Calvin's Defense of Politics

Institutes of the Christian Religion
Book IV, Chap. XX

  1. Right of exacting tribute and raising revenues.

13. Concerning the right of the government to levy tribute

Lastly, we think it proper to add, that taxes and imposts are the legitimate revenues of princes, which they are chiefly to employ in sustaining the public burdens of their office. Theses however, they may use for the maintenance of their domestic state, which is in a manner combined with the dignity of the authority which they exercise. Thus we see that David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Jehoshaphat, and other holy kings, Joseph also and Daniel, in proportion to the office which they sustained, without offending piety, expended liberally of the public funds; and we read in Ezekiel, that a very large extent of territory was assigned to kings, (Ezek. 48: 21.) In that passage, indeed, he is depicting the spiritual kingdom of Christ, but still he borrows his representation from lawful dominion among men.

Princes, however, must remember, in their turn, that their revenues are not so much private chests as treasuries of the whole people, (this Paul testifies, Rom. 13: 6,) which they cannot, without manifest injustice, squander or dilapidate; or rather, that they are almost the blood of the people, which it were the harshest inhumanity not to spare. They should also consider that their levies and contributions, and other kinds of taxes, are merely subsidies of the public necessity, and that it is tyrannical rapacity to harass the poor people with them without cause.



The Bible says "Thou shalt not Steal."

Suppose I want to install a security system in my home. I lack sufficient funds. May I put a gun to your head and demand that you provide me with the money I need for my project?

  • What if my father confiscated the property of your father, and I proposed to “succeed” my father in this capacity? (“Hereditary monarchy”)
  • What if my friends all “vote” for me to do so? (“Democracy”)

The anarcho-capitalist believes that nobody—even those calling themselves “the State”—can legitimately confiscate the property of others. “Taxation” is theft. And it is taxation which defines the State; private parties must rely on voluntary support for their endeavors.

These things do not stimulate princes to profusion and luxurious expenditure, (there is certainly no need to inflame the passions, when they are already, of their own accord, inflamed more than enough,) but seeing it is of the greatest consequence that, whatever they venture to do, they should do with a pure conscience, it is necessary to teach them how far they can lawfully go, lest, by impious confidence, they incur the divine displeasure. Nor is this doctrine superfluous to private individuals, that they may not rashly and petulantly stigmatise the expenditure of princes, though it should exceed the ordinary limits. Howard Jarvis beware! Calvin says private individuals should not criticize tax-and-spend porkbarrel politicians. This would be news to most Americans.

Calvin is looking at the state through a paradigm which has been completely overthrown. It was replaced with the paradigm of "consent of the governed." Now that paradigm is ready to be replaced.