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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mehrotra: The Early Columbia School of Taxation and Development

Ajay K. Mehrotra (Indiana), From Seligman to Shoup: The Early Columbia School of Taxation and Development, in The Political Economy of Transnational Tax Reform: The Shoup Mission to Japan in Historical Context (Cambridge University Press, 2012):

In 1949, the Columbia University economist Carl Sumner Shoup helped lead a post-World War II tax mission to Japan. One of the principal goals of the mission was to assist in the reconstruction of the Japanese fiscal system. As part of this mission, Shoup brought with him not only his experience as an academic economist and longtime advisor to the U.S. Treasury Department, but also his deep intellectual commitment to fundamental tax reform. Throughout his career Shoup applied economic ideas about public finance to the practical issues of improving fiscal, political, and administrative institutions in redeveloping and lesser-developed nation-states. In many ways, though, Shoup was the culmination of a multi-generational tradition of research, scholarship, and policy guidance that can be described loosely as the Columbia school of taxation and development. This essay, which is a chapter in a forthcoming edited volume on the Shoup mission to Japan, provides a brief intellectual history of the Columbia school. More specifically, this chapter traces the genealogical connection between the type of economic institutionalism that was prominent at Columbia in the early twentieth century and Shoup’s specific ideas about taxation and development. The aim is to provide some historical perspective on the principles and proposals that were central to the many Shoup tax missions and to his overall vision of a “prescriptive” or “political economy” branch of public finance.

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