Things do not belong to Caesar
Simply because he orders it.
The rights of Caesar are limited
By rights already held by individuals.
In the hope that Jesus would compromise Himself through His own words, the Pharisees sent Him their disciples accompanied by Herodians, known supporters of Roman politics, to ask Him the question: “Is it right to pay a tribute to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17.)
The “tribute” unlike the taxes now bestowed upon free citizens, 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?” Upon being shown, at His request, the coin of the tribute on which was found Caesar's effigy, He told them: “Render onto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and onto God what belongs to God.”
A curtailed quote
This line is usually quoted by those who wish to stress the duty to pay taxes. They do so with much eloquence. Most of the time, stopping at the first part of the sentence: at the part that concerns Caesar. The latter part, which is concerned by what is owed to God, usually remains under silence, while Caesar is given all the importance, all the place and time in their discourse.
And even in this first part of the quote, attention is seldom drawn upon the limitative nature of the words “what belongs to Caesar”. Limitative, because Caesar does not own everything. But it seems that, according to tax preachers, one should give Caesar all he demands. But Caesars are known to have large appetites, caring little whether there are things owed to those they keep under pressure.
By Caesar, we mean the government, the many governments. 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. While awaiting to be afflicted by a supranational Caesar having universal jurisdiction, who will crown the pyramid.
The ever increasing hierarchy of Caesars results in ever increasing tributes. The ears of these Caesars are further and further away from the people's voice, while their sticky fingers reach down into every strata of society, grasping at every bit of our income and squeezing all they can out of every economic transaction.
Limits to Caesar's powers
"Giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar" should not be used to allow Caesar to take that which does not belong to him. Nor to take from the people that which belongs to the people so as to give it to Mammon. Nowadays, all governments commit both of these mistakes.
If we must give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, we must first, and more scrupulously, leave to the individual what belongs to the individual; leave to the family what belongs to the family.
The individual has priority over all institutions be they financial, economic or political, priority over governments themselves. This must be insisted upon since the opposite idea generally dominates in practice.
“The human person ought to be put in the first rank of earthly realities.” (Pius XI in Divini Redemptoris).
“It is the human person that God has placed at the top of the visible universe, making him, in economics and politics as well, the measure of all things.” (Pope Pius XII, Letter to the chairman of the Semaines Sociales de France, July 14, 1946.)
Individuals are born into a family. They grow into a family. The family is the only temporal society established by God. Each family is a cell of the social body.
When a Caesar, the municipal Caesar, takes the house where they are raising their children, away from a family for the sole reason that this family lacks the money to pay its taxes, this Caesar robs this family of a property it owns and which it needs to carry on the normal life of its members. Caesar then becomes a thief.
In the same way, when a provincial or federal Caesar, through its different taxes, both direct and indirect, cuts into the basic needs of an individual, of a family, this Caesar robs the individual, the family of a property it owns. Caesar then becomes a thief.
Caesar does not have that right. He does not have the right to live at the expense of the normal life of an individual, at the expense of the life of the family, the cell of society, doing so undermines the health of society. On the contrary, by its very function, it is Caesar's duty to protect the rights and property of individuals and families.
Limits to the power of the State
In a speech delivered in the House of Commons on July 6, 1960, during the debate on the Bill of Rights, Noel Dorion, the MP for Bellechasse and a few months later, 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, including the right to life, the right 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 published 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 must ensure that Caesar does not go beyond his rights. This function of the Church had been exercised and acknowledged throughout Christian History. This prevented many a Caesar, little and big ones alike, from ruling as absolute dictators over the people. But, added Eric Butler:
“Unfortunately, however, the perversion of Christianity has reached the stage where 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 is a Protestant, and he is 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.
The human person comes before Caesar
Acton, Butler, and Noel Dorion see therefore in the words of Our Lord, a limitation to the power of Caesar, rather than a justification for any form of taxation. This is because they quote His words in full: “Render, therefore, to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.”
To Caesar what is Caesar's, and nothing more; 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 may have been.
In presenting this bill, on July 1, 1960, Prime Minister Diefenbaker 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 said:
“The sacred right of the individual consecrates him sovereign in his relationship with the State.”
Caesar is not to be at the top: The human person is. Thus the human person does not belong to Caesar. Rather, it is Caesar that must belong to the human person. It is Caesar who must serve the individuals by exercising his function as guardian of human rights.
