Howard Husock’s excellent op-ed “Nobody Does It Better” (Taste, Oct. 25) quotes Rep. Xavier Becerra (D., Calif.) as saying charities are “getting a tax subsidy.” That is key. His chain of reasoning relies on redefining tax exemption as a tax subsidy, then claiming that those funds are public dollars, and from that there is a public interest in determining how those dollars are allocated.

This not only ignores the numerous examples of tax exemptions that don’t abrogate private property rights (e.g., IRAs), but also various actual subsidies that appropriately come with strings contingent on the terms of the subsidy, but in no way presume to then have a management claim (think farm subsidies).

More important, this is a slippery effort to say that a tax exemption (having private money not be taxed) is the same as a tax subsidy (receiving government dollars). This works only if you start with the assumption that all private money is really the government’s. In the last understanding it is only the government’s munificence, and choice, that lets private entities and individuals get to keep some of it.

That idea runs contrary to the principles this country was founded on. As Thomas Jefferson put it: “A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned — this is the sum of good government.”

Heather R. Higgins
New York