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'Fuel for the post-Christmas lunch argument' Financial Times Death and taxes are our inevitable fate. We've been told this since the beginning of civilisation. But what if we stopped to question our antiquated system? Is it fair? And is it capable of serving the needs of our rapidly-changing, modern society? In Daylight Robbery, Dominic Frisby traces the origins of taxatio 'Fuel for the post-Christmas lunch argument' Financial Times Death and taxes are our inevitable fate. We've been told this since the beginning of civilisation. But what if we stopped to question our antiquated system? Is it fair? And is it capable of serving the needs of our rapidly-changing, modern society? In Daylight Robbery, Dominic Frisby traces the origins of taxation, from its roots in the ancient world, through to today. He explores the role of tax in the formation of our global religions, the part tax played in wars and revolutions throughout the ages, why, at one stage, we paid tax for daylight or for growing a beard. Ranging from the despotic to the absurd, the tax laws of the past reveal so much about how we got to where we are today and what we can do to build a system fit for the future. 'This entertaining, surprising, contrarian book is a tour de force!' - Matt Ridley, author of The Evolution of Everything 'In this spectacular gallop through history, Frisby shows how taxation has warped, stunted and thwarted human progress' - Mark Littlewood, Director General, Institute of Economic Affairs 'Against all expectations, Dominic's book on tax is a real page-turner. His historical interpretation and utopian ideas will outrage Left and Right. Both should read the book' - Steve Baker, MP for Wycombe and Member of the House of Commons Treasury Committee 'Fascinating book which exposes the political and economic basis of tax. A must read for those of us who believe in simpler, lower taxes' - Rt Hon Liz Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade 'Both amusing and informative, it's a romp' - Bill Bonner, author of Empire of Debt


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'Fuel for the post-Christmas lunch argument' Financial Times Death and taxes are our inevitable fate. We've been told this since the beginning of civilisation. But what if we stopped to question our antiquated system? Is it fair? And is it capable of serving the needs of our rapidly-changing, modern society? In Daylight Robbery, Dominic Frisby traces the origins of taxatio 'Fuel for the post-Christmas lunch argument' Financial Times Death and taxes are our inevitable fate. We've been told this since the beginning of civilisation. But what if we stopped to question our antiquated system? Is it fair? And is it capable of serving the needs of our rapidly-changing, modern society? In Daylight Robbery, Dominic Frisby traces the origins of taxation, from its roots in the ancient world, through to today. He explores the role of tax in the formation of our global religions, the part tax played in wars and revolutions throughout the ages, why, at one stage, we paid tax for daylight or for growing a beard. Ranging from the despotic to the absurd, the tax laws of the past reveal so much about how we got to where we are today and what we can do to build a system fit for the future. 'This entertaining, surprising, contrarian book is a tour de force!' - Matt Ridley, author of The Evolution of Everything 'In this spectacular gallop through history, Frisby shows how taxation has warped, stunted and thwarted human progress' - Mark Littlewood, Director General, Institute of Economic Affairs 'Against all expectations, Dominic's book on tax is a real page-turner. His historical interpretation and utopian ideas will outrage Left and Right. Both should read the book' - Steve Baker, MP for Wycombe and Member of the House of Commons Treasury Committee 'Fascinating book which exposes the political and economic basis of tax. A must read for those of us who believe in simpler, lower taxes' - Rt Hon Liz Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade 'Both amusing and informative, it's a romp' - Bill Bonner, author of Empire of Debt

30 review for Daylight Robbery: How Tax Shaped Our Past and Will Change Our Future

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dominic Frisby

    I thought this book was just great. But then I would think that - I wrote it! I hope you find reading it as fascinating and engaging as I did writing it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Mccall

    All but the last Chapter was very informative and based on logical evidence, the last chapter was the downside. After just writing every other chapter, exposing how taxation has caused many issues in society, the last chapter was more of a brainfart. Insanity is doing something that has been proven bad, over and over again, then expecting different results trying it again. Taxation is a euphemism for extortion.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Pedro L. Fragoso