Maurice Allard, the MP for Sherbrooke, had this to say during the 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 does not have the right to dispossess the people through taxation. Neither does he have the right to allow individuals 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.”
These statements of politicians lead us to believe that it is not through ignorance of principles, but by their lack of implementing into legislation, that Caesar — either the federal, provincial, or municipal Caesars — too often manipulates people, pushes them around, and throws them into poverty, whereas Caesar exists to do the opposite.
We must nonetheless render to Caesar what is Caesar's. Render to him not all that he wants or that he can seize, but only what belongs to him.
So, what does belong to Caesar? We think it can be defined as follows: That which Caesar needs to carry out his functions.
This definition seems to be implicitly accepted by Caesar himself, by the government, when it answers to those who complain about the burden of taxes: “The more services people demand, the more means the government needs to have to provide these services.” This is true. But in order to carry out his own functions, Caesar must not have recourse to means that prevent individuals 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 lesser organisms, rather than to the State. Moreover, the citizens would not need to call upon Caesar so often if Caesar first removed an obstacle that only he can remove: the artificial obstacle created by a financial system that is not in keeping with the huge capacity to satisfy the basic material needs of every individual, of every family in the country.
Because Caesar does not correct this situation that only he can correct, Caesar leaves his role and accumulates new functions, using them as a pretext for levying new taxes, at times ruinous, on citizens and families. Caesar thus becomes the tool of a financial dictatorship that he ought to strike down, and the oppressor of citizens and families whose life and property he ought to be defending.
The life of the individual does not belong to Caesar, but to God. This is something that belongs to God alone, something that no one, not even the individual, has the right to suppress or shorten deliberately. And if Caesar, through his exactions, shortens an individual's life, places an individual in conditions that shorten his life, then Caesar takes that which is not owed to him, that which belongs to God.
The human person and the family are a creation of God that Caesar must neither destroy nor lay hold of, but rather protect against whoever wants to undermine their integrity and their rights.
To deprive a family of its home because it cannot pay the property taxes, is to act against the family, against God. Caesar does not have that right.
How many more infringements upon the rights and upon the property of individuals and families could be mentioned?
The needs of Caesar
But Caesar has indeed some functions to accomplish that cannot be entrusted to individuals. There are some services and material goods that can be obtained only from Caesar — for example, an army to defend our country in case of war, a police force to maintain order against those who may wish to disturb it, the building of roads, bridges and of the means of communication between cities. Caesar must be given 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, materials, hydraulic forces and other means of production.
Caesar needs part of the country's production capacity. In a democratic system, it is up to the elected representatives of the people to determine what part of the country's production capacity may be allocated to the needs of Caesar.
If we subject ourselves into thinking in terms of realities, we must admit that there is no difficulty in giving Caesar part of the country's production capacity, while leaving at the disposal of its citizens, a production capacity that can easily meet all their normal needs.
Let us give the verb “to tax” its wider meaning of “putting to contrbution”. One can say then that private needs and public needs tax the production capacity of our country: They "put to contrbution" its production capacity. When I ask for a pair of shoes, I tax the capacity to produce shoes. When the provincial Caesar builds a kilometer of road, it taxes the capacity to build roads by the length of one kilometer. With our modern production capacity, it is unlikely that the construction of roads should hinder the production of shoes.
It is only when we stop considering the situation in terms of realities and begin to express ourselves in terms of money that difficulties arise. Taxes then take another appearance and bear on something else, on wallets. If Caesar taxes my income by $60 as a contribution for his road, he thus deprives me of the equivalent of a pair of shoes, in order to build his road. For what reason, since our country's production capacity could provide him the road without depriving me of a pair of shoes?
Why? Because the money system falsifies the facts.
— But Caesar must pay the employees he hires. He must pay for the materials he buys from his suppliers.
— Surely. But, in fact, what does Caesar do when he pays, let us say, an engineer $4 000? He gives this engineer the right to ask for $4 000 worth of goods or services from the country's production capacity. In order to meet the needs of the engineer, must I be deprived of the right to buy a pair of shoes? Can our country's production capacity not meet the needs of the engineer without reducing the production of shoes?
That's 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 to find jobs for people who want to work, and idle machinery.
If the means of payment constitute a problem, it is because they do not correspond to the means of production. The permits to draw upon the production capacity are largely insufficient when compared to the productive capacity now available.
