The subject of this paper is the Dutch peace tax bill and similar bills, introduced in the parliaments of other countries with regard to the conscientious objections to the military destination of tax money.
First I will report on the proceedings in the Dutch Staten-Generaal (Dutch parliament). In the second place I will analyze some of the main counterarguments against an adoption of such a provision for conscientious objections. Then I will consider other proposals in this domain and a number of the introduced bills in other states.
Up to now nowhere a bill has become a law, although in the past, in Tsarist Russia, in the then Grand Duchy of Finland, there has been an exemption from military service and war tax for Quakers.
We live in a pluralistic world, a society in which the use of violence is not unallowed ultimately. Probably this will continue to be some more time only already in view of the enormous economic interests of the arms production and in view of the fear of most people for giving up the right to use arms, for example in the event of a defensive war.
People who condemn war on principle have to live with this reality and it could be recommended to take this into consideration. Only then a change can be possible. Military operations are often represented as a natural phenomenon, part of human nature, but slavery was presented in the past in the same way and has been abolished nevertheless.
Awaiting the abolition of war pacifists can try to contribute to that abolition. It is important that they do not ask too much at once of their fellow man. Probably it is better that a majority does not exchange their trust in military violence, if no fundamental change of mind and attitude underlies.
On the other hand one can rightly ask a majority to respect conscientious objections against war and participation therein. Although somebody may not be in sympathy with such objections, he can respect such objections and can promote some kind of legal accommodation to it.
Such an accommodation is here under discussion, nothing more, nothing less.
A legal provision for conscientious objections in the domain of war tax or whatever other domain is not a contribution to peace in itself, at least not to the reduction of war efforts or to the nonviolent conflict resolution. One can only say that it would be a very, very modest step in the right direction, the direction of the realisation of a culture of nonviolence, because the implementation of a human right is involved.
Moreover it would be of very great value that with the introduction of a legal provision for conscientious objections in this domain that for the first time women would get a legal possibility to express their objection and condemnation of military violence.
Generally the debate about a provision for conscientious objections to the military destination of tax money will be complicated when the question whether the provision is a contribution to peace or not, is not distinguished from the question of whether the concerning conscientious objections could be recognized by the legislator or not.
That the legislator is the right address for a provision in this domain has been decided many times by the judiciary and also by the relevant bodies with regard to the international protection of human rights such as the European Commission for Human Rights at Strasbourg.
These bodies do not want to accommodate to these objections by finding a precedent in the Conscientious Objections to Military Service Act or by extensive interpretation of existing provisions in the domain of freedom of conscience.
In this paper the word ‘defence’ will be used in the normal meaning. If nonviolent defence is meant, this will be mentioned explicitly.
I consider the notion ‘conscience’ as follows: conscience is such an essential trait of the personality that acting against it results in a conflict that will injure one's identity.
When the word ‘billion’ is used, is meant a thousand million, as far as I can see even in the chapter with regard to the United Kingdom. When MP Canavan mentions a defence budget of £ 18 billion, he will not mean 18 million times million.
-  See explanatory memorandum of the Dutch government to the modification of the Conscientious Objections to Military Service Act, First Chamber of the Staten-Generaal, session 1978-1979, Number 11 155, nr 1a, page 2.
Copyright and responsibility Erik Th.Hummels March 1996
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