    This book. Appropriate adjectives: important (make it: really, really important); remarkable (make it: absolutely remarkable; visionary (make it: relevantly visionary). I do not agree with the whole of Frisby's world view, but it's irrelevant. The text is brilliant, the discussion is intelligent, the writing is elegant and compelling. This is a paradigm of a class act. The audiobook reading by the author is peerless. And, I don't know if I've mentioned, it is important, remarkable and visionary. This book. Appropriate adjectives: important (make it: really, really important); remarkable (make it: absolutely remarkable; visionary (make it: relevantly visionary). I do not agree with the whole of Frisby's world view, but it's irrelevant. The text is brilliant, the discussion is intelligent, the writing is elegant and compelling. This is a paradigm of a class act. The audiobook reading by the author is peerless. And, I don't know if I've mentioned, it is important, remarkable and visionary. Congratulations are in order.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Richard C.

    Daylight Robbery sounds like a textbook but reads like a story! At first I was hesitant to. read it. But once I got started I got hooked by Frisby's well organized and interesting stories about how we have gotten hooked by the tax man! If for no other reason than this (the use of taxes for such things as the conduct of war, for supporting those in charge), Daylight Robbery is an excellent read! It's bedtime reading before you file your taxes! Daylight Robbery sounds like a textbook but reads like a story! At first I was hesitant to. read it. But once I got started I got hooked by Frisby's well organized and interesting stories about how we have gotten hooked by the tax man! If for no other reason than this (the use of taxes for such things as the conduct of war, for supporting those in charge), Daylight Robbery is an excellent read! It's bedtime reading before you file your taxes!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ronald J.

    Stoves, hearths, houses, light, windows are just some of the examples of what we’ve taxed. Winston Churchill described taxes as a “necessary evil.” The question this book explores is how much evil is necessary? Taxes shape civilizations. Indeed, there has been no civilization that did not tax. Every war has been paid for with taxes. Surnames came about to distinguish people for the purposes of levying poll taxes. In the developed world, the most expensive purchase you’ll ever make is not your ho Stoves, hearths, houses, light, windows are just some of the examples of what we’ve taxed. Winston Churchill described taxes as a “necessary evil.” The question this book explores is how much evil is necessary? Taxes shape civilizations. Indeed, there has been no civilization that did not tax. Every war has been paid for with taxes. Surnames came about to distinguish people for the purposes of levying poll taxes. In the developed world, the most expensive purchase you’ll ever make is not your home, it’s your government through your tax bill, averaging a full 20 years of your life in the UK. Frisby’s book is a breezy, informative look at various topics through the lens of tax. I particularly liked some of the historical examples, the chapter on Hong Kong, and John James Cowperthwaite, the architect of Hong Kong’s free market, low-tax prosperity with his policy of “positive non-intervention.” Hong Kong has a 276 page tax code, 1.5% the size of the UK’s (10 million words and 21,000 pages. The USA’s tax code is 2.4 million words and another 7.7 million on regulations). Complexity is a subsidy. He was even against compiling statistics because he knew they’d be use for central planning the economy. “If I let them compute those statistics, they’ll want to use them for planning,” he explained to Milton Friedman. When met with pleas from the Legislative Council for GDP statistics, this is his reply: "Such figures are very inexact even in the most sophisticated countries. They do not have a great deal of meaning. That other countries make use of them is not, I think, necessarily a good reason to suppose that we need them. I am not entirely clear what practical purpose they would serve in Hong Kong … The need arises in other countries because high taxation and detailed Government intervention in the economy have made it essential to be able to judge (or to hope to be able to judge) the effect of policies … We are in the happy position, where the leverage exercised by Government on the economy is so small that it is not necessary, nor even of any particular value, to have these figures available for the formulation of policy." Frisby writes, “Later in life he was asked what poor countries should do to turn their economies around. The first thing he said was ‘abolish the office of national statistics’.” Today, Hong Kong ranks amongst the ten richest nations in the world, with a per capita income 40% higher than the UK’s. It’s also ranked #1 as on economic freedom indexes. The book explores taxes and religions, the Black Death in Europe, which killed 50 million, 60% of the entire population. England’s population shrank by two-thirds, from 6 to 2 million. But wages went up and profits went down. America was founded on “No taxation without representation,” but what we’ve learned is that taxation with representation is a lot more expensive! His take in that the Civil War was not fought over slavery but taxation. President Lincoln introduced the first income tax, 3% on incomes over $800, and the Internal Revenue Service. Then the 16th Amendment and the tax withholding in 1942, during World War II, is covered. He makes the interesting point that Prohibition came about since the income tax replaced taxes on alcohol, which accounted for some 40% of government revenue prior to the income tax. And revenue loss during the Great Depression is why Roosevelt repealed Prohibition in 1933—he needed the tax revenue. Interesting, was the repeal of Prohibition why Roosevelt won the presidency, rather than his New Deal? There is a chapter exploring the future of work, one on crypto money, the taxman’s nightmare, and how AI and data are helping governments close the tax gap. I don’t agree with everything Frisby’s writes, such as his generation is poorer than its parents. Really? Would he trade their standard of living for his? Or his idea of a land tax. Or how subscriptions could work for public services. It’s an interesting idea, and I love the subscription business model, but how it would apply to government has yet to be answered, though perhaps it could if taxes were more local. I do agree that the overall tax burden should be no more than 15% of GDP. Frisby acknowledges American tax historian Charles Adams (I believe Adam’s was Canadian, not American). And Adams’ books are masterpieces, especially his For Good and Evil. If you enjoy Frisby’s book, and want to dive even deeper, and still be entertained and educated, Adams work is a must read. Overall, this is a worthwhile read for anyone with an interest in tax history and future.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Neil Johnstone

