Are Taxes Just?

It’s a pretty straightforward question, really: are taxes legalized theft?

To belay any confusion, I am asking about taxes promulgated by a just government in the interest of the common good. Simply put: are taxes per se ever just?

Oh, no! Not another one of these disgraceful politically-polarized bar fights…

Look, it is getting late so I cannot fully research it, but for starters, Jesus said “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” or words to that effect. Elsewhere in Scripture it is written that the government is legitimate, that tax collectors should collect no more than is required, etc.

Also the Catechism of the Catholic Church outlines something called “universal destination,” which means that created goods are destined for the whole human race, and are to be used to promote the common good. “You can’t take it with you” is another way to express that. Since the Catechism is much neglected even in these online forums, I will look it up for you:

I. The Universal Destination and the Private Ownership of Goods

2402 In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits. The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race. However, the earth is divided up among men to assure the security of their lives, endangered by poverty and threatened by violence. The appropriation of property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping each of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge. It should allow for a natural solidarity to develop between men.

2403 The right to private property, acquired or received in a just way, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind. The universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise.

2404 “In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself.” The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family.

May the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus called the Spirit of truth, guide these discussions.

Yes, taxation is theft, or extortion more like it.

Moral relativism is common even amongst Christians, it seems. Always some excuse or another for every act they want to justify. It’s wrong to murder, except… it’s wrong to steal, except… and so on, you know how it goes.

Give to Caesar what belongs to caesar and give to god what belongs to God.
That was a Question Concerning tax collectors

Completely unjust. After all, you are required to pay for fire departments, police departments, courts, water and waste disposal infrastructures, roadways, traffic control systems and the electricity to power those systems. You are assisted in your Christian obligation to give alms to the poor. You are paying for the education of your children and your neighbors’ children in order to have an educated populace.
It is patently unjust to require that you pay for such frivolous excesses.

Reb Levi

It is just to be required to pay taxes. The Church has always taught this and has never taught otherwise.

Consider this: i would not be able to make any money at all were it not for the stability provided by society: if I had to provide my own police protection, for example. these things are part of the common good, a good from which we can all benefit, and “laborers are worthy of their hire;” they should be paid if they provide a service. And we do all benefit from those services.

Yes, it is true that some taxes are onerous and some ministrations of the government excessive, and certainly some actions of our governments are immoral (funding abortion, for eexample), bit this does not mitigate the fact that in general taxes are just.


They’re not legalized theft. We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. These things cost money.

Ah, yes. Jesus, that sad moral relativist. :rolleyes:

Read your bible more often and listen to talk radio less. If you do that, you’ll be familiar with what Jesus said about taxation.

I’m amazed that people actually want to live in a society with no public roads, no military to protect our homeland, no police, no prisons for criminals, no courts (which effectively means no law)… Yeah, anarchy sounds great…not.

IMO taxes are never theft, ever. If you want to live in a society and enjoy it’s benefits you need to pay your share.

Perhaps that is where the real theft comes in. Living in a society reaping it’s benefits and refusing to pay your share.

I’m very familiar with the extremely little that Jesus allegedly said on the matter and the various interpretations of the poetic language He employed. I’m also familiar with the all of the advantages that result from being a moral relativist on these matters. For starters, if you agree to call it ‘right’ whenever the State murders or steals, then your religion has a higher survivability rate.

But, calling it something doesn’t make it so. To murder is to murder, no matter how “important” you are (e.g., I’m the King, it’s not murder, it’s execution!) and so on for various other sins that the moral relativists would have you ignore.

Ah, the ‘stable society’ excuse. So a sin is not a sin if you believe that it helps provide ‘stability’ to society?

This was demonstrated during the last presidential election campaign, when a vociferous lobby advocated for reducing the size of government, but not at the expense of the medical entitlements it received.

A few of the things paid for by tax collection:

Public education
Public assistance for the poor (food stamps,medical care, utility and rent assistance etc.)
Trash and yard waste collection
Road and bridge building and repair
The Armed Services (which also assist in times of natural disaster here and around the world)
Animal Control
Courts of law and prisons
Subsidies to farmers (which keeps certain food prices affordable for low income)

Without tax collection our society would collapse. Literally.

taxes that go into a general fund (taxes aren’t earmarked for specific purposes) I believe are inherently just, even though the government will sometimes use revenues for immoral purposes.

but where a special tax is levied for an immoral purpose – an extreme hypothetical example being a special tax to rebuild abortion clinics destroyed in a hurricane – then the tax itself is immoral.

“Legalized theft” is a contradiction in terms, which is a good sign that you are smuggling into this conversation modern categories of speech designed to frustrate rational thought on these issues.

The state just does exist for the common good, its existence is more or less necessitated by human nature, and it enjoys divine mandate. For these reasons “submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes,” among other things (CCC 2240).

This is a teaching of the Church that enjoys the unanimous witness of Tradition: the personal endorsement of Christ, the support of the apostles, and the unbroken and continuous teachings of all their successors.

This is an assertion, not an argument.

This is a strange argument. For one thing, there are no “various interpretations” if by this you mean that the truth is somehow unclear from a Catholic perspective. From a Catholic perspective, there is exactly one authoritative interpretation (the one the Church has given, constantly, throughout the centuries) and a functionally infinite proliferation of falsehoods. For another, if submission to authority results in the thriving of the Church that is a pretty good sign that it corresponds to human nature in a real and powerful way. People desiring their own good is the very definition of the natural law, so obviously, the moral liceity of taxation belongs at least to the natural law.

This is, again, an assertion, not an argument. Whether or not the execution of criminals constitutes “murder,” and whether or not the collection of taxes constitutes “theft,” is exactly what’s under discussion here.

Unfortunately for you, they aren’t up for discussion. The Church has already ruled definitively on the matter and your libertarian prejudices are completely alien to the Catholic moral theological tradition. Discussion is closed. Continue at peril of your own soul.

“Allegedly?” Surely you’re not of a mind to toss out portions of Scripture because they don’t conform to the beliefs you already hold? Am I understanding you wrong?

general taxes can be unjust if they’re confiscatory and, special taxes are immoral when levied for immoral purposes.

First you must show that taxation in and of itself is a sin.

On what basis do you reject Christ’s words and the subsequent teaching of the Church.

Some here have commented that “legalized theft” is oxymoronic. I say no it is quite proper. Just because a legislature says it is legal doesn’t mean it isn’t theft. But, as Walter Williams points out, “Three-fifths to two-thirds of the federal budget consists of taking property from one American and giving it to another. Were a private person to do the same thing, we’d call it theft. When government does it, we euphemistically call it income redistribution, but that’s exactly what thieves do – redistribute income. “

I do not believe it is a refutation of Christ, as much as it is a question of where did Christ command the bureaucrat to take my money and give to you? Nowhere in scriptures has this been proclaimed and I do not believe it is mandated by the catechism.

Heating up as expected, but there have been some really great comments! I’ll write more later.

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