Taxes, Legal Plunder, and Ezra Taft Benson

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July 21, 2009 by J. Madson

tax flyer09I was approached recently and challenged to find anything wrong in Ezra Taft Benson’s infamous “The proper role of government” I want to focus this post on a question I have for those who follow Benson’s argument. And I really would like an answer from someone. Here is the spoiler with my analysis of benson below: why is it plunder to use taxes for social programs but it is not when it is used for military?

Benson claims the govt has no right to take property from an individual against his will (see example of the extra horse).

He then concludes the following

“It cannot claim the power to redistribute the wealth or force reluctant citizens to perform acts of charity against their will. “

but it can use money for things like

a national military and local police forces

So here is my question. If it is wrong to take property/taxes of someone to redistribute wealth then why is it no equally wrong to take my money, against my will, to build up armies? If its morally wrong to take property against someone’s will, as he suggests, then it is always wrong regardless of the use.

Near the end of his speech, he argues that

once government steps over this clear line between the protective or negative role into the aggressive role of redistributing the wealth and providing so-called “benefits” for some of its citizens, it then becomes a means for what he accurately described as legalized plunder.”

Why is this plunder, but taking my money for other uses is not? Why is spreading wealth aggressive while blowing sh&^ up isnt?

Again, he claims

When a portion of wealth is tranferred from the person who owns it – without his consent and without compensation, and whether by force or by fraud – to anyone who does not own it, then I say that property is violated; that an act of plunder is committed

gabril15For my entire tax life I have paid money against my consent with no compensation through force to the govt who has then used my taxes to kill others. Is that plunder? Not according to Benson. But when someone’s money is taxed to give some guy a food stamp, all hell is let loose. The whole problem with bastiat, benson, and all these guys is that they dont believe what they say. If they did, they would be against all taxes, all force, and something much more like an anarchist.

At some point his entire premise is pretty silly and boils down to the govt engages in plunder, theft, etc if money is taken to go towards things like humanitarian needs but its A-Ok if it goes towards stuff he likes, you know like guns and military.

41 thoughts on “Taxes, Legal Plunder, and Ezra Taft Benson

  1. rikkitick says:

    It’s the government’s responsibility to protect us, thus the taxes to maintain military defenses. It is not the government’s responsibility (at least according to the US Constitution) to be our nanny from cradle to grave.

  2. J. Madson says:

    I am asking as to the logic Benson and others apply with respect to legal plunder or theft as they define it.

    His, is not an argument about constitutional powers but about the morality of taking property without consent which if he was consistent would reject all takings.

    Now if the discussion turn on a strict constitutional rights argument then we should acknowledge that state governments have the constitutional right to provide for the general welfare and health of its citizens which would include things like healthcare, welfare, and other humanitarian programs.

  3. Forest Simmons says:

    “It’s the government’s responsibility to protect us…”

    protect us from hunger, etc.

    More people die from malnutrition than from bullets.

    But why funnel our taxes only to the war profiteers, when we could also funnel our tax money to the insurance racket, etc.? That’s the Obama way of using taxes for the “public welfare.”

  4. Newsaholic says:

    I think it might be helpful for you to go back and re-read The Proper Role of Government again. You must have just missed that part. This is where he gives his reasoning–and it is taken from the speech you referenced. found here:

    “Leaving aside, for a moment, the question of the divine origin of rights, it is obvious that a government is nothing more or less than a relatively small group of citizens who have been hired, in a sense, by the rest of us to perform certain functions and discharge certain responsibilities which have been authorized. It stands to reason that the government itself has no innate power or privilege to do anything. Its only source of authority and power is from the people who have created it. This is made clear in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, which reads: “WE THE PEOPLE… do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    The important thing to keep in mind is that the people in mind is that the people who have created their government can give to that government only such powers as they, themselves, have in the first place. Obviously, they cannot give that which they do not possess. So, the question boils down to this. What powers properly belong to each and every person in the absence of and prior to the establishment of any organized governmental form? A hypothetical question? Yes, indeed! But, it is a question which is vital to an understanding of the principles which underlie the proper function of government.

    In a primitive state, there is no doubt that each man would be justified in using force, if necessary, to defend himself against physical harm, against theft of the fruits of his labor, and against enslavement of another. This principle was clearly explained by Bastiat:

    “Each of us has a natural right – from God – to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is propAnd what is property but and extension of our faculties?” (The Law, p.6)
    Indeed, the early pioneers found that a great deal of their time and energy was being spent doing all three – defending themselves, their property and their liberty – in what properly was called the “Lawless West.” In order for man to prosper, he cannot afford to spend his time constantly guarding his family, his fields, and his property against attach and theft, so he joins together with his neighbors and hires a sheriff. At this precise moment, government is born. The individual citizens delegate to the sheriff their unquestionable right to protect themselves. The sheriff now does for them only what they had a right to do for themselves – nothing more. Quoting again from Bastiat:

    “If every person has the right to defend – even by force – his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right –its reason for existing, its lawfulness — is based on individual right.” (The Law, p. 6)
    So far so good. But now we come to the moment of truth. Suppose pioneer “A” wants another horse for his wagon, He doesn’t have the money to buy one, but since pioneer “B” has an extra horse, he decides that he is entitled to share in his neighbor’s good fortune, Is he entitled to take his neitake his neighbor’s horse? Obviously not! If his neighbor wishes to give it or lend it, that is another question. But so long as pioneer “B” wishes to keep his property, pioneer “A” has no just claim to it.

    If “A” has no proper power to take “B’s” property, can he delegate any such power to the sheriff? No. Even if everyone in the community desires that “B” give his extra horse to “A”, they have no right individually or collectively to force him to do it. They cannot delegate a power they themselves do not have. This important principle was clearly understood and explained by John Locke nearly 300 years ago:

    “For nobody can transfer to another more power than he has in himself, and nobody has an absolute arbitrary power over himself, or over any other, to destroy his own life, or take away the life of property of another.” (Two Treatises of Civil Government, II, 135; P.P.N.S. p. 93)
    The Proper Function Of Government
    This means, then, that the proper function of government is limited only to those spheres of activity within which the individual citizen has the right to act. By deriving its just powers from the governed, government becomes primarily a mechanism for defense against bodily harm, theft and involuntary servitude. It cannot claim the power to redistribute the wealth or force reluctant citizens to perform acts of charity against their will. Government is created by man. No mted by man. No man possesses such power to delegate. The creature cannot exceed the creator.”

    I hope that answers your question.

    One other thing…It seems like you may be confusing the government’s right to take money for the military v. how well they are doing.

    In other words, they aren’t doing a good job/they’ve become too corrupt to it as we want it done. They have a Department of Offense as opposed to a Department of Defense. Those are separate issues with separate solutions. When “we the people” set up the government in the 1700’s, “we the people” delegated the authority for the military to the government. Whether you agree or not with how they are currently doing is a separate issue. But that’s where they get the funnel our tax dollars to the military. It’s in the Constitution.

    The congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, … to provide for the commmon defence…to declare war, to define and punish offences against the law of nations, to raise and support armies but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years; to provide and maintain a navy, to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces; to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions; to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the united states…

  5. mike says:

    I guess the question needing to be asked is, What is the role of government? It seems that government becomes necessary when society, without force, cannot continue in existence. Primarily it comes down to a question of property. I will ever be grateful that Jefferson changed the words of Locke for the Constitution from “life, liberty, and property” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Property is not an inalienable right. I count as inalienable rights those things granted by God that Christ atoned for: Property is not one of them.

    Locke (and all those who came after him) felt that the role of gov’t was to protect private property, thus justifying the emphasis on expenditures on police forces and military forces that Benson discusses. Thus the accumulation of private property allows elites to promote government to protect what they have at the expense of the “life and liberty” of the rest.

    Even Eisenhower recognized this problem:

    “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

    The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement.

    We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

    This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. . . .

    This is one of those times in the affairs of nations when the gravest choices must be made, if there is to be a turning toward a just and lasting peace. It is a moment that calls upon the governments of the world to speak their intentions with simplicity and with honesty. It calls upon them to answer the question that stirs the hearts of all sane men: is there no other way the world may live?”

    While the right continues to justify military build-up as an effort to protect us from a myriad of “Axes of Evil”, the true proper role of government (to protect life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness and all other unalienable rights) will be ignored and mocked.

