations of your logic as it relates to the gospel of Christ.

    1. Please explain the religious justification for your contention that property ownership is a God-given right that trumps other concerns. I am well aware that this right is named in the United States’ founding documents. But you seem to feel this right trumps the Constitution on the matter of taxation, so I presume you believe your position derives from an authority higher than legal documents.

    As for me, I understand property rights to be an important part of maintaining orderly, peaceful societies (and I believe that is a most worthy–even spiritual–objective). But I see no religious reasons to assume property ownership is an eternal principle, or even a value more important than the many others that contribute to well-functioning societies.

    2. To extend my question to the realm of actual practicality: How exactly do I know which property is mine by God-given right?

    Is possession 9/10’s of the law? (Surely not if I’m a thief…?) Or is it my property because I worked for it? What if I didn’t personally work for it, but my great-grandfather did and I inherited it from him? But what if a byproduct of my great-grandfather’s work was that Native Americans were pushed off this property? Would my property then in reality be the God-given right of those Native American descendants?

    Now, of course, God does grant each of us abilities we can use productively. So perhaps these are the source of my right to property. But what if increases to my property come not as I labor by the sweat of my brow building a high-rise, but instead as I sit in that high rise relieving other people of their property by making risky (but so far lucky) hedge fund bets? Is the property thus acquired still as much my God-given right?

    3. And do other people (even the public) ever have any stake in what they contribute to my property? If I grow corn on my property, as I pick up the seed and deliver the harvest to market, I probably drive on public roads. When it rains, no doubt I am benefited by others in the community curtailing their actions so that our common air and water are clean. Is some share of the property then their God-given right?

    *****
    Okay, I know such specific hypotheticals are an annoyance when you’re trying to lay down absolute principles. But that’s what I’m asking about: Your argument seems to rest on the absolute principle that you have a right to “your” property (however defined) with no responsibility to acknowledge that your possession of the property might affect and be affected by others.

    In reality, we must admit, human affairs are messy. The abstraction of “property” has never worked as simply as your model seems to assume it should. I cannot speak for others, but I think this is part of why your assertion that taxation is theft is not self-evident.

    Now I know I open myself to labeling as a socialist/communist/worse simply by asking these questions. However, I assure you I believe capitalism to be the best system that humanity has yet developed for promoting the general welfare. I am simply wrestling with the huge responsibility of what it means to live as a Christian.

    I genuinely look forward to understanding your position better.

  68. H.Bob on July 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Far be it from me to argue semantics, but at least one of the definitions of the word anarchy is “absence of order.” An ordered absence of order IS an oxymoron.

    I think I get what’s being argued there, but the utopia the anarchists dream of isn’t possible. Humankind just can’t exist without order being imposed–or imposing it–on itself. Tyranny leads to revolution, which leads to anarchy, which leads to tyranny, ad infinitum. What we have at this moment in time, in much of the civilized world, is a tension between tyranny and anarchy, held together by the rule of law and a willing populace. Though it’s not perfect by any means, that doesn’t mean that when we come to believe that the tension on one side or the other is too great that we should throw the whole system out. I’m not terribly fond of people who dream about large-scale change without thinking of the real people who would be involved.

    The utopia, of course, is that everyone would live on their own property and barter between their neighbors for whatever they lacked. Of course, no one ever thinks that the same enmity that exists between neighbors today would be exacerbated in a world without law–the laws that keep me from poisoning my neighbor’s dog for various minor offenses are the same ones that keep my neighbor from killing me and moving into my house after I’ve given him reason to by killing his dog.

    And what does any of this have to do with King Noah and King Benjamin? I think you can argue Benjamin’s system of government, such as it was, was cognizant of that tension, and Benjamin worked hard to lessen the tyrannical nature of the system of government he led. You’ll notice he didn’t change the system of government–that happened much later.

    And Noah? He reveled in the tyrannical nature of the office he was given, and the balance snapped. And what happened to Alma’s people, who just wanted to be left alone in the corner of the Lamanites’ land they had negotiated and barter among their neighbors? Tyranny. Meet the new boss . . .

  69. Sam Brunson on July 7, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Hey John C., thanks.

  70. Jon on July 7, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Julie,

    Bastiat has some good ideas but he’s by far not an anarchist (more of a small government libertarian). Murray Rothbard would be more of a likely person to look at for anarcho-capitalism. If you are interested in the questions you are looking for I would suggest you look up the non-aggression principle (NAP), this is the same as the 2nd great commandment the Christ gave. From which you can derive property rights, which, I believe, Rothbard derived in “The Ethics of Liberty” found on mises.org for free.

    Out of respect for Sam, I won’t go into more detail on the subject matter/questions.

    H.Bob,

    You’re right, I’m wrong, yes anarchy is also defined as disorder, so I should use the term voluntarism instead. The utopia argument of “a world cannot exist without the state” was used for slavery also, but once they got rid of the slaves people still prospered (in part due to new labor saving technologies). Voluntarism wouldn’t be a utopia there would still be problems. There have been societies that have lived under voluntarism, such as Iceland, Somalia (which is faring really well despite the US and other countries involvement that is creating more violence), the Quakers in Pennsylvania (1600s I believe), etc.

    It’s impossible to know what a society would actually look like until it is done, so, like Somalia, we see that the society has, in general improved over what the previous dictatorship offered. To many people here voluntarism would look like government and then you would so, Oh, well that’s not anarchy that government. Well, yes, there would still be governance in voluntarism just not the state, two different things.

    John C,

    Yes, I see your post. I’ll take a look at it tonight. I don’t know why people call voluntarism crazy, it’s actually pretty crazy to say that you are afraid that one gang of people are going to hurt you and so you should make another gang of people that monopolize the system and end up being the gang over all. That’s really all government is, a “gang writ large”. The smart criminals go to the state not street gangs.

