Unjust Laws and Oppressive Decrees

Oppression isn't just bad people doing bad things. Oppression is also the product of oppressive laws and political systems. As Dorothy Day put it: "Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system."
Isaiah 10.1-2
Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.
There are "unjust laws" and "oppressive decrees" that "deprive the poor of their rights and withhood justice from the oppressed."

And woe to them who make such laws and decrees.

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9 thoughts on “Unjust Laws and Oppressive Decrees”

  1. It is, indeed, a filthy, rotten system. It might, possibly, be the best "system" the world has ever seen, but it is, nonetheless, filthy and rotten to the core and filled with injustice and oppression.

  2. The more I study the prophets, the more I am reminded of a different world, in which (for example) taxes existed to take money from poor people and simply give it to rich people. The re-definition of an "oppressive" law or system as one which takes a lot from rich people and gives it to poor people (but, perhaps, should do so even more) has always made me scratch my head.

    Occasionally you'll still run into a law/ rule/ system that is designed to oppress people, no questions asked. Nobody disagrees with the idea that those who make such laws and decrees deserve woes.

  3. FWIW, in the U.S. our federal tax system is regressive, and many state tax systems are regressive as well. The poor and middle class subsidize the rich. When liberals and conservatives argue about whether our tax system should be more progressive than it already is, or less progressive than it already is, they are both wrong. The system is pretty highly regressive. http://www.itepnet.org/whopays.htm The upside to this is pretty interesting, though: most non-sociopaths can readily agree that our tax system is oppressive, and that a lot more can be invested in our roads, schools, safety services and in making our justice system fair. In a lot of places, to generate the revenue, we don't have to soak the rich. We just need to have them pay a tax rate that is at least on par with that paid by the poor. In my own state, Ohio, the richest pay about half the tax rate paid by the poor; we could cut everyone else's taxes, raise theirs to about 12%, and generate a huge amount of additional net revenue.

  4. If you're referring to the States, I'm absolutely certain that it's NOT the "best system" the world has ever seen.

    I don't say this just to rag on the States - you acknowledge that there's problems, I'm not necessarily talking about you specifically. But I think something that many Americans need to acknowledge is not just "The United States is not perfect", but "There are other countries in the world handling these issues better than us." Because that requires the extra step of saying that these things can be DEALT with.

    Just saying things could be better still leaves us in the realm where we can throw up our hands, because humanity is fallen, and what can we really be expected to do? But no - REAL people, in OTHER places, do things DIFFERENTLY, and they get better RESULTS (sorry for caps, I have no other way to emphasize). And that gives us reason for hope, but also leaves us with the responsibility to take those different actions.

    There is a lot that can be done, and there are real-world things we can do to fix this. :)

  5. I've seen the numbers portrayed both ways, and I'm not sure I trust this portrayal. Maybe I'm overgeneralizing my experience, but I'm one of those Americans who makes plenty of money to live on, yet gets money back every tax day. Excluding Social Security taxes (which are a little weird--they're supposedly going to my retirement, not to the federal budget), people like me don't pay taxes. So who, exactly, are these poor people who are paying at a higher tax rate than the rich?

  6. I suspect you are right. I certainly hope you are right. I would hate to think that this (the USA) is actually the best "system" the world has ever seen. I must confess that I get very mixed messages when I try to research social, racial and justice issues in other countries. Unfortunately the "reporting" tends to be very polarized and biased (one way or the other). And I have not had the privilege of actually living in (or even visiting) other countries (much as I would love to).

    But in any case, I do think you are probably right that this is NOT the best system the world has ever seen and I definitely hope that other places get better results. And I also agree that throwing up our hands is ABSOLUTELY not the answer.

  7. Sales taxes for one. The percentage of your income you're paying in sales taxes is a heck of a lot more than the percentage paid by a wealthy person.

  8. Yep. And property tax is the other main one. The charts in the documents are really illuminating. It also helps explain why there is a constant drumbeat to get rid of income tax, but hardly a word about reducing sales or property taxes. A bit of a shell game is played by people who want to give tax breaks to the rich, by focusing on the taxes the rich pay. Ohio just raised its sales tax and cut the income tax. Guess why?

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