  6. J. Madson says:

    Newsaholic, thanks for your comment but I do understand Benson’s logic, although I disagree with his premise or I should say Bastiat’s premise, but leaving that aside my original question still stands and you have not answered it.

    I am not contesting that a government has a constitutional or a moral right in having a military. I am contesting the logic of Benson that asserts a government

    “cannot claim the power to redistribute the wealth or force reluctant citizens to perform acts of charity against their will.”

    but a government can claim the power to redistribute the wealth or force reluctant citizens to fund the military, weapons, and death against their will

    Again, make your constitutional argument against humanitarian programs if you will but dont tell me its immoral to tax for humanitarian programs, that its immoral to take one pioneer’s wagon to lend it to another while its perfectly moral to take my wagon or my taxes for military uses. Under the logic of Bastiat/Benson even if the whole community wants to use my horse as a war horse they have no right.

  7. J. Madson says:

    Mike

    I appreciate your comment and love the Eisenhower quote. I dont know as much about economics as I would like to but I do know that there is something perverse about the idea that we must defend property at all costs while millions of God’s children suffer, that there is something perverse about the vast amount of resources we use to buy up armies while we reign in blood and horror throughout the world.

  8. Tariq says:

    J. Madson raises a very good point. It seems to me that conservatives and right-wing libertarians want to get rid of anything potentially helpful that governments do, but then keep the most brutal, coercive elements of government. We can’t have healthcare because forcing citizens to pay taxes to help sick people is socialism, but somehow forcing citizens to pay for war, coercion, and police brutality is perfectly fine. If conservatives really were so dedicated to the principles of freedom and voluntary association, then they would oppose all taxes, especially the money that goes to the agents of repression (military and police). Some people argue that military and police are a special case because they protect us. I’ve never been protected by any soldier or cop. I have however been physically assaulted more than a few times by cops and soldiers. On the other hand, I’ve never been hurt by a mother on welfare or child whose meals are paid for with food stamps. I’m no religious expert, but I’m pretty sure that the Book of Mormon clearly condemns societies that put more reasources into war and strife than they do into caring for the poor, the sick, and the elderly. It makes no sense to me that people who claim to believe in the Book of Mormon as the word of God can be so right-wing on economic issues.

  9. Forest Simmons says:

    Bastiat and Benson call taxing the rich to help the poor “legal plunder.” But Nephi (in chapter 28 of 2nd Nephi) says “They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.”

    Jesus could say, “Inasmuch as ye have robbed one of the least of these ye have robbed me.”

    In fact he did say, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.”

    All of the “property” that Bastiat is worried about belongs to a god who wants at least part of it to be distributed to the poor.

    So who is plundering whom?

    Now let’s take Benson’s and Bastiat’s argument a little more slowly:

    A man has a right to defend himself so in some sense he can delegate that right to others. Does this mean that he has a right to force me to defend his property? Does this mean that he can hire mercenary pinkertons to fight for him if he has the money? And whoever has the most money gets the biggest army? Does it mean that a few property holders can force the rest of society to pony up to defend their property? In practice it has always meant that the poor fight the wars of the rich.

    A man has a right to help the poor. A larger group also has the right to get together and help the poor. Why can we not delegate this right just as well as the right of self defense?

    Supposedly military defense is so necessary for the common good, that it is OK to use compulsory taxes for that purpose. But isn’t defending the poor from the wolf at the door and from the economic bullies beneficial for the whole of society as well? Economic bullying is more common and harmful that most other forms of aggression; in fact it causes most other forms of aggression.

    I don’t believe in compulsory taxation for any purpose, especially not for military expenses. It should be voluntary like tithing. But, as in the case of tithing, its non-payment should have consequences. Robbing god has consequences and robbing the poor is the same thing, so it does have consequences. The natural consequence of anti-social behavior is loss of good standing in the community. We don’t shun non-tithe payers, but they don’t get temple recommends.

    • Mike says:

      Is tithing really voluntary? I mean, yes, we can choose to pay it, but if you want to enter into the temple, you must be a full tithe-payer, so is it possible to have voluntary commandments? I’m a little confused on this.

      • Forest Simmons says:

        Like the hymn says, “… this eternal truth is given: God will force no man to heaven …”

        Also from section 130, blessings are predicated upon laws, i.e. cause and effect pertain, i.e. we’re talking about reality.

        God will not force anybody to repent, but Jesus saves none but the penitent.

        Salvation is real healing and deliverance from the forces of chaos and evil, i.e. from the dog-eat-dog capitalistic system and every other horrible condition.

        As section 88 says we can not inhabit a kingdom whose laws we find intolerable. Those few who find the laws too restrictive in every kingdom of glory, will not dwell in a kingdom of glory. But the Lord in his mercy will give them a resurrected body that can withstand the rigors of the elements outside of the kingdoms that he has prepared.

        Capitalism makes no such provisions for anybody.

  10. mormonbastiard says:

    amen to Newsaholic.

    Benson made himself plenty clear. the mormon worker has made its dislike for the old guy obvious, so i’m not surprised to find some deliberation in understanding his stuff.

    benson obviously assumed that what we call government is really just an institution we pay to provide protection, you know, a service provider. like newsaholic said we can’t pay them to violate others (can’t as in tis immoral) because we don’t have that right ourselves.

    of course government in the mormon worker’s mind is clearly justified in turning around and violating its very clients in the form of redistribution. (despite the contradictory JOseph Smith quote at the top…)

    benson probably should’ve said gov isn’t justified in forcibly taxing anyone for any reason, military included, but we citizens apparently from the getgo didn’t view it as “forcibly” cuz in a sense we were purchasing something: protection. well a few hundred years later we’re not getting protection but rather violation from our “protectors”, mostly due to well-intentioned socialists who want to play paternalists a la Satan and make the world a better place.

    ps Benson just tweeted, “don’t charge me for protection via my Wells Fargo automatic bill pay and then violate me through that same line of authorization. I agreed to protection, not violation.”

    “BUT, as in the case of titing, its non-payment should have consequences.” well it sure ain’t government’s role to determine those consequences. I’m guessing you’re well-intentioned, but some things should be left to Jesus. http://www.lysanderspooner.org/VicesAreNotCrimes.htm

  11. Joseph says:

    J.

    Cognitive dissonance has been mentioned on this blog before. I can’t answer your questions because it doesn’t make much sense to me either.

    Recently I had two police officers break into my home without a warrant, at least one of them pointed a gun at me, and I was forced out of my home and down on the ground. And that isn’t the end of the story, but I’ll stop there. Anyway, their actions were based on a phone call full of false information and total obnoxiousness on the part of the officers, who made no effort at all to find out what was going on.

    My tax dollars pay these officers’ salaries. No apology was ever offered, and I lost more money and time due to ensuing legal troubles because of false accusations and a citation I should not have had to defend myself against. How is that not plunder? I learned from this experience that armies and police exist to protect the wealthy. Ed Abbey in the Monkey Wrench Gang called them “flunkies of the rich and powerful.” I agree.

    Schools, libraries, welfare, and other such social services have never invaded my rights in this way and I’ve actually benefited from them. And yes, I work, I’m not a free-loader.

    I’ve seen some great rhetorical backflips here defending these incongruities, but I haven’t seen any real life experience brought in showing how it actually works.

  12. mormonbastiard says:

    Joseph,

    schools, libraries, welfare, etc have never invaded your rights. that’s great! and your post proves you didn’t even read bastiat before commenting on him. i love that.

    one of the first times i ever noticed Bastiat mentioned on this blog one of the writers commented, “i’ve heard of him a few times now. can anyone suggest a good source where i can read about his stuff?” HEAVEN forbid we actually read him.

  13. J. Madson says:

    I wouldnt assume people haven’t read him. People simply may not accept his arguments as to property rights.

    I have read him and I find him unconvincing

  14. mormonbastiard says:

    i noticed

  15. Joseph says:

    mormonbastiard,

    I admit to not having read the total of Bastiat’s works. What was quoted by Newsaholic was leading in a direction I could see would sound good in theory, but would not work very well in practice. That was my point of bringing personal experience in.