    All,

    Now, if everyone is finished. Let’s go back in the direction Sam wants us in, unless there are more hecklers out there.

  71. Dan on July 7, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    I’m still stuck on this:

    Since you have this will be my last post on the matter.

  72. Anon this time on July 7, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    You and I misunderstand him, Dan. By “last post,” he means that he personally must have the last word. Mark my words, we ain’t shed of him yet.

  73. Jon on July 7, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    For those that read my whole post from the same one Dan quotes (he just likes to take things out of context and mix truths and half truths with lies):

    “I’ll keep my silence now on this subject as long as others do to[o].”

    Stop heckling and let Sam have his thread back.

  74. Anon this time on July 7, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Told you so.

  75. Dan on July 7, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Indeed Anon. This troll will not go away.

  76. Brad on July 7, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Jon gets his ideas from Murray Rothbard, a self-labeled anarcho-capitalist the ideas of whom even a large number of libertarians (e.g. Tyler Cowen) denounced, who claimed that taxation was equivalent to theft. Jon, you should really read mainstream economic thought to at least get a sense of the predominant economic ideas out there. There is a reason why the ideas of Rothbard and other far-right ‘economists’ from the Austrian school have failed to gain traction in public policy. They are extreme! Also on comment #59 you should have thought your statement on conservative states and civil liberties more carefully. The so-called ‘conservative’ states were the ones imposing segregation, and are currently the most homophobic.

    Jax, like Jon, you have a horrible habit of not thinking before you make a post. You spew out the most extreme right-wing and ultra-conservative position possible which, as other commenters shoot you down, you eventually qualify.

  77. Admin on July 7, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    ADMIN WARNING:

    We’ve had enough on the Taxation Is Theft threadjack. Further comments along this line will be policed with the Moderation Stick. Anyone persisting in such comments will have 20% of their comments taken from them and given to support the decadent lifestyles of the T&S administrators.

  78. Sonny on July 7, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    “…decadent lifestyles of the T&S administrators”

    Who happen to have expensive elf shoes and pet jaguars.

  79. Kaimi Wenger on July 7, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    King Noah’s real problem was that he didn’t wait for people to finish their sentences.

    Abinadi was just dropping by to tell Noah that he would be burned at the stake young men’s activity if he didn’t wear sunscreen. (Noah was second counselor in the YM presidency.)

    Noah heard “burned at the stake” and interrupted before poor Abinadi could finish his sentence. It all went downhill from there.

  80. Jax on July 7, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    Julie,

    I think Jon and I operate on different waive lengths and will answer you myself and hope you don’t take his answers as mine.

    You ask what religious reasons make me believe in God-given property rights. I never said that, perhaps Jon did and I didn’t read his post; or perhaps you just thought that I meant to say it, or assume that I believe it. Inasmuch as there are many societies that have no property rights, both current and historical, that function spectacularly well, I have no belief that they are God-given. Our society/culture accepts them and so do I. Religiously, Zion will have no private property except for that property that is truly ‘private’ – your clothes, eyeglasses, journal, toothbrush, etc. – the things that are vital to you and that others would have no interest in. Each record we have of this state (Enoch, 4 nephi, early church, D&C commandments) say that we are to have “all things common” and not have property unto ourselves. I wish DEEPLY that the Saints would move toward this, but they have refused and move further away each day/year/decade. In regards to current day taxation, I believe in the need for taxation and in many of its uses – but it could and should be voluntary, not compulsory. As much as Brad says I’ve been shot down by other commentators for this view, I haven’t even read a response from them about it.

    Your second question was about not knowing what property is “yours”. I bet you would know what was your if a thief broke in and stole or damaged it. If you think your property might be someone elses, give it back!

    Do they have any right to the property. Yes. The earth is full and their is enough and to spare. But it is not given that one man should possess more than another. In God’s eyes, the only acceptable economic state for men is complete equality. But men’s schemes of equality will never be acceptable to God (Communism, Capitalism, Socialism, etc). They are all satanic deviants from the gospel plan of equality. Let me add though, that such equality, God’s plan for equality, will not be reached by compulsory taxation. Zion cannot be built without a willingness to look out for each other. It takes clean hands and a pure heart, not a desire to extract from others what one can’t provide for themselves or to exercise power over those you can take from.

    While we choose to ignore the Zion offered us, we live in a personal property environment. I reject the idea that others can force me to part ways with my property and call it justified. If what they were offering in return were beneficial and good I would part with it willingly. As long as what they are offering is beauracratic corruption, and rampant moral relativism, than I much prefer keeping my money and using it to buy milk for my neighbors, give them money to buy gas to get to church, and let my kids play little league.

    Sam originally posted about Noah and Benjamin. I think Noah’s government was much like today’s US gov’t. It doesn’t matter what the tax rate was, because it was taken by force and used immorally it was a great burden to the people. I don’t know about Benjamin’s tax system, but the BoM makes me think it was not compulsory and didn’t use it for selfish immoral ends. I think I mentioned that earlier. In fact I agreed almost completely with Sam’s OP, except to ask if he thought our tax system was voluntary.

  81. Dan on July 7, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Jax,

    The Book of Mormon has many examples of compulsion by otherwise “righteous” people. Think of Captain Moroni and telling people to either join him or die. In terms of King Benjamin, it is interesting that you don’t mention they were kings, both Benjamin and Noah. Not sure how familiar you are with history, but there are literally no examples that I know of where a king set up a tax system that was set on voluntarism. Maybe I’m wrong on this.

  82. Jon Young on July 7, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    People with a preconceived agenda have a tendency to fall into confirmation bias traps when looking at the world. For some, if they do not get their radical views accepted to their liking, they will conveniently find scriptures and prophets to bully their point on others. While doing this, they may miss the true lesson being taught. They may also risk turning others away from the truth.

