Monday, April 6, 2015
Miranda Perry Fleischer (San Diego) presents Libertarianism and the Charitable Tax Subsidies at Pepperdine today as part of our Tax Policy Colloquium Series:
Although many Americans claim to subscribe to libertarian theories of justice, tax scholarship is largely silent about the interaction between libertarian principles and the structure of our tax system. This is not surprising, for what springs to mind when a legal academic hears the word “libertarianism” is Robert Nozick’s argument that taxation is slavery. If all taxation is indeed slavery, why bother analyzing libertarian principles for insights into our tax system? This dismissal, however, ignores the diversity of libertarian thought. To that end, this Article mines the nuances of libertarian theory for insights into one feature of our tax system: the charitable tax subsidies.
Exploring the nuances of libertarian theory yields some surprising results. Some strands of libertarian thought suggest that the charitable tax subsidies are in and of themselves illegitimate. These strands of libertarianism forbid not only redistribution but also anything except the most minimal provision of public goods needed to protect life and property, such as defense. Yet several other strands do see a role for the state to engage in a varying amount of redistribution or to provide varying amounts of public goods. On one spectrum are interpretations that admit that the state should play a role in providing public goods (strictly defined) and/or provide a provide a safety net to the very poorest but no more, and on the other is an interpretation of left-libertarianism that might support something akin to our current structure.
Update: Post-presentation lunch: