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Taxing the Rich: A History of Fiscal Fairness in the United States and Europe

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A groundbreaking history of why governments do--and don't--tax the rich In today's social climate of acknowledged and growing inequality, why are there not greater efforts to tax the rich? In this wide-ranging and provocative book, Kenneth Scheve and David Stasavage ask when and why countries tax their wealthiest citizens--and their answers may surprise you. Taxing the Rich A groundbreaking history of why governments do--and don't--tax the rich In today's social climate of acknowledged and growing inequality, why are there not greater efforts to tax the rich? In this wide-ranging and provocative book, Kenneth Scheve and David Stasavage ask when and why countries tax their wealthiest citizens--and their answers may surprise you. Taxing the Rich draws on unparalleled evidence from twenty countries over the last two centuries to provide the broadest and most in-depth history of progressive taxation available. Scheve and Stasavage explore the intellectual and political debates surrounding the taxation of the wealthy while also providing the most detailed examination to date of when taxes have been levied against the rich and when they haven't. Fairness in debates about taxing the rich has depended on different views of what it means to treat people as equals and whether taxing the rich advances or undermines this norm. Scheve and Stasavage argue that governments don't tax the rich just because inequality is high or rising--they do it when people believe that such taxes compensate for the state unfairly privileging the wealthy. Progressive taxation saw its heyday in the twentieth century, when compensatory arguments for taxing the rich focused on unequal sacrifice in mass warfare. Today, as technology gives rise to wars of more limited mobilization, such arguments are no longer persuasive. Taxing the Rich shows how the future of tax reform will depend on whether political and economic conditions allow for new compensatory arguments to be made. -- "Financial Post"


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A groundbreaking history of why governments do--and don't--tax the rich In today's social climate of acknowledged and growing inequality, why are there not greater efforts to tax the rich? In this wide-ranging and provocative book, Kenneth Scheve and David Stasavage ask when and why countries tax their wealthiest citizens--and their answers may surprise you. Taxing the Rich A groundbreaking history of why governments do--and don't--tax the rich In today's social climate of acknowledged and growing inequality, why are there not greater efforts to tax the rich? In this wide-ranging and provocative book, Kenneth Scheve and David Stasavage ask when and why countries tax their wealthiest citizens--and their answers may surprise you. Taxing the Rich draws on unparalleled evidence from twenty countries over the last two centuries to provide the broadest and most in-depth history of progressive taxation available. Scheve and Stasavage explore the intellectual and political debates surrounding the taxation of the wealthy while also providing the most detailed examination to date of when taxes have been levied against the rich and when they haven't. Fairness in debates about taxing the rich has depended on different views of what it means to treat people as equals and whether taxing the rich advances or undermines this norm. Scheve and Stasavage argue that governments don't tax the rich just because inequality is high or rising--they do it when people believe that such taxes compensate for the state unfairly privileging the wealthy. Progressive taxation saw its heyday in the twentieth century, when compensatory arguments for taxing the rich focused on unequal sacrifice in mass warfare. Today, as technology gives rise to wars of more limited mobilization, such arguments are no longer persuasive. Taxing the Rich shows how the future of tax reform will depend on whether political and economic conditions allow for new compensatory arguments to be made. -- "Financial Post"

30 review for Taxing the Rich: A History of Fiscal Fairness in the United States and Europe