    In this case, King Noah is an example of what NOT to do with tax money. Perhaps many in our government should learn from his story, but it is certainly not dictating a simplistic rule to be applied to a modern economy with very different needs.

    Oh, and not all guys named “Jon” think alike.

  83. Jax on July 7, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Dan,

    Captain Moroni didn’t compel random people to join him, he compelled those he had reason to kill because they had rebelled and used arms against him. His compulsion was mercy. It was giving them a chance to prove their loyalty again instead of suffering death for treason.

    Benjamin was a king as well. Sam covered that in his OP quite well with a good chart. Maybe no ‘Kings’ have set up tax systems on volutarism, but community leaders (by some name or other) have. I mentioned earlier about John Adams father collecting taxes in the Mass. Colony where it was paid voluntarily. I think taxes were collected on a volunteer basis after the Revolutionary War as well, but I asked that earlier too because I’m not positive. Supposedly our system is voluntary, that is what they call it anyway even though it is compulsory – they use force on you if you don’t ‘volunteer.’ I have no reason to think King Benjamin did have a voluntary tax system other than being in contrast to King Noah who was labelled as wicked for compelling taxes from people.

    I don’t see any reason why a good gov’t could function well on a volunteer system. The only reason you should need to compel people to keep a gov’t running is because they don’t like the services the gov’t is providing and have therefore decided not to pay. As long as the services are good, then there shouldn’t be any issues. The biggest problem is that most of the services/programs currently being run by government aren’t in the public interest at all. They are each in the interest of a small segment who wants the program, but wants everyone else to have to foot the bill as well. Most of the things that gov’t does, should and COULD be done privately. And compulsory taxation allows for that because people can’t stop funding bad programs – just like in King Noah’s reign.

  84. Dan on July 7, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Jax,

    King Noah who was labelled as wicked for compelling taxes from people.

    King Noah’s wickedness was not for compelling taxes from people. It was for compelling taxes from people to pay himself and those around him.

    The only reason you should need to compel people to keep a gov’t running is because they don’t like the services the gov’t is providing and have therefore decided not to pay.

    And we come finally to an agreement. This is exactly why we have compulsion within a given society. This is why some societies have compulsory military time for its young men. This is why some societies actually have compulsory voting (Australia, and some others, I can’t remember now).

    The biggest problem is that most of the services/programs currently being run by government aren’t in the public interest at all.

    I’d like you to show me which American services/programs run by the government are 1)not popular with the public, and 2) not in the interest of the public. Good luck. Of course you frame it with the words “not in the public interest” because that is tougher to figure out who gets to adjudicate what is in the public interest. Who gets to do that Jax? You?

    Most of the things that gov’t does, should and COULD be done privately.

    Maybe. Maybe not. Health care seems to be a service better provided to a larger number of people through the government rather than private. Public education seems to provide better educational service to a larger number of children (i.e. all of them) than private. Maintaining infrastructure, roads, bridges, tunnels, rivers, dams, sewage, energy seem to be handled better through the government than through private business. Hell, even prisons seem to be more efficiently run by the government than private ones. And don’t get me started on the failures of charter schools versus public schools. There’s a new report just out about Detroit’s charter schools faring worse than the public schools there. Even though charter schools and private schools have the right and ability to cherrypick which students can go there. Same for private prisons. Public schools and state prisons cannot hand off their worst to someone else. And yet they still seem to do just fine.

    And compulsory taxation allows for that because people can’t stop funding bad programs

    of course you can stop funding bad programs. Get enough support and you can do anything. We went into Iraq even though that was the dumbest thing we could possibly have done after 9/11. Even the most stupid thing in the world can be done if you get enough people convinced of the rightness of your cause.

  85. JKC on July 7, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Jon, the notion that ALL governments are gangs isn’t really consistent with Mormon teachings. Most relevant to this post, for example, the Noah/Benjamin comparison is one example of a government that was very similar in form, but very different in quality based on the choices made. I take it that you would agree that Benjamin was not a gangster.

    It’s also not consistent with the statement on governments canonized in D & C 134 that “governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man.” The interesting aspect of this statement is that it names God, not popular consent, as the source of governmental authority. Of course, this does not mean that governments are infallible or that they can’t be “gangs.” The very next sentence speaks of accountability of individuals for their actions in relation to government. Without the possibility of sin, there is no accountability.

    But the point is that just because governments can be bad, that doesn’t mean that the idea of governments is a bad idea in the abstract. It seems like it is very much Mormon’s point in making the Noah/Benjamin comparison that you don’t decide in the abstract whether something is good or bad. Government, taxation, etc.–all these things are bad when they are used for sinful purposes and good when they are used for good purposes.

    In our own nation’s history, for example, right to property is a good thing most of the time, but when it was used to defend the right to own human beings, it was abominable. I think that’s the point of the OP, that Mormon’s point is not that 20% taxation, in the abstract is either good nor bad, but rather that taxation for evil purposes was one of the many things that were bad about Noah’s reign.

  86. Jax on July 7, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    Dan,

    “to pay himself and those around him” sounds like what we’ve had since long before I was born, don’t you think?

    I’m confused though by you stating we agree that the only reason we have compulsory taxation is because people don’t like the services offered, but then question which services aren’t liked? Did you mistype something?

    By ‘public interest’ I mean that they serve, or benefit, everyone. The military obviously protects everyone in the US, so do police and ambulances, prisons, etc. Schools educate everyone, ambassadors represent each of us, each of us can drive on roads paid with gov’t funds, and so on. But what about farm subsidies? or WIC? or building tunnels under roads so turtles don’t get squashed? or affirmative action? or running Freddie/Fannie? or loaning money to Brazil? or curing AIDS in Africa?