    Absolutely fascinating read, from daylight robbery after taxing windows in England to a Russian tsar taxing beards, I never knew how much tax shapes our world. The chapter on the 3 major religions and the tax story behind their formation. So Moses taking the Jews out of Egypt after the Pharaoh began taxing them harder. Then Christianity with Jesus kicking out the traders in the temple as Romans taxed some religions more and they try get him to say everybody stop paying tribute but his famous line Absolutely fascinating read, from daylight robbery after taxing windows in England to a Russian tsar taxing beards, I never knew how much tax shapes our world. The chapter on the 3 major religions and the tax story behind their formation. So Moses taking the Jews out of Egypt after the Pharaoh began taxing them harder. Then Christianity with Jesus kicking out the traders in the temple as Romans taxed some religions more and they try get him to say everybody stop paying tribute but his famous line, 'Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and render unto God what is God's.' But eventually they get him on a suggesting people don't pay taxes and he was crucified. Then in Islam they conquered land from different empires and said you have 3 options 'convert, pay taxes or death' most chose to convert and the religion grew rapidly. And after they were established they started imposing similar taxes and maybe be why they didn't conquer all of Europe. Then the modern chapters about the internet, bitcoin and companies not being taxable as they are in the ideas market rather than the physical but taxes are coming more up to date. Then some great information about Hong Kong and his final chapter on his utopian society is very interesting. Recommend this book to everyone, the style of writing is witty and entertaining. Some great quotes at the start of most chapters. So I'll these two. 'The art of taxation consists of so plucking the goose as to obtain the most feathers with the least possible hissing.' - Jean-Baptiste Colbert, finance minister to Louis XIV (1661-83) 'Where there are taxes, the just man pays more than the unjust man on the same income. Where there are refunds, the just man takes nothing, while the unjust man profits.' - Plato (380 bc) Last quote more than ever, shows we don't change that much, I love ancient philosophy as relevant today as it ever was and will be long into the centuries ahead.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mega

