IEET > Rights > HealthLongevity > Economic > Affiliate Scholar > Hank Pellissier > FreeThought
Tax the Churches and Give the Revenue to Hungry Children
Hank Pellissier   May 6, 2011   Ethical Technology  

Billions of dollars are lost every year, plucked out of Joe and Jane Taxpayer’s pockets, because religious groups are allowed to be parasites.

No church property is taxed and so the infidel and the atheist and the man without religion are taxed to make up the deficit. - Mark Twain

Ministers of mega-churches are rolling in millions of dollars in the USA, “fleecing their flocks” to buy lavish mansions, jets, and limousines. On Sundays they preach Christian charity in their temples of excess while tithing hypnotized parishioners—but do they themselves pay their fair share of taxes?

Hell no. Christ Almighty, they do not. The hypocrite haranguers are pampered by the IRS; aided by loopholes so large one can easily drive a cathedral through.

moneyJesus delivered his most famous sermon on a “Mount,” i.e., dirt hill. Buddha preached in a jungle glen. Muhammad received his revelations in a dusty cave. Biblical prophets listened to Yahweh in forlorn deserts, bushes, and lonely mountains. Many were “naked in the wilderness.”

But today… America’s most popular ministers are peacocks in palaces; uplifted by organ groans, they shriek their religiosity to rapt audiences of spiritual sheep in exchange for wealth and fame. It’s capitalistic entertainment and there’s nothing illegal about it… but ethically, and obviously—the present laws are unconstitutional, anti-secular, and sinfully unjust.

For every dollar of church property untaxed, all other properties must be taxed one dollar more, and thus the poor man’s home bears the burden. These rich ecclesiastical corporations are a heavy load… If all the church property in this country were taxed in the same ratio as poor widows are today, we could soon roll off the national debt. - Elizabeth Cady Stanton

megaThe framers of the US Constitution pronounced that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” but this wise dictum has been totally shat upon by Congressional and Supreme Court toadies who’ve given undue “respect” to churches via tax scam privileges. Indeed, the entire logic of “separation of church and state” has been twisted perversely by religionists, who insist the phrase allows them to operate exactly as they wish, unleashed from any government jurisdiction or taxation (like a Mafia drug gang). Catholic above-the-law attitude, for example, is clearly evident in their sheltering of pedophiles from police authorities,

Am I digressing? No, I’m not. Many religionists define their civic allegiance as belonging to God, not country. This outlaw disregard for democratic principles leads to bombing state-sanctioned abortion centers, defiantly preaching politics from the pulpits (a violation of 501(c)3 regulations), and contending that their “holy faith” is too elevated to be bothered with grubby human matters like contributing equitably to the common good.

1. Property tax exemption for religious organizations is one of the evilest entitlements. In 1970, TIME Magazine pinpointed the real estate value of religious organizations at $102 billion. Property worth since then has ascended six-fold; today’s tag would be approximately $612 billion. Nationwide, the median property tax rate is 1.38%, which means about $8.45 billion annually is not collected from religious groups. Our struggling economic era with slashed social programs could certainly use that cash, huh?

My opinion is, those “God-fearing” ministers need some “IRS-fearing” too!

2. “Parsonage Exemption” is another nefarious tax break, passed unanimously by Congress’s Clergy-Housing Allowance Clarification Act of 2002. This deduction permits clergy members to live in congregation-owned housing without being taxed on the imputed value of their free habitation. The medieval “parsonage” term suggests humble rural priests living in squalid huts adorned only with crucifixes, but today’s reality is quite opulent, and corrupt. Mega-church ministers have ensconced “ordained” friends and family members in tax-free palatial compounds. The CFO of Crystal Cathedral megachurch, for example, recently received a tiny $12,000 salary, but a $132,019 tax-free “housing allowance.”

Jesus supposedly said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). If this maxim is Gospel truth, why are today’s mega-ministers so avaricious?

3. Donations to churches are tax-deductible even if they provide no charitable service to the general public—and they usually don’t. For example, a wealthy parishioner can get his tax load lightened if he buys a new marble altar for the basilica, or a fleet of SUVs for the nuns. (His generosity might also get a marriage “annulled” or a promise that heaven’s pearly gates will open for him.) Gifts to “religious causes” amounted to over $100 billion in 2009, approximately a third of all charitable giving. Let’s imagine the increased social benefit if donations that were “religious” but not “charitable” suddenly lost their tax deductible status?! Billions of dollars would pour into legitimate social need programs.

4. The Form 990 financial statement report required by non-profits is not required of churches. Without this report, the smarmy details of where the congregation’s cash goes is kept a secret, both from public scrutiny and the IRS. The pious in their pews who throw their bills into the collection basket in Lithonia, Georgia, don’t know if their funds are feeding starving babies or buying Bishop Eddie Long a $350,000 Bentley. The fiscal secrecy also allows certain faith organizations—like extremist mosques—to smuggle funds to foreign enemies of the USA or to intolerant hate-based domestic groups.

5. Opting out of Self-Employment and Social Security tax payments is an opportunity for ministers in many states: a poll suggests that 30% do this. This provides them with a 2011 pay raise of 13.3% but it deprives future retirees of needed funds and sabotages the welfare system.

6. Church employers are exempt from federal employment taxes (FUTA) and, frequently, state Unemployment Insurance (UI). This lessens the church’s payroll expenses. Consequentially, if church employees are laid off, they aren’t allowed to collect jobless benefits—not very “merciful.”

7. The Bible and other religious publications and “supplies” are often exempt from state sales taxes. Isn’t this an abuse of the First Amendment, because the government is favoring religion over other businesses?

8. Religious organizations are allowed advance notice of IRS audits, and they don’t have to report the identities of major donors.

Allowing churches these ludicrous, ostentatious tax breaks means the general public has to pick up the slack. Ouch! Billions of dollars lost every year, plucked out of Joe and Jane Taxpayer’s pockets, because religious groups are allowed to be parasites.

But… wait!—cry religious supporters—Churches do so much good work! Millions of needy people will suffer if churches are taxed!

My solution to this simpering resistance is simple—churches should be allowed precisely the same tax-exempt status as non-profit organizations, but only for the services they provide to the general public.

If 20% of their activity gives benefits to general citizenry, that 20% deserves NPO status. But the 80% activity that installs marble toilets in the clergy’s castles does not deserve NPO or any other tax advantage status. Plus, the property tax exemption, the parsonage exemption, and the six other perks I posted above, must all be stripped away. And, there needs to be no more religious endorsement of candidates or issues because it violates 501(c)3 statutes. Bishops and ministers will hush up if their lobbying wipes out their loopholes.

Can the USA learn anything from other nations?

mapAlthough Europe is far more secular than America, the Old Continent still medievally-tithes its populace. In Germany a hefty “church tax” is withheld from baptized church members, with the bulk of this revenue paying clerical salaries. Approximately five billion Euros were collected in 2010 and given away to German religious hierarchies. Secular citizens who seek to escape this tithe often find it impossible. Catholics, for example, cannot—according to Church Canon—“undo” the sacrament of baptism; they remain linked to Catholicism for life, as tax victims.

In Switzerland, a similar system exists—but additionally, business entities also must pay a church tax, even if all employees are atheists. Baptized Danes and Finns have to pay taxes for their state-sanctioned religions, but the latter are exiting in droves, enraged by the conservative Lutheran church’s opposition to same-sex marriage. Denmark also gives its churches huge grants, and Finland offers them 1.63% of the corporate tax total. Swedes abolished mandatory payment of the church tax a decade ago—it’s now “optional”, and Icelanders are allowed to direct their “congregation tax” to the secular University of Iceland instead. Italy’s church tax—.8% of income tax—resembles Iceland’s: the payers can direct their funds to either a religious organization of one of the nation’s cultural initiatives.

The United Kingdom offers massive financial and political privileges to its Church of England; most astonishingly, the 26 Anglican bishops are ensconced in the Upper House of Lords, where they enjoy veto power. Greece subsidizes its Orthodox Church buildings and the training, salaries and pensions of its priests. Throughout Europe, parochial schools often receive generous subsidies, and in several nations (Austria, Italy, Poland, Spain), the state pays priests to deliver religious “education.”

France apparently enjoys a “separation of state and religion” that is closer to what I’d like to see—Vive la Révolution! Especially this: French dioceses are not allowed to receive any financial subsidies from the state. Perks still remain though: French local authorities are required to provide housing for priests. The state also owns, and therefore must maintain, all churches that were built previous to 1905.

Back to the USA… I realize most American churches are not “mega-sized”—many are small and struggling, due to America’s declining interesting in “faith.” But my stance remains the same—religious groups DO NOT deserve benefits greater than non-profits. Rewarding them simply because they promote archaic ideologies is foolish.

The USA has been embroiled for over a half-century in a struggle between those who want to maintain the secularity that the original patriots intended, versus the “churchies” who favor a theocratic Christian nation. The anti-secular phrase “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, and the craven motto “In God We Trust” was smacked on our currency in 1957. I believe both of these erroneous additions will be subtracted in the near future, eliminated by the rising “irreligionist” demographic—doubling in the last two decades to the present 15%.

When religious groups are finally taxed fairly, what should we do with the revenue? I think secularists should advertise their budget intentions now, to thwart the conservative church-going claim that it will all be invested in promoting abortion, gay marriage, and other so-called abominations. Plus, if secularists can identify an inarguable social need—an item more urgent than stain-glass windows—it will illuminate the religionists who resist it as greedy, stingy misanthropes.