    Many of these are noble ideas and do good and help people, but they don’t help the ‘public’ – they help segments of the public. Some programs benefit me and some benefit you. We agree that I’ll vote for yours and you’ll vote for mine and we’ll keep everyone paying for things that don’t benefit them but help us out alot. A former president of the FED said that our system is one where everyone is cheating everyone. Well it’s easy to see why. I’d much rather have a system of volunarism where no one is getting cheated. I don’t like thinking that I’m cheating others or that I’m being cheated.

    In the case of the last two (money to Brazil, and healthcare in Africa) they don’t even purport to help Americans at all. Now if Petrobras were a good investment I’m sure they could find private funding like all oil companies (who are apparenly so wealthy that many want to double their taxes). And I think that fighting AIDS and other help problems in Africa is admirable and honorable, but not in the realm of gov’t responsibility. That’s why I help the church do as much of it as I can, but I don’t think the purpose of the US gov’t is to make sure non-US citizens do well, do you?

    I did find something else we can agree on. “Even the most stupid thing in the world can be done if you get enough people convinced of the rightness of your cause” – yeah, like getting them to believe that compulsory taxation is a good and desirable thing rather than a form of theft =)

  87. Jax on July 7, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Oh, and how do you even do that ‘closed tag’ thing? I’d love to know?

  88. Brad on July 7, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Yes, of course Jax. You may not always acknowledge being shot down, but I would reckon most outside observers would acknowledge that to be the case. Check out most previous threads on hot button issues. You make some far right statement, are repeatedly shot down, although you remain in denial of it, and qualify. Case in point. Dan (80) just shot you down. Captain Moroni executed king-men for not taking up arms against the enemy. Was that not compulsion? Must the Nephites have resorted to a hawkish defense policy for preservation against the Lamanites? Couldn’t they have employed a more dovish policy and still maintained peaceful relations?

    And then you persist in right-wingedness, arguing that taxation in the US isn’t voluntary. Wrong again. Taxation is voluntary. First I don’t have to pay more than I am required to by law. Second, taxation wasn’t arbitrarily imposed by some president. It was voted on in Congress, by people who…ya know… represent the people. You want to pay lower taxes? You have the right to write your Congressperson, or even run for congressional office yourself, and make that case before Congress, and try to pass a bill.

    Maybe you and Jon wouldn’t mind living in an anarchist paradise such as Somalia, which according to Jon is faring rather well (he must some sort of an economic masochist), or Yemen. Just remember to take a gun. Security is privatized there, you’re on your own for defense.

  89. Jon on July 8, 2011 at 2:32 am

    I thought we were going to leave these topics (apparently the admin wasn’t serious), but if we must.

    #76, Brad,

    I do think before I post. I don’t take the time to proof my statements though (which I’m sure most people don’t). I do understand other ideas on the topic to a certain extent, but Rothbard’s makes the most sense to me. They are very logical. Would they work in the real world? I think so but I would be willing to compromise with a localized libertarian government.

    #80, Jax, Julie,

    Indeed, it does sound like we do, but there are similarities too. I disagree that in the Law of Consecration that people won’t have property rights per J Reuben Clark’s assessment in the 1942 semi-annual general conference on the United Order and Law of Consecration. But where I think Jax and I get along is that we think people should treat each other nicely and shouldn’t use violence to get people to do things, AKA, the means are just as important as the ends. You can look up NAP to see where violence is OK (which agrees with gospel principles), i.e., in self defense, etc. I would think in Jax & the system I believe would work would actually have room enough in the world for each other, even voluntary socialism would be OK or voluntary communism. Unfortunately, there are some that don’t have room enough to spare for those that believe in not using violence.

    #82, Jon,

    I agree. That is why it is so important to look towards the actual principles to be a guiding light (with the spirit, of course). The stories can help but ultimately we must look towards the core principles/axioms to understand things. We can quote prophets all day long but in the end we all agree that prophets aren’t always speaking for the Lord (according to LDS theology), if they were, we would all be going to H E double hockey sticks for not practicing polygamy.

    #84,

    There is absolutely nothing that the state does that cannot be done in the private sector.

    #85, JKC,

    All states are gangs, not all governments, and yes, voluntarism is a form of government, that is governed by God through natural means, through natural law, i.e., God’s laws. So, yes, I agree with what the scriptures say.

    What I don’t understand is why the constitution, it doesn’t seem to be for the protection to the saints since they were still persecuted (unless it would have been worse under a different system). The US was similar to the Israelites before the constitution in that they were a loose affiliation of confederate states, like the Israelites. So I don’t understand, was it right for the time? Perhaps. I believe that there is a right way to do things and a best way. The right way fits a certain circumstance the best way is the ideal. The best way to learn to obey God’s commandments is to not sin in the first place, the right way is to repent after having sinned. So that is why I accept that voluntarism is most likely the best way, but not necessarily the right way.

    So I think we agree on more things thing we think. It’s just hard to have a full discussion on a blog, or even in person for that matter. It would take many long ours of conversation to understand all the nuances of each individual.

    #87, Jax,

    For block quote see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Html_tag#Other_block_elements

    #88, Brad,

    I don’t think he was shot down. Some of the points I made and were not refuted either. Jax refuted the Captain Moroni claim of violence, did you not read it? He already addressed your points before on this issue.

    #35 refutes the idea that taxes are voluntary in the true sense of the word. The reason politicians like to say it is voluntary is because the person “volunteers” their time and compliance with said reporting. Which truly isn’t voluntary since, if you don’t, and wish to sufficiently defend your property, you will be jailed or killed. Doesn’t sound voluntary to me.

    I’ll post on Somalia in the next post.

  90. Jon on July 8, 2011 at 2:53 am

    #88, Brad,

    The Somalia thing is getting quite old, it’s like an old joke that will just not die. It is given by people that don’t care about learning more about the true facts of the case. Somalia is not a paradise but is for those that live in similar regions that live under a tyrant.

