Friday, October 23, 2020
The Dynamics of Taxation: Essays in Honour of Judith Freedman (Oct. 15, 2020):
This book brings together a landmark collection of essays on tax law and policy to celebrate the legacy of Professor Judith Freedman. It focuses on the four areas of taxation scholarship to which she made her most notable contributions: taxation of SMEs and individuals, tax avoidance, tax administration, and taxpayers' rights and procedures.
Professor Freedman has been a major driving force behind the development of tax law and policy scholarship, not only in the UK, but worldwide. The strength and diversity of the contributors to this book highlight the breadth of Professor Freedman's impact within tax scholarship. The list encompasses some of the most renowned taxation experts worldwide; they include lawyers, economists, academics and practitioners, from Britain, Canada, Portugal, Australia, Germany, Italy, Malta, Ireland, and Ukraine.
October 23, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Hamilton and the Law: Reading Today's Most Contentious Legal Issues through the Hit Musical (Lisa Tucker (Drexel) ed., Cornell University Press 2020):
Lawyers and legal scholars, recognizing the way the musical speaks to some of our most complicated constitutional issues, have embraced Alexander Hamilton as the trendiest historical face in American civics. Hamilton and the Law offers a revealing look into the legal community's response to the musical, which continues to resonate in a country still deeply divided about the reach of the law.
A star-powered cast of legal minds―from two former U.S. solicitors general to leading commentators on culture and society―contribute brief and engaging magazine-style articles to this lively book. Intellectual property scholars share their thoughts on Hamilton's inventive use of other sources, while family law scholars explore domestic violence. Critical race experts consider how Hamilton furthers our understanding of law and race, while authorities on the Second Amendment discuss the language of the Constitution's most contested passage. Legal scholars moonlighting as musicians discuss how the musical lifts history and law out of dusty archives and onto the public stage. This collection of minds, inspired by the phenomenon of the musical and the Constitutional Convention of 1787, urges us to heed Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Founding Fathers and to create something new, daring, and different.
October 20, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink
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Monday, October 19, 2020
Melanie D. Wilson (Former Dean, Tennessee), A Reckoning Over Law Faculty Inequality, 90 Denver U. L. Rev. Online (2020):
In this review, I examine Dr. Meera E. Deo’s book, Unequal Profession: Race and Gender in Legal Academia, published last year by Stanford University Press. In Unequal Profession, Deo, an expert on institutional diversity, presents findings from a first-of-its-kind empirical study, documenting many of the challenges women of color law faculty confront daily in legal academia. Deo uses memorable quotes and powerful stories from the study’s faculty participants to present her important work in 169 readable and revealing pages. Unequal Profession begins by outlining the barriers women of color face when entering law teaching and progresses through the life cycle of the law professor (including the treacherous tenure process). It covers leadership, before concluding with work-life balance.
Unequal Profession is especially timely and important. In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the national outrage it ignited, law schools denounced racism and vowed to take concrete, anti-racist steps to improve society, the legal profession, and law schools themselves. Many law faculties committed to hiring and retaining more underrepresented faculty colleagues and, correspondingly, to attracting a more diverse student body.
October 19, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Wednesday, October 14, 2020
New York Times, Four Books that Explain the U.S. Tax System:
David Foster Wallace, The Pale King (2012), reviewed by Darien Shanske (UC-Davis) and Larry Zelenak (Duke):
In this posthumous novel, set at an I.R.S. office in Illinois, the agency is a microcosm of human nature: “greed, politics, power, goodness, charity.
The agents at the IRS Regional Examination Center in Peoria, Illinois, appear ordinary enough to newly arrived trainee David Foster Wallace. But as he immerses himself in a routine so tedious and repetitive that new employees receive boredom-survival training, he learns of the extraordinary variety of personalities drawn to this strange calling. And he has arrived at a moment when forces within the IRS are plotting to eliminate even what little humanity and dignity the work still has.
The Pale King remained unfinished at the time of David Foster Wallace's death, but it is a deeply compelling and satisfying novel, hilarious and fearless and as original as anything Wallace ever undertook. It grapples directly with ultimate questions -- questions of life's meaning and of the value of work and society -- through characters imagined with the interior force and generosity that were Wallace's unique gifts. Along the way it suggests a new idea of heroism and commands infinite respect for one of the most daring writers of our time.
