The Forgotten Henry Simons

48 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2012 Last revised: 5 Dec 2012

See all articles by Daniel Shaviro

Daniel Shaviro

New York University School of Law

Date Written: November 27, 2012


Surely just about everyone in the U.S. federal income tax field has heard of Henry Simons, if only for his famous definition of “personal income.” Few realize, however, that this proponent of “drastic progression” in a broad-based income tax was also a self-described libertarian who generally denounced government economic regulation and was arguably the chief architect of the pro-free market law and economics movement at the University of Chicago. This article provides a brief intellectual history of Simons’ work, aiming in particular to explain how and why he combined these seemingly disparate sets of beliefs, and what we may learn from them today.

Keywords: Henry Simons, income taxation, consumption taxation, libertarianism, classical liberalism

JEL Classification: B20, B31, H20, H24, K34

Suggested Citation

Shaviro, Daniel, The Forgotten Henry Simons (November 27, 2012). NYU Law and Economics Research Paper No. 12-39, Available at SSRN: or

Daniel Shaviro (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

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