My proposal is this: The cash gained from taxing religion should be spent providing food for our poor, hungry children.

Specifically, we should stuff our youngsters with nutritious meals available at school—hearty, hot breakfasts before school, lunches at noon, and dinners at the final bell. The USA has one of the highest percentages of child poverty in the developed world; one out of six children live in impoverished circumstances and experience “food insecurity” in more than half of the nation’s states.

Hunger retards brain development, students can’t learn when they’re starving, and they’re more likely to drop out of school. Studies show that serving meals in a classroom provides a full menu of benefits: increased attendance, decreased tardiness, improved speed and memory in math and reading tests, fewer psychological problems, less obesity, less disruption in class, fewer visits to the nurse. Research also indicates that it’s best to simply provide “free food for all” regardless of parent’s income; this methods shelters the poorest children from shame and social stigmatization.

Feeding children is a policy that will enjoy near universal support. The Black Panther Party advocated “Free Breakfast for School Children” in a 1969 manifesto written by Huey Newton. For the transhumanist vote, I propose “smart food” that enhances focus, concentration, memory and mood. My reform, titled, “Tax Brainless Religion To Buy Brain Food,” would provide American pupils with cognitive-enriching cuisine like blueberries, salmon, walnuts, oatmeal, black beans, pomegranate juice, green tea, and dark chocolate.

Happy Eaters = Happy Students = Happy Educated Future Citizenry

Gnashing religionists will find it impossible to resist the divine logic of my proposal. Will impoverished African-Americans in Mississippi still believe praying on Sunday will get their kids into college more efficiently than eating three square healthy meals a day? Does anyone believe that buying a bigger mansion for a billionaire preacher serves the public interest better than ending malnourished stomachs and famished education? Does anyone really love the absent God who is omnipotent-but-needs-your-money, more than they love the idea of their kids getting smarter-and-stronger on Free Chocolate?

Tax the Churches. Let’s retrieve the cash they steal for “heaven” so we can create paradise on earth. If you have a better idea than my food-for-kids scheme please leave it in the comments section below.

Hank Pellissier serves as IEET Managing Director and is an IEET Affiliate Scholar.


As usual, I agree with the spirit of your proposal, but I cannot support using authoritarian means to achieve it.

Let’s instead try to persuade people to direct their tax money (and/or donate) to charitable organizations that do something good to feed the children. Let’s persuade people to elect political parties that support a better use of the taxes that we already pay.

The weak point of these counter-proposals is that they require doing some work, while supporting even more authoritarian governments does not.

I am no friend of the church, but I am no friend of nanny-state bureaucrats either. I can do without them. Show me a small organization that does something simple and concrete to help children, and I will support them directly.

I tell every one to support those who fight for ‘Separation of Church and State’. These are a few I’ve been supporting for years;

Americans United for Separation of Church and State:

Freedom From Religion Foundation:

Military Religious Freedom Foundation:

The Interfaith Alliance Foundation:

Hank, although a religious person, and although disagreeing with some of the specifics in your article, I agree that religion is often used in abusive and oppressive ways that do not merit special consideration.

Leave the churches alone tax GE

for Lincoln—you are very kind and moderate, thanks! 
I must also say that when I visited Salt Lake City I really appreciated
the Mormons’ generous, free genealogy services, and their free available videos that the public could watch that gave advice on parenting.
Both of those I would classify as “charitable” services to the public.

Aloha the Hankster,

    This time my atheist friend I’m going with the first comments on this list, from Giulio Prisco of Budapest who wrote, “...I cannot support using authoritarian means to achieve it.” As an atheist myself for my entire adult life AND a libertarian, I find problems with your premises and with the idea of sharing taxation more equally. No. Taxation is vulgar, unworkable, always corrupted by exceptions, and ultimately unwise and old fashioned. And evil in itself.

    Yes it would be nice to give money that otherwise would be wasted on guns, bombs, tanks, jets and bureaucrats, to “the poor.”
But I ask you to check your premises. Your entire article, which by the way, is a wonderful account of how entrenched and widespread the old superstitions are still with us, could be summed up, ‘Some are getting away from the tax man. Stop them and make them pay their fair share of the misery.’ I don’t share that notion, well known as it is. I say instead, INCREASE the number of people who are not taxed (Stolen from), find ways to reduce the size and scope of the state so that people can keep more of what they make and decide for themselves how their EXTRA dollars go to symphony orchestras or poor people or yachts and fancy cars. Ask yourself who is doing more to lift up society and give people dignity and work, Mother Teresa who depends on guilting people into helping her or Bill Gates who has given us universal computers and the incredible wonders they bestow on us, including the ability to write this and have you and millions others read it the same hour I send it!!!

    In other words I question the moral act of taxation and condemn it. No society ought to base its unity and success on STEALING money from its citizens /victims and giving that stolen loot to parasites everywhere.

    I interviewed Madalyn Murray O’Hare thrice on my radio shows. She told me she “loved my interviews because they forced her to reverse her entire field and have to defend her views from an equally or even more atheistic and libertarian position.” She too wanted to “tax the churches” believing that to do so would bring them into non-existence.” I fought her from the start, declaring that taxation is theft and that no one should have to endure it. She loved the reverse I held her on and battled me over two decades on this point. So Hankster you are not the first to want to extend the curse of taxation to do good things.

    Evil should never be “Made equal” or “Shared equally.” It should be exterminated. For the answers as to how a society can pave it roads, educated its children and keep the peace, without a central monster extorting money from all the victims with the threat of prison for not paying the state, see David Friedman’s wonderful and clear book “The Machinery of Freedom.”

    Otherwise, your article is understood as to its purpose. Its means are in question.

Live long and prosper Oh Great techno/Sci-Fi writer breath!

    Aloha Nui Loa,

    IL Fettucinni

Great article, Hank.

I can see religious organizations arguing that they donate a considerable amount of ‘resources’ (including the donated time of members) feeding children (albeit ‘religious children’), as well as providing other community service work, and that tax breaks help them to do community service work. This argument, however, misses the point, and besides, a non-religious organization helping children would be more effective.

“IL Fettucinni”

Fettucini Mussolini.
Let’s give Hank’s idea a try, otherwise it is the status quo:  continuation of post-Cold War drift (Bushian sterility)—not theatening so much as empty, purposeless.

“Ministers of mega-churches are rolling in millions of dollars in the USA, “fleecing their flocks” to buy lavish mansions”

Well, they’re not called “flocks” for nothing mate.

Sadly, the nutcases who worship a non-existent but violent super-entity have been collecting human sacrifices since the beginning of time.  The current group that worships a Great Boggle occupying all of space are a less immediate threat than the group that worships a Great Boggle in Washington, DC that stretches its dominion from World empire to the tiniest, most private part of our individual lives.  I agree with you absolutely Il Fettucinni:  The tithes and taxes of irrational aggressors need to go.

for Fred, Giulio, Captain Electron, and anti-taxers - -
many discussions here end up with an argument between… libertarians? and… socialists?  My article recently on my admiration for Denmark aligns me with the latter group, as do other articles I’ve written.  But I was a Libertarian party member for over a decade…

I have two complaints about libertarian philosophy now—
one is I regard it as QUIXOTIC: foolishly impractical in the pursuit of ideals; especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas
Synonyms: idealist, idealistic, romantic, starry-eyed, utopian -
I say this because I don’t see any nations in the world serving as role models for libertarians, nor do I see any nations heading in that direction.  Please correct me if I am wrong.
two is: I don’t see what the complaint is with agreed-upon democracy. Why do libertarians have antipathy against people getting together and mutually deciding how to collect and invest funds for social maintenance?  I understand that it feels coercive, but there is always the ballot box to complain in, and if libertarians can get enough votes to agree with them, they can have their world.  True?

While you wait for your libertarian world to arrive, don’t you believe it is best to tax as fairly as possible?

“Captain Electron” is a good handle- this is Private Proton reporting for duty, Sir, by order of Commander Quark.
Frankly, I don’t care if churches are taxed; it’s not as if the churches are not commercial entities. Don’t know for sure if taxing churches is the right way to go but am totally tired of trying to please every person, every family, every faction, every creed. Guilio, you are too rigidly anti-statist; take merely for instance lawsuits against Big Tobacco in the ‘90s: why should anyone care more about the rights of tobacco companies than meth dealers and heroin pushers? Big Tobacco recouped its losses by raising prices, the state was awarded funds. Now, what the state did with the funds we don’t exactly know, yet the only loser was tobacco consumers who are more or less (depending on the individual tobacco consumer) committing suicide in slow motion—so they are comparable to someone who hangs himself paying more for the rope.

The churches?
How about the billionaires?
Confiscate all moey over 500 million.

“I don’t see any nations in the world serving as role models for libertarians, nor do I see any nations heading in that direction. Please correct me if I am wrong.”

No, you are right as usual, Hank. What is likely is: government will hollow out services, but still charge dearly obstensibly for defense, etc., but mostly to line their own pockets—what is defense, when you strip away the obfuscation but a protection racket? Corporations are no better because they want the state to help out their own people, when times get tough they turn socialist and ask for bailouts and all the rest. So if the state were largely reduced corporations would merely find other ways of predation, using strong-arm/intimidation: the velvet gun.
However in the interest of being optimistic (i.e. smarmy) whites eventually wont dominate because they wont be able to; in other words multi-racial/ethnic chiefs (“ruling class” sounds too Marxist) will rule.

i am french   the   U S   need a revolution french style for the end of all privileges     ...IF the power of religion in the U S is not   MASTERED you will end up with FASCISM

Hi Henri—I am a Henri, too, and French-American.
thanks for your note -
libertarians who are disdainful of my request to tax religion,
should remember that the highlight of their history is probably
Catalonia in the Spanish Civil War,
when the anarchists were undone
by an alliance between the Catholic Church and the Fascist military

Hank: for Fred, Giulio, Captain Electron, and anti-taxers - -
many discussions here end up with an argument between… libertarians? and… socialists? My article recently on my admiration for Denmark aligns me with the latter group, .

