I am reading a book right now that begins by speaking of shalom, or a state of peace, justice, and harmony between people and people, people and creation, and people and the Creator. I am only in the beginning of the book but already the author has suggested that a way of restoring shalom in our society is by taxing corporations in order to obtain funds for ameliorating the poverty and injustice experienced by the people on the margins in our American society. I always bristle just a little bit when I see that position put forward because I do not believe that it can be successful in any way.
To begin with, I am not intentionally putting forward the talking points of any political party. If there is any similarity between my position and a political party’s it is probably the result of plagiarism on their part. Government agents from both parties have been listening to our conversations so it could happen. Anyway, I do not wish to be part of the political conversation going on in our society at this point. I am writing solely about the restoration of shalom by means of taxation.
It can’t be done. Shalom requires a society of inhabitants who are willing to give of their plenty to address the needs of the poor. It also requires just people who will sit in judgement to assure that the rights of the poor are not stepped on by the wealthy or vice versa. Shalom requires a society which understands the true meaning of shalom rather than a shalom of my rights against your rights.
Taxing an individual or a corporation is the very opposite of shalom. The wealthy person in a state of shalom gives because he knows that the purpose of having wealth is to share it. The poor person in a state of shalom who is poor because of some misfortune knows that the means of her existence will be supplied until she gets back on her feet. The slacker knows that the full weight of society will be brought to bear upon him to correct his ways and return into shalom. If an unwilling person is taxed in order to restore shalom the money is obtained by coercion, which carries behind it the treat of violence if compliance is not forthcoming. Shalom is never restored by violence or the threat of violence. Shalom in the Kingdom of God is obtained by the voluntary action of the person living in harmony or striving to do so, and this was modeled by Jesus Himself. When the rich young ruler asked what he must do to follow Jesus he was not told “Go, sell your neighbors possessions, give them to the poor and follow me”. Instead, he was told to give of his own wealth, which he was not willing to do in the end.
I have heard many political opinions concerning why corporations should pay some taxes or more taxes or whatever, and they often relate to owing it to society or some other construct which lays the obligation of paying and paying more at the feet of justice. That is fine, and would be a good topic for some other conversation. For the purpose of restoring Shalom, however, taxing corporations or anybody else would be completely counterproductive. At least, that’s how I see it.