Thursday, May 09, 2019

Against the Rules: Taxation Philosophical Perspectives - How fair is the world?

People will believe anything, if it’s bad enough.” Louis Auchincloss, The House of the Prophet ... [read more]

“Because of the goodness of God,” he concluded in his memoir, “I have had a happy unhappy life, which is preferable to an unhappy happy one.” A pessimist by definition, he often expressed personal contentment. He wrote warmly about his enjoyment of romance, friendship, books, teaching and the rural life, the “pleasure of fresh mornings, driving alone on country roads, smoking my matutinal cigar, mentally planning the contents of my coming lecture whose sequence and organization are falling wonderfully into place, crystallizing in sparks of sunlight.”

 Michael Lewis has used it to make nonspecialist readers not just pick up but tear through books about baseball talent scouting, collateralized debt obligation and theintricacies of government bureaucracy. Lewis is famous because he makes people feel like they understand, however briefly, an overly complex world.

The author’s first foray into podcasting, the seven-part series “Against the Rules,” is about a subject that is, by his standards, only medium-wonky. It’s about authority, or “all the poorly refereed corners of life,” as he puts it. Lewis is interested in the current (sour) state of our relationship to authority and to regulation — our mistrust of them and, in some cases, our full-throated hostility toward them.

Virginia Woolf on Being Ill and the Strange Transcendence Accessible Amid the Terrors of the Ailing Body

“Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed… it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature


John Steinbeck’s Stunning, Sobering, Buoyant Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

“A writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature.”

“Mankind is challenged, as it has never been challenged before, to prove its maturity and its mastery — not of nature, but of itself. Therein lies our hope and our destiny,” the great marine biologist and author Rachel Carson addressed the next generations as she catalyzed the environmental movement with her courageous exposé of the industry-driven, government-concealed chemical assault on nature.

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: How a lawyer with deep connections to Democratic politicians in New Jersey helped to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars in state tax credits.

Taxation: Philosophical PhilosophicalPhilosophical Perspectives

Martin O'Neill and Shepley Orr (eds.), Taxation: Philosophical Perspectives, Oxford University Press, 2018, 264pp., $55.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780199609222.
Reviewed by Matthew Braham, Universität Hamburg

Taxation is central to the existence of states. It is its income and expenditure. Taxation finances the production of goods and services that the market undersupplies, is the source of income for those in need, and is used to incentivize behaviour -- to encourage people to reduce the consumption of personally or socially or environmentally unhealthy things and practices. Tax policy is therefore a key element of the wherewithal of our personal lives. Yet, a quick search on work by moral and political philosophers on taxation will reveal an interesting fact: it is a subject that has not received much detailed attention. And, the work that has been produced is somewhat fragmented.
This collection aims at correcting this state of affairs by bringing together philosophers who work mostly at the intersection of philosophy and economics. We are offered 12 new essays that highlight taxation as a key issue for moral and political philosophers. As the editors, Martin O'Neill and Shepley Orr, point out in their introduction, taxation is an "irreducibly normative matter, and one which implicates a number of our concerns of social justice. When we think about issues of social justice in practice, we cannot avoid thinking at the same time about tax" (p. 2). Taxation is foundational to our thinking about property rights, democracy, and the nature and role of the state.
The volume is divided into two parts. Part I (seven essays) focusses on normative and conceptual questions. Part II (five essays) delves into a variety of policy issues. O'Neill and Orr's comprehensive introduction lays out the philosophical context for both parts. They begin with the stark and contrasting positions of Robert Nozick and John Rawls. In a memorable passage in Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), Nozick claimed that "Taxation of earnings from labour is on par with forced labor" (p. 169). In Nozick's libertarian world view, mandatory taxation is limited to providing for a minimal state that protects and enforces property rights only. Redistributive transfers for those in need are not morally permissible. Such transfers would be injustices, violations of just pre-tax entitlements. Providing for those in need is, rather, a task for charity. In contrast, Rawls believed that there are no pre-political constraints on property rights, which are themselves part of the "basic structure" of society. In the Rawlsian world, a tax system is just insofar as it is part of the overall system of rules and institutions that satisfy his two principles of justice. Hence, given that redistribution is required by Rawlsian justice, it follows that redistributive taxation is morally permissible.
Having staked out the Nozickean-Rawlsian divide, O'Neill and Orr situate the essays within the Rawlsian universe that had its fullest development in the now seminal treatment by Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel in The Myth of Ownership (2002). Murphy and Nagel's standpoint is that "pre-tax income" has no special normative status; there are no primitive entitlements to property. Many of the essays engage directly with this thought and attempt to find a middle ground between the Rawlsian and Nozickean positions.

450+ former federal prosecutors statement – Trump would have been charged with obstruction were he not president

Update – Washington Post – By early morning April 7, 2019, ” more than 720 former federal prosecutors who worked in Democratic and Republican administrations had signed a letter asserting that President Trump would have been charged with obstructing justice based on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings — if Trump were not the president…”

Washington Post – “More than 450 former federal prosecutors who worked in Republican and Democratic administrations have signed on to a statement asserting special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings would have produced obstruction charges against President Trump — if not for the office he held.