Fet:    With Rothbard…Denmark is not a a good example of socialism. It’s more of a mixed market society like the US.  Why not pick Cuba or North Korea as an example of socialism? The people in those countries risk their lives to get OUT of those heavens of government controlled glory.

Hank: But I was a Libertarian party member for over a decade…

Fet:    So there is hope for you! Come on back!

Hank: I have two complaints about libertarian philosophy now—
one is I regard it as QUIXOTIC: foolishly impractical in the pursuit of ideals; especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas
Synonyms: idealist, idealistic, romantic, starry-eyed, utopian -

Fet:    And this is a CRITICISM of libertarianism? What do you want? A nasty, brutish and short ideal? Should we aspire to mediocrity? Or to straight government control of everyone everywhere? I LOVE the word QUIXOTIC! From you get:
resembling or befitting Don Quixote.
2.extravagantly chivalrous or romantic; visionary, impractical, or impracticable.

  Well there’s nothing wrong with chivalry or having vision. The real question is freedom impractical? Anyone who has ever dealt with government bureaucracies or the military knows the answer to that question.

Hank: I say this because I don’t see any nations in the world serving as role models for libertarians, nor do I see any nations heading in that direction.

Fet:  So what? Could anyone have predicted what the world would be like with computers running everything? No one could have predicted in 1903 that the invention of the Wright brothers would create Jumbo Jets and allow passengers to span entire oceans and continents in hours while dining on steak and drinking wine. And if you look at the history of some nations, New Zealand for instance; their current economic success is due directly to giving up their heavy government ownership in the economy and turning to market competition.

Hank: Please correct me if I am wrong.
two is: I don’t see what the complaint is with agreed-upon democracy. Why do libertarians have antipathy against people getting together and mutually deciding how to collect and invest funds for social maintenance?

    It’s NOT Agreed upon! I was never consulted on this alleged “get together.” We have never “mutually decided” to do anything. This kind of verbiage is very much like calling social security TAXES…”contributions,” as if one were volunteering their money to this travesty. I personally know over five men who have gone to prison for the vicious act of “Not paying” their income tax. More, our current national government rests not on anything voluntary but the first, modern, act of mass murder…the Civil War. It’s very simple, you pay, you obey..or they kill you.

Hank:  I understand that it feels coercive,

Fet:    Oh Slippery Sloped One, it IS Coercive.

Hank: but there is always the ballot box to complain in, and if libertarians can get enough votes to agree with them, they can have their world. True?

Fet:    He who is stronger rules? So now we have abandoned any idea at all of natural rights? All of what Paine called the “Rights of Man” are now subject to the vague, meanderings of mobs? Oh, “majorities?” If I want to do freedom, that is live my life, creating values and exchanging them with others who wish to do so, I have to get on the top of some political heap and FORCE my wishes on others? Which is ironic because all libertarians want to do is be left alone. We want no subsidies, no special exceptions. We want nothing from government at all! We want the government to become impotent. We want all those US bases on foreign soil (about 941 of them) to be sold and the troops returned home and discharged. We want the government OUT of the money business which it screws up like everything else it touches.

Hank:  While you wait for your libertarian world to arrive, don’t you believe it is best to tax as fairly as possible?

FET:    I’m not waiting for it to arrive. I’m actively searching, writing, encouraging and hustling to show people that government is an on going “clusterf—-.”

And you want the same people who conduct wars and the Post Office and all the other hopeless bureaus, the people who don’t have a real idea amongst them, to steal money from mystics to feed others. And they will determine who is to be stolen from and who is to receive this loot.

Now who is hopelessly wearing rose colored glasses?

Live long and prosper. My semi-French friend!

Aloha Nui Loa,

  IL Fettucinni

@Hank: I am not an anti-taxer, and I don’t call myself a libertarian in the strict sense, and in many cases I am more of a left winger. I am definitely anti-authoritarian though.

I accept that, at times, personal freedom may have to be limited to protect others. But this should be seen as a necessary evil, and subject to strict limits and oversight. Otherwise, history shows that the cure is worse than the diseases. And I am against penalization of victimless crimes, in all cases.

@Hank re “Why do libertarians have antipathy against people getting together and mutually deciding how to collect and invest funds for social maintenance? I understand that it feels coercive…”

I have nothing but admiration and support for people getting together and mutually deciding how to collect and invest funds for social maintenance, and it does not feel coercive at all.

What does feel coercive and hateful, is when self-righteous idiots get together and mutually decide how to oppress other persons or groups, using their mistaken notion of democracy as a cover for their sadistic control freakery.

Hi Il Fettucine—thank you for your defense of Libertarianism. 
I still have many concerns about it, that I will write about in a future article that I title: Libertarianism: Freedom or Feudalism?

Many articles here, on just about any topic,
end up with libertarians asserting themselves and swaying the conversation to a debate on their ideology.
I suggest that the debate on that topic gets
focused on one thread, still very active, that is titled:

“No More Libertarians” by Mike Treder
and the link is here:

Control freaks own the world, Giulio; you needn’t be concerned of churches being taxed
—control freaks wont allow it.

As a kid I remember the priest of our church driving a used car that was donated to the church and living in a modest apartment attached to the church.
He had modest furnishings and ran soup kitchens, health centers, a food pantry and helped the community, when anyone was in need he was there and so was the church. He took his vow of poverty as it was meant to be taken.

Six years ago my sister’s husband lost his job after 28 years and it caught them off guard. My sister who has gone to the same church all her adult life call me for help she had two small children and was trouble putting food on the table but me living on a tight budget and back in school didn’t have much help to give so I went with her to home and chat and listen and try to figure things out. Now she had always I mean always give at least 10% of her income to her church and after long conversation I suggested we go speak to the minister of her church.

So we drive down early so we’d have time to chat to the minister and we waited for him to show. He pulled up in a brand new BMW the big one and dressed in a nice suit and 800.00 dollar Gucci shoes and invites us in for a chat.

As my sister who is in tears because she hated coming to them and was embarrassed by her situation tells her story and explains she needs help to put food on the table. That the kids have only had two meals in the last week and she was fearful of what looked like and big black hole she doesn’t see a way out of. My sister had always been self sufficient had never asked anyone for help before.

Well long story short this is what the minister said to her.
WTF we’ll pray for you where the hell was the thousands of dollars hell tens of thousands that my sister gave that church over the 20+ years she had gone there. Where was the food pantry that he could go grab a few cans of something for her to feel her children!!!! I think it was on his feet and spent on what he drove and I’m sure he didn’t live in a little apartment off the church. So I say tax them their theft’s why should they get out of paying taxes too.

@Giulio I’d like to understand better exactly what you find “authoritarian” about Hank’s proposal. As far as I can see he’s just suggesting that religious organizations (including churches) be subject to the same tax regimes as other organizations providing comparable services. In other words, they shouldn’t be treated differently just because they are “religious”. I struggle to find anything that comes close to a viable argument against this view.

And yes, as a Brit I find it shameful that Anglican bishops have seats in the upper chamber of Parliament. But then, we are still ruled in principle by unelected monarchs and haven’t got round to writing down a constitution or bill of rights, so what can you expect?

I imagine what Giulio is getting at is the direction we are headed in if we did this.

Conversely, rather than taxing churches, why not extend the same tax exemptions to more people?

I believe we need to abolish mandatory taxation altogether.

Taxation<——————————>No Taxation

Which direction are we headed?

Taxing churches simply validates the crime of taxation.

Better to extend the benefit of exempt status to all, then to extend the persecution of taxation to all.

Could a libertarian on this thread offer an alternative way to allocate funds to help children that would:

a. generate as much money

b. have a steady and reliable input of money.

c. not depend of the generation of interest from corporations (or any other special interest groups that may distribute resources in a biased way or implement marketing into the distribution model—because then we would have to introduce more laws to enforce the way they do it…(which would conflict with other libertarian goals)

d. not contain the argument ‘if people were not taxed so much they would give more to charity’ (or at least provide stats showing reliably that we could expect this to be the case (the current psych research does not support this—(Libertarian response: the government influences academic research and suppresses/does not support the research that would prove it)) 

Regardless of what Hank’s political perspective is regarding other issues, his advocating tax as a way to generate revenue for charity projects is the most effective way there is today given where we are at in our technological and social evolution. The ideals of the Libertarian on this issue do not suit the time, but will hopefully one day be realized.

Comparing taxation for this situation with taxation for excessive war efforts is not helpful, nor rational. Demonstrating a situation where government wastes tax payers money supports the idea of minimal goverment or better checks and balances; it does not support the notion that we should not be taxed for charitable efforts. 

The Libertarian in the situation of these comments comes across like an angry teenager who is mad at their parents for making them help out around the house; learning which parental acts are worth rebelling against and which are worth cooperating on is something learned in the later teen years. I wish I hadn’t made that analogy, actually… the word ‘parent’ tends to set Libertarians off. But hopefullly the Libertarian can take what they can from the analogy; it was not meant to suggest the government is ‘above’ the individual, or that the individual needs parenting. 

