The Pharisees, anxious to trap Jesus in His talk, sent their followers to Him, along with the Herodians who were supporters of Rome, to pose this question: “Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17.)
In those days, “tribute” was something different from the income tax paid by our free citizens today. Tribute implied subjugation: it was a contribution exacted of the vanquished by the conqueror. (Rome had conquered Palestine by force.)
Our Lord answered by first exposing the trap prepared by the Pharisees: “Hypocrites, why do you thus put Me to the test?” He then asked them to show Him the coin of tribute, on which was engraved the image of Caesar. Then he said to them: “Render, therefore, to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Usually, those who quote this line of the Gospel do it to stress the duty to pay taxes. And they do so with much eloquence. Most of the time, they quote the first part of the text only — that which concerns Caesar. The latter part, concerning God, is usually passed over in silence, because these speakers are too much preoccupied with the importance of Caesar today.
Even when people quote the first part, they seldom draw attention to the limitative nature of the words “what is Caesar’s”. We say “limitative”, because Caesar does not own everything. But apparently, if one listened to the “tax preachers”, one should give to Caesar all that he demands. Caesar usually has a good appetite, caring little whether there are things that are due to those he robs by taxes.
You understand that Caesar means the government, or more precisely, the governments, since there are as many Caesars as there are levels in the political structure of a nation. In Canada, there are municipal Caesars, provincial Caesars, and a federal Caesar. And before long, to top it all off, perhaps we will also be afflicted with a supranational Caesar with universal jurisdiction.
The result of this hierarchy of Caesars, stretching higher and higher, has been the extracting of larger and larger “tributes”; the ears of these Caesars have become more and more distant from the voices of the people, while their sticky fingers reach down into every strata of society, taking every bit of our incomes and squeezing all they can from every economic transaction.
But does something belong to Caesar simply because he demands it?
In a speech delivered in the House of Commons on July 6, 1960, during the debate on the Canadian Bill of Rights, Noel Dorion, the MP for Bellechasse (a few months after he became a minister in the Conservative cabinet), quoted the reply of Jesus to the Herodians. However, Mr. Dorion did not use it in favour of taxes. On the contrary, the topic debated in Ottawa that day was human rights and not the rights of Caesar. Mr. Dorion rightly remarked:
“It is Christ who really set forth the first charter of human rights, summing it up in these succinct words which, after two thousand years, are still timely: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Mr. Dorion did not elaborate further on this statement. But considering the subject of the debate, he certainly meant that man, the human person, belongs to God, and not to Caesar; that Caesar does not have the right to encroach upon what belongs to God; that Caesar must respect the dignity, freedom, and the rights of each and every citizen. This includes the right to life and to those conditions which will permit the full development of their personality. The rights of Caesar are limited by the prior rights of the human person.
In a paper written in Melbourne in 1956, and later reproduced in booklet form, Eric Butler, an Australian journalist, quoted Lord Acton:
“When Christ said, `Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s’, He gave to the State a legitimacy it had never before enjoyed and set bounds to it that had never yet been acknowledged. And He not only delivered the precept but He also forged the instrument to execute it. To limit the power of the State ceased to be the hope of patient, intellectual philosophers, and became the perpetual charge of a universal Church.”
What Lord Acton meant was that the Church of Christ has the duty to make sure that Caesar does not go beyond his rights. This function of the Church had been exercised and acknowledged during Christian centuries; it prevented several Caesars — little and big ones — from ruling like absolute dictators over the people. But, added Eric Butler:
“Unfortunately however, the perversion of Christianity has reached the stage when even large numbers of the Christian clergy, instead of striving tirelessly to limit the powers of the State, are helping to urge that society be reformed by the power of the State. They are, in fact, appealing from God to Caesar. Every increase in the power of the State, or of monopolistic groups, irrespective of the plausible arguments used to try and justify the increase, must inevitably take from the individual his right to personalize his life by the exercise of his free-will.” (Social Credit and Christian Philosophy, p. 13.)
Eric Butler was a Protestant, and he was talking here about the clergy of his Church. We leave others to decide if this remark also applies to the Catholic clergy, and if it does, to what extent.
Acton, Butler, and Noel Dorion therefore see, in the words of Our Lord, a limitation to the power of Caesar, instead of a justification for any kind of tax. This is because they quote it in full: “Render, therefore, to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
To Caesar what is Caesar’s — no more than that; and everything does not belong to Caesar.
It is precisely to protect the citizens from the all-powerful State, to make Caesar the guardian of the rights of individuals — at least in principle — that, on August 4, 1960, the Canadian Parliament unanimously voted in the Bill of Rights, however incomplete it was.
In presenting this bill, on July 1, 1960, Prime Minister Diefenbaker himself stressed its purpose: “To keep and safeguard the freedom of the individual from the governments, even the all-powerful ones. Why? Because the individual, the human person, is sovereign before Caesar. Diefenbaker knew it, and he said:
“The sacred right of the individual consecrates him sovereign in his relationship with the State.”
