TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, January 12, 2018

Weekly SSRN Tax Article Review And Roundup: Speck Reviews Mehrotra's Taxation And The Modern Liberal State

This week, Sloan Speck (Colorado) reviews a new work by Ajay Mehrotra (American Bar Foundation; Northwestern), Fiscal Forearms: Taxation as the Lifeblood of the Modern Liberal State, in The Many Hands of the State: Theorizing the Complexities of Political Authority and Social Control (Kimberly Morgan & Ann Orloff eds., Cambridge University Press 2017).

Speck (2017)Ajay Mehrotra’s forthcoming book chapter, Fiscal Forearms, serves as a meditation on, and an expansion of, the important ideas advanced in his 2013 monograph, Making the Modern American State. Mehrotra, like the larger edited volume in which his chapter falls, starts from Bourdieu’s metaphor of the state divided into spending and fiscal spheres: a “left hand” comprised of (in Bourdieu’s words) the “social workers . . . which are the trace, within the state, of the social struggles of the past,” and a “right hand” made up of the ministers and technocrats at the treasury, as well as the public and private banks that underwrite the state. Mehrotra develops this metaphor, describing fiscal administration as “the forearms of the body politic” and taxation itself as “the lifeblood of the modern state.” More critically, Mehrotra challenges the claim that social struggle leaves an imprint only on the spending side of the ledger, showing through historical examples that taxation—and especially income taxation—is a contested concept deployed to construct relationships between state and citizen and in service of societal change.

Continue reading

January 12, 2018 in Scholarship, Sloan Speck, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Weekly SSRN Tax Article Review And Roundup

This week, Sloan Speck (Colorado) reviews a new work by Kitty Richards, An Expressive Theory of Tax, 27 Cornell J.L. & Pub. Pol’y ___ (2018).

Speck (2017)In the early twentieth century, Joseph Schumpeter wrote that “[t]he spirit of a people, its cultural level, its social structure, the deeds its policy may prepare—all this and more is written in its fiscal history.” Following the money tells us more than just who has what; it yields insights into who we are, and what we want to be. Kitty Richard’s interesting and provocative article, An Expressive Theory of Tax, gives a framework for understanding these types of connections between tax law and society, as well as a number of examples “where what the tax code says is explicitly preferenced over what the code does.”

A significant accomplishment of Richards’s project is positive: thick description of “the values and desires that animate policy debates and legal opinions” in taxation. Richards analyzes the expressive aspects of public debates over the taxation of legal brothels in Nevada, the marriage penalties and bonuses doled out by the federal income tax, and the public policy exception for the deductibility of certain expenses. Furthermore, Richards claims that “cheap” talk of (frequently ineffective) incentives obscures the expressive inflection of debates over tax benefits for retirement savings, among other areas.

Continue reading

November 17, 2017 in Scholarship, Sloan Speck, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)