The Voice and The Tax Committee

Noah D. Alper

[An imaginary dialogue, 1970]


Times were not good. Many economic and social difficulties confronted the people. Naturally, the question of money arose at the semi-annual meeting of the Council of Rabbis, Priests and Ministers held to discuss their common problems.


A priest, Chairman of the Council, said: "It's this way. Indeed our financial needs are great; but so are those of our people. Multitudes declare that after paying property, income, earnings, sales taxes, the many taxes that are hidden in the price of products and services, allowing social security deductions and repaying the contributions made by employers that result in higher prices, there is little enough left to care for the family."

A Rabbi spoke next. "What can we do?," he asked. "If economists do not know or cannot agree on the answers, why expect us to? Indeed our people pay out much of their earnings in taxes as the good father said. But the schools also need more money. This must be raised by increased taxes, higher tuition charges, or by gifts, And there are constantly increasing needs for charity. So, again, I ask: "What can we do?"

Said a Minister: "Since we don't know what to do, and taxes seem to be a principal cause of our failure to solve or greatly mitigate our economic and social problems, why not make ours a praying and seeking-of-ways committee to study how to raise public revenue so as to place the least burden on our people, especially the poor." And, after a pause, he continued: "Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could, meeting as a tax committee of all the people, take our problem of taxation to the giver of all answers, the Lord, and seek His holy help in this dire situation?"

The Council members nodded their heads vigorously and affirmatively, crying out "Amen!"

Instantly, all were transported to heaven and were quickly seated before the great oval desk of the heavenly Prime Minister. He arose smiling to welcome them. But before he could speak, a voice was heard from behind a massive silk curtain of striking, blending colors of fascinating beauty and seemingly endless dimensions. The voice was musical, even orchestral in tone, greatly exciting and thrilling.

"Ah!," said The Voice: "Another tax committee! But different in that it seeks no selfish advantage for some; only the least possible burden on the people, especially the poor. And this is why you were permitted here." And then, addressing the Prime Minister: "Ask the Committee if they have read the first sentence of the Bible recently?"

As the Prime Minister arose to speak he was interrupted by the Tax Committee now under a strangely responsive compulsion arising from their most extraordinary situation. They sang out their answer as a chorus of trained voices; as if their words were set to spiritual-ritual music: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

The Voice: "And who created man?"

The Tax Committee: "The Lord created man."

The Voice: "Evidently you have not learned in your religious and secular schools what should be plainly evident to all educated people. By these acts of creation man was given the only possible provisions by which to formulate an economic science to deal with the problem of how men, living together in society, can get a living with basic equality and justice for all. Also that this made possible a natural and just system of taxation. Is it not obvious that the earth became the economic factor Land, and man became the factor Labor; and that these two factors are the only possible primary factors of this science, a most essential one for guidance of people as citizens of a free society? And do you not see that this gives you the most basic answer to your problem that is possible? But of this I will say more later.

"It is a shame," The Voice continued, "that people seemingly have so little knowledge of what is provided in natural law for their economic guidance and use. Are they so lacking in faith that they really believe it was left to people as socialists or communists, as republicans or democrats, as the members of labor organizations or chambers of commerce, or Councils of Bishops, or the World Council of Churches to plan -- to create -- a system of economics for the use of mankind? And why, in view of the great variety of sciences created for man far in advance of his then known needs and guidance in other areas, would provisions for the important purpose economic science serves have been forgotten? Or were they omitted, possibly, to cause men the endless economic and social problems they experience?"

The Tax Committee remained silent, their faces reflecting great perplexity.

The Voice: "Effective economic science provisions are provided to guide men in establishing correct cause and effect patterns -- or principles of taxation. Then why is there a problem of how man should secure public revenue? As said previously, with the creation of Land and Labor, the basic pattern of taxation was created. This tells all people that there are but two sources of public revenue; Land which existed prior to man himself without effort on his part and that which to have in the satisfaction of his wants, man must produce by his labor.

"Phrased differently, our only choice of sources of public revenue is the value that attaches to land by reason of the growth and progress of all people as a whole or the value of labor and labor-made products -- capital and consumer wealth (and services).

"By their nature taxes are like pumps. And, hear this! Regardless of how many different kinds of taxes there are or that may be invented by economists or law makers in the future, or how skilled they are in discussing the merits or demerits of those many taxes, they can draw (pump) revenue to government from one or the other, or from both these sources:

  • the annual rental value of land sites or locations; and,
  • the REWARDS-of-human-effort; wages and interest, the latter a wage for those who provide true man-made, man-used capital.

"And thus, from the nature of things as created," continued The Voice, "is not man's only real problem of public revenue that of knowing and deciding which of these two sources should be used, or used first, to support government?"