Pope Pius XI wrote in his encyclical letter, Divini Redemptoris:
“The human person ought to be put in the first rank of earthly realities.”
In the first rank, therefore before any other institution, before any Caesar.
Pope Pius XII wrote in his letter to the chairman of France’s social works on July 14, 1946:
“It is the human person that God put at the top of the visible universe, making him, in economics and politics as well, the measure of all things.”
It is not Caesar who is at the top; it is the human person. The human person therefore does not belong to Caesar; it is rather Caesar that must belong to the human person, who must serve him by exercising his function of guardian of human rights.
Maurice Allard, the MP for Sherbrooke, QC, also said during this debate on the Bill of Rights:
“The individual must not become a tool or a victim of the State; it is the State which, while making laws, must favour the numerous freedoms of man.”
Caesar has therefore no right to rob people through taxation; he does not have the right to allow the human person to be deprived of the necessities of life.
R.S. MacLellan, the MP for Inverness-Richmond, Nova Scotia, was no less categorical:
“The individual comes before the State... The only purpose of Government is to guarantee individual freedoms.”
The statements from these politicians lead us to believe that it is not through ignorance of principles, but by not implementing them into legislation, that Caesar — either the federal, provincial, or municipal Caesars — all too often manipulates people, pushes and throws them into poverty, whereas it is possible to do the opposite.
Still, one must render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Render to him not all that he wants or can seize, but only what belongs to him.
So, what does belong to Caesar? We think it can be defined as follows: what is necessary to carry out his functions.
This definition seems to be implicitly accepted by Caesar himself, by the government, since the government says to those who complain about the burden of taxes: “The more services people demand, the more means the government needs to provide these services.”
This is true. But in order to carry out his proper functions, Caesar must not have recourse to means that prevent people and families from carrying out theirs.
Besides, in order to increase his importance, Caesar is always tempted to take over functions that normally belong to the families, to lower organisms, and not to the State. Moreover, the citizens would not need the help of Caesar so much if Caesar first removed the obstacle that only he can remove: the artificial obstacle created by a financial system that is not in keeping with the huge physical possibilities that could satisfy the basic material needs of every individual and family of our country.
Because Caesar does not correct this situation, Caesar goes beyond his proper role and accumulates new functions, using them as a pretext for levying new taxes — sometimes ruinous ones — on citizens and families. Caesar thus becomes the tool of a financial dictatorship that he should destroy, and the oppressor of citizens and families that he should protect.
The life of the individual does not belong to Caesar, but to God. Life is something that belongs only to God, something that not even the individual can suppress or shorten deliberately. But when Caesar puts individuals in conditions that shorten their lives, then Caesar takes what does not belong to him; he takes what belongs to God.
The human person and the family are a creation of God and Caesar must not destroy nor take over this. He must, on the contrary, protect against whoever wants to undermine their integrity and rights.
To deprive a family of its home because it cannot pay the property taxes, is to act against the family and against God. Caesar does not have that right.
How many other infringements on the rights and belongings of individuals and families could be mentioned!
But Caesar has indeed some functions to carry out that cannot be entrusted to individuals. There are some services and goods that can only be obtained from Caesar — for example, an army to defend our country in case of war, a police force to keep order against those who disturb it, the building of roads, bridges, public means of communication between various towns in our country. Caesar must have the means to provide the population with these services.
Certainly, but what does Caesar need to provide these services? It needs human and material resources. It needs manpower.
Caesar needs one part of the production capacity of our country. In a democratic system, it is up to the elected representatives of the people to determine what part of the country’s production capacity should be used for the needs of Caesar.
If one thinks in terms of realities, one must admit that there is no difficulty whatever in giving Caesar one part of the country’s production capacity, while leaving at the disposal of private needs a production capacity that can easily meet all the normal needs of the citizens.
Let us use the verb “to tax” in the sense of “making rigorous demands on.” One can say then that private and public needs tax (make demands on) the production capacity of our country. When I demand a pair of shoes, I tax the capacity to produce shoes. When the provincial Caesar has a kilometre of road built, it taxes the capacity to build roads for the length of one kilometre. With today’s production capacity, the construction of roads does not seem to hinder the production of shoes.
It is only when one stops considering the situation in terms of realities, and instead expresses oneself in terms of money, that difficulties arise. Taxes then take on another appearance and “make rigorous demands” on wallets. If Caesar takes $60 from my income as a contribution to his road, then he deprives me of the equivalent of a pair of shoes, so that he may build his road. Why is that, since our country’s production capacity can supply the road without depriving me of a pair of shoes?
Why? Because the money system falsifies the facts.
— “But Caesar must pay his employees, he must pay for the materials he uses,” some will say.