David Cay Johnston, Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich--and Cheat Everybody Else (2003), reviewed by Joel Newman (Wake Forest):
October 14, 2020 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Thursday, October 8, 2020
New York Times op-ed: The American Dream Is Tax Reform’s Biggest Obstacle, by Christopher Faricy (Syracuse University; Co-author, The Other Side of the Coin: Public Opinion Toward Social Tax Expenditures (forthcoming 2020)):
Much of the commentary on the fresh revelations about President Trump’s tax returns has focused on how they illustrate the vulnerability of the federal tax system to exploitation by the ultrarich. This is for good reason: Mr. Trump aggressively used a set of tax breaks popular with real estate developers to pay no taxes in 11 out of the previous 18 years, and just $750 for both 2016 and 2017.
But the most expensive subsidies in the federal tax code are not used by real estate developers, energy chief executives or bankers. They are used by upper-middle-class households under the guise of earned economic security. The main obstacle to reforming the tax code is not Mr. Trump, but rather the upper-middle-class American voter.
There are close to 300 subsidies in the tax code that, in total, cost the federal government over a trillion dollars each year. According to the Congressional Budget Office, in 2019 more money was lost to the federal government through the nation’s regressive tax breaks than was spent combined on Medicare and Medicaid.
And six out of 10 of the most expensive federal tax subsidies — including the exclusion for employment-based health insurance, benefits for company pensions and the charitable contribution deduction — are commonly used by wealthier suburban families. In sum, they drain close to $680 billion annually from the U.S. Treasury.
These subsidies are sold as providing necessary assistance — affordable housing, health care and higher education — to middle-class families. But they also apply a veneer of political legitimacy to a system that shovels billions of taxpayer dollars every year to the wealthiest families and corporations in America. ...
October 8, 2020 in Book Club, Tax, Tax News, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Saturday, October 3, 2020
Chronicle of Higher Education, The Insufferable Hubris of the Well-Credentialed:
The Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel’s 10th book, The Tyranny of Merit, out this month from FSG, covers a lot of ground for a short text — especially in its sweeping second chapter, “A Brief Moral History of Merit,” which, following Max Weber, describes the surprising emergence of the “fiercely meritocratic work ethic” out of the Protestant Reformation’s “war against merit.” From these origins, Sandel says, would eventually appear such diverse phenomena as mega-churches preaching the “prosperity gospel,” the weakening of the welfare state, and the increasing importance of the university system as a source of not just earning power but personal prestige. President Trump, for instance, likes to say that he went to Wharton, which he insists is “the hardest school to get into, the best school in the world … super genius stuff.”
The Tyranny of Merit hopes to explain the cultural background behind this bit of Trumpian braggadocio, and more broadly to argue that a just political future must recognize that even a perfect meritocracy would be fundamentally unfair. I talked with Sandel about resentment and hubris, the trauma of the elite-university admissions process, the problem with economists, and pull-ups.
Critiques of meritocracy are on everyone’s lips right now. Why?
October 3, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Monday, August 24, 2020
Carmen G. Gonzalez (Loyola-Chicago), Presumed Incompetent II: Race, Class, Power, and Resistance of Women in Academia (Utah State University Press 2020):
The courageous and inspiring personal narratives and empirical studies in Presumed Incompetent II: Race, Class, Power, and Resistance of Women in Academia name formidable obstacles and systemic biases that all women faculty—from diverse intersectional and transnational identities and from tenure track, terminal contract, and administrative positions—encounter in their higher education careers. They provide practical, specific, and insightful guidance to fight back, prevail, and thrive in challenging work environments. This new volume comes at a crucial historical moment as the United States grapples with a resurgence of white supremacy and misogyny at the forefront of our social and political dialogues that continue to permeate the academic world.
August 24, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Sunday, August 16, 2020
Financial Times, Test of Faith: Will Morris, PwC Tax Expert and Part-time Priest:
On the third Sunday of Lent last year, Will Morris, deputy global tax policy leader at accounting giant PwC, admitted he felt conflicted when he became a part-time priest.
“I had asked myself whether I was — as a very well-paid tax lawyer for a large US corporation — subconsciously trying to cleanse a job that some viewed as ethically dodgy, by throwing a priestly cloak over it all,” he told a congregation at London’s St Martin-in-the-Fields church, describing his ordination a decade earlier.
Mr Morris operates at the highest levels of corporate tax and policy. As chairman of the OECD tax advisory committee, he is a powerful lobbying force. As one ally put it, he “can corral an impressive list of tax directors and policymakers into a room”.
The distinction between his professional and priestly life was thrown into particularly sharp relief this month. Mr Morris was one of five former General Electric executives who negotiated a $1bn tax break in the UK in 2005 that HM Revenue & Customs now claims was fraudulently obtained.
