A few days ago, while I was out surfing at Lowers, a friend asked me if I thought that the government was controlled by the banks and the oil companies. I didn’t really answer him because, well, I was surfing! It’s just wrong to talk about stuff like that in the water. Besides, the language centers in my brain go into rest mode when I’m surfing. But the question lingers. And a story from the bible keeps bubbling up.

In Matthew 22:21, Luke 20:20 and Mark 12:15, Jesus is asked by spies from the temple if they should pay the taxes demanded by Caeser. Jesus calls them hypocrites. He asks  them to produce a roman coin that would be suitable for paying such a tax. One of them shows him a roman coin and he asks whose name and inscription is on it. “Caesar”, they answer. So Jesus responds, “Render therefore unto Caesar that which is Caeser’s and unto God that which is God’s”. And they marveled at the answer. So do I.

So, if I may, let me rephrase to better address my friend’s question. Do you have bank cards in your wallet and gas in your tank? Are you not rendering unto Caesar? Are you not validating the banks and oil companies with your dollars? The moment we stop buying what they sell is the moment they cease to be empowered. Are you not endorsing their actions with your own?

I looked at the financials for Exxon, Chevron and Conoco/Phillips. Their profit margins ranged from 8.28% to 16.10%. They paid approximately 26 billion dollars in income taxes in 2013. They provided us with the energy we wanted, at a comparatively reasonable profit margin, and they paid a ton of money in taxes. Isn’t it just a little hypocritical to call them evil? And if you paid that much in taxes, wouldn’t you expect to have the ear of those you paid? And if you like government spending, shouldn’t you be thanking the oil companies for paying all those taxes?

But corporations are not people, you say. Ok. You’re quiet right. They are fictional entities that the law regards as “persons”. More importantly, they are creations of the government.  And what makes corporations different from most other forms of voluntary association?  They shield those who own and manage them from some personal responsibility for their actions. That’s it. That’s the purpose of a corporation. And it’s a government created purpose. Corporations were not created by the free market. They were created by the state. They are instruments of the state. That “Inc.” behind their name? That’s Caesar’s inscription.

When I form corporations for clients, I enlist the power of the state. The people who wish to form a corporation are not evil. After all, their business is just an association of people working together. And if others don’t buy what they are selling, they will dissolve their association and move on. But once the corporation is created, the players have the corporate shield to protect them from what might otherwise be dire consequences of their decisions. See a little moral hazard there perhaps? Do you think the same risks would be taken without the shield?

But I digress. We vote with our dollars. And we have overwhelmingly voted for banks and oil companies. Now you can try to get a bunch of laws passed to corral them, or you can stop buying oil and stop using the banks. If the latter doesn’t happen, then the people have spoken. And the banks and oil companies will continue to serve them.

All too often, we are so immersed in our own worldview that we don’t even know we’re in it. Regardless of whether you know it or not, in the immortal words of Madge, “You’re soaking in it.” And yes, it does make you soft and pliable. So I encourage you, not merely to question authority, but to question just what it is that you are soaking in and why.

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