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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Taxes: Buddhism and Fiscal Policy

Birth, Old Age, Sickness, and Taxes: Buddhism and Fiscal Policy, State of Formation
So, Asvaghosa equates excessive taxation with more personal transgressions, especially theft; Surata objects to the covetousness that high taxes inflict on a king and the financial pain they inflict on the citizenry; and, Nagarjuna objects to the financial and emotional pain that the undue hardship of high taxes cause. The renowned Nyingma Buddhist philosopher and teacher Jü Mipham Gyatso (1846-1912, Derge, eastern Tibet) nicely sums up all of these sentiments in his Advice on the Way of the King, saying,

Forcefully taking a reasonable tax from the wealthy,
even when they haven't offered it,
is like being compensated.
This is not “taking what hasn't been given.”

Forcefully taking from the poor
can be either a wrongdoing or not a wrongdoing:
In order to prevent gamblers and prostitutes
from wasting the wealth obtained illicitly,
if you take from them, it is said to benefit both
and is not a wrong-doing.
When someone has lost property through fire, etc.,
tax them lightly.

If one doesn't care for the sentient beings
who haven't any means, this is a wrong-doing.

Later, he reiterates,

If one doesn't collect taxes which are reasonable,
and not take equally from the rich and poor
according to their situation, is that just?
From all subjects who pay taxes
take in accord with their land,
the season, and their wealth, without harming their home.
Do not burden them unbearably.
In the manner of a cow eating grass
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