Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Ballad of Kent Hovind

Ol' Smokey's got them ears on and he's hot on your trail.
He aint gonna rest 'til you're in jail.
So you got to dodge 'im and you got to duck 'im,
you got to keep that diesel truckin'.
Just put that hammer down and give it hell.

West bound and down, eighteen wheels are rollin' ,
we're gonna do what they say can't be done.
We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there.
I'm west bound, just watch ol' "Hovind" run.

(From the theme song of Smokey and the Bandit)

Kent Hovind was at one time a prominent figure in the creation science movement, and dubbed himself "Dr. Dino". He always struck me as a interesting guy and a lot of the information he put out in his lectures is worth some thought. Hovind was a hardcore 6 day creationist with a strong stance on a 6000 year old earth, I personally am rather agnostic on all of this I just know God did it, I don't claim to know the mechanics. I do however agree with the Hovind inspired slogan that "Evolution is Stupid!" it is true on a number of levels.

Hovind has engaged in numerous debates with Darwinists and Atheists, one that I saw a while back was between Hovind and Micheal Shermer one of the big dogs for Atheism. Hovind really took Shermer to the cleaners, Shermer ended up looking like a buffoon muttering incoherent sentences in favor of evolution theory. You can watch the debate HERE.

There of course was Hovind's Smokey and the Bandit side of his life, Hovind held to what most people would call "conspiracy theories" which I would define as "Holding to viewpoint on a certain topic/event that goes against the 'official' version of events", and thus I suppose I myself hold to "conspiracy theories" as government by its very nature is fraught with intrigue corruption and attempts at power grabs.

People who reject conspiracy theories out of hand seem to forget that historical fact, and have a rather naive view of government corruption, and probably think the only conspiracies are those by guys like Pete Rose betting against his own baseball team. Because people in government would never do something like Pete Rose did, like say shorting stocks and using their power to drive the stock down...that sort of thing never happens in government, Martha Stewart yes, government no.

One such theory Kent held to had to do with taxes, on this he staked his defense.

Well, Kent Hovind didn't get too far with his defense and now sits in the Edgefield Federal Correctional Institution. His crime? The government deemed that he owed over $400,000 in income taxes from his "Dinosaur Adventure Land", a creationist theme park Hovind built in his backyard.

I must add as an aside that Hovind also refused to pay a $50 permit to build his theme park, this shows that it wasn't really about the money in Hovind's mind but the principle. The principle in the case of the $50 permit is that if you have to pay the state $50 to do something on your own property in what sense is it your property? The permit adds nothing to benefit the property and the construction process, it is simply a Marxist invasion of property rights.

This is the same sort of principle in play in a recent story about a man whose castle has been ordered destroyed because the government deemed his property not zoned for such a construction. Again, if you have to get permission from the state to do what you want on your property, and they further can tell you to destroy buildings you built on your property because they didn't give you permission to build them, given all of that in what way can it be said to be YOUR property?

Back to the income tax issue, Hovind refused to pay this tax claiming that as a citizen of heaven all he has belongs to God, he is not a united states citizen and thus is exempt from being taxed.

Well, I must admit this logic is a rather wild stretch and my initial reaction to hearing of Hovind's arrest and incarceration was, "Kent, give to Ceasar man!"

However, disregarding the goofy I'm citizen of heaven and thereby exempt from earthly taxes argument, I think Hovind is right in principle. What right does the government have to take what is your honestly earned income? Understandably there can be taxes on goods, tariffs, etc, these are all constitutional (Article 1 section 9), as they are indirect and apportioned taxes. Indirect simply means you can avoid them by not purchasing said goods, and apportionment means it literally goes toward infrastructure.

Yet, the income tax is neither of these, that's why they had to cobble together the 16th amendment to get the income tax in the U.S. this effectively destroys the 4th and 5th amendments the founders crafted.

My point is the government doesn't even follow it's own crummy constitution.

The primary problem in my mind is the sort of herd mentality that guys like Kent Hovind or Wesley Snipes have done something wrong. What wrong have they done? There is no moral violation occurring here, no persons or property were damaged so what did Hovind do wrong?

Reading articles on this matter I found myself discouraged as usual with the popular views of the State and tax paying. Comments like the following should illustrate why I am not too optimistic about America's future:

PZ Meyers writes:
"And finally, Hovind and his wife made a whole series of bank withdrawals that were just slightly under the $10,000 limit that would trigger reporting of the activity. They knew. They knew very well what they were doing.

[...] That con artist has received the punishment he deserves;"

They "knew what they were doing"? Trying to withdraw their money without the state getting involved implies guilt of some sort of crime? I missed the place where it is a crime to do what you want with what is yours, and to attempt to avoid the snooping eyes of unwelcome bureaucrats trying to steal from you.

Also, to call someone a "con artist" necessitates a victim of the con, which in reference to the tax issue there are none, unless you invoke some wild socialist delusion making society the victim. Furthermore, how is Hovind's sitting in prison for 10 years just deserts for not allowing the state to rape him?

These kind of statements betray a rampant statist ideology.

Another blog in attempting to make Hovind appear as crazy as possible in an essay entitled "Render unto Caesar Reverend Crazy Pants!" has a few choice puerile quotes:

"He says, “I love my country, but fear my government. And you should too.”

