Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Better Way to Work Together

This post is inspired by Natasha's post on why socialist government policies make sense to her. She compares a socialist system of government to living what our church calls the Law of Consecration. In simple terms, the Law of Consecration calls on everyone in a community to pool their resources and only take back what is needed to live. At present, the General Authorities of our church who are called to full-time service consecrate their wealth and receive back a simple stipend to live on, but the church at large is not expressly living this idea.

I have a problem thinking of tax dollars to the government in the same way as the law of consecration because the government does a lot to 1) waste that money on bureacracy the while the Church does not (no one in the church is paid out of church funds), 2) use that money to fight against things I believe in (keeping religion out of public life and keeping abortion legal, for example), and 3) inflate the costs of things by those taxes thereby harming the poor they are supposedly trying to help (corporate taxes represent inflation, as do other taxes charged on goods and services in a way).

So no, I don't agree with the comparison. I would have no problem whatsoever living with the Law of Consecration with church leaders administering the funds. I have worked in a branch presidency and know how carefully funds are given out, and I have visited and loved Welfare Square and Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake. I do not begrudge one dime I have given to the Church to support those programs, even if they might help people on drugs.

One other problem: yes, teach a man to fish. Government policies in this country for decades made it harder for people on welfare if they got a job by reducing the welfare allotment by more than the job made up. That is teaching a man to hold out his hand, and to break his fishing rod (to use the analogy). Imagine how much more effectively welfare funds could be used if those on it were put into a system like the Law of Consecration - some funds would go to caretakers who watched the children (and that could be a rotating responsibility so the rest could be accomplished), some would go to offer training on job skills, and some would go to provide necessities like food, clothing, and shelter. Again, I look to how the Church manages these ideas and I definitely see an improvement over the government system.

Here's an idea along the lines of another post I wrote about health care: the government could remove all tax-related costs from goods and services paid for out of welfare or social security funds. A doctor would not pay taxes on health care provided. A store selling groceries would be able to make a small profit above the actual cost of the products and pay no sales or income tax on those items purchased. The Church (as a comparison) produces as many goods as possible and takes no profit on their sale to people so funds are not being expended on taxes (Many people in the Church donate their time and thereby reduce the money spent helping the poor - but that is an aside). Only goods that cannot be produced less expensively are purchased to help out the poor.

So reviewing: I do not agree that a socialist government compares at all to the Law of Consecration, at leas not favorably. It could, and I would be interested in seeing such a thing happen. I am not opposed to helping those less fortunate than myself. I love to help people through difficult times. I do believe, though, that the Church (and the teachings of the gospel) calls upon people to help themselves whenever possible, and those who have enough to help those who simply cannot help themselves or who need some help in difficult circumstances. There are wonderful blessings that come from helping others. I just do not agree that the government is the best conduit for accomplishing that goal.

-- Robert


le35 said...

The big difference between socialism/communism and the Law of Consecration is the reasoning behind it and the reason people do it. If people are doing it to praise God, they'll work hard to try to be like Christ. If people are doing it because the government makes them, they'll do the bare minimum of work and try to get the most out of the system. Once that happens the entire system falls apart.

Natasha said...

Robert, you completely misunderstood my point. I did not say that socialist tax programs are like the Law of Consecration. You oversimplified what I said and drew an inference. I thought I made this very clear but I will further clear this up shortly on my blog, in a new post.

Natasha said...

I still love you, I'm not mad. Just frustrated at being misunderstood:

Robert said...

As I said on your blog, my apologies for misunderstanding. Not much rest in two days clouds the mind. Still, as I said there, I disagree with what you did mean because I do not agree that the government necessarily helps people with the way it administers welfare. I didn't think you were mad, neither am I mad. We simply disagree on this issue, and that's perfectly natural and healthy.