Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article

Towards a Theory of Taxation*

J. R. Lucasa1

a1 Philosophy, Merton College, Oxford

“Towards a Theory of Taxation” is a proper theme for an Englishman to take when giving a paper in America. After all it was from the absence of such a theory that the United States derived its existence. The Colonists felt strongly that there should be no taxation without representation, and George III was unable to explain to them convincingly why they should contribute to the cost of their defense. Since that time, understanding has not advanced much. In Britain we still maintain the fiction that taxes are a voluntary gift to the Crown, and taxing statutes are given the Royal Assent with the special formula, “La Reine remercie ses bons sujets, accepte leur benevolence, et ainsi le veult” instead of the simple “La Reine le veult,” and in the United States taxes have regularly been levied on residents of the District of Columbia who until recently had no representation in Congress, and by the State of New York on those who worked but did not reside in the State, and so did not have a vote. Taxes are regularly levied, in America as elsewhere, on those who have no say on whether they should be levied or how they should be spent. I am taxed by the Federal Government on my American earnings and by state governments on my American spending, but I should be hard put to it to make out that it was unjust. Florida is wondering whether to follow California in taxing multinational corporations on their world-wide earnings.

Footnotes

* My thanks are due to Loren E. Lomasky, R. M. Hare, and John Gray for comments and criticisms which I have incorporated into this final version.

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