Thursday, May 17, 2007

You shall not steal: Dt 5:19

"You shall not steal." (Deuteronomy 5:19)
In commanding mankind that they should not steal, God is declaring and demonstrating man's fundamental right to own and posses personal property. To take someone's personal property without their explicit consent is stealing. Governments must remember that people's personal property and assets belong to them and not to the government. While all governments need capital to operate, it is wrong for governments to seize and acquire personal property without the consent of the governed. It is easy for governments to forget that their right to tax is a right granted by consent of the people. Personal property is just that, personal, and government should not presume that it has an unconditional right to take it for their own use.

In my state of Virginia we are facing a situation that directly applies to this principal. In an attempt to provide funding for many needed transportation projects, our state government has authorized the creation of regional taxing authorities that would have the power to raise taxes to be spent on transportation. If the majority of the municipalities in a region approve the plan, then the regional taxing authority would be created and its members appointed by the local governments. The question that this law begs is, should a group of unelected representatives be empowered to tax? Since it only requires a simple majority of the local government to approve the plan, and since the members of the authority would be appointed by the local governments and not elected by the people, then does this law violate the principal of consent to tax?

If governments view people's property and possessions as existing for their own use and exploitation, then the answer is simple: government can take whatever it needs, whenever it needs it. If, however, a government understands a person's right to own possessions and property, then it must be careful how it raises, acquires, and collects the revenue by which it operates. Governments must respect this right of its citizens.

David Robison

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