I have been reading a great book by Dr. Mary Ruwart, “Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression”, and working on some ideas for blog posts as a result. This week's topic is a great opportunity for an introduction; hopefully I'll do it some justice.
Last week an Indy Star editorial raised questions about property tax exemptions for non-profits. The suggestion was that due to this “time of crisis” for local government, we should put more scrutiny on these exemptions and even consider changing them - possibly charging user fees for public services, or a sliding scale based on their “ability to pay.”
This topic is a good example of how to apply what Dr. Ruwart describes as the Good Neighbor Policy. To contribute to the peace, we should refrain from using or threatening force against the peaceful actions of others, and respect property that is rightfully theirs. It is a pretty simple concept, extrapolated from things most of us learned at a young age. Most of us would not steal our neighbor's car or assault him for making choices that are different from ours, nor would we join or hire a gang to do so for us.
Property taxes violate the Good Neighbor Policy by imposing force against the choices of people, and disrespecting their property. If your neighborhood wants to build a park and imposes a tax to fund it, you are forced to pay for it - even if you do not want the park and have no intention of ever using it. If you refuse to pay the tax, you risk losing your property by force to the government, even though your actions are peaceful and you have done nothing wrong. Unfortunately, the breaking of the Good Neighbor Policy usually leads to more of the same. People will pay the tax (begrudgingly) and then try to persuade the government to use its force for projects they are more interested in. The cycle of force and disrespect for property continues while we ignore whether what we are doing is even right or wrong.
I believe that's the core of this matter. Scrutiny of property tax exemptions shouldn't be what's being discussed, but whether property taxes are even right to begin with. Personally I do not see how they can be justified, but I am curious what you think and welcome discussion on the matter.
P.S. - an older version of the book is available to read for free on her web site.
This article was originally published on INtake Blogsquad.