— Certainly. But, when all is said and done, what does Caesar do when he pays an engineer $400, for example? He allows this engineer to buy $400 worth of goods or services, to make demands on the production capacity of our country for the value of $400. So, in order to meet the needs of the engineer, is it necessary to deprive me of the right to buy a pair of shoes? Cannot our country’s production capacity meet the needs of the engineer without reducing the production of shoes?
That is the whole point: as long as the productive capacity of our country has not been exhausted, there is absolutely no need to tax the private sector in order to finance the public sector.
The production capacity of our country is far from being exhausted, since today’s problem is precisely that of finding jobs for people and machinery.
If the means of payment constitute a problem, it is because they do not correspond to the means of production. The tickets (money) that allow us to draw on the production capacity of our country are insufficient for the available production capacity.
This shortage of tickets is an unjustifiable situation, especially when today’s money system is basically a system of figures, a bookkeeping system. If the monetary bookkeeping does not correspond to the production capacity, it is neither the fault of the producers nor of those who need this production. It is the controllers of the money and financial credit who ration the tickets, in spite of an unused production capacity that is just waiting to be used.
The citizens alone cannot correct this falsification of realities by the financial system. But Caesar can! Since Caesar is the government, since he is charged with taking care of the common good, he can — and must — order the controllers of the financial system to put their system in tune with reality.
As long as Caesar refuses to make this correction, he makes himself the servant, the tool of the financial dictatorship; he gives up his function of sovereign, and the taxes that he demands, because of this financial falsehood, are actually not owed to him. “Modern taxation is legalized robbery,” said Clifford Hugh Douglas. Caesar has no right to legalize robbery.
Nobody denies Caesar the right to tax the production capacity of our country for public needs — at least, as long as the part he takes leaves enough to meet the demand of private needs. There again, it is the job of the governments to see that this happens. Unfortunately, parliaments too, have come to limit their sight to the minimum fixed by the money system.
If all the production capacity of our country were represented by an equivalent financial capacity in the hands of the population, then one could prevent the population from using it all for its private needs. This would leave some of the production capacity to Caesar and his essential services. Yet, even in such a situation, it should be done without depriving the individuals and families of the sufficient quantity of their share of the production capacity, to provide for basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, heating, medical care, etc.
Let us repeat: such is not the case! The production capacity of our country is not only partially used, but the population cannot collectively pay for all that it produces. Private and public debts are the best proof of it!
This debt that represents created goods, plus the sum of the privations caused by no production due to the lack of money, represent the sacrifices required by the financial dictatorship, or in other words, by Mammon.
Mammon is not a legitimate Caesar. We must render nothing to Mammon, because nothing belongs to him. Mammon is an intruder, an usurper, a thief, and a tyrant.
Mammon has become the supreme sovereign, above Caesar, above the most powerful Caesars in the world. Caesar has become the instrument of Mammon, a mere tax collector for Mammon.
If Caesar needs one part of the production capacity of our country to carry out his function, he also badly needs to be watched by the population; he must be reprimanded when, instead of being an institution at the service of the common good, he lets himself become the servant, the lackey of financial tyranny.
Today’s great disorder spreads like a cancer, in spite of the fantastic progress in production which should have freed man from material worries. This lies in the fact that everything is being connected with money, as though money were a reality. The disorder lies in the fact that private individuals have been allowed to regulate the conditions of the issue of money, not as accountants of reality but for their own profits, to strengthen their despotic power over all economic life.
There is another occasion that is quoted less often (than the coin of the tribute), where Jesus had to deal with taxes. And this time, it was not about a tribute to the conqueror, but the didrachma — a tax established by the Jews themselves for the maintenance of the Temple (Matthew 17:24-26). Those who collected this tax came to Saint Peter and said: “Does your Master (Jesus) not pay the didrachma?” Jesus said to Peter: “Go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. And opening its mouth, you will find a stater; take that and give it to them for Me and for you.” Peter, a fisher by trade, handled it very well.
This time, money was created with production. The government cannot do miracles, but it can easily establish a monetary system in which money is based upon production, that is in keeping with production. In other words, it must put a figure on the production capacity of our country, and put the means of payment in keeping with that figure, to finance both the public and private sectors. It would be more in keeping with the common good than to leave the control of money and credit to the arbitrary will of the high priests of Mammon.
Pope Pius XI wrote that the controllers of money and credit have become the masters of our lives, and that no one dare breathe against their will.
We refuse this implacable dictatorship of Mammon. We condemn the decline of Caesar, who has become the lackey of Mammon. We do not acknowledge that that kind of Caesar, who has become the slave of Mammon, has the right to deprive individuals and families for the benefit of Mammon, nor the right to abide by Mammon’s false and greedy rules.
Mammon’s dictatorship is the enemy of Caesar, of God, of the human person created by God, and of the entire family established by God.
The Social Crediters work to free men from this dictatorship. At the same time, they work to free Caesar from his subjection to Mammon. The Social Crediters are therefore in the vanguard of those who want to give to the human person created in the image of God what is his, to render to the family established by God what belongs to it, and to render to God what is God’s.