July 31, 2002

Politics, Taxation, and the Rule of Law

The Power to Tax in Constitutional Perspective
  • Richard Wagner

    Distinguished Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics and Economics
  • Donald P. Racheter

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The essays in this book treat the relationships among politics, taxation, and the rule of law. A central tenet of democratic ideology is that taxation is something that we choose to do to ourselves, rather than being something that is imposed on us by some ruler. The basic ideology of the American constitutional founding is that government is not the source of our rights of person and property. To the contrary, government is something we establish with our prior rights of person and property to preserve and protect those rights. While it is possible to articulate some intellectual notions about good government and appropriate taxation, it does not follow from the mere fact of this articulation that actual taxation works as articulated. Taxation may be a necessary means of preserving and protecting rights of person and property, but it might also operate in various ways to undermine, abridge, and erode those rights.

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