Put in the nicest way possible: Libertarians who rage and uproar when any proposed centralized cooperation is suggested need to mature their thinking. There is nothing wrong with what Hank is proposing unless you are an extremist, since for the time being there is no feasible alternative way to achive large scale charitable efforts of this nature.

I am for as little state intervention as possible, and on many issues side with Libertarians, but some efforts are just better taken care of (at this point) by a centralized authority (that is as democratic as possible). It sucks, and I hope that feasible Libertarian-type plans regarding these types of causes come to the table soon. 

I would change my view on this of course if a Libertarian could offer a solution that satisfies (in a realistic, direct way, that could be implemented today, not in a tangental or ‘thought experiement’ way) objectives ‘a’ through ‘d’ as listed above.

Nikki, I have your answer:

I apologize if my proposal is not organized or professional enough, I just hope that the idea will be communicated and that discussion on the practical means to achieve it can proceed.

A Proposal For Voluntary Taxation

There are many problems with the tax system in the US. Corruption, inequality, waste, fraud, evasion, budget shortfalls, political bickering, litigation and lawsuits.

My proposal to correct these inefficiencies is a ‘taxation’ system based on voluntary payments (taxation here is not entirely accurate, but I will use it to keep the topic simple: there’s no reason to debate over whether the word “taxation” is appropriate - we can leave that for another time).

In principle, the proposal itself is relatively simple: A ‘tax’ system based on voluntary contributions, tracked through a website, updated in real time, allowing contributors to designate where their donation is spent.

It might look something like this: You open the ‘tax’ web page in your browser, and choose from a list of ‘projects’ (this could be anything from a local library, to a new state highway, to a new supercomputer for the National Ignition Facility, to national defense/military), and then electronically transfer funds from your bank account directly into the fund for the project you want to contribute to. Every fund includes a detailed description of it’s purpose and plan of action. The amount of money in the fund is updated in real time, just like charity drives. Money pledged to the fund will be ‘frozen’ in your account, and actually paid when the fund reaches it’s target (this is just a note about what happens to the funds if the project doesn’t reach it’s goal and is scrapped - the money is returned).

That’s the essential concept, and obviously a lot of work would be need to be done to iron out all the details of exactly how the system functions.

What I want to talk about, and receive feedback on, are the potential issues that arise from this system, and possible modificaitons or changes to it to make it more robust.

Some of the possible issues I have thought of:

It’s not ‘fair’.

There are two sides to this coin.

1) “The poor won’t pay any taxes.”

The majority of income taxes are not paid by the poor as it is. They do pay taxes in other ways, such as through sales taxes, but currently the poor are not the largest contributing tax base.

2) “The rich won’t pay any taxes.”

Currently, the rich already pay more in income taxes and property taxes than anyone else. Some might conclude that the rich would simply refuse to pay anything, ever under this system, but it’s me feeling that when the circus of tax evasion and tax loopholes are removed, the rich would contribute as much, if not more than anyone else. People love to be given a choice, rich or poor.

Next issue:

Important things will not get funded.

The issues with this, is that if people choose precisely where their money is spent, it’s possible that very important projects would receive no money. To counteract this, I believe that an honest, transparent social media platform is necessary to inform people of the benefits or value of each project. Mistakes will be made, but I think that like Wikipedia, it will self-correct over time (probably a very short time considering the speed of online feedback) and the initial mistakes in allocation of funds will very quickly sort themselves out organically.



A general fund is needed to pay for things in the spur of the moment.

My primary objection to a general fund is that it is easier to abuse, due to the fact that those spending it have discretion (in a non-general fund, the money can only be spent on the project it is designated for).

Possible solutions: provide an even higher standard of transparency, auditing, and tracking to the general fund than other funds. Put a cap on the amount of funds that can be contributed to a general fund at any given point in time, thus limiting the amount of potential abuse, giving the system some flexibility and resiliency, while preventing severe embezzlement or fraud.



This is a serious question as to whether a person’s record of contribution should be public record or not. Perhaps we could include an opt-in system, that allows individuals to choose whether or not they make their records public knowledge, with incentives for doing so. You always have the option of remaining anyonymous, but if give up the privacy, we could find some way to reward you for it. It also serves to encourage businesses to be publicly accountable, as they can be financially inventivized to do so through market mechanisms.

Here’s a small scale example of this in action:

@iPan point taken, but the following sentence from Nikki summarizes my views on libertarianism (and also on Burt’s Universal Morality vs my commitment to utilitarianism) perfectly: “The ideals of the Libertarian on this issue do not suit the tme, but will hopefully one day be realized.”

Unfortunately, leaving charity up to the good nature and whims of human nature does not work.  The average person has neither the time nor the inclination to figure out who and what needs to be funded, and in what proportion, so they go with “gut feelings” that are heavily influenced by “cuteness” and “sob stories” and whatever projects appeal to them emotionally.

I am afraid governmental bureucratics is the best way to achieve a fair dispersal of this type of wealth.  Unfortunately for the U.S., this works best if the politicians are not corrupt, buyable or owned by the rich, powerful, religious and corporate conglomerates who have vested interests in keeping the poor and stupid the way they are.

I agree with the French contributer:  the only way the U.S. is going to get out of its entrenched poverty, stupidity and selfishness cycle is a social and political revolution.  Right now the average U.S. American citizen has no understanding of how enslaved they actually are to a very small minority of extremely rich and powerful people. 

May the Revolution for Real Freedom begin in earnest.

@Giulio…By the way as a “bureaucrat” myself I rather object to the idea that large government is by definition authoritarian. In the best of cases (albeit never perfectly in the real world) large government, just like small government, is an expression of democratic choice made directly or indirectly (via elected leaders and their appointees) by the people. Not to accept this is essentially to be like a tea party activist who opposes government intervention and taxes while happily drawing unemployment benefit.

In the real world, the result of excessively small government, let alone anarchist-inspired absence of government, is market failure, concentration of power and wealth in the hands of unelected elites, and eventually more oppressive types of government. Perhaps then it’s useful to remind ourselves that ideas promulgated on this blog do have practical consequences, so we should strive to be responsible in the comments we make. Especially we should take care to distinguish what we may find desirable in the long term with what is expedient in the short term if we are to achieve our long-term goals rather than creating something worse than the status quo. In this context I believe that *genuine* conservatives have an essential role to play in political debate.

Well, this is yet another sticky wicket. I stand for secularism and for the protection of the freedoms of the individual which is why I say this..

“Secularism builds the foundation for religious and cultural acceptance, but should not protect the rights of any group above the rights and protection of the individual. Multicultural groups may coexist in harmony within a society founded upon secularism and where the protection of the rights of the individual are paramount and in priority and in precedence to that of any minority group.”

Do I believe that religions or any “entity” labelled as a church should be treated with any special preference within such a secularist society – NO!
Do I believe that these same organisations should receive tax free status and subsidies? NO!
Do I believe that charitable contributions made to these organisations should be taxed – NO!
Do I need to repeat that last sentence again – I hope not.

Hank – why should any charitable contributions made by any charitable persons to any religious organisation for charitable purposes be taxed and used as tax revenue by governments for purposes unknown, ( Social welfare? – which everyone is already contributing to, bank and deficit bail-outs? cruise missiles? government over-spending and bureaucracies?)

So you got me on board up to this sticky point – “charitable contributions”. And what describes a charitable contribution? Well I guess any contribution given as a gift to be used by persons to support their collective goals and ideals – in this case religious ideals.

If I gave you $20 bucks, (and this is pure speculation), then I would not expect a government sleuth to be watching from the shadows of some dark alley and be ready to jump in and demand his cut. So I say that charitable gifts of monies or otherwise given should remain just so, and the government has no rights to any part of this gift?

As to what folks give and donate their monies to is absolutely up to them, and it is a shame that the US has such a tradition with religious quacks and shyster’s, that seem as big in importance as the entertainment business is over there. That is not to say that such activities do not exist here in the UK, but that most folks over here are protestant, (Anglican), hardly ever go to church, agnostic, atheist or other, and would be the first to tell such smart-dressed men to frack off!

So I say the solution to stop this charade and religious prostitution is once again through education of minds, not by more taxation? And that all charitable contributions should remain tax free. As to what these contributions are used for and by whom should be under scrutiny, especially by those of whom contribute, so it must be down to individuals to decide where their monies are going and to donate or not - yes?

“Do Secularists Contribute to Social Divisiveness?” – by Russell Blackford

Hi iPan,

This is clearly something you have given a lot of thought to, and it is clear that you have made effort to consider (fairly) the counter-arguments, and that you are motivated in a humanitarian way about this topic.

The use of the Internet to achieve what you propose I think demonstrates something cruicial that Libertarians consistently fail to recognize; until the Internet, Libertarian proposals were in many circumstances many fold more untenable than they are now, and as technology improves, so too does the tenability of Libertarian goals. Those participating at IEET are well aware that technology (in general) is a liberating force in the world, and your outline gives a good example of how this is the case.

A few things to say in response:

The major problem I see in your plan comes from research regarding human motivation and evolutionary biology. The knowledge we have now on the matter tends to support WEMM’s claim that people are not very likely to contribute as much as they are currently obligated to through regulation. And although the system you propose would (in theory) have less waste, but I would be cautious in thinking that the the two would cancel each other out.

So why is that we would likely end up giving less?

