Paul L. Caron

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Tax Prof Profile, New Professor Edition: David Gamage

This week's Tax Prof Spotlight continues our series of profiles of folks starting their careers this fall as tax professors at American law schools. We hope the profiles will help introduce our newest colleagues to the tax community. [If you are, or know of someone who is, a beginning tax professor, please email me here to be included in the series.]

Spotlight_2  David S. Gamage (Texas)

      • B.A. 2000, Stanford
      • M.A. 2000, Stanford
      • J.D. 2005, Yale 



I knew I wanted to enter academia long before I decided on law. As a relatively successful college debater, and with several lawyers in my extended family, many took it for granted that I’d become a litigator. I, however, was determined to go a different route. I was fascinated by economic policy and saw myself as eventually working for a university, think tank, or government agency.

During most of my undergraduate career, I thought I’d pursue a Ph.D. in economics. But I eventually became disenchanted with the rigid adherence to rational choice theory and the over-mathematization of the discipline. I turned next to organizational sociology, and earned a masters degree before deciding against that field. Unsure what else to do, I left the university environment for a two-year stint as a management consultant. I thought at the time that this might lead to a doctorate in business administration and a career teaching in business schools.

Somehow it never occurred to me during this process that I could become a law professor. I had been most drawn to the sub-fields of economics and sociology that involved legal questions – law and economics, public finance, political sociology, antitrust, and the sociology of bureaucracy and regulation. I even enrolled in a law school seminar while at Stanford and wrote a paper under the direction of Mitch Polinsky. Yet I never connected these interests to legal academia. I first discovered that law teaching was an option during my second year of consulting. And the more I learned about being a law professor the more convinced I became that it was a perfect match for my interests. I quickly dashed out applications and sent them off just before the deadlines.

I entered law school knowing that I wanted to focus on an area where the law intersected with economic policy; I had a strong suspicion that tax would be the eventual winner. After taking the basic tax course during my second semester, I was certain. I found tax analysis fascinating. I was intrigued by the constant battle between taxpayers and the government, and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of finding the substance of complex transactions. Nevertheless, I’ve developed a critical stance toward what I see as the dominant modes of thinking about tax law. I view our tax lawmaking process as deeply dysfunctional. My scholarship strives to rethink the organizational structure of tax lawmaking, recategorizing what we consider to be tax questions and proposing new metrics for evaluating the tax code. I’m attempting to combine economic and sociological techniques in order to analyze the ways in which our democratic system monitors tax outcomes and how the shape of doctrine influences the conceptual categories by which we judge these outcomes.

This fall, I’ve begun a two-year visiting assistant professorship at the University of Texas (Austin) as part of their Emerging Scholars Program. I’ll be teaching federal income taxation and a seminar on tax policy during the current academic year. I’m greatly enjoying teaching and the chance to work on my scholarship. Austin is an amazing city and my colleagues at the law school have been incredibly welcoming. I look forward to the job market next year with both excitement and trepidation.

Each Saturday, TaxProf Blog shines the spotlight on one of the 700+ tax professors in America's law schools. We hope to help bring the many individual stories of scholarly achievements, teaching innovations, public service, and career moves within the tax professorate to the attention of the broader tax community. Please email me suggestions for future Tax Prof Profiles. For prior Tax Prof Profiles, see here.

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