Christianity and the Liberal(ish) Income Tax

56 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2023

See all articles by Andrew T. Hayashi

Andrew T. Hayashi

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: December 21, 2023

Abstract

Liberalism is back on its heels, pushed there by political movements in the United States and Europe and by the critiques of legal scholars and political theorists. Some of the most vigorous recent critiques of liberalism have come from Christian scholars arguing from Christian perspectives. These scholars criticize what they regard as liberalism’s false neutrality and false anthropology, defects alleged to threaten both religious freedom and human flourishing more generally. Some propose to commandeer the state’s legal apparatus to steer society toward the common good as they understand it. Others only want the liberal state to accommodate insular Christian communities. Tax law is a natural place for both sets of critics to focus their attention, given the pervasive influence tax has over individual and corporate activity. And yet, tax law has been mostly ignored. In this article, I evaluate just how “liberal” is federal income tax law, and I explore sites of tension between Christian commitments and the income tax’s liberal features. I conclude that income tax law is liberal—in the main and generally in its aspirations—but that even Christian scholars with misgivings about liberalism should leave tax law with its liberal features.

Keywords: law and religion, tax policy

Suggested Citation

Hayashi, Andrew T., Christianity and the Liberal(ish) Income Tax (December 21, 2023). Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy, Forthcoming, Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2023-82, Virginia Law and Economics Research Paper No. 2023-22, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4672207

Andrew T. Hayashi (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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