    A history on how the institution of taxes came to be, and why we in the world accept such an institution as Income Tax. The history of taxes isn't a subject that many discuss, this book by Dominic Frisby provides just that via the different forms of taxation the governments of the world impose onto their subjects and later on citizens. The craziest tax I remember from the book was called the Window tax which taxed people based on the number of windows they had on their homes. The chaos that tax A history on how the institution of taxes came to be, and why we in the world accept such an institution as Income Tax. The history of taxes isn't a subject that many discuss, this book by Dominic Frisby provides just that via the different forms of taxation the governments of the world impose onto their subjects and later on citizens. The craziest tax I remember from the book was called the Window tax which taxed people based on the number of windows they had on their homes. The chaos that tax had was that the people in the industrial era purposely not build windows to avoid the tax but suffocated from the industrial smoke in the industrial era. Taxation affects behaviour. Learning about taxation is quite interesting. Give this book a read!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Pandit

    This book is GREAT ! I know, it doesn't sound too interesting, but give it a chance. DF knows his stuff - this book grew out of a comedy routine he did on stage. He breaks the topic up into bitesize stories. He has good storytelling ability - which comes from his comedy, presumably. But even so this is not lightweight - it is well researched and thought out. The role of tax in the US civil war might surprise you. Napoleon's tax difficulties might too. But here it is worth noting that the book is This book is GREAT ! I know, it doesn't sound too interesting, but give it a chance. DF knows his stuff - this book grew out of a comedy routine he did on stage. He breaks the topic up into bitesize stories. He has good storytelling ability - which comes from his comedy, presumably. But even so this is not lightweight - it is well researched and thought out. The role of tax in the US civil war might surprise you. Napoleon's tax difficulties might too. But here it is worth noting that the book is highly Anglo-Saxon orientated. Did you ever think of inflation as a tax? DF makes a fascinating argument. And how about the future? Will tax evasion become endemic as things move into cyber-space. Or will it become easier for the taxman to find you? Yes, give this book a try!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tim Hughes

    “Daylight Robbery” was recommended to my by a Financial Times (FT) journalist. Dominic, takes you through a history of the world. Well, actually it’s a history of tax, but what we find out is that every transformation in history was driven by decisions on tax. You do start to feel, in a nice way of course, as Dominic as a very open writing style, that he is a little biased. The book, finishes up with his suggestions for tax in the future, as you can imagine his view is very much that we shouldn’t “Daylight Robbery” was recommended to my by a Financial Times (FT) journalist. Dominic, takes you through a history of the world. Well, actually it’s a history of tax, but what we find out is that every transformation in history was driven by decisions on tax. You do start to feel, in a nice way of course, as Dominic as a very open writing style, that he is a little biased. The book, finishes up with his suggestions for tax in the future, as you can imagine his view is very much that we shouldn’t start from here. Overall an interesting read, well researched and written in a style that actually made tax interesting. Now that is an achievement.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Luke

    Frisby’s Daylight Robbery discusses the significance of tax in the past, the present and the future. Many would consider taxation an uninteresting and tedious subject, yet the writing style is both thoroughly engaging and clearly well-informed. Though from an economic perspective, Frisby’s discussion of tax’s past provides an excellent summary of several major historic events. While I thought I’d find the history-related chapters more interesting, the book’s predictions on the future of finances Frisby’s Daylight Robbery discusses the significance of tax in the past, the present and the future. Many would consider taxation an uninteresting and tedious subject, yet the writing style is both thoroughly engaging and clearly well-informed. Though from an economic perspective, Frisby’s discussion of tax’s past provides an excellent summary of several major historic events. While I thought I’d find the history-related chapters more interesting, the book’s predictions on the future of finances are certainly compelling. Daylight Robbery has definitely transformed my perception of taxation and it’s role in the world. Rating: 4.5/5