    Robert P Murphy wrote an article which articulates it best. If you wish to beleaguer the point than you should at least educate yourself first.

    The standard statist put-down — “If you Rothbardians like anarchy so much, why don’t you move to Somalia?” — misses the point. The Rothbardian doesn’t claim that the absence of a state is a sufficient condition for bliss. Rather, the Rothbardian says that however prosperous and law-abiding a society is, adding an institution of organized violence and theft will only make things worse.
    —–
    As I said initially, the BBC’s treatment is remarkably balanced. One article begins,

    Common sense dictates that security and stability are the necessary preconditions to economic development.

    Since 26 January 1991, most of Somalia has had neither, yet the economy has not only been resilient, some sectors have shown remarkable growth.

    In particular, the telecommunications industry has boomed:

    Somali telecoms expert Ahmed Farah says the first mobile telephone mast went up in Somalia in 1994, and now someone can make a mobile call from anywhere in the country.

    There are nine networks to choose from and they offer services from texting to mobile internet access.
    —–
    Mr. Farah and the approving BBC writer here commit the Nirvana fallacy, which contrasts the flawed outcome of the market in the real world with the idealized outcome of a benevolent government in a textbook. In reality, if a single group manages to suppress its rivals and achieve domination over Somalia, businesspeople can still expect to “pay off different factions if they want to do any trade.”

    What is particularly amusing is the complaint that businesses currently must pay private security firms to guard their goods. Well, a government police and court system won’t work for tips — they too will need to be financed, but through involuntary taxation. As with any monopoly, the government’s provision of a “justice system” will be more expensive — other things being equal — than the provision through private, competing agencies.

    see
    http://mises.org/daily/5418/Anarchy-in-Somalia

    Ben Powell et al. wrote a good paper on the subject also referenced at the bottom of the mentioned article.

  91. Dan on July 8, 2011 at 6:16 am

    Jax,

    “to pay himself and those around him” sounds like what we’ve had since long before I was born, don’t you think?

    Nope. Not at all.

    By ‘public interest’ I mean that they serve, or benefit, everyone. The military obviously protects everyone in the US, so do police and ambulances, prisons, etc. Schools educate everyone, ambassadors represent each of us, each of us can drive on roads paid with gov’t funds, and so on. But what about farm subsidies? or WIC? or building tunnels under roads so turtles don’t get squashed? or affirmative action? or running Freddie/Fannie? or loaning money to Brazil? or curing AIDS in Africa?

    Feel free to convince people of the unimportance of any of those. I’m guessing you’re a rich person, so WIC doesn’t benefit you at all. Good luck arguing that we shouldn’t provide a service to Women, Infants, and Children. Did you even know what WIC stood for?

    Many of these are noble ideas and do good and help people, but they don’t help the ‘public’

    Actually they do.

    In the case of the last two (money to Brazil, and healthcare in Africa) they don’t even purport to help Americans at all.

    egads! What are we to do!!!! We can’t possibly be nice to anyone else but ourselves. That’s what Christ taught us.

  92. Dan on July 8, 2011 at 6:20 am

    Jon,

    I thought we were going to leave these topics (apparently the admin wasn’t serious), but if we must.

    I’m still stuck on this:

    Since you have this will be my last post on the matter.

    oh and the reason Somalia is continually brought up is that it is not a joke. Anarcho-libertarians, besides you, Jon, actually like Somalia’s “freedom.” You side with them, thus, you like Somalia. Feel free to move to your paradise, Jon. I honestly don’t know why you still bother living here in America with all our “gangster” government “stealing” your money and your freedom. if you really stand for your principles, go to where they are best seen. Somalia.

  93. Dan on July 8, 2011 at 6:34 am

    Jax and Jon,

    In regards to compulsion of the state, particularly in regards to taking up arms to “defend the country,” there’s no better example of this than in Alma chapter 51. Let’s read this account, shall we? First of all, it begins with a debate between two opposing political parties. On the one hand are those who were labeled “kingmen” and on the other those who were labeled “freemen.” Not sure who did the labeling. In verse 5, Mormon writes that those who wanted to alter the law “were called kingmen.” Who did the labeling is a mystery, but my guess, based on history being written by the victors, this label was given by the “freemen” who, in verse six, is written that they took the name upon themselves. In any case, these first few verses are quite fascinating because while contentious, the two sides put it up for some vote (not sure what the voting population was—probably just the men). In the end, the “freemen” won, and the “kingmen” lost. They were sad, but they didn’t take up arms against the “freemen.”

    But here’s where it gets interesting. Amalickiah, now ruling over the Lamanites, pressed his advantage in the war. Pahoran wanted to get more soldiers for the battle. The “kingmen” refused to fight. Surely one has a right under “voluntarism” to not pick up a sword or a bow and arrow to kill another, right? Isn’t that what you two believe? Or are there instances where voluntarism is void and null? In any case, they refuse to take up arms. Let’s see what happened:

    13And it came to pass that when the men who were called king-men had heard that the Lamanites were coming down to battle against them, they were glad in their hearts; and they refused to take up arms, for they were so wroth with the chief judge, and also with the people of liberty, that they would not take up arms to defend their country.

    14And it came to pass that when Moroni saw this, and also saw that the Lamanites were coming into the borders of the land, he was exceedingly wroth because of the stubbornness of those people whom he had labored with so much diligence to preserve; yea, he was exceedingly wroth; his soul was filled with anger against them.

    15And it came to pass that he sent a petition, with the voice of the people, unto the governor of the land, desiring that he should read it, and give him (Moroni) power to compel those dissenters to defend their country or to put them to death.