St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, Revd William Morris:
Will Morris is an assistant priest at St Martin’s, having been here since his ordination in 2009. He is a Self Supporting Minister who also works at PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) as Deputy Global Tax Policy Leader. At St Martin’s he focuses on faith and workplace issues and wrote Where is God at Work in 2015, and Love thy Colleague: Being Authentically Christian at Work in 2017.
August 16, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education, Tax, Tax News | Permalink
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Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan), Do Lawyers Need Economists?:
Katja Langenbucher’s outstanding book [Economic Transplants: On Lawmaking for Corporations and Capital Markets (Cambridge University Press 2017)] seeks to address the question of why and in what ways have lawyers been importing economic theories into a legal environment, and how has this shaped scholarly research, judicial and legislative work? Since the financial crisis, corporate or capital markets law has been the focus of attention by academia and media. Formal modelling has been used to describe how capital markets work and, later, has been criticized for its abstract assumptions. Empirical legal studies and regulatory impact assessments offered different ways forward. This excellent book presents a new approach to the risks and benefits of interdisciplinary policy work. The benefits economic theory brings for reliable and tested lawmaking are contrasted with important challenges including the significant differences of research methodology, leading to misunderstandings and problems of efficient implementation of economic theory's findings into the legal world. Katja Langenbucher's innovative research scrutinizes the potential of economic theory to European legislators faced with a lack of democratic accountability.
I would like to address the question whether economic theory and modeling are useful for lawyers by focusing on another field, tax law, where economists have been very influential.
August 12, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Thursday, August 6, 2020
Tax Law and the Environment: A Multidisciplinary and Worldwide Perspective (Roberta F. Mann (Oregon) & Tracey M. Roberts (Samford) eds. 2020):
Tax Law and the Environment: A Multidisciplinary and Worldwide Perspective takes a multidisciplinary approach to explore the ways how tax policy can is used solve environmental problems throughout the world, using a multi-jurisdictional and multidisciplinary approach. Environmental taxation involves using taxes to impose a cost on environmentally harmful activities or tax subsidies to provide preferred tax treatment to more sustainable alternatives to those harmful activities. This book provides a detailed analysis of environmental taxation, with examples from around the world. As the extraction, processing and use of energy use resources is has been a major cause of environmental harm, this book explores the taxation and subsidization of both fossil fuels and renewable energy. Its analysis of the past, present, and future potential of environmental taxation will help policymakers move economies toward sustainability, as well as and informing students, academics, and citizens about tax solutions for pressing environmental issues.
August 6, 2020 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Bret Bogenschneider (Indiana University East), How America was Tricked on Tax Policy (Anthem Press 2020):
How America was Tricked on Tax Policy explains how regular citizens were “tricked” by the outdated view of economists that much heavier taxation of labor rather than capital is economically justifiable. The truth is that workers pay their taxes while the rich pay very little. Based on reputable sources of information, including the publications of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), official statistics data, and the publications in high-ranked journals, the book paves the way for a new policy making process aimed to achieve more sustainable taxation and to increase the wellbeing of citizens as the main goal of any modern state policy.
Dealing with critically important and underexplored topics in tax policy, the book challenges an enshrined dogma that is rarely challenged at the level of policy. In doing so, this book envisions policy changes that could be highly impactful in a new political administration. This book proposes that governments should look for not just corporate income tax rate reduction when announcing their tax reforms but should equally focus on the reduction of the overall tax burden on labor. The negative impact and high social cost of wage taxation is exemplified by the key areas of tax policy that are relevant for every wealthy state, such as taking due care of public health, investing in education and wellbeing of children, and supporting small business for the overall benefit to society.
July 29, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Dorothy A. Brown (Emory), The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans — And How We Can Fix It (2021):
A groundbreaking exposé of racism in the American taxation system from a law professor and expert on tax policy
Dorothy Brown became a tax lawyer to get away from race. As a young black girl growing up in the South Bronx, she'd seen how racism limited the lives of her family and neighbors. Her law school classes offered a refreshing contrast: tax law was about numbers, and the only color that mattered was green. But when Brown sat down to prepare tax returns for her parents, she found something strange: James and Dottie Brown, a plumber and a nurse, seemed to be paying an unusually high percentage of their income in taxes. When Brown became a law professor, she set out to understand why.
In The Whiteness of Wealth, Brown draws on decades of cross-disciplinary research to show that tax law isn't as colorblind as she'd once believed. She takes us into her adopted city of Atlanta, introducing us to families across the economic spectrum whose stories demonstrate how American tax law rewards the preferences and practices of white people while pushing black people further behind. From attending college to getting married to buying a home, black Americans find themselves at a financial disadvantage compared to their white peers. The result is an ever-increasing wealth gap, and more black families shut out of the American dream.