In a tone of impatience, if not of anger, The Voice continued:

"Are you not familiar with and aware of the meaning and the economic and social significance of these Biblical citations, in effect, holy laws? Psalms, 115: 16; Lev. xxv.23; Eccles. 5.9.; and, Isaiah: 21-23?"

Again, automatically and in highly emotional musical unison, The Tax Committee sang out from memory: "The heaven, even the heaven, is the Lord's but the earth hath He given to the children of men." … "The land shall not be sold forever, for the land is Mine: for ye are strangers and sojourners with me." … "The land is given us for an inheritance." …"The profit of the earth is for all." … "They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat."

The Voice: "Wonderful! Very good, indeed; and so pleasing to hear. But do you not realize that in keeping with the spirit of these Biblical laws, that only such things as are made by man can be private property and, as such, profit man? On the other hand, is it not clear that the land, itself, is and must be the common property of all?

"Man owns himself; at least no man owns another. And he owns what he produces. Since he did not and cannot produce the earth no man can actually and absolutely own a single square foot of it.

"For these reasons, must not special and specific arrangements be made on earth to allow the actual and continuing inheritance of the God-provided factor land (earth) to mankind in general and to each baby born? No man should be allowed to charge or seek personal profit or tribute from other men because of their need to live on and get their living from the land. For is not land given without question, .not to any one generation, but to all the moving generations of men?

"You seem completely unaware that a just and sufficient provision is provided to assure people of their continuing inheritance of the earth, one as well as another. It is given you in the form of natural law. This law in modem times serves more efficiently the purpose and spirit of the provision given Moses; the law for the restoration of land to the people on the 50th Year -- the Year of Jubilee. Had this economic science provision been made known through proper economic education as it should have been, the people would have used it long ;agp. Because you have not used it there is much unnecessary economic suffering and social conflict on earth, including wars.

"As all mature people know some land is naturally better located or has greater natural fertility or greater concentration of valuable natural resources such as oil, minerals, timber and the like than other land. For this reason a rental or royalty value arises on this better land. Such a value does not arise on land which when used will only yield labor a bare living and providers of true capital a fair interest return; on land that would not be used by labor if rent was demanded for its use.

"It is also well to realize another fact. Land, of itself, produces nothing, absolutely nothing, which will directly satisfy man's needs. True, there is gold and crude oil in the land, fish in rivers, lakes and oceans, and wild game on earth. But a dentist cannot prepare a gold inlay to repair a tooth, nor can a gasoline service station attendant fuel an automobile with gold and crude oil in the earth; nor can anyone prepare food for a meal with uncaught fish in rivers and oceans, and with wild and uncaught game on earth?

"Man, himself, is the only producer of wealth for man's use; man must of necessity first labor to produce all raw materials or completed products he needs on and from the earth's resources.

"And," continued The Voice, "please realize that men, as landholders, as such -- as such we repeat, produce nothing either. Nor do they as individuals or as stockholders in Corporations, as a class, produce the rent of land they demand, collect and seek to keep for their own use. All the people together do this. Yet, because of your unfortunate heritage on earth of unjust customs, holders of 'legal' title to land, an important and good thing in itself, and inherited methods of tax manipulation, some are permitted to privately collect and use (confiscate) this publicly earned fund as if it were indeed privately earned as are wages and interest - wages by those who labor and provide capital. And this, it so happens, is the greatest single cause of the growth of Socialism or Communism, the common ownership of man provided capital and control of labor that the majority rightfully oppose.

"This the people should not permit. We repeat; rent of land is a. return earned by mankind together in common. It is man's natural public income and people should be grateful to know of this. As such it must be publicly collected and used to pay for common services provided by government for the benefit of all the people. In this way people can have their just heritage in land as common sojourners on earth and none will be denied their rights to land.

"Under such methods of providing public revenue other important benefits will accrue to the people. Those who hold land idle or in partial use in relation to its fullest possible use value as determined by the real estate market, would have to improve their land, sell it to those who can and will use it, or abandon it. It would no longer pay them to hold their land idle or in poor use except possibly for special reasons, and this only for a short period of time.

"And if land within the city's boundaries that is already serviced with streets, fire and police departments, schools, parks and playgrounds, and the like was put to better use there would be far less premature expansion in the use of land located further out in the city or suburbs thus destroying many good farms nearby. This needless expansion in land use is both wasteful and costly in many public and private ways. Is it any wonder that this unsocial and bad economic use of land is termed 'urban sprawl'?

"It is hard to believe that man would permit a few to control and to politically arrange the framework of taxation so that some men, merely as landholders, could profit by taking out of the free market system (provided for man as a natural plan) products and services produced by others, without the need of their putting in equal values of man-created products and services in exchange. They are permitted, because of this basic injustice, to buy with fills publicly created rent of land what all others must buy with their privately earned wages and interest-wage incomes. This is the principal reason why all who labor, including management-labor of course, and those who provide truly productive capital, are under the necessity of putting wealth and services into the economy of more value than they are permitted to take out because of an evil tax system, one that would make King George m and his noble henchmen shake with laughter.

