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Educating Ourselves Towards a Progressive (and Happier) Tax: A Commentary on Griffith's Progressive Taxation and Happiness

14 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2004  

Marjorie E. Kornhauser

Tulane University School of Law

Abstract

This Commentary, part of a Boston College Symposium, The State of the Federal Income Tax, addresses two questions raised by Professor Griffith's argument that progressive taxation improves people's subjective well-being by increasing their relative income: Why do so many people oppose progressivity if it would make them happier? Can their opinions be changed in order to enhance their well being by better aligning attitudes and true self-interests? The Commentary provides a dual-fold answer to the first question: Opinion polls often overstate opposition to progressive taxation and much of that opposition is false in the sense that it is caused by ignorance, cognitive bias and inflammatory rhetoric. After explaining why much opposition would disappear if people better understood progressive taxation, the Commentary then affirmatively answers the second question by proposing a national tax literacy campaign involving the government, the media, and private industry. By increasing the public's knowledge of progressive taxation, such a broad-based educational effort would transform many hostile taxpayers into supportive ones and thereby align their attitudes with their self-interest.

Keywords: tax, taxation, progressive taxation, federal income tax, income, subjective well being, cognitive bias

Suggested Citation

Kornhauser, Marjorie E., Educating Ourselves Towards a Progressive (and Happier) Tax: A Commentary on Griffith's Progressive Taxation and Happiness. Boston College Law Review, Vol. 45, No. 5, 2004. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=618602

Marjorie E. Kornhauser (Contact Author)

Tulane University School of Law ( email )

6329 Freret Street
New Orleans, LA 70118
United States

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