    WOW! I gotta say…Imagine today General Patraeus coming out and writing a letter to the president asking him for permission to compel dissenters to defend their country or to put them to death. WOW! Do you two get it yet? A vote was put up before the people and in apparently a free and fair vote, the “kingmen” lost. They didn’t take up arms against the “freemen” nor did they take up arms to defend the “freemen.” So what do the “freemen” do?

    And it came to pass that it was granted according to the voice of the people.

    17And it came to pass that Moroni commanded that his army should go against those king-men, to pull down their pride and their nobility and level them with the earth, or they should take up arms and support the cause of liberty.

    18And it came to pass that the armies did march forth against them; and they did pull down their pride and their nobility, insomuch that as they did lift their weapons of war to fight against the men of Moroni they were hewn down and leveled to the earth.

    19And it came to pass that there were four thousand of those dissenters who were hewn down by the sword; and those of their leaders who were not slain in battle were taken and cast into prison, for there was no time for their trials at this period.

    20And the remainder of those dissenters, rather than be smitten down to the earth by the sword, yielded to the standard of liberty, and were compelled to hoist the title of liberty upon their towers, and in their cities, and to take up arms in defence of their country.

    21And thus Moroni put an end to those king-men, that there were not any known by the appellation of king-men; and thus he put an end to the stubbornness and the pride of those people who professed the blood of nobility; but they were brought down to humble themselves like unto their brethren, and to fight avaliantly for their freedom from bondage.

    WOW! Compelled to hoist the title of liberty. Methinks at this point the whole notion of liberty failed. You’re only free when you are compelled by someone, according to Captain Moroni. Oh, if only indeed everyone were like this man…

  94. Sam Brunson on July 8, 2011 at 6:42 am

    (apparently the admin wasn’t serious)

    Or else the Admin was sleeping. In any event, we’re pretty close to the magic 100, so I’ll be closing comments soon. (Or else deleting all of them–I’m not entirely sure what the button I spotted does.)

  95. John C. on July 8, 2011 at 6:47 am

    Seriously, if you think Captain Moroni was a civil libertarian, you don’t understand libertarianism.

    You know who really cared about the morality of taxation and personal property rights? The chupacabra.

  96. Jon on July 8, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Well, Dan,

    If that is what you believe, that is what you believe. I don’t know why you would believe such things though, since you yourself have written that you would prefer to have a king in your socialist utopia. So, if you lived in Moroni’s time you would wish he would kill you? That’s what you’re saying. I would have to go and reread the scriptures myself but either way I don’t believe it is right that you would be killed, even though you have already threatened my life in a past post. I don’t know why you embrace a philosophy that would have yourself killed.

    Dan, it’s better to live without a king, as much as you would like one, you should really look into what it would be like. Maybe Mosiah 29 would do you well. Regardless you should read what Satan’s plan was vs Christ’s and then consider the words of Christ in the second great commandment. Dan, as much as you lie and stretch the truth and manipulate and act sadistically, I still love you man and I wish the best for you, insomuch, that you don’t get your king, at least, if your king would rule over me too, unless it is Christ, who is already my King, Whom I hope to try and be a better servant, but Dan, Christ isn’t a ruthless tyrant like you suppose, He lives by the same natural laws that we do, because they are eternal and true.

    Peace out.

  97. Dan on July 8, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Peace out.

    Generally this means the same thing as

    Since you have this will be my last post on the matter.

    I pray this is the truth….

  98. Grant Hardy on July 8, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Before you close the comments, let me say that I was delighted by the OP. I was hoping that Understanding the Book of Mormon would encourage better, more contextualized readings of the Book of Mormon, and I like the idea that Mormon was deliberately contrasting King Noah and King Benjamin (something that has been suggested by Susan Tabor and Richard Rust, among others–but not with your handy chart). Taxation seems to be a subsidiary point in a larger argument about the exemplary influence of rulers, for good or evil (which reminds me of Confucianism).

    To take a verse or two and apply it to a wildly different cultural and historical context always seems like a risky move (with fundamentalist, proof-texting overtones). I don’t believe there are any direct lines between an ancient monarch’s exactions and tax policy in a modern, capitalist democracy, but the general principles of moral government may still be relevant, as is the tendency to employ religion to justify one’s own decadent lifestyle (none of the commentators noted the fact that Noah put in new priests who would serve as yes-men for him, even though it’s clearly in the chart). But to be fair, the temptations of elf-shoes and jaguars can be hard to resist . . .

  99. Jax on July 8, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Dan,

    I’m not rich. I’m much better off than some with no debt other than my mortgage. That only happened because of our self control, my wife fed our still growing family (soon to be 8) on less than $200/mo. We do without “necessities” like cell phones and TV to keep bills down and we don’t take vacations. My family has been on WIC. I spent years paying taxes for it and so when we need it I feel fine claiming the benefits. My sole income is VA disability since I’m a disable vet. Having written the US gov’t a blank check up to and including my life, I don’t feel bad for collecting payment for being injured in the service.

    I don’t think any of those programs I mentioned were unimportant, as you suggested (except maybe Affirmative Action). I think they can be done by groups other than the gov’t. I made that clear earlier. I have done much, and will do more when I can to help fight poverty, disease, violence, all over the world. I think if the Gov’t got out of the welfare business, and cut its tax intake accordingly, that plenty of charities would pop up that could replace WIC and other programs without the waste and corruption. As long as the gov’t let the people retain that portion of their taxes, I trust in the charity of the American people to care for each other, and to really distinguish who is in need and who is a mooch, which groups best use the funds to help people, and which just use the money for power. The gov’t is famously bad for that. Why do I trust that non-politicians will do a better job? Because they do already. I see people like me, who don’t have much, but who spend wisely and keep eyes open for people who need more. I try to keep $20 in my wallet to buy milk for branch members or to help them with Sunday gas money, because keeping people fed physically and spiritually is more important than me being able to watch the sitcoms, sporting events, and newest releases. And despite their being labelled as greedy reprobates, the rich sacrifice greatly as well to help people in need, except for some reason the LDS rich. My experience is that they don’t do as much as their non-LDS counterparts (but maybe they do it through the church and I don’t see it – I hope my perception is wrong).