    Newsaholic tries to distinguish between “government’s right to take money for the military” versus “how well they are doing.” Again in real life experience I don’t see the two being separate. That seems to me the crux of the issue here: what constitutes plunder? Benson seemed willing to apply the term pretty freely to social programs, but with the military, etc., where more blatant forms of plunder often occur, he was willing to turn a blind eye.

    I should clarify here that the experience I described above has not caused me to stereotype all police officers or members of the military. I know many good individuals who work in those fields who are doing what they feel is right. I vote and participate in society and I personally believe that were we to immediately abolish the police and military given the current conditions of the world, it would be disastrous. I might be libertarian left in ideals, but I also recognize that “you can’t get there from here.” I also feel that if we are going to tax for military and police, we should soften the harshness of such a military/police state with social programs. From the Billy Bragg song “Between the Wars”: “I kept that faith, and I kept voting, not for the iron fist, but for the helping hand.”

    I should also clarify that I am a believing Mormon and I believe that during his tenure as member of the Quorum of the Twelve and President of the Church, Ezra Taft Benson held legitimate Priesthood keys that I and my family have enjoyed the benefits of in the temple. I also believe he was a good man. But that doesn’t mean all his ideas were right. In fact, his recklessness in how he expressed his views while holding such positions in the Church caused a lot of harm to people who served valiantly in the Church. As an individual, he’ll have to answer to God for that, but I am glad for this opportunity here in this life to press back against some of the more negative aspects of Benson’s legacy.

    I also have previously mentioned on this blog that Benson’s and Bastiat’s extreme views were not necessarily held my many important figures in U.S. history, notably Thomas Jefferson. Forest Simmons also demonstrated this very well.

  16. Forest Simmons says:

    mormonbastiard;

    you wrote, “…some things should be left to Jesus.”

    This is a very interesting point. In fact, I think a lot of the discussion on this blog is trying to get to the bottom of the question “which things should be left to Jesus, and which things does he want us to manage for ourselves?”

    In particular, how far can we advance in “Approaching Zion” before Jesus returns?

    Are we stuck with capitalism?

    Isn’t there anything substantial we can do in a secular setting that would make government work for the common man as well as the rich and powerful?

    I’m thinking of section 58 where the Lord said …

    “26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
    27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
    28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves ..”

    The power is in us to do what? What are we going to do? Do we just twiddle our thumbs until the Brethren say, “Now is the time for the Saints to live the Law of Consecration more fully.”?

    Last October Elder Brinkerhoff, in his first conference talk as an apostle, put the goal out in front of us again, and suggested some things that we can do personally.

    I give him a lot of credit for that, but it reminds me doing my share of protecting the environment by my personal habits. I cycle to work year around, I eat low on the food chain, I buy local stuff, etc. I recycle and compost, etc. But that doesn’t stop the capitalists from clear cutting the forests of the world. It doesn’t keep them from dumping poison into the air and water, either.

    There’s got to be more that we can do to change the system for the better.

    A starting point is to recognize that unregulated capitalism is harmful because its inherent dynamic of “race to the bottom” in harmful exploitation of both labor and the environment.

    It concentrates wealth and power, and wealth and power subvert democracy by paying for laws that tilt the playing field to their own advantage.

    Nader has never suggested getting rid of capitalism, only to get rid of corporate capitalism and level the playing field. But I believe the Lord wants us to go farther than that in the direction of Zion.

  17. mormonbastiard says:

    I believe so too. The Lord really wants us to go much further than that. I suppose we only differ in how much of that distance should be forced and how much should be left to love and persuasion. For me, Nader is too paternalistic.

    quick question: why do you buy local?

  18. Forest Simmons says:

    In my previous post that was supposed to be Christofferson, not Brinkerhoff. In my senior moments I get those names mixed up.

    Buying local is one of those little drops in the bucket of conserving fossil fuels.

    You think that Nader is paternalistic because he goes beyond “buyer beware” with safety regulations like seat belt laws, mandatory air bags, etc.?

    Back in the sixties in my John Birch Society days, I read Bastiat, Wm.F. Buckley, Jr., etc. I was a Goldwater supporter. I belonged to Young Americans for Freedom. My favorite general authority was Elder Benson. I read all of his books. Years later when he was the President of the Twelve, we went to the Jordan River temple during a brief visit to Utah. By chance I ended up sitting next to him in an endowment session. He and hi wife were the witness couple. I didn’t recognize him until he turned to me and asked me my name. He gave me a warm handshake and smile. I thought of Ether 12:29 where Moroni tells us that Jesus spoke to him in plain humility as one man speaks to another. I still admire him as a person, and can understand why he thought the way he did about capitalism. (I’m sure his thoughts have advanced far beyond where he was and where we now are, for that matter, in the years since his passing.)

    In those days I read “National Review,” “Reader’s Digest,” and “American Opinion,” uncritically because they reinforced what I wanted to believe, i.e. that nothing was wrong with our system; the invisible hand was the soul of fairness, etc. Anybody that thought some business was ripping off its customers was free to go into competition with that business, etc.

    Then, in the 1990’s I started to read Nibley, Chomsky, etc. Long before I read “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” by Jared Diamond and “Confessions of An Economic Hitman,” by John Perkins I read in the Book of Mormon that the USA and other Western Europeans (the “Gentiles” in BOM language) were building up their wealth and prosperity on the backs of “the poor of my people” or the scattered remnants of the House of Israel, i.e. the indigenous people of color in mostly third world countries.

    At the same time I studied “the tragedy of the commons” from a mathematical point of view; in a nutshell, since the maximum sustainable growth rate of timber biomass is less than the interest rate on US saving bonds, if you own forest land, it is to your individual economic advantage to clear cut the land, sell all of the trees, and lend the proceeds out for interest. The loss to the environment is “external” to the market, so the invisible hand is not concerned. The invisible hand doesn’t even care about species extinctions (let alone the fall of a sparrow).

    Those were some of the early milestones in a long journey. One more landmark book is “People of the Abyss” by Jack London. After living with the homeless in East London for several weeks, London compares the results of capitalism with the results of the primitive economy of the Eskimos, and concludes that capitalism is a dismal failure. The primitive Eskimos are much better off than the masses of the civilized Brits.

    Then he gives an analysis of the cause. He concludes that it is a matter of poor management or total lack thereof (the invisible hand doesn’t care). He doesn’t use these words but his analysis is essentially that under capitalism the cost of caring for spent surplus workers is an externality just as much as the cost of cleaning up a toxic waste site is an externality that is passed on to society.

    Here’s the link:

    http://www.jacklondons.net/writings/PeopleOfTheAbyss/toc.html

  19. mike says:

    Jefferson’s Proper Role of Government (from a letter to Gen. Thaddeus Kosciusko, April 13, 1811):

    “Peace then has been our principle, peace is our interest, and peace has saved to the world this only plant of free and rational government now existing in it. If it can still be preserved, we shall see the final extinction of our national debt, and liberation of our revenues for the defence and improvement of our country. These revenues will be levied entirely on the rich, the business of household manufacture being so established that the farmer and laborer clothe themselves entirely. The rich alone use imported articles, and on these alone the whole taxes of the General Government are levied. The poor man who uses nothing but what is made in his own farm or family, or within his own country, pays not a farthing to tax to the general government, but on his salt; and should we go into that manufacture also, as is probably, he will pay nothing. Our revenues liberated by the discharge of the public debt, and its surplus applied to canals, roads, schools, etc. the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone, without his being called on to spend a cent from his earnings. However, therefore, we may have been reproached for pursuing our Quaker system, time will affix the stamp of wisdom on it, and the happiness and prosperity of our citizens will attest its merit. And this, I believe, is the only legitimate object of government, and the first duty of governors, and not the slaughter of men and devastation of the countries placed under their care, in pursuit of a fantastic honor, unallied to virtue or happiness.”