It’s not as simple as saying ‘humans are selfish’. It comes down to biases in reasoning that evolved in order to ensure individual survival, survival of family members, and close personal friends. Humans spent most of history working in small groups consisting mostly of family members, and so it makes sense that we are better at sharing our personal resources with people we are close to, or can feel a strong amount of empathy for, and not strangers. The survival of our genes, after all, only began to depend upon the success of others (that we don’t know) around the time of agriculture.

So it is not surprising that our tendency to voluntarily give to strangers is low.

Examples of well documented biases:

We tend to overestimate the money we need for ourselves, and underestimate the amount that others (even family members) need. It’s a bias that does well to ensure individual survival, but it gets in the way of even the most cautious and humanitarian people in assessing the needs of others.

However, despite our tendency to favor ourselves (and relatives etc.) we do care about the survival and prospering of other humans, we enjoy sharing and cooperating, and we care about investing in humanity’s future (which includes investing in children). However, as I said, the evidence indicates that biases consistently work against these other priorities, since we have a difficult time assessing the needs of others that are not close to us or similar to us. We have a ‘near’ and ‘far’ bias regarding these values because of our evolutionary history.

When in groups (when groups make allocation decisions), however, (in this example, governments) the bias is less severe than it is for individuals. (though still very much present). 

For reasons such as these, when it comes to charitable causes such as feeding children, I tend to favor a more standardized method—at least for the time being.

I tend to agree that ‘important things will not get funded’ for the same reasons. And there are a number of (other) cognitive biases that get in the way of our being able to assess which goals to invest in. Faced with lots of information and statistics about the various efforts and the reasons for investing (as you propose as a solution) I do not think we can reliably overcome the obstacles of human bias that are currently the norm.

There are ways we can improve upon our skills in this domain, however, and can overcome a lot of the biases that currently prevent us from succeeding as unregulated large groups. Some of the best research on biases of this nature is coming from Robin Hason, Eliezer Yudkowsky, and the SIAI team as whole—which is one reason why I am such a strong advocate for their projects. In a way, this is some of the most humanitarian research being done.

So it’s not hopeless, but I don’t think collectively we are at a point where we are ready to make the switch to an ‘individual decides’ based model of taxation. 

Oh, and I agree that the extent of corruption in current taxation system is unnecessary, and think it needs to be addressed in a high priority manner.

Thanks for the response and level-headed Libertarian proposal.

@ Peter..

The UK does have a Bill of rights presently, due for review any time soon - perhaps?, (last update 1689). The question is, should this be superseded by a UN human rights constitution or not? This is why we have you working in the European commission, (our inside man), to promote the renewal of a UK Bill of rights, and topple the absolutist EU and UN bureaucracies.

I have been told, that the underlying difference between the UK Bill of rights and the US constitution, is that British citizens are labelled with rights as “subjects” to and within a monarchy, whereas US citizens are fully empowered with the freedoms of life, liberty, property and freedom of speech. Not sure if you can add any more to this? And to whether you think that the UN human rights bill is insufficient to that of the UK or US constitutions? – I would prefer a US styled constitution as promised by our previous labour government, (and as promised by Gordon Brown himself before he even became PM).

“These ideas about rights reflected those of the political thinker John Locke and they quickly became popular in England. It also sets out—or, in the view of its drafters, restates—certain constitutional requirements of the Crown to seek the consent of the people, as represented in parliament.”

Bill of rights UK (1688)


“Move for British bill of rights faces deadlock”

“Some Tories believe a system modelled on the US supreme court and constitution would work in the UK and help pave the way to a full pullout from the European convention on human rights and the Strasbourg court that rules on its provisions.

Nick Clegg said: “Human rights are fundamental to our democracy. They act as a safeguard, protecting individual citizens from the state abusing its power. The commission’s work will help us maintain, and build upon, an enduring framework of fundamental rights that will prevent the abuse and erosion of these freedoms for generations to come.”

to Jim from Austin—

your story is very sad and infuriating and I hope your sister
is able to feed her children. 
Your sister’s treatment is why I wrote my article -
It is a terrible way to be treated, as you noted,
after donating tens of thousands of dollars to her church,
your sister’s request to feed her children is ignored -
actually, what the church offered her is prayers…
I have yet to see prayers ever fill anyone’s stomach

my article has 2 points:

1. if religions do not operate for charitable reasons
then they should not be given the privileges of non-profits
2. to maximize church’s ability to be charitable
we can tax their non-charitable activities and send the proceeds to hungry children

here’s the link to the non-profit I’m affiliated with -
we have little money but her needs fit our mission statement
she is encouraged to contact us at:

@CygnusXI..thanks for the clarifications. Why do you describe EU and UN bureaucracies as “absolutist”? What does that even mean? It seems to me that instruments such as the European Convention on human rights, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and various provisions in EU treaties provide safeguards for individual rights that British citizens would not otherwise have. This is not to say that there isn’t plenty wrong with the existing bureaucracies, or that calls (not only from people within the UK) to secede from the EU treaties are necessarily as insane, stupid or evil as some of us in Brussels like to think, but there does seem to be a fair degree of disinformation going around suggesting some kind of fundamental difference in political culture and values between US/UK and continental Europe, which really doesn’t exist.

@Peter re “as a bureaucrat” myself I rather object to the idea that large government is by definition authoritarian”

Been a bureaucrat myself too. Not “by definition”, and of course there are exception, but over-bureaucratization is a very slippery slope which can easily lead to absurdities, benevolent (?) authoritarianism, suppression of diversity and oppression of minorities.

Re Hank’s proposal: IF Hank is “just suggesting that religious organizations (including churches) be subject to the same tax regimes as other organizations providing comparable services”, then I agree to his proposal.

Well maybe I have used the wrong term, “authoritarian” may have been a better choice, as Giulio has indicated.

“.. the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and various provisions in EU treaties provide safeguards for individual rights that British citizens would not otherwise have.”

Not sure I agree with this? Are you saying that the UK bill of rights does not extend to the safeguards of individual rights?


2 : of, relating to, or favoring a concentration of power in a leader or an elite not constitutionally responsible to the people <a>

Giulio - yes, my proposal is “just suggesting that religious organizations (including churches) be subject to the same tax regimes as other organizations providing comparable services”

that is all it is doing.  It is not part of a master-plan to sterilize people or eliminate the male vote.  Of course, there’s always that “slippery slope”...  ha ha ha.

My “tax the church” proposal gets less resistance on than it does here.  I wonder if ieet is more “libertarian” than the larger, more generally progressive reddit?  not sure.

I really love what Nikki wrote earlier.  My proposal was seeking a way to raise funds for hungry children, and libertarians objected without raising an optional, food-distribution plan. Kids don’t want to eat your old Ayn Rand paperbacks - they need organized, social handouts. 

I know the argument that public collection of money for charitable redistribution is “coercive.”  I understand that.  But that argument also protects people who are simply selfish, doesn’t it? 

IMO, a system that provides no guaranteed assistance to the poor will increase that demographic, and lead to a highly-stratified, backwards state, full of crime, anger, hunger, etc. 

I wrote about Denmark earlier, which has achieved “Happiest Nation” status via massive taxation to create a more egalitarian society.  Yes, the Danish rich “John Galts” hand over enormous amounts of cash, but they apparently think it is worth it…

“My proposal was seeking a way to raise funds for hungry children, and libertarians objected without raising an optional, food-distribution plan. Kids don’t want to eat your old Ayn Rand paperbacks - they need organized, social handouts.”

Ha. I always get annoyed at people who use Ayn Rand as a poster child. I mean, I read some of her books, and took for what it’s worth, but it seems like pundits use her as an excuse for some awful things. Glad you seem to think so too, Hank.

But, as far as alternative solutions go, I think I presented one: pay-as-you-want’ism (isn’t wonderful to add -ism to a new concept 😉  )

I just came across a new pay-what-want model this morning, and it fills me with hope:

Why not a pay-what-you-want grocery store? That would end hunger instantly.

Might be hard to find the start up capital to do it…...oh wait, somebody call up Bill Gates or Peter Thiel. It could start as a pilot project on a small scale.

A pay-what-you-want grocery store could be profitable and charitable at the same time, without increasing government influence over our lives.

Hank - The reason why Dane’s are happiest is likely because their social structure is not over-stretched and over-burdened. Stick another 5 million bodies over there and see how the Dane’s feel then?

Seems you are making some assertion’s regarding libertarians by way of associating yourself as a socialist, yet notice how your socialist ideals are founded upon using the “stick”, (licensing and laws and legislation), as opposed to using the “carrot”, (education and nurture). Is this not how socialist ideals become communist despotism?

And are there not libertarians in the US who are doing a great deal for the poor and third world? Even more so than any Dane’s?

Let’s encourage libertarian philanthropy, not spit at it - now there’s another option for you?

“Patronism’s novel goal is to enmesh the band and the fan so that the latter is a constant supporter of the former, a true patron.”

The tendency to assert that Libertarians are ‘idealists’ as a criticism can be illuminated by the above sentence.


“A true patron”….what is a ‘true patron’? Answer: a fictional, idealized notion.

In Libertarian philosophy there is also “true democracy”, “truly free market”, “true freedom”, “true citizen”… and so on and so forth.

….why can’t they just use the word “more”… “more free, more democratic….” Answer: because they are idealists, and think in black and white and so the word ‘more’ disatisfies the Libertarian at some deep level… they consistently use the word ‘true’ for this reason. They need ‘100%’ or else they can’t back it… I don’t want to say it’s childish, because it’s not that… it’s a unique pscyhological disposition is what it is, held by otherwise intelligent people.

