A Challenge to the Fairness Principle of Secular Humanism
In “The Principles of Fairness: Progressive Taxation” (Free Inquiry, October/November 2006) Paul Kurtz presented the most convincing ethical argument I have ever read in opposition to current U.S. government income and wealth tax-policies, both of which are becoming increasingly regressive. As a professional sociologist (now retired), I taught courses in social stratification and social inequality, and, while I have never wavered regarding my endorsement of and commitment to American sociology’s identification with the “value-free” approach and methodology of positivistic science, I have simultaneously always felt a moral responsibility to share with my students my personal beliefs in the rightness of the ideals of fairness and equality of opportunity, which are so fundamental to the integrity and survival of our liberal democracy.
These days, as Kurtz reminds us, “Those who would deny any principles of fairness believe that evangelical capitalism is the savior of society, almost ‘the hand of God,’ rewarding the devout and virtuous” (italics added). I offer my Ten Commandments of Evangelical Capitalism as a complement to and extension of the “savior” and “hand of God” metaphors.
Regressive taxation policies are among the many dysfunctional concomitants and consequences of evangelical capitalism, and articulation and contemplation of its ten commandments, while intended as an exercise in humor noir, helps us better to understand current U.S. government inertia, inability, and lack of will in dealing with such contemporary issues as poverty; inequality of educational opportunity and other life chances; privatization of public utilities, services, and programs; exporting of capital investments and outsourcing of jobs; demise of the working and middle classes; lack of universal health-care; environmental degradation; infringement on civil and human rights; pursuit of national interests through cowboy diplomacy and preemptive wars; leadership by misinformation, misdirection, and manipulation; encouragement of hyper-consumerism; reactions to natural disasters (e.g., Hurricane Katrina); and national security, among others.
As secular humanists we have an ethical responsibility to advocate for progressive taxation of both income and wealth. Our endorsement of “The Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles” also requires us to rail against and certainly disobey at every opportunity the Ten Commandments of Evangelical Capitalism.