Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan), Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue: Pleasingly Gaudy and Preposterous, 170 Tax Notes Fed. 1885 (Mar. 22, 2021) (reviewing Michael Keen (IMF) & Joel Slemrod (Michigan; Google Scholar), Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue: Tax Follies and Wisdom through the Ages (Princeton University Press 2021)):
Michael Keen and Joel Slemrod’s Rebellion, Rascals, and Revenue: Tax Follies and Wisdom through the Ages (Princeton University Press 2021) is a wonderful book, which should be read by any student of taxation. To most tax policy makers and academics, tax history may seem a bit arcane, because they believe that the study of taxation and especially public finance economics is a story of progress and that we know better how to design good tax systems than our ancestors. To this attitude, Keen and Slemrod offer a decisive rejoinder: We do not necessarily understand taxation better than our predecessors, and in fact we can learn from their experience. Keen and Slemrod’s marvelous book is not an attempt to directly effectuate tax policy or to rewrite tax history. Instead, it is a very wise excursion by two highly experienced public finance economists into the past in order to both understand the present better by comparing it to what was different, and to improve the future by learning from both past wisdom and past follies.