Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Washington Post: Can Taxing the Wealthy Strengthen Democracy?, by Deborah Boucoyannis (Virginia):
“Taxing the rich” has emerged as a controversial proposal on how to deal with the historic rise in inequality of the last few decades. Thomas Piketty recently recommended taxing the top 1 percent globally to redistribute wealth, reduce inequality and provide a generous social safety net. The policy has been attacked on both the left and the right as unfeasible, unpredictable in its effects, even unconstitutional, and in any case inadequate to address the needs of a welfare state, although other research powerfully contradicts them.
The historical record, however, suggests that taxing the wealthiest does have an important, but different, consequence: making the wealthy vested in the common good. In fact, taxing the wealthy was crucial for the emergence of representative government itself. ...
“[T]axing the rich” can actually help democracy. When the government is strong enough to impose a substantial obligation on the richest people, they are inclined to lobby the government to ensure those funds are efficiently spent. This is quite different than the pattern that mostly occurs today, where the wealthy lobby the government for tax breaks or private interests—and the state is too weak or too unwilling to resist. “Taxing the rich something more than in proportion” to their wealth is what Adam Smith himself still praised about the English system of taxation many centuries after its Parliament was born.