The Problem We Face

October 22, 2008 — 11 Comments

“I make over $250,000 a year, between my wife and I,” Thomas Jacoby, a 62-year-old contractor, tells me in Woodbridge. “I don’t want to share it with anybody.”

Ruth Marcus – The ‘Socialist’ Scare – washingtonpost.com.

“MINE!” It’s something that any parent with more than one kid has heard at least a hundred times. “NO! YOU CAN’T PLAY WITH THAT BECAUSE IT’S MINE!” we hear coming from the den in a shrill voice louder than a fire engine siren. And being the good, loving, Christian, progressive parents that we are, we head into the den and say in a loving and gentle voice “YOU KID’S QUIT FIGHTING AND SHARE!”

Sharing is a value that most of us try to instill in our kids. Yes, we tell them, that is something that was given to you, but the nice and proper thing to do is to share with one another. It’s a value that is lifted up in the Bill Bennett’s “The Book of Virtues,” and something that our mother’s taught us — a value that has been transmitted from generation to generation.

So why then are so many people acting as if they are two years old again?

Thomas Jacoby, the contractor mentioned above, isn’t unique. He represents a tip of the iceburg of those who participate in the “ownership society.” These persons understand the value of hard work, and thus believe that they deserve everything they own and every dollar that they earn. They are the “owners” of their wealth, and pity the person who comes along and asks to share. “It’s MY money!” they shout like a couple of schoolgirls arguing over a Barbie. “Why should I care whatsoever about you?”

Dave Ramsey, the radio host and financial guru, lives in Nashville and I have been following him for many years. Dave has offered much good advice to folks in need (some of which I needed to listen to a bit closer) and I appreciate a lot of what he says. I especially appreciate his emphasis on giving to the church, as he understands that financial participation in the life of the church is part and parcel of church membership.

However all of that was called into question a few years back when the state of Tennessee was considering a tax increase. Revenues were down and the governor (a Republican) was considering how to fund services in the midst of the shortfall. Ramsey was one of the leaders in against any tax increases, using his platform on the radio to encourage resistance. What was his primary justification? That it was HIS money and he didn’t think that the government should have ANY of it.

Now understand, none of us particularly likes taxes. As our incomes have stayed relatively flat, the dollars taken out of our checks become more and more precious to maintaining the lifestyles to which we’ve become accustomed.

But we can’t forget that “government” is not some big monster that landed from the planet Zurg. Government is the thing that our ancestors set up years ago so that we might share what we have with one another for the good of our communities. Yes, government might be bloated and slow in responding at times, but it has no agenda to take your money with no return. It is a mechanism for sharing what we have, and often we find ourselves getting back much more than we put in.

The problem we face in our society today is that we have lost the value of sharing. Sharing is something for babies, for the weak, and frankly we don’t give a damn about them. We have to look out for numero uno, my interests, and screw the rest, because it’s all mine anyway.

And in saying such things, we sound like a bunch of two year olds.

And God shakes his head and wonders if we’ve heard ANYTHING that he has tried to tell us over the years.

 

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11 responses to The Problem We Face

  1. 

    Maybe ol’ Thomas Jacoby should be taken off the fire and police response list. Besides, the way he describes his situation it’s unclear whether he would even see an increase in taxes under the proposed plan he is so rabid about.

  2. 

    But we can’t forget that “government” is not some big monster that landed from the planet Zurg. Government is the thing that our ancestors set up years ago so that we might share what we have with one another for the good of our communities.

    The U.S. government, maybe. Certainly the Constitutional Convention was an expression of the Social Contract Theory. But government, as a generalization throughout history, is a criminal enterprise, not a consensual act of most parties involved.

    The problem we face in our society today is that we have lost the value of sharing. Sharing is something for babies, for the weak, and frankly we don’t give a damn about them. We have to look out for numero uno, my interests, and screw the rest, because it’s all mine anyway.

    Taxation isn’t sharing. Sharing is a voluntary act. Taxation is coercive. Maybe we aren’t a sharing society. In fact, we probably aren’t. But taxing wealth away from people, whatever good it may do for those to whom the wealth is distributed, won’t make people more virtuous.

  3. 

    John, you wrote:
    But government, as a generalization throughout history, is a criminal enterprise, not a consensual act of most parties involved.
    Hmmm…. So if I hear you correctly you are saying that governance as a whole in society is something to be avoided. It seems to me to suggest that is to believe that anarchy is better to human cooperation and order, something that the folks in Somalia and Liberia have found doesn’t work too well.