The man now sits in prison after doing no harm to any person or property and this statement is supposed to show that he's crazy? All it shows me is that most people fail to give the state the due skepticism they give to common citizens like Hovind.

"And of course, he’s a gun nut. Whom would Jesus shoot?"

Ah yes, Hovind owned firearms, that right there again shows he is crazy. I wonder if the author of this article would call the swat team that raided the Hovind "compound" a bunch of "gun nuts"? Oh that's right they work for the government so we don't have a problem when it's the State that's armed, just when a gun is in the unhallowed hands of a mere citizen.

Lastly a blogger that sympathizes with Hovind also can't escape the false maxim that Hovind did something wrong:

"This, of course, was wrong on his part, and I think he is paying the price for it (and probably with lots of penalties and interest)."

Again, to use moral words like "wrong" in regards to failing to send your earned income to the state do not apply. I think the problem is people have this mindset that illegal=immoral. A few moments of reflection on the part of the reader should clear up this false association. I will help, seat belt enforcement, permits to build a shed on "your" property...has anything immoral occurred if one does not abide by these laws?

If Hovind did something wrong then so did they guy who built the castle on "his" property. Or less extravagant the guy who builds a shed without state permission. I suppose we must remember, that those in the state simply know better than us. We need to be told what we can and can not do with "our" property because the zoning bureaucrats are endowed with the foresight the rest of us lack.

I recall when I lived in community in Northern CA one of the things that hindered us from renovating the property was the fact that due to a massive flood about 50 years ago the area was deemed by some bureacrat to be a "flood plane" and thus the only houses legally allowed to be put on the property were either pre-existing or ones that could be moved. This law left a town called Meyer's Flat with a giant trailer park as it's only recourse for it's inhabitants, thus attracting numerous tourists to gape at the prime river front property.

(pictured to the left is the local zoning regulator)

Given the above quotes and views that Hovind did something wrong as I said I don't have much hope for the future of America. Unlike the wildcat forefathers most modern Americans have been house broken like a dog and just roll over and take it from the State to the point of even wagging their fingers scoldingly at those with more principle and backbone.

We need to get to the point where we understand that if the state signs something into law or does something that would be immoral for any individual to do, then it is equally immoral when the collective individual of government does that thing. People just aren't there philosophically and this is most unfortunate as it allows the state to run roughshod over all that is decent. That said, I would state that most taxation is simply legal plunder. Augustine gives a wonderful example of this in his work "The City of God" as he states:

“Remove justice, and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a vast scale? What are criminal gangs but petty kingdoms?

A gang is a group of men under the command of a leader, bound by a compact of association, in which the plunder is divided according to an agreed convention. If this villainy wins so many recruits from the ranks of the demoralized that it acquires territory, establishes a base, captures cities and subdues peoples, it then openly arrogates to itself
the title of `kingdom,’ which is conferred on it in the eyes of the world, not by the renouncing of aggression but by the attainment of impunity.

For it was a witty and a truthful rejoinder which was given by a captured pirate to Alexander the Great. The king asked the fellow, `What is your idea, in infesting the sea?’ And the pirate answered, with uninhibited insolence, `The same as yours, in infesting the earth! But because I do it with a tiny craft, I’m called a pirate; because you have a mighty navy, you’re called an emperor.”
(City of God book 4 ch 4)

Now, I must make this clear, I do not advise anybody to not pay your taxes. Pay your taxes! I say this not because I see any moral imperative that we must do so, but because the Government can hurt you. Like the cop that comes into your restaurant and says, "Nice place you have here, sure would be a shame if it burned down...I can make sure that doesn't happen for $1000 a month."

I would advise you pay such a man, not because of some moral imperative requiring you to do so but because he can hurt you worse than loosing $1000 bucks.

I honestly think that is Jesus reply to the tax matter. Firstly, lets look at the Pharisees' tax dilemma posed to Christ

"Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his talk.
And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.

Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?"
But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why put me to the test, you hypocrites?
Show me the coin for the tax." And they brought him a denarius.

And Jesus said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?"

They said, "Caesar's." Then he said to them, "Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
(Matt 22:15-21)

The Pharisees tried to trap Jesus here, if He answered "Yes" He acknowledged the illegitimate Roman rule over the people of God, if He answered "No" He was preaching insurrection, either way He would have somebody at His throat.

But Jesus splits the horns of their dilemma with His response. Notice He doesn't give a lecture on submitting to the state, nor does He give a insurrectionist lecture, He essentially says "What is money? Something created by the state, therefore who cares about money? Have your mind and heart fixed upon eternity and God."

It is worth noting that He doesn't give the modern socialist lecture about the moral virtues of taxes.

Another and unfortunately overlooked teaching of Christ on taxes is His exchange with Peter:

"When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the half-shekel tax went up to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the tax?"
He said, "Yes." And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?"

And when he said, "From others," Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free.
However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself."
(Matt 17:24-27)

"Not to give offense" is the biblical rationale for paying your taxes.

That said, men like Hovind haven't done anything morally wrong, they have simply offended the powers that be. Should Hovind have payed his taxes? I think so, I don't think that's the best hill to go down on although in principle he is right.

However, should Hovind sit in prison as though he were some threat to society and thereby needing to be removed from society allegedly for rehabilitation? Absolutely not. That's a waste of tax dollars :) In reality Hovind is simply a political prisoner incarerated for failing to show jelly fish like docility in response to the states infringement on his property.

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