Tax and Spend

In The Greatness of the Kingdom we find that Alva J. McClain has identified several general principles of human government in the warnings of Samuel to the people of Israel when they requested a king “like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:5). In some ways, these principles represent a natural progression where each step leads inevitably to the next, and we can see that Samuel’s warning applies just as much in a post-modern American republican system as in the ancient Israelite monarchy.

  • Government Service – The nation’s children would be pressed into the king’s service.

  • Job-making – Non-productive government positions would naturally increase.

  • Labor scarcity – The labor force would necessarily shift from the private to the public sector.

  • Government for its own sake – The state will work to perpetuate itself.

The next principle that Samuel identified and warned the Israelites about was burdensome taxation. Of course, if you have the creation and proliferation of government jobs, you must have the means to pay for those employees. How else can this be done apart from increasing taxes? As the bureaucracy grows, tax revenues must increase. Samuel warned them that the king would “take the tenth of your seed and of your vineyards” (v.15) and “the tenth of your sheep” (v.17). Of course, a 10% tax would be a tremendous relief to us in our modern economy, and especially if it were only levied on food production, as was the tax in Israel, apparently. McClain cites a 1955 Newsweek article in which Henry Hazlitt writes, “Taxation erodes the incentives to produce and earn. It penalizes success, and the production of marketable products, often in order to subsidize continued production of unmarketable products. It sets up an army of taxgatherers. In the end it meets fewer real needs than before.” Simply applying Biblical principles would prevent such excessive taxation.

Not only does Samuel warn that heavy taxes would be levied, but he also warns about property confiscation. This is a necessary corollary to taxation. The king would not be satisfied with simply taking 10% of the goods produced, but “he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards” (v.14). And it would not simply be an indiscriminate confiscation, but he would take “even the best of them, and give them to his servants.” This kind of redistribution of property is also inevitable when government expands as it always does. The demand for increased wealth to support the weight of the bureaucracy is never satisfied, and although it may be couched in patriotic terminology like “the public good,” it is an ever-increasing burden placed upon society to feed the desires of its rulers.

So far, we have touched on principles relating to the growth of government bureaucracy and its inevitable economic impact. Next, we will consider the increased demands of control and its abuse which always follow when we have government “like all the nations.”

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