TPA report quotes Bible to preach low taxation


6:45 pm - May 21st 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


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Today the Taxpayer’s Alliance and Institute of Directors published a report calling for lower taxes and lesser public spending on services. They also call for a new flat-rate rate of 30%.

Political Scrapbook has already highlighted one bizarre bit from the Taxpayers Alliance ‘report’ on cutting taxes today – with Allister Heath explaining having more money is a great substitute for a personality if you need to attract women.

But here’s something else that caught us by surprise.

The report also harps on about what the Bible says about taxation (pg 97), using it as justification.

According to Christian scripture, government was and is ordained by God (Romans 13:1), but the Biblical model for the state is small and decentralised.

A limited role for the state naturally leads to a limited burden of taxation under the Biblical model.

Well that’s sorted then! The Bible said it so society must be like that.

When Jesus said that Christians should render unto Caesar he was not endorsing high taxation. Instead, he was stating an obligation to obey the civil authorities, even when the burden was onerous.

This should be interpreted as a practical instruction – not paying would lead to dire consequences with the Romans – and obligation, rather than a statement on the desirability of high taxation per se.

God was against high taxation too. That’s told you!

Seriously. I bet they’ve randomly included someone’s Latin homework in there too just so they could fatten it up.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


I feel a Life Of Brian moment coming on.

“Mother, why aren’t women allowed to go to the TPA stoning?” “Cos it’s written, that’s why!”

2. The Cricks

Student union stuff, Sunny, and beneath you. It’s quite clear that selective quote is part of a wide inquiry of 400+ pages looking at all parts of tax and how it is viewed by the public. Many of the public are religious so it is perfectly justified to discuss it. I note you weren’t as brave in ridiculing the next section focussing on Islam.

Putting forward reasoned arguments against the figures or assumptions would have been more worthy, rather than just childish preaching to the choir (no pun intended) stuff like this.

3. Disgruntled Gnome

Some New Testament passages the TPA seem not have cited (texts from Authorised Version):

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Mt. 19:23-24)

But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. (Lk. 6:24)

Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven. (Lk. 18:22)

They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil. (1 Tim. 6:9-10)

Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. (James 5:1-3)

I think devoting about 0.4% of our overall report to a Christian perspective, as part of discussing the ethics of taxation, is entirely legitimate. We also have a – longer – discussion of an Islamic perspective.

Disagree if you like, but this rather suggests that you can’t figure out a substantive criticism of our report. Except for getting the numbers wrong on NI.

@The Crick

The TPA report is student-union stuff though. Theyre offering up a “biblical model” which is quite frankly rubbish, whatever the context.

We could argue the whys and wherefores, but I’m no theologian, and neither are they.

6. Limiting Factor

Only fundamentalist rubber-room candidates would think that pre-Dark Ages musings on tax would have any relevance in our technological, interdependent, anti-absolutism society.

@2 sounds familiar, and someone who knows all about student unions.

@4

Sinclair, who unlike his pal Mark Wallace is never brave enough to discuss anything with me, likes to talk percentages – but not the 60% that he and his pals want to cut from local Government budgets:

http://zelo.tv/Jr92B6

And as to including any percent from texts on organised religion – heck, that kind of thing should be too unreliable even for the TPA.

Speaking as an ex Sunday School teacher; I think that given a choice between Barrabas and Jesus we can guess who the TPA would have wanted crucified.
J.C’s teachings weren’t exactly on the Far Right whatever TPA’s American backers might want to believe.
These people need to be outed for what they really stand for and whom they are.

“Putting forward reasoned arguments against the figures or assumptions would have been more worthy, rather than just childish preaching to the choir (no pun intended) stuff like this.”

I am surprised he hasent tried to link them with the BNP yet

The TPA report: “When Jesus said that Christians should render unto Caesar he was not endorsing high taxation. Instead, he was stating an obligation to obey the civil authorities, even when the burden was onerous.”

Incorrect.

The ‘render unto Caesar’ response by Jesus, related in Matthew 22, comes when he is confronted by Pharisees and Herodians, two groups with very different attitudes to Caesar, who have cooked up a plan for “how they might ensnare him in his talk” (v. 15). They try to do this by asking him a tricky question:

“Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? (v.17)”

‘Tribute’ here refers to the relatively new poll tax imposed by Caesar, one denarius, which had to be paid in Roman coinage. This coinage carried the image of Caesar, and was therefore objectionable to the Pharisees for its idolatry.

Jesus therefore is offered the choice between support for idolatry in appeasement of the Pharisees or support for law-breaking, which would annoy the Herodians. Jesus spots the trick, calls for a penny of the tribute money and makes clear he’s referring to Caesar’s image on the coin (v. 19-20) before he responds.

“Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” is not therefore an exhortation to obedience: it is quite the reverse. It is telling Caesar precisely where he can stick his power, reflected as it is in his image-laden coinage.

For the TPA to suggest that Jesus is simply reinforcing the notion of divine authority granted to kings in the Old Testament, rather than presenting a new challenge, is a pretty basic misconception of what what the Gospels are.

The TPA might do well to remember that just the day before his bit of bother with the Pharisees and Herodians, Jesus starts a bit of a riot in the temple, when he takes issue with those who hold inordinate financial power:

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves (21 v.12-13).

Entirely consistent with the Caesar tribute episode, Jesus attacks – physically in this case – the way in which the 1st century state backs those with financial power.

I have no problem with the TPA finding Christianity, but if they’re going to quote Jesus, they would do well to remember whose side Jesus was on. Even I know that, and I’m not even a proper Christian.

TPA have dropped their guard here, and revealed who their backers really are. Far right wing elites who have moulded Christian teaching with the views of Ayn Rand.

But seeing as Blair and Murdoch dressed in white robes and then baptised their offspring in same place as John the Baptist you see how totally fucked up these people are.

Sally – the report devotes 4 times as much space to Islamic perspectives as it does Christian.

You’re actually suggesting the TPA are a shadowy Islamic front group, well done.

And Sunny really, *this* is the best you can do? At least there are no numbers to fuck up in this one.

13. John Syme

” What have the Romans ever done for us..?”

14. Shinsei1967

I don’t think it terribly surprising that in a 400 page document discussing a radical change to the entire tax regime that a historical look at what philosophers and thinkers have said about tax is an odd thing to include.

After all pretty much every piece I have read on tax has included the Oliver Wendell Holmes dictum that “tax is the price you pay for living in a civilised society”.

If an otherwise obscure US Supreme Court jurist can be quoted then why not a few Biblical quotes too ?

I also don’t recall Liberal Conspiracy getting quite so agitated about Biblical learning when Gordon Brown was giving his son of the manse speeches, quoting the prophet Micah and saying he had “learned from the Bible.”

Brilliant! My story is like a student union story because a supposedly serious lobby group is trying to quote the Bible in favour of lower taxes and a smaller state!

You couldn’t make it up!

Significantly they don’t mention the jubilee- according to Eric Nelson from Princeton University- that is quite an important institution in the Bible- the idea that all property every 7 years should be completely redistributed equally doesn’t make it in.

No, your story is like a student union story because you know full well the bible reference is a minor part of a section outlining moral perspectives on taxation, not the basis of the proposals, yet you still choose to write this childish piece.

Your reaction to being called on this doesn’t do you any favours, either 😉

18. Trooper Thompson

@15 Sunny,

“My story is like a student union story because a supposedly serious lobby group is trying to quote the Bible in favour of lower taxes and a smaller state!”

Wait a moment, the only time Christianity is mentioned around here is to denounce it, so I can’t see why you object in principle to making a Biblical case against the bloated, interventionist state. That is not hard to do. It seems like you want to have your cake and eat it too.

Not that TPA get it right, as Paul @10 points out. The ‘render unto Caesar’ answer was Jesus evading a trap from the pharisees.

19. So Much For Subtlety

16. Anselm

Significantly they don’t mention the jubilee- according to Eric Nelson from Princeton University- that is quite an important institution in the Bible- the idea that all property every 7 years should be completely redistributed equally doesn’t make it in.

Probably because it is not true. The Jubilee is only every 49 years and did not require that anything was redistributed. The Sabbatical Year is every seven and that too does not require anything to be redistributed. Only that the land should not be farmed in that year, any debts owed to other Jews should be forgiven and any Jewish bond servants should be freed.

18. Trooper Thompson

Not that TPA get it right, as Paul @10 points out. The ‘render unto Caesar’ answer was Jesus evading a trap from the pharisees.

And yet Jesus’ answer was obviously more than that. I don’t see they got it wrong. But what they should have quoted was Samuel 8:

10 And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.

11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.

12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.

13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.

14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.

15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.

17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.

18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day.

19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;

20 That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.

We run before the King’s chariots and think ourselves lucky to do so.

Hilarious…. and deluded. The TPA look like a joke.

Allister Heath: ‘How low taxes brought me closer to Jesus and made me attractive to women’.

21. Chaise Guevara

“This should be interpreted as a practical instruction ”

Ah, close scriptural analysis by the master theologians at the TPA. I’m sure they have some fascinating explanation of how easy it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

22. Shinsei1967

@ Sunny (comment 20)

I think you have invented that quote from Allister Heath.

There’s a bit a simplistic evolutionary pyschology on page 91 of the report regarding rich men having more sexual partners. Nothing about Heath’s own success or otherwise.

But you know perfectly well he is not religious (he told you enough times on Twitter yesterday) so he’s hardly likely to have “moved closer to Jesus” (lower taxes or not).