“the author [Rand] deals wholly in the blackest blacks and the whitest whites. In this fiction everything, everybody, is either all good or all bad, without any of those intermediate shades”

…Amazing that she lived in a post-modern era (you would think she lived before it), it’s like she was in a bubble or could not comprehend the notion of subjectivity in any intelligence sense.

Those opposing Rand, and Libertarianism more generally, seek to approach questions regarding psychosocial behavior in a more realistic way.

Why not feed children through taxation, and do other things (where possible) without taxation? Ta-da!

@ Voy ayge..

Why not do away with money altogether, feed anyone who is hungry and replace self-gratification with personal development and make work interesting and not merely corporate slavery? Is that a libertarian view?

According to what you say, then all libertarians must be Star Wars fans? Can’t get more simplistic and black and white than that?

iPan—the organic chain restaurant, Cafe Gratitude, has a “pay-what-you-want” menu option. 

They offer the “I Am Grateful” bowl of food - customers pay whatever they think it is worth, after they eat it.  They can pay nothing at all, or as much as they want.  It is Cafe Gratitude’s best-selling item, by far, selling five times more than any other item.  They sell the most bowls of this item at their West Oakland cafe, it is an economically-depressed area.

The average offering for that bowl turns out to be $3.85.  That’s far less than the $7 per bowl for similar menu items, but it brings customers in who eat other things that they make more money on.

I am not sure what would happen if everything on their menu was a pay-what-you-can item.  But I think its an interesting model for what you’re talking about, and I know the owner is interested in the concept of community sharing, because I interviewed him for this article:

iPan—keep up your research on your topic.  Perhaps it is a way to achieve both “libertarian” and “egalitarian” ideals, depending of course on how stingy each individual is.

On slippery slope arguments: they’re not always entirely baseless, but to be valued there does need to be some analogue of gravity. The slope may be slippery, but you’ll only slip down it if there is a down. There does seem to be a perception that it is in the nature of bureaucracies to gather power to themselves and become increasingly absolutist/authoritarian, or simply selfish and elitist. But why should this be more true for government bureaucracies than any other organization, such as corporations or…churches? Certainly we need some societal mechanism to compensate for the natural tendency, correctly described by Karl Marx (it was the remedy he got wrong), for power to concentrate. At their best, however, bureaucracies in the service of democratic governments play precisely this role. Think antitrust authorities for example.

@CugnusXI..I’m not saying the UK bill of rights doesn’t protect individual rights at all, but I doubt that the 1689 bill would for example include the right of assembly. My guess is that some countries are more advanced in some respects and others in others. There are different types of freedom, some of which conflict with each other, and different countries make different decisions as to which are more important. Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch hates the EU and indoctrinates anglosaxons into seeing it as evil.

@iPan…“pay-as-you-want”: that’s charity isn’t it? Alumni donations etc. I certainly agree it’s worth exploiting and encouraging this kind of thing more. Though I also can’t resist pointing out that this was part of conservative UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s “Big Society” vision, which was of course hammered by lefties…

It’s close, but not quite “charity”.

It’s more like an honor system. The seller does not set a fixed price, or require you to pay anything (although some “pay what you want” models have a minimum price - usually something absurdly low, like .01$ or 1.00$)

What I find interesting are the statistics from these experiments, and of course the fact that they’re experiments.

Collecting data on these things is really important.

For example, I wonder what would happen at a PWYW grocery store, if your wholesale total was displayed on a large screen at the check out?

Because, there was this study in Israel with day care centers.
They were having a problem with parents late to pick up their children.
So, as part of an experiment, they chose one daycare that penalized the parents with a fine, and one that didn’t (the only penalty was a social one - the anger/irritation of the employees).

They found that the daycare that imposed a penalty (I think it was like $10 or something) saw an increase in late parents, as they started to simply view it as a ‘late fee’, while the other daycare stayed the same.

Back to the grocery store. Would people be less inclined to stiff the store if the wholesale cost of their items were displayed on a large screen at the checkout counter?

I believe that the potential success of these types of things can be increased through transparency and access to statistics.

For example, if you can see, in real time, what the average contribution is, will you pay more or less than that? Does seeing that piece of information affect how much you pay?

What about if you can choose who gets the money? (does your payment go to the cashier who just checked you out, the person sweeping up the mess on aisle 5, the managers….split between all of them?)

There ARE successful models of pay what you want, that are more than mere charities, they are actually profitable!

The Humblebundle raised nearly a million dollars on a few indie games (the money went to both charities, and the game developers).

So, it’s neither a true charity “handout”, nor stiff capitalism.

I think this is the future.

@Peter re “But why should this be more true for government bureaucracies than any other organization, such as corporations or…churches?”

The slippery slope arguments are equally valid for government bureaucracies, large corporations, churches and all concentrations of power.

But we can boycott corporations by not buying their products or services, and we can stop going to the church. This helps keeping greedy corporations and churches in check. But the only way to boycott a government is leaving the country, which most people won’t do. So, a government is more of a monopoly than a corporation or a church, and the slippery slope is even more slippery.

@Peter re “At their best, however, bureaucracies in the service of democratic governments play precisely this role. Think antitrust authorities for example.”

Come on Peter. What cars do antitrust bureaucrats drive? Where do they live?

Giulio, Peter - every nation has a preference or antipathy for strong centralized government based on its history - a past record of a Mussolini, Hitler, or Stalin might lead them to distrust authority. The USA was founded on principles that rebelled against British authority so perhaps that remains part of our mindset.  The meme of libertarianism is seen as a defense against tyranny?

But… weak central government has its own problems - it’s too weak to accomplish huge tasks.  Strong central government can be essential in defending a nation, building public works, and swiftly enacting social reforms that benefit the public.  It seems apparent that China and Singapore have used strong central authority to advance their prosperity.

Many goals of transhumanists, such as ambitious tech, AI, and longevity improvement, space colonization, etc., will require the enormous funding and organization that governments are structured to handle.  A libertarian nation will not achieve those same goals, unless the tasks are fully funded by (competing) corporations and billionaires.

I suppose I am worried that the USA will dither and bicker, cranking out lawyers that argue about gun laws and whether or not “taxation is theft” - while China and other nations with centralized focus will produce engineers, life extension, tech achievement, the Singularity, etc.  Will we have our low taxes, personal “freedoms”, crime, poverty, ignorance, greed, and same tired debates - but not much else?  Will the future belong to other nations, with educated, ambitious citizenry that… cooperates and works together to achieve great goals?

I would agree that churches ought to pay their fair share of taxes. Up here in Canada, the churches pay property tax on any portion of their buildings that aren’t directly used in their mission. The statutes helpfully defined that mission for them as religious instruction. Ironically if the municipalities want to be sticky about such things, then feeding children is not a church activity as defined by them, so that portion of the building is taxable.

You argue that the largest amount of money given to the church goes to frivolities. In some cases that might be true as people whose only religion is themselves try to buy immortality. In the budgets that I have managed the largest portion of the budget is the minister’s salary. I spend as much time at the local hockey rink as I do at the church!

The housing allowance is set by the government up here as the fair rental value of a three bedroom house. It doesn’t matter what the church pays, that’s what I can claim.

I am not poor. (I have been, so I know that I am now not poor.) I am not rich either. That’s fine with me.

If we are going to lambast the church we need to be fair and look at the other not for profits that say they do the work that the money from the churches should be accomplishing, assuming that there aren’t already a great number of churches with food programs, food banks, out of the cold programs etc.

In the major fundraising not for profit in a major city in Canada, the CEO is paid a salary comparable to the salary of a CEO of a major business, about 250,000 last I heard. They have a grand office building and lots of staff to run it. A large proportion of the money they raise to help local agencies goes to pay their own bills. Even the money that is given to the local agencies goes to pay salary and overhead as well as direct service.  I am afraid that you will have to look long and hard to find an organization whose largest budget line is “Food for children”.

So I agree, let’s tax churches. Let them pay property taxes. Let them prove that the charitable dollars given them are used for mission, and define mission as making a difference in people’s lives, not just religious instruction. I think you will discover that the churches are, for the most part, doing a better job than you think. BUt that’s OK, because the ones that aren’t will be weeded out.

@Hank re “I am worried ... while China and other nations with centralized focus will produce engineers, life extension, tech achievement, the Singularity, etc”

I am not worried. Authoritarian dictatorships and geriatric nanny states tend to produce sheeple, not creative people.

I have had a chance to read through the comments and see that the discussion is as much about taxation as religion.

I find the libertarian position puzzling. They define themselves by “natural rights” which are natural rights only from a small distinct culture. If we are to follow libertarian rules to the letter, the entire settlement of North America was wrong and we should give back all the land because the native people were holding the land in community.

The argument over taxation is that people should be able to keep what they earn. (I have never met a poor libertarian.) I would argue that we actually earn very little of what we have. The majority of what we own comes from our situation. We were fortunate enough to be born into a country and position that allowed us to become wealthy.

Voluntary givings to charitable organizations is pathetic. There is no other word for it. If you remove charitable givings to churches it is even worse. The average annual giving to charity in Canada is less than $200. That is !% of a less than poverty level income. Most people spend more money on coffee in a year.

My problem with taxation is that the government wastes so much money on foolishness. We could feed, clothe, and educate every child in the world for a a tithe of what is spent on “defense”.