  1. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    A strange thing happened to me with this book. I thought I was looking at a study of the political economy of taxation that balanced major theoretical arguments with a rich long term longitudinal data set that can help in answering outstanding issues by reference to data analysis results. I got some of that, of course, but I also found out that World War 1 and World War 2 figured into tax policies throughout the west and that our current situation needs to account for this. Political economy and A strange thing happened to me with this book. I thought I was looking at a study of the political economy of taxation that balanced major theoretical arguments with a rich long term longitudinal data set that can help in answering outstanding issues by reference to data analysis results. I got some of that, of course, but I also found out that World War 1 and World War 2 figured into tax policies throughout the west and that our current situation needs to account for this. Political economy and mobilization for war - all in the same study! Scheve and Stasavage have written an interesting book on the subject of taxing the rich. This is one of those topics that seems to always be on some public agenda, especially in an election year. At the same time, however, there is strangely little that is agreed on about taxes. Are they too high or too low? Are they fair? Is the person I am voting for (or against) likely to raise (or lower) my taxes? This is all the stuff of high rhetoric and low name calling but if you stop to think about it, there is surprisingly little in the way of what can be taken for granted about taxes. In terms of elections, there are also lots of anomalies to consider as well. For example, in recent years (the current election notwithstanding), U..S. Republicans have presented this odd coalition of rich guys who don't like to pay taxes and a larger group of poorer people who would seem to not have much in the way to income or wealth to tax but instead support social issues. The reverse has often been true with the Democrats. This year is far too fragmented to know how tax issues sort themselves out. The Scheve and Stasavage book is an historical study of the activity of "taxing the rich" in western economies over the past two centuries. The authors are both political scientists, although they also act like economists. They map out the basic arguments that have been advanced through the years for taxing the wealthiest in a society. These arguments concern how and why the rich should or should not be the focus of tax efforts. Should the tax burden be equally shared? Should taxes be proportional to the ability to pay? Should taxes on the rich be guided by the need to compensate those who are poor for advantages enjoyed by the rich and supported by government? Of course, economic actors often have mixed motives in attempting to change tax laws and policies, but these basic arguments provide the rationales for how any tax policies can be justified. This part of the book is interesting, if you like economic theories, but it is also a bit on the dry side. If you did not already guess, there are numerous disagreements about the fundamentals of taxation and setting up an empirical analysis is far from easy. The authors then report on their efforts to test various hypotheses about taxation making use of their data base. They are very good at research design and seem very careful in their analyses. A key insight from this book is that when the rich have been taxed the most heavily, it has taken place during violent mass conscription war situations when large numbers of citizens are drafted and put at risk in war. Under those circumstances, the politics of the times moves toward "conscripting capital" - through higher individual tax rates on the wealthy and windfall profits and capital levies on those business people who are exempted from serving directly and who may have earned windfall profits from the war when other citizens are dying from combat. It is key that such wartime situations provide the setting when efforts to tax the rich substantially can succeed politically. This is a reasonable claim and supported by the data analysis in the book. I had not tied tax policy over the century to the World Wars, and I learned something by understanding the linkage. The overall results of the book are mixed and the overall argument is complex. The data analysis results will not provide much consolation to ideologists from the right or the left. Governments typically do not like to tax the rich heavily. There are lots of reasons for this, which a reader may or may not agree with, depending on their perspective. The old arguments from high tax rates are not as persuasive as they once were, but future tax policies are not set in stone either. The book is worth working through. The analyses are accessible. The authors are not selling a particular position on taxation, in terms of desired policies. ... Or if they are, they are not selling it too hard to raise questions about the analysis. The intent seems to be that discussions of taxation of the rich, especially in the context of current debates on inequality, will benefit from some added clarity about the historical records for tax policies. This is not the most exciting book and the style is academic and a bit dry. It is very interesting, however, and well worth reading if you are interested in taxes and elections.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Deirdre

    An interesting account of the history of taxing the rich and why attempts to tax the rich much higher than those who are not rich have been tied to general mobilization for war in the 20th C. It gives the major arguments for higher taxes for the rich and discusses which ones have historically gotten more traction and why the common arguments often fail to garner significant support. As an audio book this was very hard to follow in places because of the reliance on graphs and tables of data.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gio