    Interestingly:

    1. Progressive taxation
    2. Non-free trade
    3. government providing schools, and making the “face of the country…a paradise.”

    sounds almost Marxian

    • A Common Man says:

      In your own quote you disprove your point. He states clearly in the first few lines that the revenues are for the “DEFENCE AND IMPROVEMENT OF OUR COUNTRY” to quote. The taxes were to be on luxuries, as noted in the following lines and he included in the rich as anyone able to purchase imported goods (which we all do nowadays). And even while he is stating that the government should provide the buildings for schools, at no time does he state that the government should educate the students or set a criteria on education. You may also wish to note that he has a variety of other quotes counting as deplorable the practice of a welfare state, which is central to a Marxian plan. His taxation method isn’t Progressive, either, as it indicates that any man of means, who doesn’t PRODUCE HIS OWN NECESSITIES, might import them, and that is where the government revenue will come from. It’s a flat sales tax, based on the goods being imported (which is a political philosophy supported by Libertarians). In today’s world, we would all be taxed, and rightly so, on imported goods, since we all rely on foreigners to produce our necessities, with perhaps the exception of food. It might also interest you to note that the government, after the Founders generation, violated the Constitution regarding federal lands. The Federal is only supposed to hold as much land as needed for the administration of it’s duties. Federal Parks and other Federal Lands where the States have not given direct permission for Federal buildings to be built, should not even be in Federal hands. This is also a notion Jefferson supported. QUITE un-Marxian of him…..

  20. A Common Man says:

    I’ve read all your arguments, and those of you arguing against Benson, Bastiat, and the constitutionality of funding the military should really read up on your history and especially on the Founders and the research they went thru to try to establish this Constitution we enjoy. Those same ones, who support what is termed by Bastiat as “legal plunder” also don’t understand the principles of Christianity regarding work and charity, either. Nor do you understand the difference between Free Will/Agency and Force/Coercion as it relates to our God-inspired Constitution. My bet is you don’t believe it really was God-inspired, either.

    To sum up all the arguements into one, I give the following:

    The liberal/socialists of you state you don’t understand why you should have to be forced to pay taxes for what you’ve termed as “military, weapons, and death” instead of funding “worthy causes” such as healthcare, food clinics, and the like.

    The conservative/libertarians of you state it is only right and proper to fund the military for the common defense of the nation and it’s citizens, but that it is “legal plunder” when redistribution of wealth occurs by taxation, or if taxes are used to fund the aforementioned “worthy causes.”

    To truly understand Benson’s arguement, you must understand his understanding of the Almighty and His thoughts on Government. You must also have faith in the scripture, both modern and ancient. You must understand that all things are inter-related in God’s eyes, and as Jesus stated, “His course is one eternal round.” You must also understand the natural rights of man granted us by our Creator. Most importantly, you must understand the two facets of God in his relation to His governing of His children. In fact, let’s start with that point and move from there.

    In both facets, there is one aspect that is constant: Free will or choice. In the counsels of heaven, Father presented His plan where man would be given choices between good and evil and a Savior was going to be needed because all but He would choose evil at least once in their life, which would cut them off from Father because of the demands of Justice. Christ volunteered for the job of Savior. Lucifer, did too, but instead of allowing man his agency to choose, he wanted to coerce or force them to choose what was right so that all would be saved. The All-Knowing Father rejected Lucifer’s plan, because He knows the precious commodity that Agency is. He accepted Christ as the Savior, as did 2/3 of the host of heaven. Lucifer and his 1/3 were later cast out because of rebellion. Enough for our Pre-mortal History lesson. I relate this only so we can begin to understand the importance of that Agency in the eyes of the Almighty.

    Now, back to our Eternal Civics Lesson. The first facet of our Heavenly Father is Justice, as noted above. Justice is administered by Government and cannot be overturned without violating the Laws, and God will not violate His own Laws, or else He would no longer be God. In this “state” aspect, He is a Just King, holding the Agency of His subjects inviolate even while He must follow the Law and exact a punishment for crimes commited against those Laws, or allow the natural consequence to follow the actions of any of His subjects, especially as it relates to violating Eternal Laws relating to Salvation and Exhaltation. He also provides for our protection from our common enemy, the devil and his angels, battling for us what we cannot battle for ourselves, but would if we had His resources and knowledge. Now, I know this could get into a theological discussion on a variety of topics, but that is not the purpose of this missive. Let us remain on topic. As I was stating, in His role as Governor of All, He has established laws for the protection of all of His creations, animal, vegetable, and mineral, to protect their Liberty (Agency), their Life (mortal and eternal), and their Pursuit of Happiness (Salvation and Exhaltation). He has promised that He will protect us from the enemy and not let him overpower us and destroy us, but “will not allow us to be tempted above that we are able” to overcome. He does not, however, use His military might to wage offensive war on Satan to destroy him. Rather, He only uses His angels to protect and defend us, as is proper. All the while, He has commanded, since the expulsion from the Garden of Eden (and this has never been revoked), that man shall earn his food by the sweat of his brow. He gave us guidelines to follow in order to maintain our bodies hale and whole (Word of Wisdom), and instructed us on how to create shelter and clothing. In our temporal existence, since the expulsion from Eden, He has not directly provided any of these for us without effort on our part, however. In His role as Governor, He cannot because it would violate His own Laws, in that we are to work for our food, shelter, and health. These are not the only things He governs over, but it suffices for the arguments above. Earthly governments should follow this perfect example of government. I will get into that further below.

    Now, His other facet is that of a Father and High Priest over all. In other words, His “church” aspect, in which Mercy plays a part. Derivitives of Mercy are Charity, Hope, Faith, Kindness, etc. God has commanded that thru His church, men are to donate their time, talents, efforts, wealth, and all that they have to building up His Kindom. This entails directly with helping His other children thru what we term as charitable causes (such as in the way of healthcare, food clinics/banks, clothing drives, homeless shelters, etc.). All the while, the beneficiaries are to use this only as long as it takes to overcome their current indigent circumstances and become prosperous individuals, working for their benefits “by the sweat of {their} brow.” He, thru Mercy, can take their minimal efforts to cause abundance for them if they but make the effort. He, like any Father, wants His children to be provided for, but he will not steal from one of His children who have earned their food and give to another that will not lift a hand in his own support. To do so would be a violation of His Laws, and (as mentioned earlier) He would then cease to be God. He, just like an earthly father, asks His children who are doing well to care for thier siblings who are less fortunate or who have lesser capacities in this mortal existence. This allows His individual children to grow and mature and prepare themselves and their siblings for the Eternal World. He teaches them how to love one another in these charitable acts, and how to build one another up. It gives the individual strength of character and virture when they participate in freely giving of their efforts, possessions, faculties, and time to another with no thought for reward. In this Father fulfills His role as our Parent. In this we should also, as individuals, learn from His perfect example.

    If at this point you are doubting that God has two distinct facets in His interactions with mankind (one as Governor, one as Father) then remember that when Christ (who follows the Father in all things) comes again, even He will have two centers of authority on this earth: one spiritual, and one legal. These will be Zion and Jerusalem. You will find reference to this in Isaiah, chapter 2. In one, Christ will run His Government in order to promote and maintain the Liberty the Father has granted all flesh. In the other, Christ will run His Church, in order to promote their eternal growth and help them to “work out their own salvation.” One will be the center of protection of the individuals temporal and spiritual rights, the other for the promotion of the individuals temporal and spiritual growth. Both will work in harmony, but be separate institutions. We could also find an example of the true meaning of separation of Church and State here, but that is a topic for another discussion.

    Now, back to the original argument. As noted above, and pointed out by numerous Founders, the individual has a right to the fruits of his labor. Even God supports this notion. The individual has a right to keep or distribute those fruits as he wishes. Following the logic of Benson, I’d like to provide another example, albeit a rather inefficient one for the purposes of this argument: You are employed and working for $100,000/yr. You have been working for this company for 20yrs now, and feel this is your due for all the effort you’ve given towards the company and your career. Your employer has just hired a new individual who makes notably less than you, only $20,000/yr. Due to their income, they cannot support their family, and they aren’t the only one. Their are at least 30 other employees in the same circumstances. Some of them, in fact the majority of those who earn less than you, are lazy slackers who just don’t want to work harder, and you know this. Well, your employer feels compassionate for these less fortunate individuals and institutes a program that will reduce your take home pay to $30,000/yr so he can raise all the others up to that amount, so they can take care of thier families, as they claim that is their problem (even though you know some of them are single and just don’t want to get ahead). You will still be noted as earning $100,000, however. Any individual, no matter who they are or what their political philosophy would be outraged by this. The only one’s who benefit in this example are the “less fortunate” employees, and this benefit will only be temporary. Even the employer will soon learn the error of his ways because his higher paid employees will leave his company for better opportunity and a fair return in wages for the efforts they put into the company. Then, as with our national economy, his income will be reduced because all credible labor will be somewhere else, and he will be left with a bunch of lazy beggars who demand their “right” to a free meal. This is in consequence to natural laws. Forced charity is not charity, it is theft, pure and simple. This is the point Benson, Bastiat, and GOD Himself make in all their writings on this topic. It is unlawful and immoral for one man to steal from another for his own benefit, or to hire another to steal in his stead. In the same way, the government cannot be the hired gun in forcing the hard working, successful individuals of the nation to pay for the support of any of the less fortunate. These successful individuals, however, have the moral responsibility to donate what they will VOLUNTARILY give to those causes that they feel are worthy, or to the individuals they feel need it. In this way, Liberty (Agency) is held inviolate, and Charity has the opportunity to abound. Please note that if the successful individual decides not to be charitable, that will serve to his own destruction, but that is none of our worry if we are not that individual. We, following these natural laws, should do what we feel appropriate regarding charity.