    As to your second comment, you make a point that taxation is coercive as compared with the concept of sharing . . . except that in the American experiment it is agreed upon coercion. The American people could certainly rise up against all taxation should they choose to do so, setting up a system of governance that is voluntary and allows each person to do what they like. However, that totally undermines any notion of citizenship or the belief that there is a common national identity and purpose. For many years the driving value in American society was “all for one and one for all” (even though that phrase comes from the French Musketeers!). What I am afraid of these days is that the predominant theme in our society toward one another is “@#$% off!”

  4. 

    Oh, btw, I would interested in hearing your take on Romans 13 based on the belief in governing authorities as criminals.

  5. 

    Jay, I interpret Romans 13 as an effort by Paul to spread favorable propaganda among Roman officials who might encounter his letter and wonder if Christians were affiliated with the rebellious Jews.

  6. 

    Jay wrote:

    Hmmm…. So if I hear you correctly you are saying that governance as a whole in society is something to be avoided. It seems to me to suggest that is to believe that anarchy is better to human cooperation and order, something that the folks in Somalia and Liberia have found doesn’t work too well.

    Government is an inevitability. It may be a republic in which the corruption of power may be limited, or as Jefferson said “In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” Or, alternatively, it may be the guy on the street corner with an AK-47. But anarchy is an impossibility.

    But yes, in general, governance should be avoided. It is, again to quote Jefferson, “at best, a necessary evil, and at worst, an intolerable one.” Government is giving people power over others, and that power can and is often abused. Therefore government should be avoided whenever possible.

    As to your second comment, you make a point that taxation is coercive as compared with the concept of sharing . . . except that in the American experiment it is agreed upon coercion. The American people could certainly rise up against all taxation should they choose to do so, setting up a system of governance that is voluntary and allows each person to do what they like. However, that totally undermines any notion of citizenship or the belief that there is a common national identity and purpose. For many years the driving value in American society was “all for one and one for all” (even though that phrase comes from the French Musketeers!).

    If it is truly voluntary, then it wouldn’t be necessary to enforce tax laws, would it?

    What I am afraid of these days is that the predominant theme in our society toward one another is “@#$% off!”

    I am, too.

  7. 

    What?! Government CAN’T be a criminal enterprise, because the government creates the laws, and therefore defines crime. I don’t know of any government that has criminalized itself. If you’re aware of any, please, enlighten me.

    Srsly. Without government of some sort, there is no society. All social creatures have some form of behavioral standards and some way to enforce those standards. I appreciate the community I share with fellow humans enough to support the structures necessary to maintain those relationships.

    Granted – not every law or every position is necessary, but government in general is.

  8. 

    A couple of comments:

    First of all, did anyone bother to check whether Thomas Jacoby was a Christian or even a religious man? Last I checked the United States was a secular government which allowed pluralistic viewpoints. Mr Jacoby’s religion or absence of it may not value sharing. If he is a Christian and says these kind of things then that is certainly puzzling, but otherwise it isn’t surprising that he thinks that way. American Society isn’t here to protect the values of Christianity.

    Secondly,

    If I understand the early Old Testament correctly, didn’t God ask the Jewish people to live without governance? Only when they pleaded for a government were they given one – and with due warning of the consequences it would bring. The evils of the kings appointed throughout Jewish history have continually repeated themselves in our own governments. Relevant to this discussion, one of those being the taking of personal wealth by the government. Taxes are a nice way of saying that the government can still take away personal wealth to serve it’s purposes. Regardless of the nobility of the purpose, it’s still a confiscation of wealth by a principality and power.

  9. 

    How quickly we forget Deuteronomy 8:17-18.

    It is like it is not even in the Bible.

    It’s MINE!

  10. 

    What?! Government CAN’T be a criminal enterprise, because the government creates the laws, and therefore defines crime. I don’t know of any government that has criminalized itself. If you’re aware of any, please, enlighten me.

    If a criminal may be defined as a person or institution which violates the life, liberty, and property of a person, then a government may indeed by a criminal enterprise. For example, a few years ago, I lived in a neighborhood that was ruled by the Latin Kings — a street gang. They were criminals, but they also constituted the de facto government of the neighborhood. The two were not distinguishable.

    Srsly. Without government of some sort, there is no society. All social creatures have some form of behavioral standards and some way to enforce those standards. I appreciate the community I share with fellow humans enough to support the structures necessary to maintain those relationships.

    Granted – not every law or every position is necessary, but government in general is.

    I agree that government is necessary. In fact, it is inevitable. But that does not make it any less of a criminal enterprise.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Cynthia Opines: Day 29 « A Life Profound - October 22, 2008

    […] Opines: Day 29 Posted on October 22, 2008 by Cynthia The Problem We Face by Jay Vorhees (ht Steve) The problem we face in our society today is that we have lost the value […]

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