Rendering onto Caesar

Or why churches should pay taxes.

In most countries that I am familiar with, charities, not-for-profit and churches can get a tax exemption status. This is widely known and generally accepted throughout society. Increasingly, the atheists of the variety that want the state to replace God; would like to see this status removed for churches and all religious organisations and groups. They naturally are all for retaining it for charities that are or have all but become secular such as World Vision and the Red Cross. These of course would only be the secular organisations that share their values as I’m sure any secular charity with a platform they didn’t like would soon be taken exception to.

I was for a long time against the idea of removing tax exempt status for churches as I thought it was (and it certainly is), an attack on the church. I didn’t think much past this as and opposed it for this reason alone. As is sometimes the case though, experience and observation has led me to rethink this position for a number of reasons.

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Political Journalism is Stupid

It really is. And I really want to put emphasis on stupid. It is so stupid that I can’t understand why I was, and many intelligent people are, so caught up with it.

When Paul Keating was Treasurer, there was a recession and as he was in this position (and soon to be Prime Minister), it was apparently his fault. He famously (and rather successfully), sold it as “the recession we had to have.” Now political journalists would have either put a positive or negative spin on this depending on their prejudices but in reality they shouldn’t have been doing anything like this at all.

The reason why I am starting with Paul Keating is because I don’t like him and he was Prime Minister before I was old enough to follow politics and thus I’m not being influenced by what I thought at the time. I think this gives me some credibility when I say that it isn’t reasonable to blame him or any leader for recessions in most circumstances. This is because short of draconian intervention, it is the nature of economies to have highs and lows when they are relatively free and even when they are not. There are also circumstances related to international trade that are beyond control altogether.

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Voting & Skin in the Game

As I wrote last week, I’ve become increasingly skeptical of democracy over the last few years. That’s not to say I’m against it or would prefer another system, just that my thoughts on the question are increasingly outside the box mainstream thought is currently confined to.

Take women’s suffrage for example. Why I wouldn’t say that I’m firmly against it, I’m beginning to think that it has not necessarily been the great change that I’ve been taught it was. As has been observed, women tend to favour security over liberty and will vote according to who they believe will best offer the former. This means that women will vote for more government as they believe (wrongly in the long-term), that this will give them more security. This is especially so for women that rely on government for their income, whether through welfare or the paper moving and typing jobs women are well-represented in throughout government offices. The reason why many married women are more likely to vote to the right is because they more sensibly view their husband as the source of their security and not the state.

But let’s not pick on the ladies for this. One thing I am certain of is that I don’t support universal suffrage. And really; nobody does. We all draw the line somewhere and what we do now is draw a line at a certain age. In other words, we discriminate based on age. The reasoning is that people are assumed to be generally mature enough by around the age of eighteen, twenty or twenty-one depending on where you live. This may or may not be true when looking at people individually but that’s the way things must work if the system is to be run. Generalisations must be made that won’t be true of everyone when making decisions that effect everyone. It’s not fair but the alternative is to not allow decisions to be made for everyone at all by a governing body; something unpalatable to most people.

Now being in favour of discrimination whether it be when making friends, or deciding which watermelon to buy, I see no reason why it couldn’t be taken further with regards who should be allowed to vote.

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Kings & Freedom

I’ve been thinking about the contradiction in my thinking between my support for existing monarchies and my general hostility to government. Should I not favor democratic rule over hereditary? Do not monarchies exist because the monarch’s ancestors were the most successful at killing, suppressing and conquering? Aren’t democratic governments, at least at some level, answerable to the people? I don’t mean to solve this contradiction in this post but just use it as a basis for some thoughts I have had on the matter.

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Losing the Plot

I’m very close to finishing War and Peace and my favourite character has just died. I shouldn’t *spoil* it and tell you who my favourite character is. But I don’t suppose mentioning a character dies in a novel with “war” in the title should be a surprise to anyone. I would like to write about how I felt when the character died, as it almost made me tear up. But as I’m not all the way through, I should best leave these my thoughts for another post if I’m so inspired.

What I’d instead like to write about is the very idea of being able to spoil a novel, film or video game by revealing any major detail of the plot. Now, I generally prefer people refrain from sharing specific details about things I haven’t read, seen or played but it has never been a huge deal if they do. Indeed, a person’s excitement when revealing such details generally gets me more interested than I would have been otherwise.

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War and Games

I’ve been reading War and Peace over the last month; a book I have put off for far too long. I’m really enjoying it and there is a lot I could write about but the following quote I read recently really stood out to me. The context is two friends discussing war just prior to the Battle of Borodino between Russian and French forces, during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. Prince Andrew has direct experience of war while this is Pierre’s first time anywhere near a war zone.

“A skilful commander?” replied Pierre. “Why, one who foresees all contingencies… and foresees the adversary’s intentions.”
“But that’s impossible,” said Prince Andrew as if it were a matter settled long ago.
Pierre looked at him in surprise.
“And yet they say that war is like a game of chess?” he remarked.
“Yes,” replied Prince Andrew, “but with this little difference, that in chess you may think over each move as long as you please and are not limited for time, and with this difference too, that a knight is always stronger than a pawn, and two pawns are always stronger than one, while in war a battalion is sometimes stronger than a division and sometimes weaker than a company. The relative strength of bodies of troops can never be known to anyone. Believe me,” he went on, “if things depended on arrangements made by the staff, I should be there making arrangements, but instead of that I have the honor to serve here in the regiment with these gentlemen, and I consider that on us tomorrow’s battle will depend and not on those others…. Success never depends, and never will depend, on position, or equipment, or even on numbers, and least of all on position.”

War and Peace, Part 10, Chapter 25

Part of Tolstoy’s aim in War and Peace is to show how historical events aren’t shaped by one or few men great men but by a great multitude of people making individual decisions, sometimes at critical times – which creates a general mood that shapes history. The great men we know from history simply harness or come to represent this movement. Or taking it from the blurb it “expresses Tolstoy’s view that history is an inexorable process which man cannot influence.”

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Now Back to the Good Part

Something that has always bothered me about rap music is the way they sample entire choruses or verses from songs and rap in between the repeats. These are often with popular songs – especially previous hits. This is also a bit like saying that I don’t like something that is fundamental to an enormous amount of artists in the genre. As the video I’ve included indicates, I’m far from the first person to notice this but I’d like to write briefly about it all the same.

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