    Taxes are a charged subject, even more so perhaps when they concern the rich. When you ask people whether the rich should pay more taxes, you usually get either a resounding no or a convinced yet, depending on how much money they have in their bank account. Either way, governments are usually reluctant to tax the rich. Why? In this book, Scheve and Stasavage explore the way governments have taxed the rich in the US and Europe over the past two centuries. They examine all the different arguments a Taxes are a charged subject, even more so perhaps when they concern the rich. When you ask people whether the rich should pay more taxes, you usually get either a resounding no or a convinced yet, depending on how much money they have in their bank account. Either way, governments are usually reluctant to tax the rich. Why? In this book, Scheve and Stasavage explore the way governments have taxed the rich in the US and Europe over the past two centuries. They examine all the different arguments advanced throughout this time for taxing the rich, including whether the tax burden should be shared equally, be proportional to your ability to pay or levied more highly on those who have more to compensate those who have less. The author don't provide a clear answer to all these questions, unbiasedly giving the pros and cons of his choice and letting the reader make up his or her mind about it. Everyone will no doubt have a different opinion on the subject but what's certain is that taxes have been levied more heavily on the rich during times of mass conscriptions, such as World Wars I and II. That's because during these tragic times when the rest of the population is sent to fight and, often, die, it's easier to raise taxes on the principle of "conscripting capital", forcing those rich people who have been exempted from active military services to fork out more money and thus contribute in their own way to the war effort. Overall, the whole analysis on taxation is very fascinating and provides some great food for thought to anyone interested in the topic. My only problem was that the writing style was very dry. The topic itself tends to be dry on its own, but I wish the author had made more of an effort to keep the tone more engaging and colloquial. I understand that's hard for academics to do, but it helps a lot in making their works more accessible to the general public.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Luis

    Se trata de un excelente resumen de la investigación académica de los autores (y de otros investigadores) sobre los determinantes de las tasas impositivas con las que se grava a las personas de mayores ingresos en una sociedad. La investigación se basa en una sólida base de estudios empíricos (primordialmente estudios de diferencias en diferencias) y tiene como pregunta de investigación identificar el principal determinante del nivel de las tasas impositivas para los más ricos en el siglo XX en Se trata de un excelente resumen de la investigación académica de los autores (y de otros investigadores) sobre los determinantes de las tasas impositivas con las que se grava a las personas de mayores ingresos en una sociedad. La investigación se basa en una sólida base de estudios empíricos (primordialmente estudios de diferencias en diferencias) y tiene como pregunta de investigación identificar el principal determinante del nivel de las tasas impositivas para los más ricos en el siglo XX en un conjunto de países desarrollados. La hipótesis de los autores es que el principal determinante del nivel de las tasas impositivas observadas por los más ricos no es el nivel de desigualdad en una sociedad, ni una expansión de la democracia, ni el grado de captura de las instituciones por las élites; el principal determinante es la si existen los elementos que sostengan un argumento de impuestos compensatorios. Es decir, que las condiciones sean tales que, debido a la acción del Estado, un porcentaje amplio de la población tenga que cargar con una mayor parte del costo de dicha acción que lo que hacen las élites. Esas condiciones son las que se observaban al final de las guerras mundiales (donde la mayor parte de la población se sacrificó, mientras los más ricos no lo hacían o incluso se beneficiaban), momento en el cual se instituyeron las altas tasas observadas en el siglo XX. Conforme esas condiciones desaparecieron o se fueron olvidando, las tasas impositivas fueron disminuyendo. El libro es indispensable para tofos los interesados en temas fiscales y de economía política.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Martin Kosík

  6. 4 out of 5

    Talha Gulmez

  7. 5 out of 5

    Felix Leblanc

  8. 5 out of 5

    Igor

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mădălin Blidaru

  10. 5 out of 5

    Austin Hofeman

  11. 5 out of 5

    Richard Paulsen

  12. 4 out of 5

    Asier

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Meadow

  14. 5 out of 5

    Saige

  15. 5 out of 5

    M_riane

  16. 4 out of 5

    Smári

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sam Brunson

  19. 5 out of 5

    SHU

  20. 4 out of 5

    Blayney Morgan

  21. 4 out of 5

    Annie Chen

  22. 4 out of 5

    Aleksi

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sam Bleicher

  24. 5 out of 5

    Yuta

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mauricio Santoro

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stefano Pagliari

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jeroen Kraan

  30. 4 out of 5

    Eric Bottorff

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