This shortage of permits is unjustified, especially since the money system is, as is the case nowadays, a system of figures, of bookkeeping. If the monetary bookkeeping does not correspond to the production capacity, it is not the producers' fault nor of those who need this production. It is the controllers of the money and financial credit who ration the permits, in the face of an unused production capacity that is waiting to be used.
The citizens alone cannot correct this distortion of realities by the financial system. But Caesar can! Since he is Caesar, since he has the responsibility and the power to watch over the common good. He can and he ought to order the controllers of the financial system to put their system in tune with realities.
As long as Caesar refuses to bring about this reform, he allows himself to be the servant, the tool of the financial dictatorship. He shirks his responsibilities as sovereign, and the taxes he claims while following this financial falsehood, are not owed to him. Clifford Hugh Douglas clearly stated that: “Modern taxation is legalized robbery”. Caesar does not have a right to legalized robbery.
Nobody denies Caesar the right to tax the production capacity of our country to answer public needs — so long as the part he takes does not stop the part that is left from answering the demand of private needs. Once again, it is the duty of governments to see to this. Unfortunately, parliaments have also come to confine themselves to the limits set by the money system.
If the country's production capacity was fully represented by an equivalent financial capacity in the hands of the population, then one might wish to prevent the population from using it all for its private needs, in order not to deprive Caesar of its basic needs. Yet, even then, it must be done without depriving the individuals and families of their share in a sufficient quantity of the basics: food, clothing, shelter, heating, medical care, etc.
Let us repeat it: Such is not the case! Not only is the production capacity of our country only partially drawn upon, but collectively, the population cannot afford to pay for all that it produces. Clear evidence for this is given by private debts, industrial debts and public debts.
The sum of theses debts, for production that already exists, plus the sum of what was not produced due to a lack of money, represent the sacrifices required of us by the financial dictatorship, by Mammon.
But Mammon is not a legitimate Caesar. We must render nothing to Mammon because nothing rightfully belongs to him. Mammon is an intruder, a usurper, a thief, a tyrant.
Yet, Mammon has become the supreme sovereign, above Caesar, above the most powerful Caesars in the world.
Caesar has become Mammon's instrument, Mammon' tax collector.
If Caesar needs part of the country's production capacity to carry out his function, he is also badly in need of surveillance. And he must be reprimanded when he allows himself to become the servant, the lackey of financial tyranny, instead of being an institution at the service of the common good.
The great modern disorder, which has spread like an enormous cancer, at a time when fantastic progress in production methods should have freed man from material worries, lies in the fact that everything is being connected to money, as though money were a reality. The disorder lies in the fact that private individuals have been allowed to regulate the conditions under which money is issued, not as accountants of realities might have done, but for their own profits and to strengthen their despotic power over the whole economic life.
Money created at the rate of production
There was another occasion, seldom mentioned yet of much interest, when Jesus had to deal with taxes. And this time, it had nothing to do with a tribute to a conqueror, but rather with the didrachma — a tax established by the Jews themselves for the maintenance of the Temple The collectors of this tax came to Saint Peter, and asked: “Does your Master (Jesus) not pay the half-shekel?” Jesus told Peter: “Go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish that rises, open its mouth and there you will find a shekel; take it and give it to them for me and for yourself.” (Matthew 17:24 and 27).
Peter, a fisherman by trade, had no problem to do so.
On that occasion, money was created at the rate of production. The government cannot do miracles, but it can easily establish a monetary system where money is based upon production, that is, in keeping with production. In other words, it must have a figure placed upon the country's production capacity and a figure placed upon the means of payment for both sectors, private and public. It would be more in keeping with the common good than to leave the control of money and credit to the good will of the high priests of Mammon.
The controlers of money and credit have become the masters of our lives, and no one dare breathe without their permission. (Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno), provided they do give us their permission.
We stand against Mammon's ruthless dictatorship. We condemn the decline of Caesar. We do not acknowledge that a fallen Caesar has the right to deprive individuals and families to Mammon's benefit, nor the right to abide by Mammon's rules of greed and falsehood.
Mammon's dictatorship is the enemy of both Caesar and God, of the human person created by God, of the family established by God.
Social Crediters work to free men from this dictatorship. In the process, they work to free Caesar from his subjection to Mammon. Social Crediters are therefore in the vanguard of those who, concretely, upon this earth, want to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, to the human person created in the image of God what belongs to man, to the family established by God what belongs to the family and render to God what belongs to God.
(By Louis Even, first published in the December 15, 1960 issue of the Vers Demain Journal.)
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