    In regards to a government funded military: The Founders wanted a limited military only to serve for the protection of our nations borders, it’s States, and the citizenry. The Federal military was only to be employed during times of need with a minimal standing (professional) military. The military was not to be used to protect the interests of other nations or sent abroad to fight wars with nations that had not declared war on the US first. Since the Spanish-American War, this has been violated over and over by the Congress and Presidents of this Nation. The main bulk of all military might was to be placed in the State militias, which would be used by the Federal only in times of invasion or war, and only for National and State defense. It was made unconstitutional to declare an offensive war. And one of the greatest of our Founders, Benjamin Franklin, to paraphrase, said that if a man is unwilling to contribute to his defense, then he is unworthy of the blessings that defense grants him. (I would get the exact quote but it’s about 2a and I don’t want to wake anyone. I will try to post it later.) For an example I provide the following: You look to rent an apartment, and the only one you can find charges a fee of 1% the total rent amount in order to pay for the security for the complex. This is included in your monthly fee. No other complex asks for this fee, and as a result, their fees are cheaper. You decide to go to a cheaper one, but a good friend of yours decides to pay the 1% fee for the security. Your apartment complex is on the same block as his, and you soon see developments happening in his complex that you don’t see in yours. First, a guardhouse at the entrance. Second, a gate for entry. Third a fence to surround the complex. Forth, security lighting. Fifth cameras. Soon you see that those who are in the community are beginning to appear more prosperous and the buildings are well maintained. All the while, your complex suffers a rash of break-ins, over and over. The respectable clientele soon move out, and you begin to see degenerates making their homes there. Last of all, one of your neighbors, the least reputable of them all, starts extorting money from other tenants for protection from a gang that’s risen up (which he happens to control, by the way).

    If you don’t believe it could happen, just compare Mexico to the US as it relates to National Security and the individual security of their citizens.

    If the military were properly used, then I’m sure it wouldn’t be an issue. And if you get down to the fundamentals, I’m sure all of you would agree that it’s not the funding of the military that’s the issue, but rather, the use that funding is being put toward. Right now, the military is performing outside of it’s mandate, but at the request of the Liberal/Socialist President and Congress, and it has been for some time. If you want to reduce the funding to the military, demand that the government put the military to it’s proper use (which was clearly defined and promoted by a Libertarian, by the way): to protect our borders, our ports and our natural rights (which do not include free meals, free healtcare or undeserved income).

    I’m afraid I have to cut my argument short b/c I do have to get some sleep before work tomorrow. If you desire, I will continue later.

    • J. Madson says:

      Common Man, thanks for stopping by. Perhaps it is the plague of blogging but you assume much. I can speak for myself in stating I have read everything written by Benson, the entire constitutional convention minutes, and I imagine most of the sources you would direct me to it. I even have faith in the scriptures, imagine that. I just dont agree with your interpretation.

      You seem to suggest that you have some special insight or connection to the almighty and those that disagree with you do not.

      Let me just be clear that I find your description of the pre-existence to be bollocks. It is simply your interpretation and as I find it not a very accurate one.

      Likewise I find your retributive model of justice to be unscriptural. You are right about justice, you just fail to realize it is nothing like the justice you speak of. Read alma 41 for a starter.

      If you want to make your libertarian argument against economic justice and equality, then feel free but dont pretend that somehow God is on your side simply because you have taken your political leanings and creating an image of God suitable to your own sensibilities. You certainly have concocted an elaborate vision of the gospel but I hope you realize that it is founded on many many assumptions, many of which are in dispute. So to be clear, I get Benson’s argument, I just find it pretty lame.

      • A Common Man says:

        It must be a plague of blogging, as you indicated, b/c you assume too much in what you write about my “assumptions.” I didn’t question your belief in anything (except that the Constitution is God-inspired, which I notice you didn’t respond to), only your understanding. And, as I belive you are aware, understanding and belief are two separate things. There are many things I believe, regarding God and His commandments, but I don’t understand every thing He asks of me or all of His scriptures. Understanding comes from practicing His commandments and then recieving inspiration from Him, thru the Holy Spirit, to know if it is right (see John 7:17). I know I don’t understand everything, because I know I’m not practicing everything I should, either. I do, however, try to take God at His word, especially when He’s being clear as day.

        I re-read my comments, and perhaps this is where your own assumption regarding my beliefs or intents comes in, but I never stated or implied that I have some special connection with the Divine, beyond the special connection that each and every one of us share with our Father. My sole purpose was to share my understanding (which I know is not 100% complete, as I mentioned above) regarding the topic at hand. I will be the first to admit that I am FAR from perfect and that I can be in error. I also recognize that my understanding, being incomplete, isn’t doctrine (nor do I claim that anything that an Apostle states is doctrine). However, when I do get inspiration from the Spirit regarding any particular thing we might consider temporal or spiritual, I tend to trust that Spirit, seeing as He does have a complete understanding until an official “THUS SAYETH THE LORD” declaration from a Prophet clears up the matter. When I feel it appropriate, I try to share that understanding with others, many times resulting in them slandering or otherwise defaming me because they disagree. I accept that consequence, because I must do what I feel is correct… just like everyone else.

        Regarding the pre-mortal existence, I could be wrong on a few minor points, but I’m confident that the majority is correct, if reduced to modern language. If you don’t believe it, you should refer to: Abraham 3:22-28; Moses 4:1-3; D&C 29:36-37; D&C 76:25-26; Isaiah 14:12-15; Revelation 12:7-9; and the Bible Dictionary entry “War in Heaven.” You’ll note that many of the scriptures I indicate are there, and others that are not. You say you believe the scriptures, well here are the scriptures regarding the premortal council in heaven, and the rest that I talked about. You may also wish to review the most recent production of the Gospel Principles manual provided by the LDS Church, particularly chapters 1-4, paying special attention to the topic at hand, and the official doctrines of the Church regarding it, as found therein. It’s stated in plain, clear language for any who wish to read it. By the way, all older versions of the same book state the same as this version, just in expanding upon the topic further than what we have in the most recent version.

        Concerning Alma 41 and your last paragraph: Perhaps you, when thinking of forced charity (or using taxes to fund charitable causes), should pay attention to a key phrase in Alma 41:3 – “And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, AND IF THE DESIRES OF THEIR HEARTS WERE GOOD, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.” (Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the key phrase bold or underlined, so I had to capitalize all of it. I kept the entire text of the verse in there so you could read it in context.) Why would the intent of the heart be so important if we could just force men to be charitable thru taxation? Perhaps the reason is because without intent, without DESIRING to do good, a man is not in reality doing good. He is just being a Pharisee (one who followed the law in letter, but didn’t have the Spirit of it in their hearts), and whether he is a “Pharisee” by choice or by force it is the same. When the intent is wrong, the action is wrong. See Moroni 7:6 for further elaboration, in straight forward terms, on the importance of the intent or sincerity of a persons heart. Any good action, without the sincere intent or desire of the one acting, is no good. (Even insincere prayers by a “good” person have no validity in the eyes of God.) Force charity, therefore, cannot be real charity, and in regards to the salvation of the individual, “profits him nothing.” The same could be said of charity being forced on a nation: it profits them nothing.

