Christianity and the Black Market
Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him. Mark 12:17
I would like to start a discussion. I honestly do not know exactly where I stand when it comes to some of the ethical questions surrounding government controlled economies, confiscatory tax rates, the black market and necessity. Our American economy has traditionally been laisezz-faire. It called for very little government control. Our tax rates have been low relative to the rest of the world and most goods and services can be obtained at a reasonable price.
As we look around the world, we readily see that our economy is out of the ordinary. Most of the world, with few exceptions, has adopted the command economy model where government controls the means of production to varying degrees. Some economies are considered light socialism like the U.K. and most of western Europe, other economies are tightly controlled by the government to the point that they are considered communist – North Korea, Cuba, etc. Over the past 50 years, the US economy is trending toward more and more government control. From the Federal Reserve Act in 1917 to price controls in the 1970’s to bank bailouts and national health care in the 2000’s, we are on a steady march toward a communal economy.
When government clamps down on profits, either through price controls, high taxes or single payer type systems, goods and services become scarce or so poorly made so as to be worthless. When the necessities of life cannot be provided through legal means, a black market economy inevitably springs up. I am not interested in debating the politics of all of this. Regardless of your political leanings, it is a fact that as government control increases, so does the operation of the black market.
If you are a Christian, to what extent do you or will you participate in the underground economy? Let me give a few scenarios in order to get things started:
Price controls have emptied the shelves of your local grocery store. The store can no longer afford to bring the products to the consumer at the rates set by government. You plant a huge garden in your backyard and begin to sell vegetables to your neighbors. Will you pay taxes on this money? What if in order to sell vegetables, the government forces you to obtain a license that eats into your profits?
If your child needs an operation and he is on a government waiting list. You hear of a physician who is willing to do the operation “off the books” for cash. Can a Christian participate in an underground health care economy?
You need gasoline for your vehicle. You cannot afford the gasoline from the state-sanctioned provider, but you know that your neighbor gets fuel “tax free” from a farmer who has his own tank and is allowed to purchase gasoline wholesale as long as it is used for crop production.
You start a home daycare that is not licensed by the state because you cannot afford the license, the reqired upgrades to your home and the accompanying taxes. Nonetheless, you care for your friend’s children in exchange for cash under the table every day.
You need to send a package to a relative in another state. There is only the government run package service and you know that in order for your package to be delivered, you must bribe the worker who processes your order.
Do you report every bit of income and pay taxes on it?
The government requires everyone to use the pharmaceuticals provided by the state-run healthcare, however the drugs are in scarce supply, furthermore, you read about a drug that might be much better for your situation. You find out that some people are smuggling that particular drug from Canada and you can get some medicine for a small, under the table fee.
I cannot answer every one of these questions/scenarios completely. God makes it clear that Christians are to submit ourselves to government, but does that include when the life or well-being of a child or loved one is at stake? I would like to hear from you because in order to set my ethics in these matters, I need to hear as many perspectives as possible. And if you do not share my view that we are headed for a culture where the black market is a big part of our lives, that’s fine – I would still like to hear your perspective on how a Christian should deal with the issue of the underground economy. – Article by Stew
Photo by Rhett Maxwell