From Deontology to Practical Application: The Vision of a Good Society and the Tax System
SUNY Buffalo Law School; Ono Academic College Faculty of Law
January 18, 2012
Virginia Tax Review, Vol. 26, pp. 405-446, 2006
This article presents two arguments - one deontological and the other consequential - which, jointly and separately, aim to justify redistributive taxation and the resulting imposition of a greater tax burden on the wealthy. Both arguments are based on a community-oriented rather than an individual-centered view of society and are drawn from an analysis of the role that individual and collective rights and responsibilities ought to play in contemporary tax policy-making.
According to the deontological approach, the wealth belonging to the affluent is not merely the product of their efforts but also results from benefits conferred by social cooperation and good fortune. The article expands on this line of thinking by suggesting that the tax burden allocation is just if all members of society are guaranteed certain basics that ensure adequate living conditions and represent their fair share of the fruits of social cooperation. Since the pre-tax distribution of resources is so unequal, this approach to taxation is expected to result in some form of redistribution.
The second argument, based on consequential considerations, emphasizes the harmful economic, political, and social effects of concentrated wealth and income for modern democracy and promotes the use of the tax system to avoid these effects. This argument suggests that the wealthy, who hold the bulk of concentrated resources and, consequently, the actual means to contribute to redistribution, have a civic obligation to participate in the safeguard of society and fellow citizens by bearing a heavier tax burden than less affluent citizens. Additionally, the collective as a whole holds the right and bears the responsibility to require the implementation of redistributive measures in order to protect the workings and prosperity of the democratic society. The taxation of inter-generationally transmitted wealth is proposed as the proper target for redistribution.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 43
Keywords: Taxation, Tax Policy, Social Policy, Tax Justice, Redistribution
JEL Classification: D30, D31, D49, D63, D69, H29, H49, H59, I31, K34Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: July 15, 2005 ; Last revised: August 27, 2012
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