Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Neil H. Buchanan (Florida; Google Scholar), Comparative (Tax) Scholarship Is For Everyone, and Everyone Can Make It Better (JOTWELL) (reviewing Kim Brooks (Dalhousie; Google Scholar), A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Comparative Tax Scholarship, 24 Fla. Tax Rev. 1 (2020):
Justice Louis Brandeis famously described U.S. states as “laboratories” in which citizens can authorize their sub-national governments to “try novel social and economic experiments.” His logic surely also applies to nations as well, with countries around the world offering a wealth of real-world experiments from which we can all draw valuable insights.
Kim Brooks knows quite a lot about comparative legal scholarship (tax studies in particular), but she understands that most people have only passing familiarity with that vast body of literature. She also understands that most every scholarly enterprise could profit from a comparative perspective but that most scholars do not have the time or inclination to become full-on comparativists. What to do?
Brooks’s answer is to offer what she cheekily refers to as a hitchhiker’s guide, by which she means a practical immersion into just enough of the concepts of comparative scholarship to allow relative novices (like most of us) to enhance our analyses by looking beyond our own countries. She demonstrates, in short, that it is not necessary to become a Comparative Legal Scholar to engage usefully in comparative scholarship, and she shows how to do so carefully and with sufficient sophistication for any particular project. ...
Brooks is surely right, then, in arguing that having non-comparativists engage in—but only as much as is necessary, and with context in mind—enhances any legal or policy analysis. And because even amateur comparativism is nonetheless comparativism, having more people engaging in it can only help the overall enterprise. We can all, then, better evaluate the quality of our own and each other’s work, once we bear in mind how and why Brooks’s taxonomy disciplines the inquiry.