July 22, 2020 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Michael Conklin (Angelo State University), Can You Truly Be Happy in Law School? An Analysis of Law School Advice, 53 U. Rich. L. Rev. Online 63 (2019):
There are many books available to help students navigate the more concrete aspects of law school, such as studying, exam strategies, how to brief a case, making law review, and on campus interviews. Kathryne M. Young, in her 2018 book, How to Be Sort of Happy in Law School [Stanford University Press, 2018] primarily focuses on the more intangible side. The 300-page book dedicates only forty-three pages to the topics of studying and exam strategies. Young’s format frees up space to cover the more amorphous aspects of law school. This review will analyze the book’s coverage of critiques of the law school structure, indoctrination attempts, and how to maintain a healthy perspective. ...
The tone of the book is refreshingly pleasant given the heavy subject matter it covers. Young utilizes a very conversational approach, and there is humor throughout (such as comically pointing out that if you stole the money to pay for law school you would likely be let out of prison before your classmates paid off their loans). Overall, Young does an excellent job preparing the reader to navigate the unique emotional challenges law school presents.
July 22, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Andrew Guthrie Ferguson (University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law) & Jonathan Yusef Newton (J.D. 2019, University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law), The Law of Law School: The Essential Guide for First-Year Law Students (NYU Press 2020):
“Dear Law Student: Here’s the truth. You belong here.”
Law professor Andrew Ferguson and former student Jonathan Yusef Newton open with this statement of reassurance in The Law of Law School. As all former law students and current lawyers can attest, law school is disorienting, overwhelming, and difficult. Unlike other educational institutions, law school is not set up simply to teach a subject. Instead, the first year of law school is set up to teach a skill set and way of thinking, which you then apply to do the work of lawyering. What most first-year students don’t realize is that law school has a code, an unwritten rulebook of decisions and traditions that must be understood in order to succeed.
The Law of Law School endeavors to distill this common wisdom into one hundred easily digestible rules. From self-care tips such as “Remove the Drama,” to studying tricks like “Prepare for Class like an Appellate Argument,” topics on exams, classroom expectations, outlining, case briefing, professors, and mental health are all broken down into the rules that form the hidden law of law school. If you don’t have a network of lawyers in your family and are unsure of what to expect, Ferguson and Newton offer a forthright guide to navigating the expectations, challenges, and secrets to first-year success. Jonathan Newton was himself such a non-traditional student and now shares his story as a pathway to a meaningful and positive law school experience. This book is perfect for the soon-to-be law school student or the current 1L and speaks to the growing number of first-generation law students in America.
July 14, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink
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Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Arthur Cockfield (Queen's University), Walter Hellerstein (University of Georgia) & Marie Lamensch (Institute for European Studies), Taxing Global Digital Commerce (2020):
This latest edition of the preeminent text on the taxation of cross-border digital commerce transactions — formerly titled Electronic Commerce and International Taxation (1999), Electronic Commerce and Multijurisdictional Taxation (2001) — revises, updates, and expands the book’s coverage. It includes a detailed and up-to-date analysis of digital VAT and global income tax developments, and explores the implications of digital commerce for the US state and local sales and use tax regime in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. (2018). Analysing the practical tax consequences of digital commerce from a multijurisdictional perspective and using examples to illustrate the application of different taxes to digital commerce transactions, the book offers in-depth treatment of such topics as: (a) the OECD and G20’s digital tax reforms under the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting project; (b) the new or proposed equalization levies, digital services taxes, minimum taxes and other approaches some countries are adopting to level the tax playing field; (c) how technology enhances cross-border tax information exchanges; (d) how technology change is driving global income tax reforms surrounding nexus and profit attribution; (e) US state and local sales and use tax issues raised by cloud computing; and (e) trends toward collecting VAT from online platforms that facilitate international digital commerce, including cross-border trade in low-value goods and peer-to-peer supplies in the ‘sharing’ economy.
June 23, 2020 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Wednesday, June 17, 2020
New York Times op-ed: Learn To Love Trillion-Dollar Deficits, by Stephanie Kelton (Stony Brook; author, The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy (2020)):
As a proponent of what’s called Modern Monetary Theory and as a former chief economist for the Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee, intimately familiar with how public finance actually works, I am not worried about the recent multitrillion-dollar surge in spending.
But there was a time when it would have rattled me too.
