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The Myth of Ownership: Taxes and Justice

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In a capitalist economy, taxes are the most important instrument by which the political system puts into practice a conception of economic and distributive justice. Taxes arouse strong passions, fueled not only by conflicts of economic self-interest, but by conflicting ideas of fairness. Taking as a guiding principle the conventional nature of private property, Murphy and Nagel show how taxes can only be evaluated as part of the overall system of property rights that they help to create. Justice or injustice in ...
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Overview


In a capitalist economy, taxes are the most important instrument by which the political system puts into practice a conception of economic and distributive justice. Taxes arouse strong passions, fueled not only by conflicts of economic self-interest, but by conflicting ideas of fairness. Taking as a guiding principle the conventional nature of private property, Murphy and Nagel show how taxes can only be evaluated as part of the overall system of property rights that they help to create. Justice or injustice in taxation, they argue, can only mean justice or injustice in the system of property rights and entitlements that result from a particular regime. Taking up ethical issues about individual liberty, interpersonal obligation, and both collective and personal responsibility, Murphy and Nagel force us to reconsider how our tax policy shapes our system of property rights.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The thoughts in this book deserve examination, especially the views of Nagel and Murphy on the self-interest each taxpayer reasonably has in the social justice purchased by hard-earned money....[They] offer ideas that would improve the national debate."--David Cay Johnston,New York Times Book Review

Their research is impressive, their reasoning precise.... should be on every public economics reading list."--Journal of Economic Issues

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195150162
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/11/2002
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 5.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Liam Murphy teaches law and philosophy at New York University. He is the author of Moral Demands in Nonideal Theory. Thomas Nagel teaches law and philosophy at New York University. He is the author of Moral Questions, Equality and Partiality, and The Last Word.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Introduction 3
Ch. 2 Traditional Criteria of Tax Equity 12
I Political Morality in Tax Policy: Fairness 12
II Vertical Equity: The Distribution of Tax Burdens 13
III The Benefit Principle 16
IV Ability to Pay: Endowment 20
V Ability to Pay: Equal Sacrifice 24
VI Ability to Pay as an Egalitarian Idea 28
VII The Problem of Everyday Libertarianism 31
VIII Horizontal Equity 37
Ch. 3 Economic Justice in Political Theory 40
I Political Legitimacy 40
II Consequentialism and Deontology 42
III Public Goods 45
IV Benefits for Individuals 48
V Efficiency and Utilitarianism 50
VI Distributive Justice, Fairness, and Priority to the Worst Off 53
VII Equality of Opportunity 56
VIII Legitimate Means and Individual Responsibility 58
IX Rewards and Punishments 60
X Liberty and Libertarianism 63
XI The Moral Significance of the Market 66
XII Personal Motives and Political Values: The Moral Division of Labor 70
XIII Conclusion 73
Ch. 4 Redistribution and Public Provision 76
I Two Functions of Taxation 76
II Paying for Public Goods 79
III Which Goods Are Public? 86
IV Redistribution 88
V Transfer or Provision? 90
VI Public Duties 93
VII Conclusion 94
Ch. 5 The Tax Base 96
I Efficiency and Justice 96
II Outcomes, not Burdens 98
III The Consumption Base and Fairness to Savers 99
IV Fairness as Equal Liberty 103
V Desert and the Accumulation of Capital: The "Common Pool" 109
VI Wealth and Welfare 112
VII Wealth and Opportunity 119
VIII Endowment and the Value of Autonomy 121
IX Exclusions and Credits 125
X Transitions 128
Ch. 6 Progressivity 130
I Graduation, Progression, Incidence, and Outcomes 130
II Assessment of Outcomes 132
III Optimal Taxation 135
IV Tax Reform 139
Ch. 7 Inheritance 142
I The "Death Tax" 142
II The Tax Base of the Donee 145
III No Deduction for Donors 148
IV Details and Objections 150
V Equal Opportunity and Transfer Taxation 154
VI Conclusion 159
Ch. 8 Tax Discrimination 162
I Justifying Differential Treatment 162
II An Example: The Marriage Penalty 166
III Incentive Effects and Arbitrariness 169
Ch. 9 Conclusion: Politics 173
I Theory and Practice 173
II Justice and Self-Interest 177
III Plausible Policies 181
IV Effective Moral Ideas 188
Notes 191
References 209
Index 221
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2002

    About THE MYTH OF OWNERSHIP

    In a capitalist economy, taxes are the most important instrument by which the political system puts into practice a conception of economic and distributive justice. Taxes arouse strong passions, fueled not only by conflicts of economic self-interest, but by conflicting ideas of fairness. Taking as a guiding principle the conventional nature of private property, Murphy and Nagel show how taxes can only be evaluated as part of the overall system of property rights that they help to create. Justice or injustice in taxation, they argue, can only mean justice or injustice in the system of property rights and entitlements that result from a particular regime. Taking up ethical issues about individual liberty, interpersonal obligation, and both collective and personal responsibility, Murphy and Nagel force us to reconsider how our tax policy shapes our system of property rights.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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