Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Taxes and Welfare are not Charity

Taxation and welfare can never be substitutes for charity.

Taxation is a destruction of money (or reserves). Government spending is a creation of money (or reserves). Government welfare programs such as TANF, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, etc. reallocate or redistribute resources by destroying financial assets of the taxed and creating financial assets of the receivers of welfare.

This is the nature of government taxation and spending. Your taxes are not someone else's welfare and therefore are not a gift of charity. This 'redistribution' can achieve socially desirable goals, but cannot replace a true act of charity which requires a person or persons giving and a person or persons receiving:
Charity is love received and given. It is “grace” (ch├íris). Its source is the wellspring of the Father's love for the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Love comes down to us from the Son. -- Caritas in Veritate pp. 5
What persons need above all is love or charity, not material goods. Giving of material goods is an act of charity, but the charity is needed more than the material goods.

The government is not capable of charity because it is not a person capable of love. There is no relationship established, it is not a true gift and it isn't a true sacrifice.

So you can't rely on the government to be charitable for you. This does not mean that welfare programs should not exist, but it does mean that they don't replace man's inherent need for charity. You cannot defer your responsibility to both give and receive charity to the government.

Nor can you give out of charity if justice is not met:
Charity goes beyond justice, because to love is to give, to offer what is “mine” to the other; but it never lacks justice, which prompts us to give the other what is “his”, what is due to him by reason of his being or his acting. I cannot “give” what is mine to the other, without first giving him what pertains to him in justice.

If we love others with charity, then first of all we are just towards them. Not only is justice not extraneous to charity, not only is it not an alternative or parallel path to charity: justice is inseparable from charity, and intrinsic to it. Justice is the primary way of charity or, in Paul VI's words, “the minimum measure” of it, an integral part of the love “in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:18), to which Saint John exhorts us.

On the one hand, charity demands justice: recognition and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples. It strives to build the earthly city according to law and justice. On the other hand, charity transcends justice and completes it in the logic of giving and forgiving. The earthly city is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion. Charity always manifests God's love in human relationships as well, it gives theological and salvific value to all commitment for justice in the world. -- Caritas in Veritate pp. 6

In summary, the government cannot replace charity and therefore cannot solve all of society's problems which are rooted in an absence of charity and justice nor can we give out of charity if justice is not first met. To rely on the government to solve all our problems for us or to say that 'government is taxing me and giving it to the poor so I don't need to give' is to misunderstand true charity and a person's need for love.

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