January 18, 2009
Doctor Hans Kung
Global Ethic Foundation
Waldhauser Strasse 23
Dear Doctor Hans Kung:
Re: Hans Kung and Karl-Josef
Kuschel (eds.), A GLOBAL ETHIC: The Declaration of the Parliament of
the World's Religions, New York: Continuum, 1993.
I recently read your book and
was glad to see its emphasis on non-violence, the Golden Rule, and the
"fundamental demand [that] every human being must be treated humanely."
[p. 21] This includes the prohibitions that a person should not kill
or steal. "Or in positive terms: Have respect for life!" [p.
The purpose of this letter
is to ask: How do you reconcile the directives of the Global Ethic with
the institution of government, which relies on or resorts to force to
collect its taxes?
As you realize all governments,
whether democratic or totalitarian, collect at least part of their revenues
coercively. Taxes are collected under the threat of the citizen going
to jail, having his property confiscated, or both, if he or she does
not pay the government the amount it claims is owed.
I hope that we both would agree
that a robber is violating the global ethic when he steals from or kills
a person in order to take their property. The purpose for which he intends
to use the stolen property in no way affects how we judge the violence.
It matters not whether he intends to use the stolen property for charitable
purposes or for his personal use. Killing and/or stealing are wrong.
Question 1: Are not the
actions of agents of the government violent in the same manner as that
of the robber?
Question 2: Is not the Golden
Rule applicable to this situation? Would not the agents of government
prefer not to be robbed or killed themselves?
Question 3: Are not the agents
of the government acting violently when they threaten and/or coerce
the reluctant citizen? Are they not acting inhumanely toward the citizens?
Question 4: Is there not a
humane way to collect money for the government? Is it not possible to
remonstrate peacefully with the refuseniks: to explain to them the importance
of paying taxes? Is it not possible to cut off some or all government
services to those who will not pay their taxes? And in the very
worst case, that they still insist on not paying, is it not possible
that those who do see the importance of funding governments, dig deeper
into their own pockets to make up the difference?
Question 5: Is there any possible
justification for stealing, killing, or treating citizens inhumanely
who refuse to pay their tax?
Question 6: Does not the government's
resort to violence in collecting taxes set a bad example, which some
individuals in society might think is right to follow?
I have addressed these questions
to family, friends, religious leaders, and have found that they generally
apply a double standard to the actions of government agents despite
the fact that the "Four irrevocable directives" of the Global
Ethic apply to everyone equally. As Richard Maybury, in his book, WHATEVER
HAPPENED TO JUSTICE?, explains: "This is what is meant by those
five words in the (United States) Declaration of Independence 'all men
are created equal.' No one gets any special privileges or exemptions
from (these directives)." [p. 22] As you wrote in A GLOBAL ETHIC,
"No one," whether a citizen or government agent, "has
the right" to "physically ... injure, much less kill, any
other human being." [p. 25]
I wonder if you or one of your
colleagues at the Global Ethic Foundation could discuss these questions
relating to the conduct of government and its agents.
Gramling, South Carolina 29348