Friday, January 06, 2012

Progressive Taxation: An Aesthetic and Moral Defense

Progressive taxation

Jim Chen, Progressive Taxation: an Aesthetic and Moral Defense, 50 U. Louisville L. Rev. (forthcoming 2012) (available at
The power to tax is at once the power to create and the power to destroy. If the United States government hopes to discharge its primary duty as creator and protector of its citizens’ wealth, it must be willing to destroy wealth, from time to time, by redistributing it. More than any other tool, the means by which government finances and depletes its treasury affects the societal distribution of wealth. Differential taxation and targeted spending are the most significant and most effective means by which government can “gradually and continually . . . correct the distribution of wealth to prevent concentrations of power detrimental to the fair value of political liberty and fair equality of opportunity.” Redistribution and the attendant destruction of entrenched wealth serve as society’s ultimate weapons of “creative destruction.” Of the many forces that have propelled the United States to the economic, political, social, and military pinnacle of the modern world, its willingness to countenance radical technological and organizational upheaval probably ranks first. American prosperity depends on the federal government’s commitment to an economic environment in which citizens are able not only to amass large amounts of new wealth, but also to lose it in rapid and remorseless fashion.
Updates: I am grateful to Paul Caron for featuring this article on Tax LawProf Blog. I also thank Bookforum's Omnivore Blog for featuring this article on its April 13, 2012, post, How much do income taxes affect our behavior?


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