The Birth of Tax as a Legal Discipline

37 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2017 Last revised: 17 Mar 2017

See all articles by Hans Gribnau

Hans Gribnau

Tilburg Law School

Henk Vording

Leiden University - Leiden Law School

Date Written: February 1, 2017


Adam Smith’s taxation maxims found fertile ground in the Netherlands in the early nineteenth century – a time of national tax reform. But as the century drew to an end, progressive liberal thinking parted from its British inspiration. John Stuart Mill’s ‘equality of sacrifice’ was rejected by Nicolaas Pierson, the leading political economist of his age, as being too individualistic. Instead, the German Historical School with its idea of an organic relation between state and citizens gave guidance, especially to Pieter Cort van der Linden’s work on taxation. Borrowing from the German concept of Rechtsstaat, he laid the foundations for tax as a legal discipline.

Keywords: nineteenth-century Dutch tax theory, liberal theory, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Pierson, Cort van der Linden, German Historical School, Rechtsstaat, rule of law, organic theory, distributive justice.

Suggested Citation

Gribnau, Hans and Vording, Henk, The Birth of Tax as a Legal Discipline (February 1, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Hans Gribnau (Contact Author)

Tilburg Law School ( email )

Tilburg, 5000 LE

Henk Vording

Leiden University - Leiden Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 9520
2300 RA Leiden, NL-2300RA

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