Monday, June 27, 2022
Shaviro: Stanley Surrey And The Public Intellectual Practice Of Tax Policy
Following up on my previous post, A Half-Century with the Internal Revenue Code: The Memoirs of Stanley S. Surrey (Lawrence Zelenak (Duke) & Ajay Mehrotra (Northwestern; Google Scholar) eds. Carolina Academic Press 2022) (reviewed by Tracey Roberts (Cumberland; Google Scholar) here): Daniel Shaviro (NYU), 'Moralist' Versus 'Scientist': Stanley Surrey and the Public Intellectual Practice of Tax Policy:
Nearly forty years after his untimely death, Stanley Surrey, the renowned Harvard law professor (and Treasury official), remains perhaps the most important and influential tax law scholar in American history. The recent publication of his highly illuminating memoirs offers a convenient occasion for reassessing his work.
In offering such a reassessment, this essay takes its title from William F. Buckley’s 1974 observation that, while Surrey claimed to analyze tax policy issues with “scientific detachment,” in fact he was a tax “moralist,” whose policy recommendations were “based on a highly articulated set of personal value principles.” Largely agreeing with Buckley as a descriptive matter, the essay considers what Surrey’s work both gained and lost intellectually by hewing so strongly to a set of career-long, deeply held beliefs. Along the way, the essay contrasts Surrey’s moral and intellectual certainty with the skepticism and resistance to grand system-building of Boris Bittker of Yale Law School, Surrey’s only mid-century rival for intellectual leadership of the tax legal academy. ...
[S]ection II discusses what we learn from the memoirs and elsewhere regarding Surrey’s core underlying beliefs. Section III examines how his tax moralism affected tax expenditure analysis. Section IV offers a brief conclusion.