Faith & Economics
NUMBER 77, Spring 2021
What Does the Lord Require? A Christian Perspective on Justice in Public Finance
John E. Anderson
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
In this essay, I provide a Christian perspective on justice in the system of public finance, including taxation, expenditure programs, and government debt. Beginning with a review of the concept of justice, its conflation with mercy, and its subjective nature in contemporary society, I warn against these approaches and I appeal to God’s justice, which assures that people receive their due. Biblical principles of taxation are provided along with data analysis and trends for the US tax system. Implications for tax policy are provided with cautions regarding the efficiency effects of redistribution via the tax system. Consideration of Bradford’s X tax (Bradford, 2003), a progressive consumption tax, is suggested. Government expenditure programs are reviewed along with data trends. Government deficits and debt are considered as well, with biblical principles of debt provided. This overview of US tax and expenditure systems is motivated by Christian perspectives, identifying biblical principles appropriate for both taxes and expenditures.
Our tax system needs fundamental reform, keeping both equity and efficiency considerations in mind and paying special attention to justice in the administration of the system. Our national debt situation is unsustainable and requires long-term attention to its rationalization and reduction. These challenges are substantial, but manageable if addressed sooner rather than later. Concern for economic justice is appropriate and important as these challenges are faced, but from a Christian perspective it is not ultimate. We do not place our trust in government and public finance institutions to save us. Our hope is in Christ and Christ alone.