Taxation: philosophical perspectives

Questions I hope to answer:


There is a tension between two philosophical views of taxation:

  • Robert Nozick argues that property rights were pre-political, and thus the state cannot interefere with these rights. It should be kept at its strict minimum to enforce these rights; transfers should operate via philantropic work. As a result, Nozick sees taxation as "forced labor". It has a strong influence on contemporary debates. cite:nozick1974
  • For John Rawls, property rights are not a pre-political constraints on the operation of economical and political institutions, they are creations of the "basic structure" of society. Tax rules are also part of this basic structure. A tax system is just when it contributes to a system that satisfies the principles of justice. In his conception of Justice, Rawls endorses a steeply recipient-oriented inheritance and capital trasnfer tax. cite:rawls2020,rawls1958


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