  11. 5 out of 5

    Léo Tricaud

    Though covering an interesting topic, this book stays at the level of shallow, free-market arguments, without really delving in the complexity of the issue. Notably, causal links are drawn between low taxes and growth without real arguments beyond "it happened at the same time", and without considering other variables that could explain growth better than low taxes. In the end, the result is more an ideological pamphlet than an informative book. Though covering an interesting topic, this book stays at the level of shallow, free-market arguments, without really delving in the complexity of the issue. Notably, causal links are drawn between low taxes and growth without real arguments beyond "it happened at the same time", and without considering other variables that could explain growth better than low taxes. In the end, the result is more an ideological pamphlet than an informative book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Warren Mcpherson

    This book takes an engaging and broad historical look at taxes. There is a terrific range of time periods and places around the world. It looks at the role tax has played in several empires and revolutions. It looks at how tax influences the outcome of wars and influences society. I would love to get different perspectives on this topic. This struck me as novel and provocative in the best sense of the term.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bradley Endsor

    Absolutely fantastic. Taxation is usually not an interesting topic to read about but in this case it definitely is and a bonus whilst criticising our current system he offers an alternative. This book is well worth a read. He also allows a conversation to start that is necessary about how reforming taxation could actually deal with some of the problems we have.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Robin J

    An informative overview of the necessary evil of taxes and the size of government. Eventually the benefit does not equate to the cost to the citizens. It is amazing that for some reason humans almost volunteer to be surfs. Fortunately technology and the internet may hold a solution by decentralizing the Powers that be that citizens can vote with their feet.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robert B Kennedy

    Highly recommend I enjoyed reading this book. The author has turned the dull topic of taxation into a riveting read, covering its historical roots to its present day problems and how to solve them. Highly recommend.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jose Guerra

    Great book that explains and gives various examples of how tax altered history and how it's always been a driving force for change. A bit redundant at times with the examples given but a fun read overall. Great book that explains and gives various examples of how tax altered history and how it's always been a driving force for change. A bit redundant at times with the examples given but a fun read overall.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Parker

    A lot of very interesting ideas, but I might be unusual in liking to think about economic policy and the underlying philosophy.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Paul Davies

    Amusing and informative. Very well written. The author is equally good at looking at the history of taxation as he is considering its future. Best non-fiction book I have read in years.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Matt Rogue

    Given the subject I expected this to be pretty dry. But, I found all the historical tax stuff particularly fascinating.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Piotr Borowski

    History of taxes and prediction how they will change the world.

  21. 5 out of 5

    AndyDobbieArt

    This was a very readable and surprisingly enjoyable book, with some thought-provoking conclusions on what could have been a dry subject. Recommended.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anass Wajib

    Very informative and concise, given the immensity of the subject, however the last chapter was not what I have expected after all the ranting on what high taxes have done to us.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Janet K

