The Creeping Transmutation of Property Rights

In 2015, the elected Montana Legislature passed a law giving Montanans a tax credit for donating to student scholarship organizations (SSOs), which help low-income parents pay for their children's private schools.  The unelected Montana Department of Revenue felt it their duty to correct the will of the people by banning those scholarships from being used for religious schools.  Kendra Espinoza, who wants her children to attend a religious school, fought the bureaucratic diktat, with her case ending up being heard presently by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The Court has predictably divided along partisan lines as to whether the specific exclusion of religious schools is discriminatory.  But the arguments surrounding both discrimination and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment are missing a bigger picture, and dangerously so in terms of the relationship between citizen and state. 

The underlying assumption as to the nature of the aforementioned tax credit is that this money is the rightful property of the state, which, through the SSOs, it "gives" the citizen through an act of statist benevolence.  But this is a warped understanding of the money's origin.  The monetary sum isn't "credited" to the donor in the manner of a credit card giving you sign-up spending bonus that wasn't yours to begin with.  Those tax "credits" are actually untaxed monies that were worked for and belong to the donors.  The amount donated isn't withdrawn from the state treasury, but is offset from the donors' year-end taxes.  Per the legislation, the state merely abstains from collecting it from the donors...meaning it never wasn't theirs. 

Some may think this is splitting hairs, but the distinction is important.  It is a crucial determinant to how we as a free citizenry perceive the nature of our relationship to property and our right to do with our property as we choose.  More ominously, it shines a light on how entrenched bureaucracies perceive it.  If Montanans disagree with granting parents tax breaks for more latitude in school choice, they are free to petition their legislators to overturn the program.  But this prerogative belongs to the citizens and their legislators.  It does not belong to the Montana Department of Revenue.

By conceding the assumption that the state of Montana is funding these parents with state money rather than just collecting less of it, as if the money originated with the government and was rationed out to the workers (rather than with the citizen who first earned it and was then taxed), conservative justices are inadvertently conceding that all income (and by extension all resulting assets) is originally the property of the state.  What citizens take home from each paycheck is whatever the government, in its arbitrary largesse, bequeaths to them.  From this perspective, the current Montana income tax functionally serves not as a 6.9% tax, but as a 93.1% allowance.  These are not the workings of a free republic, but of an unaccountable Deep State that decides for itself what constitutes — what's the phrase? — "to each according to his needs."

This attestation that the Left regards private property as rationed public property, and not vice versa, is neither an exaggeration nor paranoia.  It's in their rhetoric and, indeed, in their governance.  President Obama referred to tax cuts as spending increases and referred to tax hikes as "savings" (and he did so often enough to rule out misspeaking or malfunctioning teleprompters).  It was always subtle in his speeches, but it was there, and it was intentional.  The only perspective from which his characterizations make logical sense is if the product of our labor belongs first to the government and then is allotted to us.  In Obama's view, a tax cut isn't the workers having less of their money taken from them, but rather the government giving them (i.e., spending) more of what initially and rightfully belongs to the government.

Sadly, it's safe to assume that the bureaucracy of Montana is probably one of the nation's least imperious.  Yet the decomposing leviathans that Californians and Illinoisans obstinately refer to as their "civil" "services" can rest easy knowing that their respective legislatures will never pass any voucher bill with the word "choice" on it that doesn't relate exclusively to abortion or gender identity. 

Espinoza shouldn't have to waste time in court swatting away swarms of militant atheist bottom-feeders, who are just as fanatical as her state apparatchiks in their unwarranted confidence that they know what's best for everybody else.  If the Montana government voted not to collect a specific amount of money from her SSO donors, then, logically, that specific amount never became state property and is still hers to spend as she pleases within the parameters of the legislation.  She wouldn't be in court if the bureaucrats hadn't unilaterally decided that their proper role is to act as benign overlords making deeply personal decisions for the backwater rubes whom they cross the street to avoid. 

Taxation is a necessary evil that we tolerate in order to maintain a functioning government, a capable military, and paved roads.  But a free society must rest upon the axiom that the income belongs first and foremost to its citizens before it can be taxed.  The opposite of this, in which a self-appointed elite own our income and allocate it to us as they see fit, is the definition of slavery.  A slave fortunate enough to have a lenient master is still a slave, regardless of how significant a portion of his own earnings his master grants him.

