A Parable about the “Peace Tax Fund” Bill

I’m making another attempt to discourage war tax resisters from supporting the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act and other such “peace tax fund” legislation projects.

It’s delicate business, because the people who promote these projects are ideologically very close to the war tax resistance movement, many are war tax resisters themselves, and they use many of the same arguments that war tax resisters use.

But there are two big problems with their proposals, at least from the perspective of conscientious tax resisters: 1) they aren’t any good, and 2) they’re bad. That is, their supposed beneficial effects do not actually exist, and they have side-effects that are actually harmful.

The Act pretends to create a system that would allow taxpayers to give money to the government without supporting the government’s militarism. The Act’s promoters say that if the Act becomes law, conscientious tax resisters who have been unwilling to pay taxes because they are unwilling to pay for war will be free to pay their taxes again without troubling their consciences. This, however, is an absolute fraud.

Hubert Hoffman, Mime Assassin (a word problem):

Hubert Hoffman is a hunter. By day he goes out with his shotgun to hunt for game with which he feeds his family, and, when hunting’s good, also provides meat to the butcher shops of Blimville, Freedonia.

By night, though, he visits the nearby town of Clemville and murders mimes. He just hates mimes; some childhood trauma, I guess. Any shotgun shells he has left over at the end of his day of hunting he puts to use in his mime hunt.

Ishmael Gradsdovic makes a modest living reloading shotgun shells and selling them to the hunters of Freedonia.

Hubert has a problem. One morning when he goes to Ishmael for some of his daily set of shells, Ishmael refuses to sell him any, saying that he feels for the poor mimes of Clemville and their grieving families.

So Hubert visits Freedonia’s other ammo dealers, but isn’t able to get as many shells as he’s used to hunting with, so at the end of the day he can’t do quite so much mime-killing as he’d like to do.

The next morning he goes to Ishmael and makes him a deal: if Ishmael will mark his shells with a red “X”, Hubert will promise to use those shells only for hunting and not for killing mimes. Ishmael agrees.

Will more or fewer mimes die as a result of Ishmael’s decision to sell non-mime-killing-only shells to Hubert? Please show your work.

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to weave a parable to explain why paying into a government-run peace tax fund won’t prevent your money from supporting war (see and ) and I’ve tried some straightforward number crunching too to demonstrate that the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act will not reduce military spending one bit, and in fact will probably increase it (see ).

And I’ve tried to explain that second flaw as well, that not only is the Act not any good at doing what it claims to do, but that it is bad for war tax resisters. Lobbying for it promotes the view that war tax resisters are naïve and would be easily bought-off by a law that would only provide a phony sense of conscientiousness. And if the Act were to actually become law, it would reduce the number of people who actually conscientiously resist taxation (thereby providing more money for government militarism) and it would give the government propaganda ammunition to use against the remaining tax resisters (“why don’t you just pay your taxes into the Peace Tax Fund like these good, law-abiding, conscientious people do?”).

It seems like more war tax resisters are willing to speak up about the flaws of these proposals, but many others are unwilling to look beyond the good intentions of the promoters. I hope that NWTRCC and the war tax resistance movement in general will eventually come to see peace tax fund promoters in much the same way that they currently see constitutionalist tax protesters — as people who have some overlapping interests, and who travel in similar circles, but who really aren’t fighting the same battle.

The Spirit of (now available on-line) is a World War Ⅱ propaganda cartoon starring Donald Duck that explains how “Taxes Sock the Axis!”