The libertarian position seems to be that all government is bad - a curious position that require that the advocate live in a country with a poor government of a particular variety.  It seems that the position is popular in the U.S. but has few followers elsewhere.  That seems to be a reflection on the U.S. style of government, a form of government that has failed in every other country in which is has been tried or imposed.

The U.S, may be the only country in the world where politicians seriously campaign with promises to govern as little as possible.  To an outsider this appears to be utterly ludicrous. 

for Pastor Alex—thank you for your comments—I am in absolute agreement with you.  I agree that there are many so-called “Non-Profits” where the CEOS are grossly paid and their services don’t qualify, IMO, as “charitable.”  I agree with you that the libertarian position is “puzzling” to put it politely, and I agree with you that “voluntary giving is pathetic” - which is why I regard taxation as a necessary measure to guarantee social services for the needy.  The libertarian view that social welfare would be taken care of by individual donations does not seem to be valid.

Rosemary - ha ha!  thanks for your observation that US politicians campaigning with the promise to “govern as little as possible” appears ludicrous to outsiders.  well-stated!

Giulio - Hmm.  I am not convinced by your statement, “Authoritarian dictatorships and geriatric nanny states tend to produce sheeple, not creative people. ”—- it seems rather broad. 

I can locate historical facts that counteract that contention, but for now.. it seems that your insinuation that Singapore and CHina cannot effectively produce “creative people” is quite debatable.


“Many goals of transhumanists, such as ambitious tech, AI, and longevity improvement, space colonization, etc., will require the enormous funding and organization that governments are structured to handle. A libertarian nation will not achieve those same goals, unless the tasks are fully funded by (competing) corporations and billionaires.”

-Agreed. The X-Prize Foundation, while it has achieved remarkable things, it is not the norm, and likely would not be the norm should government move out the picture.

-also, computer programmer author David Levy argues that the most significant reason for why AI and robotics is excelling in Japan (beyond cultural reasons) has to do with the amount of government funding put into the project. The Japanese government is highly motivated to improve AI and robotics because of the costs it will save in the long run in taking care of the elderly.

Many times more funding goes into the AI project in Japan when compared with the U.S., and we are and will continue ride the coattales of Japanese success in AI/robotics because corporations here are not motivated as highly or have as high of an incentive to compete with Japan on this, and U.S. government funding on this project is currently limited to interest in miliatary robots. I think the situation of Japan is is a good example of how government scale investment can make large differences in Transhumanist projects.

Of course, if there were a tangible alternate to government funding for large scale AI projects then that would be preferable. If somehow the incentive to build AI/robotics became large enough in the private sphere, then it would make sense for government to reduce funding and allow corporations to take over.

Anticipated Libertarian response: if governments were out of our lives and market were truly free (Austrian free), then corporate behavior would be very different, and you couldn’t say for certain that X-prize scenario wouldn’t be the norm. And, that until governments are out of the picture, incentive will not occur. Lack of incentive is a direct result of government intervention.

Libertarian predicted future proposals tend to yeild low probability, since they attempt to predict the outcome of scenarios in which altering many variables is required for achieving the desired outcome. Probability theory, namely the conjunction fallacy, and Bayesian analysis in general, yeild low probabiltiy to Libertarian proposals, and many proposals (such as this one) end up having the probabilistic equivalent of a thought experiment (which may be why they sound like thought experiments to those skilled in Baysian analysis).

The same inadequacies in prediction apply to the original point of disagreement in this comments section, since the Libertarian solution to feeding children requires many conditionals and altered variables of the present. Likelihood of success on this task as Libertarians lay it out is low, but there is the possibility of finding another way which doesn’t involve government, and so we should remain open to that.

for Giulio—here’s an article I found on emerging Chinese creativity:
When Innovation, Too, Is Made in China

I think we Westerners are a bit smug and have a superiority complex about our “freedoms” - we imagine that our emphasis on individualism guarantees us “creativity” and global leadership… 

I am sure that it does not.  For every American who drops out of school and invents something incredible in his garage, there are thousands who drop and… don’t.  Meanwhile, your “uncreative” Chinese go to school, do their homework and succeed. 

If “creativity” and “innovation” can be learned, the Chinese will learn it.  Authoritarian state or not.  IMO.



Sorry to have dropped out of this debate for a while. My views on this are basically aligned with those of Hank (and Nikki).

@Giulio…OK so the antitrust bureaucrats are part of the same elite that creates monopolies, oligopolies and barriers to entry. Point taken. But then I’ll ask you the same question I asked iPan on another thread: name me one community of greater than stone age size that has maintained significant levels of material welfare, equality and respect for human rights without some kind of more-or-less centralized bureaucracy.

You say I can boycott corporations by refusing to buy their products, but I can’t avoid breathing in their pollution. And that pollution takes many forms, and not least information: not only Fox News and the like, but the comments and behaviour of those they have indoctrinated. Part of the strength and resilience of Western democracies lies in careful interplay between the independence and political accountability of their institutions (read bureaucracies). They underpin the welfare state that even in a country like the US underpins social peace and stability they provide essential checks and balances, oversee (imperfectly as it turns out…quelle surprise) the functioning of the economy, and protect public health, to name just a few of the more obvious roles they play. Just because they are not perfect doesn’t mean we can do without them, or that we should see them as something bad.

Aloha Hank Oh Man WILLING to Spend OTHER People’s Money!

  I don’t know whether or not your are aware of how many little ideas that some of the people on this list have offered that make me, my life and what I’ve earned totally subservient to YOUR ideas about how to help your fellow man! For instance when you write that the amount of Voluntary charity is dismal, certainly not enough to feed the poor,  and thus justify stealing my money, you are saying that you and other like you have the right to take (steal, confiscate) what I’ve earned to satisfy your notion of what’s right. Now if you tried that individually, you would be called a thief. But somehow, if you can get the government to do it for you, i.e., steal my earnings to feed what you consider enough to feed the poor, then THAT makes it OK.

  Don’t you see the arrogance involved in this? Especially when it can be easily documented that the US is the most charitable country ever in the history of the world!

  Thus with Milton Friedman: “A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that ... it gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”

    The essence of liberty is leaving other people alone. But this insane notion that SOME know more than others (And are willing to FORCE the others VIA GOVERNMENT) as to how much should be extracted from me to feed someone you designate as poor, is the ultimate in snide tyranny. It’s motivation is so seductive. You want to help people. My advice is to back off. Let people decide for themselves how much they want to donate to the poor. If you and the government decide for them then the whole element of charity has been abandoned for the violence of government.

    Charity is voluntary giving, not obedience to the State out of fear. Oh great Hankster you are intelligent and should be able to see this clearly. There is no way around it. You either let people live as THEY want or you FORCE (Oh never yourself of course! You encourage the government to do your dirty work for you!!) them to live as YOU want. You can’t get around the laws of logic.

    Now if I was a rich guy I would want to give my extra dough to schools that teach voice because I love opera and realize that opera singers need years of expensive training. I don’t want opera coaches to live in poverty because of under funding. So, it follows that all people should be free to donate or NOT donate to whomever they want for whatever reason they want. Just as there ought to be a MAJOR separation between church and state, there ought to be an even greater separation between economy and State!

    So there.

    Aloha Nui Loa,

    IL Fettucinni

@Fred James, I’d don’t know how you have “earned” your money, but I’m willing to bet that the Big Bad Government has played an important role in creating the conditions to have made it possible. Do you use government services? Do you enjoy protection of your property from REAL thieves? Have you ever lived in a tax-free society or thought about what that might mean, or how it could operate?

Hank’s point is only that religious organizations should pay their fair share, like everyone else. For the rest, obviously it’s a matter of democratic choice whether you go for more or less tax and government services, just as long as you don’t completely lose control of public finances. Libertarians like you really need to grow up and stop regarding government as the great Satan, at least until you have shown concrete, real-world examples of your ideas working in practice. If you don’t like what the government is doing, vote them out.

@Fred James

Why are you so angry?

Nikki’s argument was that groups make more accurate assessments of needs than individuals do for reasons pertaining to evolutionary forces, not that people should steal your money. All she said is that no other method could generate as much revenue for large scale humanitarian projects.

Suggest an alternative or admit to holding non-tangible beliefs, OR, admit that you would rather have your freedom (this small amount of freedom) than support the cause of helping out the less fortunate. 

The only known way out of the feed the children problem from the Libertarian perspective is to not feed the children (in the name of liberty).

Or maybe you could consider sacrificing some of your freedom for a good cause. And yes, you can opt out; go to Africa. 

Yes freedom is important. Yes we should maximize it. Are some things worth having less freedom for? Yes. Because life is not unidimensional (unless you are a libertarian-in which case the one dimension is ‘self’)

To appease the bleeding heart liberal socialists who like spending other people’s money and the stubborn Libertarians who don’t know their ideology won’t be met in reality anytime soon, let’s meet half way and be real-world realistic moderates shall we?

Perhaps we should be focusing on how the most efficient private charities are operating; an example in Canada being “Charity Intelligence” which releases yearly reports on the best operating charities in the country, and citizens should encourage their members of parliament (or congressmen) within government agencies to promote the best charities through public service announcements and low-cost, low-overhead means (i.e. government web-sites). In essence the public would facilitate a low-taxed means for the government to promote the best private operating charities in the country. The best charities would thrive, and other less efficient charities would, I think, be encouraged to naturally follow suit to keep up to receive this PR. The public sector, through low-cost means in this case is helping to encourage the private-sector to operate efficiently.

