Of Adoption Tax Credits and Fiscal Cliffs
There has been much clamoring surrounding the fiscal cliff of late. Interest groups of every shape and color want to make sure they aren’t the ones to feel the blunt force of spending cuts or tax increases. One interest group has caught my eye amidst the commotion. This is the adoptive families interest group. For months now, politically active Christian groups have been raising quite a stink about the adoption tax credit (standing near 13k) expiring at the end of 2012. I’m not so sure I can join the vocal protest. Let me explain why.
In short, many pleas by various Christians posit views that are remarkably shortsighted when it comes to ethical issues surrounding taxation, the roll of government and private property. This in turn causes them to evaluate the adoption tax credit (though the same issues surround other tax credits) rather one-dimensionally.
First it must be addressed, how the monies for the adoption tax credit (or any other tax credit) is collected. In his book the Ethics of Liberty, economist Murray Rothbard sums up the situation rather simply:
Only the State obtains its revenue by coercion, by threatening dire penalties should the income not be forthcoming… Taxation is theft, purely and simply even though it is theft on a grand and colossal scale which no acknowledged criminals could hope to match. It is a compulsory seizure of the property of the State’s inhabitants, or subjects.
What is important to note about Rothbard’s quote is that monies to pay for the adoption tax credit are taken by coercion. It is done by force. The government forcefully takes money from one and gives it to another. The fact that monies are in essence stolen from other citizen’s to help pay for adoptions is a moral dilemma of the most serious kind.
But the ethical dilemma of implementing an adoption tax credit does not end there. Not when one considers property rights, something ultimately grounded in the second table of the law, which is known by way of conscience (Romans 2:14-15). Once the taxes have been collected, it should not be forgotten that the monies received by family A is property that was stripped from family B. I repeat, money received from an adoption tax credit is ultimately the property of another.
So why is this perspective scarcely if ever brought into the discussion on the adoption tax credit? The chord that ties these seemingly disparate strands together is the remarkable coldness of the overall tax system. People are meant to feel removed from the system. They just give their money to the government, their conscience is eased and they go about their daily lives. It is this fact that allows so many Christians writing on the issue of the adoption tax credit to make a complex issue so incredibly, yet inaccurately, simple.
In a Christianity Today article, Bethany Christian Services director Bill Blacquiere argues that the government has a vested interest in continuing the credit. Mr. Blacquiere then goes on to discuss how the credit saves the government money by incentivizing adoption since this will remove kids from the foster care system and ultimately reduce costs to the government. With some emotional distance from the tax system, it is easy to see how we just skip the meat and potatoes of the ethical question and move right to the pragmatism. But who has a vested interest in seeing that a culture of coercive force is continued? Or who has a vested interest in seeing their private property stripped from them against their will only so that it can be given to another for some “greater cause?” It is only because Mr. Blacquiere forgets that the revenues, which pay for the tax credit, were first the private property of another that he reasons along such lines.
You may now suspect that I am not a big fan of adoption; that I have forgotten the simple truths of spiritual adoption and their corresponding earthly analog. This is not the case. My wife and I hope to adopt a number of children. I don’t know where the money will come from, especially if the adoptions are international. But one thing I am certain of, the money should not come from another’s private property via government coercion.