April 08, 2012

The only slogan that the Italian left has these days with a bit of traction is “€œWar on the Tax Evaders!”€ But such a slogan rings hollow in a country where tax evasion is a way of life. To the Italians, taxation itself”€”not tax evasion”€”is theft. And I can see their point.

But even if the Italians paid all their taxes, what real difference would it make? In 2009 they failed to pay 120 billion euro ($157 billion) of taxes owed. But that is mere pollo alimentazione compared to Italy’s huge public debt, which at 120% of GDP stands at $1.9 trillion.

Stealing a pen that belongs to someone else is theft. But refusing to pay a tax is different for one simple reason. Tax is not someone else’s private property. And whereas a pen is always a pen, a tax is just a tax. And whereas some taxes are just, others are unjust.

There comes a tipping point beyond which a just tax becomes unjust. As the Boston Tea Party rebellion of 1773 showed, taxation without political representation is unjust taxation. If a government demands that you pay all your income in tax, it cannot possibly be wrong to refuse. Does the Italian left and those they have possessed in the Catholic Church really believe that those American rebels, those heroic warriors in the struggle for freedom and democracy, were thieves?

But it does not end here as I discovered by reading the crystal-clear words of Catholic theologian Don Carlo Rusconi in a recent speech to students at the Istituto Superiore di Scienze Religiose in Rimini, a famously ugly beach resort on the Adriatic coast about 30 miles from me. This was in response to a statement by Italy’s Catholic bishops, sadly well and truly possessed, that paying taxes is “€œa moral obligation.”€

Don Rusconi wrote:

First, I must satisfy myself that the Italian tax system is a just one; otherwise, for me to pay my taxes would be an injustice. Secondly, I must satisfy myself that no money from my taxes goes on financing state abortions or wars; otherwise, I become guilty of something that my conscience rejects.

Che uomo! And why stop with abortion and war? Personally, I find it immoral that tax money pays for so many public-sector non-jobs, or so many spongers not to find jobs, or that it subsidizes so many useless people or pays for so many corrupt political parties to represent not the people but themselves. (There are dozens!)

I would have few moral qualms about tax evasion here in Italy. I see nothing wrong with evading this corrupt, bloated, and useless state at every opportunity. The trouble is, not being furbo (cunning) like an Italian, I have yet to work out how.

Thomas Aquinas demonstrated in the 13th century that not even theft is necessarily a mortal sin. The starving man who steals a chicken does not commit a sin so long as he does not steal it knowingly from another starving man. As for that eighth commandment, the world could not survive without lies. How could any decent man possibly tell an ugly woman the truth?



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