Use existing government regulations on fraud and money laundering (no need to over-regulate), and encourage industry self-regulation. Encourage whistleblowers and private citizens to expose theft within the charities.

The same above could faciliated for Churches or any agency, or spin off (like UNICEF) without the need to directly raise taxes. The taxation on the government promotion would work wonderfully, and would not operate to punish the successful charities, thus encouraging the charities to exist in the first place.

Although your opener is attention grabbing and your thoughts sensational and not necessarily altruistic, I wonder would your report be equally scathing of the capitalistic entertainment that is the financial system fiasco (too big to fail) or the oil slick industry (lowering pump prices would cause massive unemployment). 

Could the church (as a body) do more? Absolutely! “...but the poor you will have with you always…” (Jesus’ words) and is more than just the church’s responsibility.

Please believe that any tax dollars collected from the church would not go to your intended.  Exhibit A: the number of states that used as a selling point, lottery dollars for education.  Any money received would be used to cover the gapping loopholes Congress seems unable to close for our “corporate citizens”.

Europeans spend on average 1/3 of their income in taxes; and receive many benefits for which U.S. citizens pay premium prices. Surely this is NOT the model you propose we follow?

How about this, we enforce (for everybody) the tax laws that currently exists before we scapegoat the church because the media chooses to sensationalize a miniscule group of rogues.  Unless you are trying to make the comparative argument between megachurch preachers and corporate CEOs….

“Please believe that any tax dollars collected from the church would not go to your intended. Exhibit A: the number of states that used as a selling point, lottery dollars for education. Any money received would be used to cover the gapping loopholes Congress seems unable to close for our “corporate citizens”

But it worked with lawsuits against Big Tobacco in the ‘90s; the settlement funds didn’t go much to those sickened by tobacco use however pressure was put on Big Tobacco, and SOMEONE got the funds—aren’t you grateful for small favors, Prof?
It means nothing to me either way as economics is no science.
It is as with history: those who write the history & economics books are in a sense the judges and juries, while the rest of us are the executioners.

for Econ Prof and Anonymous—

your disputes with my proposal to tax religion seem to be based on the notion that they are “not all bad.”  I just want to assert here what I said in the article, that I have absolutely no gripe with churches having nonprofit status to perform nonprofit charity work.  No gripe at all.

What I do have a problem with is churches having privileges far greater than non-profits, to do “work” that is in no way “charitable.”
An earlier poster (on reddit) criticized the enormous budget that religions expend on erecting and maintaining buildings that are intended to awe us with the majesty and wealth of their God.  Churches are not simple meeting places or places to feed the poor; they are often packed with treasures obtained via the collection basket or through tax-deductible donations. 

How would you feel if the local ASPCA suddenly devoted the majority of its funds to collecting dog and cat paintings?  Instead of actually caring for animals?  Or if homeless shelters commissioned paintings of the homeless instead of actually sheltering them?  Church art isn’t “public art” either - it is more accurately defined as “propaganda art” that espouses the credo. 

Plus, the ASPCA (for example) does not get to house its staff on the premises, with the estimated value of this housing untaxed by the government. (see parsonage exemption in the article)

I am open to critique, but I’d prefer that you actually read the article, and then based your critique on disputing specific points in my argument.  Do you really believe that all Eight of the flagrant tax breaks that religions get, should be maintained?  If so, why?


This is really such hypocrisy
since you have a 501.3… donation tab


Hank, don’t pay attention to the naysayers; I witness (no pun intended) it every day: there’s so much bad religion filling empty heads that quite apart from taxation, pressure has to be maintained on houses of worship merely to keep them from excessively spreading memes negative by religionists’ very own standards (!)
We really are drowning in anachronism, anachronism by anyone other than a Luddite’s definition. I’m not at all negative concerning transhumanism, yet politics provokes the opposite reaction. And bad religion is even worse. Only a sadist would truly enjoy bad religion & bad politics. Conclusion? to be a champion of the obvious: there must be a large number of sadists in the world.

hi Russ - not sure what you mean, can you explain what you’re inferring about my 501(c)3?

My 501(c)3 owns no material objects except for a 6-year old binder that the government documents are kept in.  And no one is getting paid.  Our only activity is sending donated clothes and canned food to an impoverished village in The Philippines.  I don’t think we have very much in common with churches who spend 80% of their donations on building maintenance and salaries for their propaganda ministers.

We don’t raise a lot of money.  But than again, I don’t tell people that they will go to hell if they don’t hand over a tithe.

So basically, I don’t understand your point.  Are you still confused because the Rapture didn’t happen?

But the senescent 89 year old preacherman says October 21st the Rapture shall come; poor thing, he was only off by five months.
I don’t care if houses of worship (HOW) are taxed or not, people are so reactive HOW would almost certainly retaliate by voting Republican/libertarian, probably negating any gain. Yet pressure has to be maintained on HOW, as pressure must be brought to bear on government, organized crime—frankly they are much the same, IMO: if power-seekers can’t use coercion or outright violence, then more subtle methods are used.
Naturally, we don’t want to tar all religionists with the same brush, some are as altruistic, as you will find anywhere. However the Bible for instance is not, as 99 percent of you know, a pacifist or liberty-oriented document. Jesus was basically a pacifist but the rest of the Bible can certainly be used to justify authoritarianism and mass murder. Read about the religious wars in 17th century Europe, the combatants didn’t one day pick up muskets and load cannon for no reason. The carnage was derived from a flawed reading of the Bible and other religious tomes.

The idea that churches have enormous amounts of wealth that could easily be confiscated and used for other purposes ignores the fact that most church wealth is tied up in property that connot readily be converted to cash and the average church struggles to pay its bills. Moreover, many churches have outreach programs (food pantries, clothing cupboards, etc.) and voluntarily give of their incomes to provide support for hungry children and other needy people in their communities. Hank Pellisier is obviously hostile to religion and is using hungry children as a stick to beat the churches with. Why not tax private foundations, schools, colleges, hospitals, etc. in order to feed hungry children? Those institutions also control large amounts of money and you could write books about the amount of money wasted by hospitals and schools, for example.

“Hank Pellisier is obviously hostile to religion and is using hungry children as a stick to beat the churches with.”

Churches beat others up ideologically: some churches take extreme anti-abortion positions; anti-gay positions (cloaked in “love the sinner, but hate the sin”); as well as extreme positions on other issues. Many churches—and I am not writing all—want to tell others what to do but don’t want others to tell them what to do, which is pretty common among all factions of people. However it is unbecoming for religious institutions to be so politically, ideologically divisive.

post-post, what a way to defend Hank!

@ Spengler47 - thanks for your comments.  In my article, I say that churches could and should have 501(c)3 status that offer services to the larger community - like their outreach programs that you have noted.

I certainly have no objection to them performing those functions.  I like it when they feed people and shelter the homeless, etc. Indeed, the reason I suggest that taxes collected from them for their non-religous functions be given exclusively to hungry children is due to my sensitivity to their moral goals - I don’t want tax money from churches spend on military equipment, or abortion, or anything that they might have an ethical issue with.  But all churches and religions, it seems, have an interest in feeding hungry children, so I suggested that funds raised from them be used exclusively for that purpose.

I am only interested in taxing the revenue that churches raise that they spend on non-humanitarian causes - like excessive building maintenance, glamourous cars and homes for the “clergy”, travel perks, etc.  This revenue, donated by the congregation, is not spent on “humanitarian” causes - it is only benefiting the lifestyle of the ministers.

Your comparison of churches with libraries and hospitals makes no sense. Libraries provide books to the general population, hospitals provide health. These are community services.  The community service that churches provide need not be taxed, in my plan, but the non-community activities should be. 

Churches that enrich their staff and preach that hell is waiting for those outside their parish membership - this does not benefit the general public. It is aggressive propaganda that only the membership ascribes too - and it should be taxed.

I hope this explains my position more clearly to you.

Hank - You’re inconsistent. 501(c)(3)s pay no taxes. If you want churches to be 501(c)(3) organizations, then they should remain tax exempt.

If you understand that social outreach is part of the churches’ mission, then why not allow them to continue providing outreach and deciding how they will feed the hungry or provide whatever form of outreach they want to provide. Why tax them?

Granted, some churches provide glamorous perks for their clergy. But universities, colleges, etc. do the same for their presidents. Many charitable organizations do the same for their CEOs. If you want to tax the churches, shouldn’t schools and universities also be taxed? And while we are at it, let’s tax the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, the United Way, the Red Cross, etc., etc.


Hank, I like and agree with your idea to tax the churches.  I think it is unethical (maybe unconstitutional) to give the churches any kind of tax break that other nonprofits do not get.  I don’t see any good reason why institutions based on supernatural worldviews should be treated more favorably than those based on natural or nonsupernatural worldviews.

However, I disagree with you on your second point.  I don’t think the proceeds from taxing churches should be earmarked for feeding hungry children.  I don’t think it should be earmarked for ANYTHING!  Instead, the proceeds should go into the relevant government coffers (local, state, or national) and be spent on goods, services, and programs (even debt reduction) determined by legislatures!

I completely disagree with those who have commented to your post and equated taxing with stealing.  Taxing is simply enforcing a moral duty to give to the common good.  The government enforces other moral duties supporting the common good. For example, it penalizes persons who murder other persons.  The murderers have a moral duty to respect the health and lives of others, a duty which they have abused.  Some moral duties are not to engage in certain behaviors, and other duties are to engage in certain behaviors.  To give money for the common good, through taxes, is just one example of the latter.

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