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The Separation of Society and State

Government should protect individual rights; it should not control our relationships and organizations.

by James Leroy Wilson
June 4, 2009

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The Separation of Society and State

Weekend-long parties costing $600,000.

Trafficking of illegal immigrant women from state to state and into Canada to serve as prostitutes at more parties.

Fishing tours on the Amazon with sex parties featuring underage girls from nearby Indian reservations who were deceived into prostitution.

The organization behind this decadence, The Royal Order of Jesters, is non-profit and tax-exempt. Members get a tax deduction for their dues. The less they pay, the more we pay. The government is essentially subsidizing this behavior through the tax code.

The Jesters, a group dedicated to "mirth" and composed of the wealthy and powerful, is considered a charity. They somehow wrangled this through being a sub-set of the charitable Shriners, who are themselves part of the non-profit fraternal society called the Masons. Presidents Harry Truman and Gerald Ford were Jesters, and it is unknown how many powerful men belong to it today. More information on their sordid activities can be found at Sandy Frost's website, or one can find a summary post here.  

Meanwhile, other non-profits are heavily regulated, with IRS retribution for even making a political endorsement. While the Jesters party, churches must pay taxes if they want to enjoy complete freedom of speech.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not crying for the churches. Taxpayers shouldn't have to pay higher taxes so that tax breaks can be given to churches that practice politics from the pulpit. I admire efforts of Christians who work to liberate the Church from seductive tax breaks.

But taxpayers shouldn't have to subsidize the crimes of the Jesters either.

There are two options before us: a) more regulation and policing of non-profits to make sure they are doing what they claim to be doing, complete with more regulation of how money is spent, or b) wipe away the "non-profit status" by wiping away all taxes on organizations, corporations, and other groups.

While I have tremendous respect for Sandy Frost's courageous reporting, her angle is the abuse of the non-profit status of groups like the Jesters, and she supports a Senate investigation. But it's much better to separate all groups from the State. No fraternal organization, no church, no charity, no corporation should be recognized by the State. They shouldn't be chartered by the State, they shouldn't be recognized as separate entities or "persons" by the State, and they shouldn't pay taxes to the State. The solution to the Jester problem is not to tax the organization and devise regulations to police it and other organizations better so that taxes are paid. Rather, it is to free all groups from the regulatory reach of the IRS, and for the State to prosecute individuals for the crimes they commit, regardless of the groups they belong to.

There is one and only one purpose behind State recognition of otherwise-private groups: control. To extend the government's reach into all spheres of life. Tax revenue has nothing to do with it; the economic costs of complying with corporate tax law far outweigh the small percentage of revenue the government gets from corporate taxes.

Nor is it true that if these entities aren't taxed, individuals pay more. Ultimately, individuals pay the cost of all taxes. For-profit corporations pass their taxes and compliance costs on to their customers through higher prices. Tithes and donations to non-profits have to be diverted from the group's mission to the pay for more accountants and lawyers. Taxes will always be a drag on economy, but if all taxes were applied to individuals directly, we'd have more efficient collection and a stronger economy.

What we really need, then, is the separation of Society and State. Upon hearing that, one may think it sounds as odd as "separation of Family and Marriage." But we should understand "society" as the network of each individual's voluntary associations with other individuals. It is the individual's voluntary membership in groups for reasons of tradition, love, and/or economic self-interest. The "group" could be a marriage, a church, or a business owned by shareholders. Society consists of exchanges and relationships between individuals and other individuals, individuals and groups, groups and other groups.

The State, however, is theoretically to have one but interest: the security of the rights of individuals. The State, in theory, is not the central organizer of society. It doesn't care if companies die, churches die, or even if individuals die (unless the State perceives a menace that threatens other individuals as well.) The State's clients are not groups in society but rather individuals. The obligation to pay taxes for the State's protection functions should therefore be demanded of individuals. It is intolerable to mask the true cost of this service by taxing, and thereby regulating, Society instead.

Ultimately, it doesn't even matter to the State whether Heather has a Mommy and a Daddy, whether "Heather has two Mommies" or whether Heather has a Daddy and two Mommies - i.e., is grows up in a polygamous family. If we retained, for pragmatic reasons, the current income tax filing system and the contractual polygamous agreement is that all three have joint custodial rights over Heather, the three parents could each deduct one-third of Heather as a dependent - but the State would not have a status of "married filing jointly." In the Separation of Society and State, marriage doesn't mean anything to the State. If no formal contractual agreement exists between them in this polygamous arrangement, then the birth mother, and only the birth mother, gets to deduct Heather as a full dependent.

This is one example to underscore an important point: in the Separation of Society and State, gay marriage would be a non-issue because the State couldn't care less who marries whom, and no one receives privileges and benefits for being married.

The State must recognize us as individuals equal under the law. When it presumes to take over society, it mandates inequality. It creates categories like "married" and "non-married" and treats them differently. It creates "for-profit" and "non-profit" categories for groups and forces them to abide by different rules. The more it reaches into more spheres of our lives, the more the State imposes inequality. Yet, as individuals, we are entitled to equal protection under the law. We shouldn't receive more benefits, or fewer benefits, based on how we spend our money or what kind of groups we belong to. Protect us when our lives and liberties are endangered, stop us when we threaten the lives and liberties of others. Otherwise, the State must leave us, and the Society we live in, alone.

Comments (1)

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Comacini Magistri from Republic of Texas writes:
June 5, 2009
While I deplore the entire premise of the Jesters, I believe that the point is better made with fact rather than hyperbole.

Fact: The Royal Order of Jesters is not a charitable organization, which would fall under 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code. Hence dues are not tax deductible. They are a fraternal organization, and fall under 501(c)10, and as such, no donations to them are tax deductible, again - specifically not any dues.

Now, I am sure that their "museum" of Shakespeare memorabilia is in fact a 501(c)3 entity, and as such would qualify to offer tax deductibility for cash donations to it.

However, the amount of taxes that are foregone in any given year would probably not even reach into the thousands of dollars. If we could assume that it would cost a million dollars for the government to pursue a repeal of their 501(c)3 status for their museum, it becomes obvious that the cost of bothering with it would consume maybe a hundred years' worth of potential tax revenue.

My hope is that this organization will cease to exist long before then.

I understand your point that you want to see all tax-exempt organizations lose their exemption. While I can understand your premise, I completely disagree with your conclusion. The system of research, education, and philanthropy that has developed in the United States is responsible for much public good.

As there is a trade-off in every exchange, I believe that this exchange is a net benefit to the American people.

Now, do I believe that our system has been exploited into almost an unrecognizable tar-pit? Yes, of course. Does it need to be razed and rebuilt on founding principles? Yes again.

I enjoyed reading your article, and thought that it was well written, even if I disagree with some of the basic assumptions.

And I sure wish that Ron Paul wasn't such a nut! He has the best vision and perspective of any politician that I know. Unfortunately, the package disguises the contents all too well.

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