        And if force charity is not charity, then what is it? If you are forcibly taking from one who has earned something, and give it to another who has not, it that not theft? It is like telling a child in school that the A he has earned thru his hard work will be reduced to a D so the other students who didn’t do their work or try as hard, and would have gotten Fs as a result, may also have a passing grade. Is that justice for the A student? Under no circumstances would anyone find that to be just if they relied on common sense! So how can we say it is justice to steal (thru forcible charity by taxation) from one who has earned the right to the fruits of their own labor and give those fruits (thru welfare programs) to one who has not earned them? No one can declare this to be justice for the laborer! Quite the contrary!

        The point is, the act of doing good, in and of itself, is nothing without the desire to do good behind it. Whether in temporal concerns or spiritual, if the true intent to do good is not behind the action, then the act is hypocrisy. Also, if one is forced to do something agaisnt their will, no matter how good or right the action may be, it breeds rebellion, ill-will, distrust, and hatred in the heart of the one being forced to perform the act toward the one forcing the action. Would God want hatred, rebellion, distrust or ill-will to be fostered? I think not!

        By this time you may be asking yourself, “but what about the poor, the hungry, the naked, the homeless? Where is their justice?” When it regards them, you may even believe that I don’t care about them, because I have not “defended” them in my words here. While it’s true I haven’t mentioned them much, it isn’t because I don’t care. It’s only because it was not the topic for discussion that I haven’t mentioned them beforehand. I care deeply for the poor. Every time I see one in my town, see them on TV, hear about them on the radio, or find out about them thru some other form of media, my heart goes out to them. I help, thru charitable causes, when I can, and pray for them when I can do nothing else. Regarding the poor, I’ve tried to follow the counsel of King Benjamin as given in Mosiah 4:16-26. I will always follow his counsel regarding the poor. I also believe the consequences he mentions for withholding that help or charity, as found in these scriptures, are true. I believe we should help our fellow man voluntarilly thru charitable means, when we can. Sadly, I find that the more I’m taxed by the government, the less I have to donate to worthy causes and the less time I have to dedicate to those causes, as I have to spend more time working just to make ends meet.

        Speaking of this scripture in Mosiah, here is an interesting point of note: Here we have a king, a righteous king and prophet of God, who admonishes his people to be charitable to one another. In his last address to his people he said: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, help the needy in whatever way you can. If he had established a law to care for the needs of the poor thru taxation, would he have had such a need to tell them to have charity, one to the other in such a clear and poignant way? Just a thought….

        Next point: I don’t believe I ever claimed God was on MY side. I am on God’s side, though, and ever will be. Despite my human fallacies, I will always try to do my best for Him. I also don’t think my argument libertarian or against economic justice or equality. Economic justice, as I’ve noted, is that what a man (or woman) earns, he has the right to enjoy or dispose of at his will or leisure. He is free use it for his salvation (temporal and spiritual) or his damnation. He is free to donate it to the cause of lifting up the down-trodden, or in selfish pursuits. He is free to exercise his agency, as it relates to the fruits of his labor. I also believe that he will be accountable for his actions, good or bad, before the Creator. THAT is economic justice. To strip him of his agency in violating his dominion over the fruits of his labor, is to violate God’s law. To force him, against his will, to provide money for causes he doesn’t agree with in principle, if not in action, is contrary to the law of nature. THIS is economic injustice. I don’t believe I have “creat(ed) an image of God suitable to (my) own sensibilities” in this, but rather I’ve read the scriptures of God and come to this conclusion because of the understanding given me thru His Spirit. Do I say this to be prideful or state some greater connection to the Celestial Sphere than others? Certainly not! Do I say this to convince you that I am right in order to gratify my own pride? Heavens, no! I answered your inquiry sincerely, believing that you had a sincere desire to understand Benson’s argument, to provide a scriptural foundation for that argument (where possible), and to provide an understanding of the principles of Liberty as given to the Founding Fathers collectively thru inspiration of the Spirit. I did not assume anything that I’ve not admitted to assuming in this response, and I’ve tried to show you where common sense supports the argument I’ve given… which is the same argument Benson gave, just in different language. I certainly didn’t “concoct… an elaborate vision of the gospel,” but rather tried to use examples given in the gospel to support my argument.

        Sadly, I see you were not interested in understanding beyond what you already believe. Rather, it appears you are interested in promoting your own beliefs and condemning others who might sincerely respond to the contrary. If there were more honest and open debate on topics of this nature or controversy, without attacks on the character of the debaters or their points of view, the truth would eventually make itself known. Especially if that debate is uplifting in nature. Perhaps one day, someone with your point of view, and someone with my point of view will begin that honest debate. For a better understanding of what I mean by honest debate, see D&C 50:13-22.

        Perhaps I erred in using the gospel, which I had understood we all believe, to try to support this argument. However, I don’t see where the examples I’ve given are contrary to scripture, either. Now that I’ve said that, I’m sure you or someone like-minded will be “quick to find fault” with me, and point them out to me in order to satisfy their own pride and to prove that you are right. If that occurs, so be it. If not, then all the better. Either way, God will tell us, at the last day, who is correct, and who is in error. If I am in error, I pray He guide me to what is right in His eyes. If you are in error, as I believe you are, then may you be guided to what is right in His eyes. May we both be humble enough to accept His will, and repent, whomever of us may be wrong in this.

        I just wish to say that I feel that agency is being violated when the choice to perform a charitable act is taken from the individual. Agency was given to us by God, and Satan is the one in scripture who wished to strip man of his agency. Satan also wished to force us to be saved under his plan. It appears to me, that now he has decided to use his influence to make it appear a good thing to force temporal salvation on any and all mankind. I can’t but feel that this is wrong, and I can’t but be against it for the wrongness of it. Some may accept or even welcome it, but I don’t. It will lead to slavery and bondage, in both temporal and spiritual senses of the terms, just as it has done so in the past with other civilizations both ancient and modern. My prayer is that we learn from history and from God’s words before it is too late for us as individuals and as a nation.

      • Stephen says:

        Common Man, many of your statements, for example, “I didn’t question your belief in anything (except that the Constitution is God-inspired, which I notice you didn’t respond to), only your understanding,” or, “Perhaps I erred in using the gospel, which I had understood we all believe, to try to support this argument,” go well beyond mere snarkiness, so you can stop playing the wounded innocent; you’re just as accomplished at defaming and slandering as anyone else.

      • Stephen says:

        In the interest of full disclosure, I defamed B.C. Rich in another thread. He seemed to take it well, though. So many plagues of blogging…

      • A Common Man says:

        Stephen,
        I don’t see how any “snarkiness” on my part makes me accomplished at defaming or slandering.

        From Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
        Snarky – 1 : crotchety, snappish
        2 : sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner

        I can see how it may have come off as snarky, though. My apologies for that.

      • Stephen says:

        ” . . . well beyond mere snarkiness . . . ” is not the same as snarkiness. You implied that J. Madson (and Joseph, I imagine), do not even believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. That kind of implication goes, as I said, well beyond being crotchety, snappish, sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner. (Thank you, by the way, for helping me out with the dictionary definition. See, that was being snarky.) It is true that your interlocutors could have used greater care in explaining their objections to the tone of your comments. You should not be surprised that reasonable people might have objections to the tone of your comments.

        Anyway, it’s not a big deal. In about eight years all of us will be complaining to you about how a conservative-leaning government is compelling us to do things that are more appropriately left to personal choice.

  21. Joseph says:

    Common Man,

    Nice almost seamless mingling of scripture with the philosophies of men. Unfortunately, I just didn’t feel the Spirit reading it.

    Don’t get me wrong. I recognize I probably mingle scripture with philosophies of man as well. There are just so many unknowns, I end up trying to fill in the gaps with what is available to me. And I don’t expect everyone to feel the Spirit on everything I have to say. It’s just that, like J. Madson, I’m disturbed by your acting as if you are on some kind of special commission from God, and that everything you say is infallible. Maybe you didn’t mean to convey that, but that is what came across.

    I appreciate the fact that you seem to be a sincere and consistent libertarian. I have respect for and understand the ideas of the Libertarian Right (except the racist elements), but I do not agree with all of them.

    Ezra Taft Benson’s interpretation of the scriptures was never scripture. Succeeding Presidents of the Church have not held up his political views as binding on the members of the Church. You are welcome to believe those views and repeat them as that they have not been officially refuted either. But you are not entitled to preach them as canonical.

