There are three elements to human dignity. There is the dignity that every human is conceived and born with by virtue of being made in the image of God. There is the dignity man earns by living a virtuous life. And there is the dignity that man earns by the sweat of his brow and the fruit of his labor. This last dignity is usually represented by monies and properties.
We, as Catholics, have two great resources of wisdom. The first is the Holy Scriptures. The second is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In these pages are inexhaustible treasures of reason, logic and faith. It is a sure norm for the rightful application of our faith into our everyday lives.
Paragraph 2240 states the following:
2240 Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country:
Pay to all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.
[Christians] reside in their own nations, but as resident aliens. They participate in all things as citizens and endure all things as foreigners.... They obey the established laws and their way of life surpasses the laws.... So noble is the position to which God has assigned them that they are not allowed to desert it.
The Apostle exhorts us to offer prayers and thanksgiving for kings and all who exercise authority, "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way."
So the Catechism teaches that it is right and just to pay our taxes. I joyfully submit to this teaching.
The Catechism also teaches in paragraph 2238:
2238 Those subject to authority should regard those in authority as representatives of God, who has made them stewards of his gifts: "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution.... Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God." Their loyal collaboration includes the right, and at times the duty, to voice their just criticisms of that which seems harmful to the dignity of persons and to the good of the community.
This teaches me that I also have a duty to "voice [my] just criticism of that which seems harmful to the dignity of persons."
I believe that, based on the reasoning presented so far, income taxes and property taxes are immoral and unjust forms of taxation. They have a direct negative impact on the dignity of all people by diminishing the dignity those people have earned via the fruits of their labor.
They also diminish the dignity of those who support such taxation by allowing them to participate in the legalized theft of their neighbors property. One should not vote for the government to do something that, as an individual, would be illegal, i.e. the taking of money or property from your neighbor by force. This is called stealing. If it is stealing for an individual to engage in this activity then it is reasonable and logical that it is stealing for the government to engage in the same activity.
This is not to say that all forms of taxation are immoral or unjust. The use of excise taxes such as sales taxes, as well as import and export taxes, are just, fair and allowed by our Constitution. They are just and moral because they are "voluntary" in that one can determine for themselves wither they will participate in the tax by their voluntary participation in the economic process.
One just has to look at the tremendous waste and bureaucracy created by the IRS to see the injustice and immorality of the current income and property tax structure of the US. There are thousands of people in jail for income tax evasion, either by deliberate attempts to avoid paying the taxes or because of honest uninformed or misinformed intentions. There are thousands of families and individuals that have had their properties, including some that have been in their family for generations, confiscated because of an inability to pay property taxes. To those that support the current tax structure and seek to expand it, I ask "How does this benefit and uphold the dignity of people?"
As a Catholic and someone trying to be faithful to the God and the Magisterium, I have a obligation to work for social justice and the welfare of my fellow man. I do not have the obligation or the right, to take by force from my neighbor the means to meet those obligations.
I cannot elevate the dignity of one person by reducing the dignity of another.
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