Lawful Taxation

August 21, 2019
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No person may be taxed without his consent, for “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,” and among these, the power of the purse. That consent must be as the tax itself. Therefore, an individual tax requires individual consent, and a commercial tax requires commercial consent.

An involuntary tax is immoral. A tax on a person, or any thing proper to a person, such as his lands or labor is, without his consent, unlawful. And a government that must rely on force to collect such a tax must be unjust.

A voluntary tax on the person is, however, permissible. In this case, the legitimate use of the government’s authority is to call upon the people to provide the funds necessary for the public good. And a just government, with the consent of the people, shall have the people’s support.

Also lawful are taxes on luxury transactions. A tax on necessities is unlawful, because the government is never more necessary than bread; but a luxury cannot be obtained without order in society, and though it does no evil to society, neither does it do any good.

Luxuries are sought, either to indulge a wicked appetite, or for the lawful enjoyment of the possessor. The purpose of government is to reward the righteous and punish the wicked. If, then, a wicked man purchases a luxury for his vice, he is punished by the tax; but if a just man buys it lawfully, he is rewarded for his contribution to society, for a just man cannot bear to enjoy some exclusive good, unless it benefits the whole.

Howsoever rich a man is, if his money is spent in the way of necessities, he benefits society; he must not be taxed. When, however, he uses his money to some exclusive good, not enjoyed by the rest of society, but which is only possible through the good order of society, then the public has a legitimate claim to benefit therefrom, and by paying such a tax in the transaction itself, he gives his consent.

Consent to such a tax is lawful under the following conditions. 1. It is appointed by the representative body of the people. 2. It is subject to negotiation. 3. The tax payer is permitted to pursue judicial remedy in case of wrong. All things being done in good order.

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