"This unjust happening is the major cause of bad distribution of wealth and services. It is, therefore, also the greatest single cause of the many and often socially and politically urgent schemes, and demands for the redistribution of true privately earned wealth and services. This highly arbitrary redistribution of wealth imposes an unjust burden on all who fairly earn the wealth in their private possession, or who inherited it from those who did. (And once private, always private. This quality of ownership is not voided economically or morally by reason of the death of its previous owner.)

"Clearly the poor, all people fairly well off, and even those called 'the rich,' who should also be allowed to take out of the system values equal to what they produce, are poorer as a result of immoral and bad economic taxation now permitted on earth. And, assuredly, all of this is the result of taxation-miseducation in and out of schools.

"Sending tax committees to heaven, even a holy committee such as this, can serve no useful purpose. None are to be permitted entrance to heaven again."

Addressing the Prime Minister, The Voice said:

"Return the Tax Committee to earth. Let its members seek out and study the holy natural economic laws provided in creation for their guidance in achieving justice for all people in securing both private and public revenue. Thus the good of all will be served, most certainly the good of the poor."


After The Tax Committee had departed the Prime Minister stood sadly and meditatively facing the massive silken curtain. Suddenly he was aware that The Voice; the heavenly Comptroller of Natural Laws and Their Use, was talking to himself. He heard him say:

"It is incomprehensible, absolutely incomprehensible! Surely common sense alone should force the great majority of intelligent and capable people on earth to first demand the fullest possible collection for use of government of their commonly produced RENT-of-land, their natural public revenue, which attaches to land given them without cost or labor. They most certainly should do this before permitting taxation on their privately earned incomes of wages and interest-wages, or on the products and services which, to have in the satisfaction of their desires, they must first produce by their labor -- by the sweat of their brows.

"It is incomprehensible, absolutely incomprehensible, that they fail to do this."

Comments on the YEAR of the Jubilee

The Jubilee Year of ancient Israel and of the Bible was in its day and time an instrument for securing economic and social, justice. It was designed to assure equalized rights and opportunity in land, a gift of God to all. Because of its spirit and principle, when properly implemented, it would prevent the extensive and cruel monopoly of land the Hebrews had witnessed in Egypt under Pharoah.

The following excerpts indicate the nature of this special spiritual and economic provision to be taken each 50th year to assure periodic restoration (redivision) of land, establish basic economic justice and to prevent monopoly and growth of great estates.

Ellen G. White in "Patriarches and Prophets," wrote of the wisdom of the law as follows:

"The Lord would place a check upon the inordinate love of property and power. Great evils would result from the continued accumulation of wealth by one class, and the poverty and degradation of another. Without some restraint the power of the wealthy would become a monopoly, and the poor, though in every respect as worthy in God's sight, would be regarded and treated as inferior to their more prosperous breathern. The sense of this oppression would arouse the passions of the poorer class. There would be a feeling of despair and desperation which would tend to demoralize society, and open the door to crimes of every description."


The following is from The Soucine Edition of the Pentateuch and Haftorahs. With Hebrew Text -- English Translation and Commentary; Edited by Dr. J. H. Hertz, Late Chief Rabbi of the British Empire." -- Page 533

"According to Scripture 'the earth is the Lord's and all the land was, as it were, held from God on lease (v 23). The Israelite who voluntarily or through some compulsion sold his land to another, sold not the ownership of the land, but the remainder of the lease -- till the next year of the Jubilee, when all leases fell is simultaneously. The land then came back to his family, all contracts of the sale to the contrary not withstanding. His children thus enjoyed the same advantage of 'a fair start' as their father had before them (Verinder). Heine rightly remarks that the Torah does not aim at the impossible -- the abolition of property, but at the moralization of property, striving to bring it into harmony with equity and the true law of Reason by means of the Jubilee Year. This institution forms a most striking contrast to 'prescription' among the Romans, according to which the possessor of a piece of land could not, after the lapse of a certain period, be compelled to restore it to its own real owner, so long as the latter was unable to show that he had during that period demanded restitution in due form. Far other is the spirit that we find in the law of Moses. It is not protection of property, but the protection of humanity, that is the aim of the Mosaic Code. Its Sabbath day and Sabbath Year secure even to the lowliest, rest and leisure. With the blast of the jubilee trumpets the slave goes free. And a redivision of the land assures again the poorest his fair share in the bounty of the Common Creator.' " (Henry George).