    President Joseph F. Smith publicly advocated for the League of Nations. I think he was correct to do so, but that doesn’t mean it’s my right to impose those views on members of the Church who reject similar entities for cooperation between nations. But that also means that any member of the Church trying to impose their rejection of international cooperation onto me is also wrong.

    The Presidents of the LDS Church from Joseph Smith on, let alone the collective members of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency, are not a homogeneous group who all have agreed on everything. It is not reasonable to assume that what one member of those bodies of Church leadership has said is LDS doctrine. This also goes for those who we in the U.S. call the “Founding Fathers.” In fact, they probably cringe every time we lump them all together and call them that!

    • A Common Man says:

      Joseph,

      Just a thought, but perhaps before you accuse someone of being like Satan (with your “scripture mingled with the philosophies of men” comment), you should pull the beam out of your own eye.

      You are right in that there are so many unknowns. For example, you assume that I believe I have some “special commission from God” and that I believe that everything I say is infallible. How wrong you are. I wrongly assumed that people didn’t think the worst of others when those others are only trying to convey their understanding, not “proclaiming from on high.” Please see my other comment, written tonight for further understanding.

      Regarding feeling the Spirit: Not everyone listens all the time… even me. I usually learn the hard way, however, when I don’t. I hope you read the second to last paragraph of my last comment posted regarding my hopes if I’m wrong.

      Benson’s interpretation of the scripture isn’t under debate. It’s his point of view on what is Constitutional, especially in relation to taxation for purposes of welfare or redistribution of wealth, that are. If you notice, the succeeding Presidents of the Church have focused on other things. I’ve even heard rumor, and I’m looking to see if it is true or not, that the Lord has told the Prophets (after Benson) to cease preaching about, especially in General Conference or other official declarations from the Church, the Constitution or other “political” topics because we, as members, aren’t listening. This is similar to what happened with Mormon when the Nephites ceased listening to his calls for repentance… they were left to their own distruction. I sincerely hope this isn’t the case. However, when a General Authority, in General Conference (especially if it’s the Prophet) talks about something, we are supposed to “take it as scripture.” See D&C 1:27-28. And he did discuss this in General Conference for quite some time.

      President Joseph F. Smith advocated for the League of Nations? I would appreciate references to research. I wasn’t aware of this, and I’m interested in expanding my knowledge.

      As a point of clarification: I’m not against cooperation between nations, but I am against having our troops sent overseas for wars that have nothing to do with the US and against nations who have no declaration of war against us.

      I don’t see how I was imposing my views on anyone. I was merely stating my understanding, as noted in my last comments.

      While it is true that the men who’ve made up the General Authorities are not always in agreement on a variety of different topics where there is not a definitive answer from God, your argument doesn’t hold water when all of them agree with D&C 98:5 and 101:77-80. In verse 80, in particular, God states: “I established the Constitution of this land (the US), by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose,” and states in the earlier verses that it is for the protection of the rights of all flesh. Of particular note are verses 78 & 79. (You should also read my other comment from tonight as it regards the rights of the laborer.)

      Benson wasn’t the only General Authority to discuss this topic, either. There are numerous times when previous Prophets (including Benson)and Apostles discussed communism and socialism as enemies of the Gospel while in General Conference. You will need to go to websites that have a full listing of their discourses to get a complete list of all the talks they’ve given on the topic. (I would recommend http://www.gapages.com. It is a site with links to all the talks available in text or audio format by every General Authority that “Grandpa Bill” could find.) Benson even mentions in one of his discourses an official declaration or First Presidency Message denouncing communism and socialism (I found Benson’s discourse at http://www.latterdayconservative.com, but its available in various other sites, as well). Such official declarations or General Conference talks, to me, are “scripture,” if we take what the Lord said to be true in D&C 1:27-28. Especially in conjunction with the statement, given by Prophets and Apostles many times in General Conference, that the Lord will not let his Prophet lead His people astray, but will remove them “from office” should they attempt it (to paraphrase).

      And as for the Founders of our Nation, I guess we’ll have to see if they cringe or not when we meet them after this life.

  22. Joseph says:

    Common Man,

    On the League of Nations thing see:
    http://institute.lds.org/manuals/church-history-institute-student-manual/chft-36-40-38.asp

    It mentions Heber J. Grant as supporting it rather than Joseph F. Smith, but I remember reading of Joseph F. Smith supporting it before. But I could be wrong.

    At any rate, this demonstrates that there has not been a unified political stance in Church leadership that lives up to the requirements of being doctrine. You are welcome to disagree with my interpretation. I happen to disagree with your application of the Doctrine and Covenants scriptures you mentioned. I have read them, so you are not introducing new information to me. I believe in the principles behind the U.S. Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. I view the U.S. Constitution as inspired. I also view the Bible as inspired, but I take a great deal from the Bible with a grain of salt. I do not view either the Bible or the U.S. Constitution as having come straight from divinity, and I do not view them as being set in stone.

    I will do my best to give you the benefit of the doubt, and I apologize if I failed to do so before. But I have had enough Church members try to force their political views on me, using my membership in the Church as a stick they thought they could beat me with. You worry about your own testimony and relationship with divinity, and I’ll deal with my own.

    And you are not going to introduce to me any scriptures I am not familiar with. Just trying to save you time.

    Back to the actual topic of this post, I have not been convinced that social programs, etc. are legal plunder, and armies and police forces are not. I’m not a pacifist, so I do recognize armies and police forces may be necessary for the type of world we live in (though I think we would be in agreement that a more judicious use of the military would be more in keeping with the U.S. Constitution, and I do not want a police state). But we need more than just the military and police. There are many government services that can help everyone in a society.

    Concerning education, our current President of the Church, President Thomas S. Monson (as I put on my official “good Mormon” hat now) said:

    “There is no more important aspect of public education than the teacher who has the opportunity to love, to teach, and to inspire eager boys and girls and young men and young women…I trust we shall recognize their [teachers in public schools] importance and their vital mission by providing adequate facilities, the finest of books, and salaries which show our gratitude and our trust.”
    (Thomas S. Monson, “Precious Children-A Gift from God,” Ensign, Nov 1991, 67) http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=3c5994bf3938b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

    This more recent statement from the current President of the LDS Church contradicts Ezra Taft Benson’s claims of such services being “legal plunder.”

    I work in a college library, and no Church leader has admonished me for being guilty of “legal plunder.”

    Don’t get me wrong. Philosophically I agree more with the Libertarian Left. I think such services could be accomplished by people pooling their resources together without the interference of government. I know I have quoted a John Cage poem on this blog before:

    “We don’t need government
    We need utilities.”
    http://flag.blackened.net/daver/anarchism/john_cage.html

    But government is what we have right now.

    Well, I need to bow out and read more and write less. I guess I just had too much built up inside. I’ll try and be quiet for a bit.

    • A Common Man says:

      I don’t think I’ve read anything from Benson indicating that local taxation for education was “legal plunder.” I may have expressed my opinion that I think the Federal government getting involved in it is inappropriate, however. In the times of the Founders, the funding of education (and the regulation of it) was left up to the local governments, particularly those of the counties/parrishes/wards where people lived. I agree that it is more proper that it be handled at that level than even the level of the State.

      Concerning the words of President Monson, he never indicated it to be the government’s job to educate the children or to “provid(e) adequate facilities, the finest of books, and salaries” to teachers and for children. He indicated that we, as a people, should “show our gratitude and our trust” and provide the above. As such, I don’t see how any of his words have contradicted the words of President Benson.

      Education, for me, has always been an unclear subject, when it regards the level of government involvement. My reasons are found in history, and pertain mainly to those governments who take it too much into their hands, such as the Nazis and Communists did, which ends up in a propaganda campaign, rather than education (which perpetuates tyranny). Then, there is the issue of a lack of push for education, which results in an uneducated populace (and leads to tyranny on the part of the educated). But that is another issue, which could probably be discussed in another blog.

      As for the rest, I guess we must agree to disagree.

    • A Common Man says:

      As a correction to my post that you last responded to, the scripture I meant to cite was D&C 1:37-38, not 1:27-28. I missed that error when I searched for errors.

      I recognize I may not be introducing anyone to new scripture, but like most people presenting a case, I try to use references, where applicable. As you know, it helps others understand where the opinion or viewpoint may have derived from or from where it gains its support.

