I haven’t paid my property taxes yet. I know, I know, I’m a horrible person. I don’t even feel bad about it, which probably makes me an even worse person who should be rode out of town on a rail after being tarred and feathered. Slander me, libel me, cast your slings and arrows as you may, I am unrepentant.
The truth is, my taxes were due in December and I was eyeball deep into a car repair (that continued on into almost February) plus the holidays were going on. Paying my property taxes wasn’t really a priority. I knew the local county government would send me a series of increasingly shrill reminders, and that whether I paid them in December or January or June, life would go on. The sun would continue to rise, the flowers would eventually bloom, and, aside from the increasingly shrill reminders, the local county government would even go on. So though it existed as a thing in the back of my brain, I wasn’t worried. I would get to it, eventually. Now unfortunately, I couldn’t delay this in perpetuity because, in the world we live in, they will take ‘your’ property away if you don’t pay them ‘their’ money. Maybe someday somebody will explain to me that particular nugget of craziness. Either way, I haven’t paid them.
So now it’s May, and I decided , mainly to put my wife’s mind at ease, we would make plans to pay them. I worked a little extra and have part of the taxes, and on Friday it is my intention to go up there and hand over, to them, a portion of my life. But I refuse to feel bad about making them wait.
We have been debt free except for the house for a while now, and when I owe somebody money, I do fret about it. The other day I bought hay and chicken feed from a local merchant and was a dollar short of the purchase price. The next day I probably burned 3 bucks in gas to make sure I got him his dollar. It was a legitimate debt, and so I took it seriously. I had entered into a transaction with him for goods, and I had possession of the goods so he should have possession of the money he exchanged for those goods. That’s being a good Christian, and a good neighbor; don’t make folks wait for the money you owe them. If I had been delayed, for whatever reason in paying him, it would have bothered me and embarrassed me. I would have felt like less of a man, and when I finally got him his money, I would have apologized for making him wait. As I recall I did apologize over the dollar. A man ought to pay his bills, and ought to meet his obligations.
The reason I have none of these reactions to my tax bill is simple; I don’t ‘owe ‘ them anything. There was no exchange. They provided no goods and no services, just a demand for money. In the year since I last paid this money, no county employee has to my knowledge set foot on my property or contributed to it’s upkeep. My life is absolutely no better or easier after having paid them last year. So by what line of reasoning do they sit up in their air-conditioned office and wait patiently (not really) for my check? What gives them the right?
I have a friend whose opinion I respect even when we disagree, and he maintains that taxation is a prerogative of government according to the Bible. It’s led to some interesting discussions. He cites Samuel’s predictions about the reign of Saul as his ‘proof text’. It’s at least a more interesting reason than “Taxes are the rent you pay for living in America”, which was cited to me by a former co-worker. Be that as it may, the facts are simple. They have done nothing to earn this money, and I will be paying them not because of what they have done for me, but rather what they will do to me if I do not comply. You will pay or we will remove you from your land. That’s the deal. You will pay what we say when we say it and if we decide we want more next year, you will also pay that. Stripped of all pretenses, the relationship is entirely one of coercion, and force.
I will go up there Friday. Or maybe Saturday. Monday is a very good possibility. Tuesday if Monday falls through. Definitely by the end of the week. I am mostly certain they will get the money by June. I will go pay them, but I won’t do it with my hat in my hand or an apology in my heart. I know people who would, and who would make various promises about future deliverance of assets in a more timely manner. I’m certain the employees there at the tax office would cluck understandingly at the good intentions of the hapless boob standing before them apologizing for being late with money they don’t owe for services they didn’t receive. The employee probably might even have convinced themselves that the relationship is not one of coercion. I don’t have time for such games. I will treat their institution the same way I would a mugger ; “Here take the money, we don’t want any trouble.” I will, at least mentally, liken myself to Hank Rearden, the Atlas Shrugged character , who told the courtroom
"If it is now believed that my fellow men may sacrifice me in any manner they please for the sake of whatever they deem to be their own good, if they believe that they may seize my property simply because they need it - well, so does any burglar. There is only this difference: the burglar does not ask me to sanction his act."