    No thank you for impuning my christian honor. Do you think your fulfilling your Christian duty to care for others by paying your taxes and letting the gov’t do it for you? I hope not. I hope your like me and make real sacrifices in your standard of living in order to help raise others up. That is the Lord’s way –

    D&C 104:
    15And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.
    16But it must needs be done in mine own away; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.
    17For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.
    18Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.

    (wish someone would tell me how to do the ‘tag’ thing with the indents and such – would make the post much easier to read)

    I don’t see the US gov’t, or any other gov’t, as the vehicle the Lord has provided for us to exalt the poor by humbling the rich, do you? Isn’t it His plan that that such an effort be voluntary and willing and done through the vehicle of His Kingdom – the Church?

    @Sam

    I thought we left the subject of tax=theft. We’ve been debating its merits, but left that topic alone fairly well, no?

    @Dan #2

    Not sure why you project my desire for voluntary taxes into the realm of military service. Quite the opposite. I think the gov’t fails in its duty to protect us by NOT requiring us to learn how to defend it. I think military duty should be a required 2yr service for all males

  100. chris on July 8, 2011 at 10:55 am

    Ok, I gotta stick up for the shoe function-istas. Yes, I said function, not fashion. All ye who fight against the shoes from Lothlórien fail to understand that the necessary function.

    First, most shoes were constructed inside out. That is, they were sewn together, and then turned inside out and worn that way to protect the seams. Second, the curved tips at the toe certainly evolved into fashion at some point, but it also served the function of not having your toes drag through the mud and moisture where this crucial seam was.

    It’s fairly obvious, that as a wine-biber, King Noah’s spacious buildings must have been filled with lots of vomit and spilled whine. So a turned shoe with an elvish tip was necessary in order to prevent his feet from getting wet all the time.

    And the OP is right and wrong. Taxation was mentioned because it was important, and it’s equally important how and why and what purposes the taxation served. But if Mormon didn’t think the rate was important, he wouldn’t have bothered to include it.

    The selfish revolutionaries were outraged by the 3% tax levied on their tea. In a sense, the rate was upsetting, but more importantly to them it seems both the rate and the lack of representation.

    I think you could add another column to your comparison table and compare on that level. The rate was important, but it was the other things combined with the tax that made it grievous and burdensome.

  101. Dan on July 8, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Jax,

    I think if the Gov’t got out of the welfare business, and cut its tax intake accordingly, that plenty of charities would pop up that could replace WIC and other programs without the waste and corruption.

    Show me how many charities there were that assisted the poor in America before that darn tootin’ socialism took over. In other words, show me before Social Security which charities created a safety net for seniors. Show me before WIC which charities assisted women, infants, and children. And you have to show me that those private charities had the same reach as the government programs. Also, show me evidence that waste and corruption is lower in the private sector. Frankly I can think of one particular private industry that is full of waste and corruption, of the worst kind too. That would be the financial sector. There is no greater example of waste and corruption than on Wall Street and I dare you to prove me wrong.

    who is in need and who is a mooch,

    Ah, Ayn Rand…the anti-Christ.

  102. H.Bob on July 8, 2011 at 11:18 am

    “Spilled whine” (#99) is one of those fantastic typos that just has to be pointed out. I’d imagine in King Noah’s court, there was plenty of spilled whine, especially after Abinadi’s chastisement.

  103. Jon on July 8, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Here you go Dan, I suppose this is more for Jax though.

    First, Jax see post 89, I put a link on how to do the block quote, among other things. Below where you write the comment it will show how it will look.

    As for charity without the g[un]vernment.

    http://mises.org/daily/5388/Welfare-before-the-Welfare-State

    True charity (which the government doesn’t do since it encourages the dull (sp)):

    http://mises.org/daily/3879

  104. Jax on July 8, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Dan,

    Ayn Rand is anti-Christ. The only requirement for our giving to others is there need. If they need and I have, then I give. But if they ‘need’ food, but pay for satellite and cellphones, then they don’t ‘need’ the money, they need have the money they need and spend it on the wrong stuff. Real people can easily distinguish between people who are in need and those who use their money for entertainments and then want others to replace what they have squandered. Gov’t can’t make that distinction.

    Again, why to keep assuming I love Wall Street? Greed and love of money is a great threat to this country and its people than immorality is, even though sex gets all the attention. Didn’t you see Capitalism on my list previously of satanic economies? The problem is that people get roped into the argument of capitalsim v communism and think that the option is christ v satan. The truth is they are both satan’s plans. One doesn’t provide for his neighbor and the other doesn’t leave him free. The Saints should have rejected them both by now, but we insist on holding ourselves as close to babylon as we can get. The gospel plan for zion IS socialism/communism – but it is voluntary giving, not compulsory. You can walk away from zion at any time, if you don’t want to be there than no one will want you to stay anyway. It doesn’t work that way with the gov’t though, does it?

    You’ve now assumed I’m rich (wrong), and capitalist (wrong), Ayn Rand fan (wrong), maybe you should stop assuming things about me. I stately fairly clearly in my last post that I favor God’s plan of complete economic equality among men. Are you illiterate and didn’t understand that? Why do you keep picking a line or two, extrapolating erroneous assumptions, and attacking your false image of me? How about you read what I say, and respond to it instead?

