Thursday, September 22, 2016
Lily Kahng (Seattle) presented Who Owns Human Capital?, 93 Wash. U. L. Rev. ___ (2017), at Emory yesterday as part of its Faculty Colloquium Series:
This Article analyzes the tax law’s capital income preference through the lens of intellectual capital, an increasingly important driver of economic productivity whose value derives primarily from workers’ knowledge, experience and skills. The Article discusses how business owners increasingly are able to “propertize” labor into intellectual capital — to control their workers and appropriate the returns on their labor through the expansive use of intellectual property laws, contract and employment laws, and other legal mechanisms. The Article then shows how the tax law provides significant subsidies to the process of propertization and thereby contributes to the inequitable distribution of returns between business owners and workers. The Article’s analysis further reveals the tax law’s fundamental capital-labor distinction to be questionable, perhaps even illusory, an insight which has profound implications for the tax law.