In 2015, the elected Montana Legislature passed a law giving Montanans a tax credit for donating to student scholarship organizations (SSOs), which help low-income parents pay for their children's private schools.  The unelected Montana Department of Revenue felt it their duty to correct the will of the people by banning those scholarships from being used for religious schools.  Kendra Espinoza, who wants her children to attend a religious school, fought the bureaucratic diktat, with her case ending up being heard presently by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The Court has predictably divided along partisan lines as to whether the specific exclusion of religious schools is discriminatory.  But the arguments surrounding both discrimination and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment are missing a bigger picture, and dangerously so in terms of the relationship between citizen and state. 

The underlying assumption as to the nature of the aforementioned tax credit is that this money is the rightful property of the state, which, through the SSOs, it "gives" the citizen through an act of statist benevolence.  But this is a warped understanding of the money's origin.  The monetary sum isn't "credited" to the donor in the manner of a credit card giving you sign-up spending bonus that wasn't yours to begin with.  Those tax "credits" are actually untaxed monies that were worked for and belong to the donors.  The amount donated isn't withdrawn from the state treasury, but is offset from the donors' year-end taxes.  Per the legislation, the state merely abstains from collecting it from the donors...meaning it never wasn't theirs. 

Some may think this is splitting hairs, but the distinction is important.  It is a crucial determinant to how we as a free citizenry perceive the nature of our relationship to property and our right to do with our property as we choose.  More ominously, it shines a light on how entrenched bureaucracies perceive it.  If Montanans disagree with granting parents tax breaks for more latitude in school choice, they are free to petition their legislators to overturn the program.  But this prerogative belongs to the citizens and their legislators.  It does not belong to the Montana Department of Revenue.

By conceding the assumption that the state of Montana is funding these parents with state money rather than just collecting less of it, as if the money originated with the government and was rationed out to the workers (rather than with the citizen who first earned it and was then taxed), conservative justices are inadvertently conceding that all income (and by extension all resulting assets) is originally the property of the state.  What citizens take home from each paycheck is whatever the government, in its arbitrary largesse, bequeaths to them.  From this perspective, the current Montana income tax functionally serves not as a 6.9% tax, but as a 93.1% allowance.  These are not the workings of a free republic, but of an unaccountable Deep State that decides for itself what constitutes — what's the phrase? — "to each according to his needs."

This attestation that the Left regards private property as rationed public property, and not vice versa, is neither an exaggeration nor paranoia.  It's in their rhetoric and, indeed, in their governance.  President Obama referred to tax cuts as spending increases and referred to tax hikes as "savings" (and he did so often enough to rule out misspeaking or malfunctioning teleprompters).  It was always subtle in his speeches, but it was there, and it was intentional.  The only perspective from which his characterizations make logical sense is if the product of our labor belongs first to the government and then is allotted to us.  In Obama's view, a tax cut isn't the workers having less of their money taken from them, but rather the government giving them (i.e., spending) more of what initially and rightfully belongs to the government.

Sadly, it's safe to assume that the bureaucracy of Montana is probably one of the nation's least imperious.  Yet the decomposing leviathans that Californians and Illinoisans obstinately refer to as their "civil" "services" can rest easy knowing that their respective legislatures will never pass any voucher bill with the word "choice" on it that doesn't relate exclusively to abortion or gender identity. 

Espinoza shouldn't have to waste time in court swatting away swarms of militant atheist bottom-feeders, who are just as fanatical as her state apparatchiks in their unwarranted confidence that they know what's best for everybody else.  If the Montana government voted not to collect a specific amount of money from her SSO donors, then, logically, that specific amount never became state property and is still hers to spend as she pleases within the parameters of the legislation.  She wouldn't be in court if the bureaucrats hadn't unilaterally decided that their proper role is to act as benign overlords making deeply personal decisions for the backwater rubes whom they cross the street to avoid. 

Taxation is a necessary evil that we tolerate in order to maintain a functioning government, a capable military, and paved roads.  But a free society must rest upon the axiom that the income belongs first and foremost to its citizens before it can be taxed.  The opposite of this, in which a self-appointed elite own our income and allocate it to us as they see fit, is the definition of slavery.  A slave fortunate enough to have a lenient master is still a slave, regardless of how significant a portion of his own earnings his master grants him.