    Or do you have a personal reason for vilifying me? Is it a moral affront to you that I think taxes should be voluntary? Does that make me akin to an anti-christ? Am I immoral for having a different political view? Why does a disagreement about public policy create an emotional response in you that causes you to make broad, false, degrading assumptions about me?

  105. Dan on July 8, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I didn’t think “Peace Out” meant “I’m done.” Since you have to have the last word, Jon, have the last word.

  106. Jax on July 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Okay…let’s give this a try… no laughing please.

    First, Jax see post 89, I put a link on how to do the block quote, among other things. Below where you write the comment it will show how it will look.

    I found the link in 88 not 89 actually… not to figure how to use it…now the most self explanatory link I’ve ever used BTW.

    Ok, I gotta stick up for the shoe function-istas. Yes, I said function, not fashion. All ye who fight against the shoes from Lothlórien fail to understand that the necessary function.

    I guess now I understand the elfshoes…what was the other item?

    and Viola! the bottom of the screen says my block quoting worked… so all the aggression at me was worth it … a small price to pay for learning something! Thanks!

  107. Brad on July 8, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Jon (and perhaps your sidekick Jax),

    I get the sense that you almost don’t much like the rule of law, and that you would indeed prefer the rule of a sort of oligarchy of bankers and insurance companies who, completely unregulated, have the right to con people into taking high risks and also have the right to break your back if you don’t pay on time. You don’t realize that if not for representative government, then we are at the mercy of usurers with little recourse in law for protection. Taxes seem like a small price to pay for protection against vicious and unpredictable anarchy that you so champion.

  108. Jax on July 8, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Brad,

    Please read the actual words I use instead of of making up assumptions as Dan has done. Police force is a necessary and beneficial aspect of gov’t, as clearly detailed above by me with Dan’s agreement. It seems clear that you see its benefits and are willing to pay the taxes for such, so am I. If your weren’t compelled to pay taxes for policing you would want to anyway wouldn’t you? You make it clear you like the service and think it is necessary. I willingly pay taxes for good services. So would you and all like minded people. Your assumptions are off base and totally incoherent in regards to me. Even though taxation is compulsory, I’m happy to pay it for the school my kids to go, the police protection I receive, and other services provided. My only point is that a voluntary tax system would work for keeping good policing in place as well, precisely because it is a good thing to have as you agree!

  109. Dan on July 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    My only point is that a voluntary tax system would work for keeping good policing in place as well, precisely because it is a good thing to have as you agree!

    it won’t. Without compulsion, no one would support another. Let me put it bluntly. I don’t want my money going to you and Jon. Just look at Greece, Jax. Greece’s main problem is that few were actually paying taxes. If everyone in Greece would pay their taxes, they would not be in the predicament they are in. Compulsion is a necessary force to an orderly society. It ensures that bills are paid, that laws are enforced (compulsion), and that everyone is treated fairly and equally.

  110. Brad on July 8, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Jax,

    See your pattern?:

    1. Reactionary far-right assertion (e.g. agreeing with Jon that taxation is equivalent to theft in comment #34)
    2. Getting challenged or shot down (Dan comment #83)
    3. And finally qualifying or pretending you didn’t say the things you did before.

    Without fail, almost every hot button post. Perhaps it would be best to just skip steps one and two and produce a more reasoned argument to begin with. Oh, and, by the way, are you suggesting that tax-collection function like donations to charity? The government could put up some ads for services and collect from willing donors? Who has entitlement to service? Those who pay most? Good luck lumpen proletariat class!

    I will give you some credit for at least qualifying to a degree. Jon rehashes zombie lies by Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, Robert Murphy, and others in the Austrian school of economics (which by the way is the laughing stock in most economics departments throughout the US) and persists in living in a fantasy world where usurers are always benevolent, laws and regulations (even order and stability themselves) are always oppressive, and where the more anarchic the world is the more like an economic paradise it is. Jon is an anarchist. You are more like a pinko-anarchist.

  111. Anon this time on July 8, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    T&S Admin: Could you perhaps give the Jon&Jax sideshow its own channel? Dan and Brad could moderate and smack down (to cheers from all observers), and the rest of us could get back to Sam’s post and have a productive discussion.

  112. Jon on July 8, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Brad,

    I am all about the rule of law. Dude, you should really take the time to read Rothbard without this progressive bias you are bringing to the table. Do you have any idea what you are even talking about? Obviously not, otherwise you wouldn’t think that I was for chaos. I’m for order. Giving some people the right be a gang over the rest of the people and putting them above the law is NOT rule of law, just the opposite.

    You say the ideas or Rothbard, et al. are lies and not true but you don’t even offer anything to refute them, all you do is use rhetoric, name calling, etc. You guys (you and Dan) make everything out to be black or white with no room in the middle. You keep saying Jax is just like me in thought when he only has one thing that is similar to me (well, maybe two, he actually believes love and understanding is important, unlike you guys). You guys are even trying to understand the other point of view.

    Anon,

    I would think the moderator would need to shut the whole thing down, there is no productive conversation when only accusations are tossed and no actual debate, is that the only thing that progressives/socialists know how to do – name call, take one sentence out of context and use it for something else that wasn’t even the purpose of the sentence?

    Just because someone has a different belief then you doesn’t give license for disrespect. Progressives seem to say they want a world with different points of view, etc, but in reality, it seems, they would that we all act and think and do the same things, hence the reason Dan would prefer a king that could extract all he wants from the populace and give it to the bureaucrats to hand out to their political connections, rule of law, my big toe.

  113. Kaimi Wenger on July 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    The admin was sleeping in, and the jaguars got out of their cages and started trying on the elf shoes. Much hilarity and spilled whine ensued.

    Thanks for the comments, folks. If you have something else that really needs to be said, please send it by e-mail and we’ll consider posting it, especially if it’s about elf shoes. We’re also accepting photoshopped pictures of Austrian economists surrounded by jaguars.