    Interesting history of taxation but some very confused thinking towards the end.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Very entertaining for a book on the history of taxes! We go from the Babylonians to the present day and many considerations into the future, with respect to cryptocurrencies, the "gig economy," and the challenges of actually knowing where you should file your taxes and to whom they should be paid. Kudos for the courage to give a brief history on the U.S. Civil War (which consensus has incorrectly named but that's another topic) through the lens of taxation. Obviously, Frisby isn't pinning down th Very entertaining for a book on the history of taxes! We go from the Babylonians to the present day and many considerations into the future, with respect to cryptocurrencies, the "gig economy," and the challenges of actually knowing where you should file your taxes and to whom they should be paid. Kudos for the courage to give a brief history on the U.S. Civil War (which consensus has incorrectly named but that's another topic) through the lens of taxation. Obviously, Frisby isn't pinning down the sole cause of all the major historical events and trends on taxation. What he does is take many turning points in history whether the French Revolution or American prohibition and give a lot of backstory on the economic and specifically tax policy that led up to those circumstances. This allows for a more complete picture of what we may already know about historical events, and like any good book, challenges you to rethink your assumptions. However, the final third or so of the book (Digital Nomads and related chapters) was a firm reminder of why I no longer call myself a libertarian. The philosophy generally instills a rigorous, cost-benefit analysis-based economic level of thinking, but ironically always fails to consider the costs of viewing humans as atomized units in a marketplace, which is the central theme of the latter part of the book. Frisby's admitted dream of becoming a digital nomad himself was adulation for a nightmare dressed up in a pretty package: Hop to this country and that, tap on your smartphone for all kinds of shit to happen remotely, buy a coffee in Thailand while being paid in Bitcoin from someone in Atlanta, then catch a plane to Mars or Barcelona or wherever and on and on it goes with this fantastic globetrotting existence. This is an appalling way to live to me, and I am not criticizing Frisby or anyone else who wants to live this way, but I do believe it is important that in a world where we perceive these miraculous technological advances, they are not just a line angling up on the progress graph. There is a cost to the libertarian "utopia" (not specifically referring to Frisby's vision, which is laid out near the end of the book and is well thought out save for what I'm talking about right here), but that cost isn't always made for a balance sheet. Community health, shared values, customs, traditions, ability of the young to have families, and much more fall by the wayside to the insatiable quest for "progress," defined as providing cheaper products. I'm not even subtracting from my rating for it as I would agree that it isn't necessarily in the scope of the book, but it would have been an easy 5-star if Frisby would have demonstrated some depth to his considerations in this respect. I was a lifelong libertarian who left the philosophy in recent years after recognizing two of its crucial shortcomings: Immigration and demographics, and free trade. I don't want to fault Frisby for ignoring the former (most libertarians don't want to tackle it anyway, as Bob Murphy admitted in an interview once he "hadn't really thought about it"), but he could definitely have mentioned some aspects of the Hong Kong peoples' culture and values when doling out deserved praise to their accomplishments. Frisby mentions Singapore among others trying to emulate Hong Kong in some respects, but Lee Kuan Yew found libertarianism unimpressive and unworkable, and he was a brilliant man, easily one of the greatest political leaders of the 20th century. (Yew approved of free trade, but well understood the dangers of free capital flows, something my own country of Canada is sadly having to learn the hard way now.) For free trade, it badly needs to be challenged as it's just assumed by libertarians in the way "tax the rich" is by the left. It's tough to admit you were wrong, but Rothbard led the way for us all, giving a comparative peon as myself no choice but to follow suit after reading Ian Fletcher's "Why Free Trade Doesn't Work," an absolute decimation going back to Ricardo's lunacy and the free trade position in its entirety. I don't think these criticisms of libertarianism and Frisby's obvious adherence to the positions should take away from the book, I merely thought it useful to address them as I was one and still hold many of the values dear. Again, it likely wasn't in the scope of the book to address them, though it would have been immensely impressive if Frisby had, even in brief. If you want a history of taxation that is engrossing and will have you regularly saying "I-gotta-read-that-chapter-again" as I often did, this is your book. And I would like to say Frisby has a phenomenal voice and narration ability; I have no idea if he has considered it, but as an audiobook junkie I think he would make an excellent narrator should he be so inclined to pursue an additional job in this "gig economy." Just make sure you file your taxes appropriately if you do, sir! :)

  25. 5 out of 5

    David Gonzalez Feijoo

    This is becoming my most recommended book on politics and economics. I have to admit that I was largely unaware of the role played by taxes in world history, from their use in the spread of Islam, of which I knew little, to their part in the American Civil War, of which I knew nothing, and so much more. There are also several chapters about bitcoin, digital nomads, and the borderless digital economy, or the future of taxes. The book is easy to read and, best of all, it leaves you with a healthy This is becoming my most recommended book on politics and economics. I have to admit that I was largely unaware of the role played by taxes in world history, from their use in the spread of Islam, of which I knew little, to their part in the American Civil War, of which I knew nothing, and so much more. There are also several chapters about bitcoin, digital nomads, and the borderless digital economy, or the future of taxes. The book is easy to read and, best of all, it leaves you with a healthy skepticism about taxes.

  26. 5 out of 5

    SONIA

  27. 5 out of 5

    Faisal Bhatti

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mr A Chesworth

  29. 5 out of 5

    T. Martin

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jon Downing

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