      This is my only reason in citing others or scripture.

  23. Forest Simmons says:

    As I said in “Yes, The Gospel of Redistribution” in the current edition of the Mormon worker

    http://www.themormonworker.org/articles/issue7/yes-the-gospel-of-redistribution.php

    we need to rethink our “agency” excuse for opposing laws of men that provide for collecting taxes for the general welfare, as outlined in article I section 8 of the US constitution.

    Is this provision of the Constitution less inspired than the “common defense” part?

    On the League of Nations thing. Orson Scott Card has a good section on that in his book “A Story Teller in Zion,” in a chapter specifically aimed at members who think the brethren cannot have significant differences of opinion on scientific, philosophical, and political topics. Card is sensitive to this because he has received a lot of flack over the years from well intentioned but rigid thinking members of the church who doubt his right to explore a range of ideas in his novels.

    • A Common Man says:

      I wish to state that I believe the whole of the Constitution is inspired by God. But to completely understand the general welfare clause, and the limits originally placed upon it by the Founders, the best source to study is their own intent behind the clause. It would also be the best way to understand what THEY mean by “general welfare” as compared to our modern interpretation of it. And to truly understand a law, it has been found that one must study the reason the law was instituted and the actual intent behind it. I’ll admit, I haven’t read, word for word, every comment the debaters at the Constitutional Convention made on it, but what I have read from the debates indicates that the general welfare clause does not include direct intervention by the federal government on matters best handled at a more local level or in matters best handled by the individual.

      While I recognize that he wasn’t at the debates, and concerning redistrubution of wealth and the Federal government providing for the sustenance and support of the people, I think Thomas Jefferson said it best: “A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.” Jefferson also said: “I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.” Again, he said: “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” The most succinct way he stated it, was: “Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have … The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases.”

      While I can’t speak for others, this is the second part of the “agency” issue that bugs me most about the welfare programs and the centralization of power in the Federal government and the move towards a collectivized society. The more regulation and taxation offered up by the Federal government and supported by the people (whether in a majority or minority, so long as it has power), the less Liberty and Agency afforded the individual. As pointed out by Thomas Jefferson (and a score of others we call the Founding Fathers), when there is more government then the people have less freedom to follow their own “pursuit of happiness.” It was because of overtaxation and the limits on individual decision that was forced upon them by the Crown of England that the Declaration of Independence was formulated and delivered to King George. It was because of the despotism arising in centralization of power that the Revolutionary War had cause to begin. To avoid the general slavery of the working class (from the uber rich to the people who are just “making ends meet), there must be lesser centralized government power, less taxation, and the matters of individual concern (such as charity, health, sustenance, clothing choices, etc.) must be left to the individual.

      Just to clarify, I believe in the necessity of government to protect the rights of the people and protect them from foreign or domestic threat to those rights (military or otherwise). I do not believe in anarchy or non-government, as this also has it’s problems which can lead to violation of individual rights.

      Jefferson states my case for me, and better than I could regarding the reliance of the people on the federal government for aid in anything but what is absolutely necessary for the whole. He says: “Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.”
      Also: “Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.” Also: “I own that I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.” And again: “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”

      Big government is the enemy of individual Liberty. Energetic government (which I take to mean a government that makes laws just to appear to be doing something) is also an enemy of Liberty. Lack of individual Liberty doesn’t allow growth of the individual; spiritual, social, economic, or otherwise. To have true Liberty, the government should be limited and should only act when there is a valid reason to act, and then only within the limits place upon it. And while the modern interpretation of the general welfare clause has caused an expansion of the limited powers of the Federal government, I’ve found in the Founders intent that it was not meant to be so. My hope is that we all try to expand our understanding of this clause by reading or re-reading specifically the intent of those who wrote the Constitution as it regards this clause. While I understand we me never agree on this issue, it is an issue that should be discussed. By understanding both sides of the issue, perhaps one day an agreement may be reached on what is too little and too much government when it regards the federal government’s financial support to the people. Time will tell.

      On a side note, Joseph. Thank you for the information, I will be looking into it.

      As for my previous posts, I admit that passion overcame me more during those times than this. If I caused any offense, I apologize. I still stand by my opinions regarding the topics at hand, but I did not mean to offend. Should I continue to post on this site, I will try to use more reason and less passion. Being a fallible and imperfect man, I’m sure my passions may get the best of me in the future, however. I would like to apologize in advance, should this occur.

      • Yossarian says:

        Common Man

        the whole constitution is inspired? really? including the part that allowed slavery, denied women equal rights, etc. Do yourself a favor and go read the constitutional convention; sausage making at its finest. There is good, bad, and everything in between and it seems absurd for us to be bound by what some dead aristocrats thought was good govt.

        And as for Jefferson, his views were not as simple as your one quotation seems to indicate. He advocated redistribution of wealth on other occasions.

  24. Forest Simmons says:

    It seems to me that everything that Jefferson or anybody else has said about the disadvantages of concentration of power in the hands of “big government” goes doubly against concentrating power in the hands of private, undemocratic tyrannies.

    In fact, they turn out to be the same thing: private tyrannies always take control of government and refine it as a weapon of class warfare against the common people.

    To see this more clearly in our current federal government, Read Thomas Frank’s “Wrecking Crew.”

    Can government protect people in time of war? Why not in time of class war? Because the government is always on the side of the rich, i.e. on the side of the class that already has all of the wealth and power on their side. That’s why anarchists are so fed up with government.

    If we could have democratic government, it might help defend the people from their enemies in the class war, but I don’t see that happening.

    Does government have a right to make laws against robbery? Then why not against the robbing of the poor by the rich?

    Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. Should government protect us from bullies? Then why not economic bullies?

    I don’t care it it is town, county, state, federal, or world government, but the more local the better, because closness to the stakeholders and spreading out of power reduces the chances for catastrophic damage.

    On the other hand, would we have civil rights in the South if the federal government had not stepped in? I believe there is a role for federal government. By the same token, we need a world court, if not a world parliament.

    What argument for federation of the states at the end of the 18th century would not make a case for federation of the whole world at the beginning of the 21st century? Modern transportation and communication has effectively reduced the whole world to a size smaller that the thirteen original colonies at the end of the revolutionary war.

    The USA is already the de facto world government, but it does not rule the world impartially or democratically. Don’t the other states of the world, including the current losers in the class war, deserve equal representation in our world government?

  25. Forest Simmons says:

    Common Man,

    you quoted Jefferson:
    “The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

    Did Jefferson know that the idle rich would find a thousand ways to “take away from those who are willing to work”? The working poor are kept that way by the devices of the idle rich.

    The vast majority of the non-working poor are willing to work; they lack work because of involuntary unemployment. Industrial Capitalism creates a vast army of surplus workers without providing any means to take care of their needs when they are unemployed.

    Even 150 years ago only a fraction of the work force was needed to provide for the basic needs of mankind. With today’s unparalleled productivity surplus workers abound. What can they do? If they have an high enough unscruplousness quotient (UQ) they can become capitalist hucksters of one kind or another.

    If we can use tax money to fund the military to protect us from Communism, why not use tax money to protect us from destruction by Capitalism?

    If we can fund the military, why not fund the Civilian Conservation Corp and the WPA?

  26. Forest Simmons says:

    Despite capitalist fears to the contrary, it is always (as Chomsky noted long ago) “subsidies and bailouts for the rich, but market discipline for the poor,” and “privatize the profits, but socialize the costs.” In other words the rich are the beneficiaries of the wholesale handouts, while the poor and defenseless bear the brunt of the cost along with the bad PR associated with sporadic retail compensation for social injustice.

    Anybody who cannot see this in current affairs must be willfully blind.

    Bailing out the rich is capitalism, not socialism, as alleged by tea party ignoramuses. Various forms of socialism try to make provisions for the needs of the poor by helping workers (not the idle rich) hang on to some of the fruits of their labors. Capitalism works like the Parker Brothers game of Monopoly to accentuate the advantages of the rich over the poor. Socialism strives for more economic equality.

  27. Jason Allred says:

    The government can use taxes to pay for military, roads, etc., because everyone benefits from them. Funding social services, however, is an act whereby the government takes money from one citizen and gives to another. Funding the military is an act whereby the government takes money from everyone in order to benefit everyone.

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