Nothing Outside the State: Non-Profit Edition

My friend and colleague Robert Higgs has written on the increasing adoption by Americans of the Italian Fascists under Mussolini’s slogan, “Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato:” “Everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

And I have also previously posted on President Obama’s so-far unsuccessful attempts to repeal the charitable income-tax deduction.

But the beat goes on.

In this latest iteration, the findings of a new study published by Free Inquiry, the magazine of the Council for Secular Humanism, are being reported as:

The federal government gives up as much as $71-billion a year in revenue by maintaining a virtual blanket tax exemption for religious institutions. [Emphasis added]

While the debate around the study focuses on whether or not religious organizations can be said to provide public benefit, to believers and non-believers alike (e.g., “the Quakers opposing slavery, Reverend King arguing for equality, or a Catholic soup kitchen feeding and sheltering all in need”), the really disturbing thing to me is the expressed assumption that property left in the hands of its owners, or money directed to uses by those who earned it, is somehow “given up” by the government.

The only logical conclusion of such a statement is that everything belongs to the state and we are allowed to use some of it at the state’s benevolent discretion.

I disagree with Dr. Higgs when he contends that “Americans have become ideal fascist citizens”—I am personally acquainted with too many who have not—but the increasing presumption of statements such as the above certainly must give pause.

Mary L. G. Theroux is Chairman and Chief Executive of the Independent Institute.
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