@19

Actually, land was redistributed during the Jubilee year. It had been divided up by tribe, clan, and family in proportion to their numbers under Joshua, and every Jubilee year, it was returned to the family whose inheritance it was. The effect was (or, rather, would have been – as there is no evidence it was ever put into practice) that the Jubilee Year equalised ownership of the means of production. Have a look at Leviticus 25 for more details.

24. Just Visiting

Sunny

you do have some explaining to do – as to why you choose to mock the Biblical input of the report – when according to Moog above:

> the report devotes 4 times as much space to Islamic perspectives as it does Christian.

Your bigotry against all things Christian does seem to roll on and on, despite being called on it so many times before.

25. So Much For Subtlety

23. Green Christian

Actually, land was redistributed during the Jubilee year. It had been divided up by tribe, clan, and family in proportion to their numbers under Joshua, and every Jubilee year, it was returned to the family whose inheritance it was. The effect was (or, rather, would have been – as there is no evidence it was ever put into practice) that the Jubilee Year equalised ownership of the means of production. Have a look at Leviticus 25 for more details.

That is not land redistribution. That is the exact opposite – that is opposing the redistribution of land through hard work and purchase. Essentially the writer is trying to freeze social relations as they were at the time of the Conquest. So everyone had an inalienable right to the land they won when they took the land. They could borrow against it and they could lease it, but they could not sell it. The Western parallel would be if English law did not allow Norman families to outright sell those lands granted in the wake of 1066. That is not redistribution nor would it be a means of equalising the means of production.

26. Chaise Guevara

@ 24 JV

“you do have some explaining to do – as to why you choose to mock the Biblical input of the report – when according to Moog above:

> the report devotes 4 times as much space to Islamic perspectives as it does Christian.”

Well, the narrative of the OP is “TPA claim God is on their side”. Which only really works if it’s a god that a large number of people in the UK believe in.

Good God, I’m not even a Christian but upon reading that, I hope (for the first time) that some kind of law against blasphemy still exists and that it can be used against them!


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. sunny hundal

    Now the TPA say god is against higher taxes: http://t.co/DiAggwSx (from @sunny_hundal)

  2. Yownan Taylor

    Now the TPA say god is against higher taxes: http://t.co/DiAggwSx (from @sunny_hundal)

  3. Sam Liu

    Oh…dear…. RT @PSbook: Now the TPA say God is against higher taxes: http://t.co/0oTfaPsK (from @sunny_hundal)

  4. Mr Edd

    "@PSbook: Now the TPA say god is against higher taxes: http://t.co/JUZUi3nf" Give unto Caesar…

  5. John Kolm-Murray

    Now the TPA say god is against higher taxes: http://t.co/DiAggwSx (from @sunny_hundal)

  6. Charlie Waters

    Now the TPA say god is against higher taxes: http://t.co/DiAggwSx (from @sunny_hundal)

  7. Foxy52

    Now the TPA say god is against higher taxes: http://t.co/DiAggwSx (from @sunny_hundal)

  8. Tony Smith

    Now the TPA say god is against higher taxes: http://t.co/DiAggwSx (from @sunny_hundal)

  9. Gideon Osborne

    Now the TPA say god is against higher taxes: http://t.co/DiAggwSx (from @sunny_hundal)

  10. Juliette Flanagan

    “@sunny_hundal: Just gobsmacking > RT @libcon: TPA report also quotes Bible to preach about low taxation http://t.co/qo1gYhZH” jesus Christ!

  11. Philip Marshall

    TPA report also quotes the Bible to preach about low taxation. No, really! http://t.co/ofAjDfTR

  12. Alex Farrow

    Now the TPA say god is against higher taxes: http://t.co/DiAggwSx (from @sunny_hundal)

  13. EB Bugler/rtwtr@NE36

    Now the TPA say god is against higher taxes: http://t.co/DiAggwSx (from @sunny_hundal)

  14. » Taxpayers’ Alliance Report Marshals Religious Arguments for Lower Tax Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion

    […] This being the UK, the presence of such material in a report about tax reform has occasioned some bemused derision. […]

  15. Ben Lowndes

    MT @sunny_hundal: TPA report quotes Bible to preach about low taxation. No, really! http://t.co/EqouKEhv

  16. Five amusing bits from TPA report you likely missed | Liberal Conspiracy

    […] the Taxpayers Alliance report from yesterday was all about reducing taxes, attracting women and quoting the Bible didn’t […]

  17. Bill Wright

    Just gobsmacking > RT @libcon: TPA report also quotes Bible to preach about low taxation http://t.co/ofAjDfTR

  18. Simon

    TPA report quotes Bible to preach low taxation | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/9B6dH25T via @libcon





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