Simon J. De Vries, former Marine officer, pastor and now professor of Old Testament at The Methodist Theological School in Ohio, Delaware, Ohio, writes in "Open Housing and the Biblical Law of Property," in the Christian Advocate, January 22, 1970:

"In the secular and cultic legislation of the Pentateuch, humanitarian ideals dominate the moral choices of the Israelite in government society. One basic passage for the ultimate principles of a Hebrew-Christian concept of property is Leviticus 25, which legislates for the sabbatical year and the periodic redemption of property. Here, at verse 23, the ancient lawgiver solemnly declaims in the name of Yahweh, Israel's God: "The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. (RSV)"

Rev. DeVries further states:

"The only historical situation that gives meaning to this law is the period of Israel's first settlement, a time when it was just beginning to exchange nomadic pasturing for agriculture. At this period it was still realistically possible to let the land lie fallow for one year out of seven, since the people could continue to live from their traditional pursuits, animal husbandry and hunting."

"No doubt the observance of this custom became a burden as soon as the Hebrews really settled down; testimony that this was the case are the successive layers of revision and adaption -- particularly the attempt seen in verse 8 to shift the sabbath of the land to a 50-year cycle in place of the original seven. What must be seen, however, is the theological principles clearly implied in this primitive law."

"Why a sabbath for the land? Because the land is Yahweh's."

"Hebrew law had no notion of absolute property rights. Since Yahweh really owned the land, no Israelite could arbitrarily or permanently dispose of what was his; land had to remain within the families in which Yahweh had assigned it. Every 50 years what had been sold to strangers was to be returned to its original owners -- and this meant, in principle, to Yahweh himself. The practical effect of this law was to keep any person from being disinherited and driven from the land which was his subsistence."

"The fact is, though, that Israel itself was eventually forced to depart from its ancient customs; irresistible changes in the economic order made it impossible to observe these laws according to their original form. So we must understand that it was only the particular application of the theological principles that required revision, not the principle itself."

"The land is mine," says the Lord. This word is ancient -- yet it is eternal. It is no empty slogan; it is profound and far-reaching reality. It means that no man has an absolute title. It means that there is a higher consideration in owning and using property than one's selfish interest and caprice. God as the ultimate owner is concerned that land and property not merely provide pleasure for a privileged few, but benefit all his creatures. Thus we may neither obtain property, not hold it, nor dispose of it, without reference to the interest of other persons.

"The land is mine," says the Lord. If this means anything at all, it is that whoever allows his management of property to make him an enemy of humanity, makes him an enemy of God himself."

Reprinted from "Open Housing and the Biblical Law of Property" by Simon J. DeVries in Christian Advocate, January 22, 1970. Copyright © 1969 by The Methodist Publishing House.

An Amazing Provision for the Fulfillment of the Economic and Spiritual Purpose of the Year of Jubilee in Modern Times

Millions of students of the Bible are aware of the YEAR of JUBILEE when the land was to be restored to the families to whom it was originally given and to others in the community as well. But only a few of these students seem to realize that factors and principles of economic science were provided in creation by which the economic and spiritual purpose of this remarkable institution can be continuously and efficiently applied in modern times with great benefit to mankind.

An economic phenomenon known as Economic Rent or RENT-of-land, forms the basis of this arrangement. The essence of the method is to share, not the land, as such, each 50th Year, but the RENT-of-land as the free market determines it. This special fund is being recognized by more and more people as natural public revenue.

RENT-of-land is natural public revenue for two principal reasons Bible students will understand. One is that land is not a product of people -- of labor; the other is that RENT-of-land income arises not from anything landholders, as such, do; it arises because of the physical presence of all people and their seemingly endless desire for products and services; and from their material and social progress in satisfying them.

And this, too, is most important: whomsoever collects and benefits from this RENT-of-land income are, in fact, the owners of the land. It is by sharing RENT-of-land as public revenue to meet essential common expenses of government, that all people in real effect, are landowners; all own the land. This includes our elderly folks soon to depart this earth and babies daily born. And this too should be noted; when this publicly created and earned RENT-of-land is recognized as the common property of all and the more it is devoted to common good, the more of the privately earned wages and interest-wages people will be able to keep to provide for themselves, and to help others in need.

Directly and indirectly involved in this socially and just demand to restore the rights of all people to the land, are the most serious of economic and social problems. Among these are the seeming conflicts of progress and poverty, rich and poor, of race, the existence of more or fewer jobs, of freedom or dictatorship, of peace or war, of the unnecessary radicalization of our youth, and a host of other problems of economic and moral nature.

The Public Revenue Education Council offers literature which makes clear and understandable this modern way of fulfillment of the purpose of the Year of Jubilee. We want to share this understanding with you and others. It is an exciting experience for people, young and old, to be able to bear witness that there exists a provision to achieve economic justice in the equal rights of all to the God-provided land and that assures true private rights to property in what people make. It is exciting to know, too, that means are provided to implement this; and it is very exciting to know that such provisions were neither forgotten in creation or left to man to invent as so many assume. These are provided! Man only needed to discover their existence.