I understand the deficit myth because in the early part of my career in economics I, too, bought into the conventional way of thinking. I was taught that the federal government should manage its finances in ways that resemble good old-fashioned household budgeting, that it should hold spending in line with revenues and avoid adding debt whenever possible. ...
It is true that the dollars in your pocket are, in a physical sense, just pieces of paper. It’s the state’s ability to make and enforce its tax laws that sustains a demand for them, which in turn makes those dollars valuable. It’s also how the British Empire and others before it were able to effectively rule: conquer, erase the legitimacy of a given people’s original currency, impose British currency on the colonized, then watch how the entire local economy begins to revolve around British currency, interests and power. Taxes exist for many reasons, but they exist mainly to give value to a state’s otherwise worthless tokens.
Coming to terms with this was jarring — a Copernican moment. By the time I developed this subject into my first published, peer-reviewed academic paper, I realized that my prior understanding of government finance had been wrong.
In 2020, Congress has been showing us — in practice if not in its rhetoric — exactly how M.M.T. works: It committed trillions of dollars this spring that in the conventional economic sense it did not “have.” It didn’t raise taxes or borrow from China to come up with dollars to support our ailing economy. Instead, lawmakers simply voted to pass spending bills, which effectively ordered up trillions of dollars from the government’s bank, the Federal Reserve. In reality, that’s how all government spending is paid for.
June 17, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Thursday, June 4, 2020
Michael Graetz Saw the ‘Wolf at the Door’ Before the Coronavirus Arrived in the U.S.:
Long before the coronavirus pandemic caused mass layoffs and more than 30 million Americans to file unemployment claims in a matter of four weeks, Michael Graetz, Columbia Alumni Professor of Tax Law and a former official in the U.S. Treasury Department, was worried that too many American households live paycheck to paycheck. “Economic insecurity, anxiety, and fear were already pervasive. Any shock to the economy or to the workforce was going to cause lots of hardship,” he says. “Of course, no one could have foretold how large and difficult this shock has become.”
In his new book, The Wolf at the Door: The Menace of Economic Insecurity and How to Fight It, which was published in February by Harvard University Press, he and co-author Ian Shapiro (a professor of political science at Yale) analyze how the globalization of the workforce, outsourcing, and technological advances threatened millions of people’s livelihoods and contributed to widespread income insecurity before the pandemic. “When the book went to press in November, the virus wasn’t on the horizon,” says Graetz. “All the reasons we cite in the book for worrying about widespread economic insecurity are going to be made worse because some businesses are not going to reopen and jobs are going to disappear. We have a precarious workforce, and the economic shocks from the virus are making it much more vulnerable.”
In The Wolf at the Door, Graetz and Shapiro argue that maintaining the status quo is perilous and immoral. “It is essential that society help people who are left behind or who are in danger of it,” they write. “Otherwise these people may well reject the social contract and succumb to the poisonous snake oil peddled by political charlatans.”
June 4, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education, Tax, Tax News, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Tuesday, April 28, 2020
Michael A. Livingston (Rutgers), Tax and Culture: Convergence, Divergence, and the Future of Tax Law (Cambridge University Press 2020):
Tax scholars traditionally emphasize economics and assume that all tax systems can be evaluated in more or less the same way. By applying the insights of anthropology, sociology, and other social sciences, Michael A. Livingston demonstrates that tax systems frequently pursue different values and that the convergence of tax systems is frequently overstated. In Tax and Culture, he applies these insights to specific countries, such as China and India, and specific tax issues, including progressivity, tax avoidance, and the emerging area of environmental taxation. Livingston concludes that the concept of a global tax culture is, in many cases, merely a reflection of Western hegemony, and is unlikely to survive the changes implicit in the rise of non-Western nations and cultures.
Table of Contents:
April 28, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Sunday, April 26, 2020
Wall Street Journal op-ed: Dying Gives Us a Chance to Confront Truth, by C. Kavin Rowe (Duke University Divinity School; author, Christianity's Surprise: A Sure and Certain Hope (2020)):
Since my wife entered hospice, we’ve grown closer together and deeper in our faith.
The Covid-19 pandemic has swept away the illusions that led [church congregations]—and much of the world—to ignore death. The virus will kill only a small minority of the world. Yet its prevalence has reminded people everywhere that if Covid-19 doesn’t kill them, something else will. Thisrealization recalls a truth central to the Christian tradition: No one will get out of life alive.
Over time Christians developed a set of practices to help us tell this truth and to prepare for death. In the Middle Ages this was called the ars moriendi, the art of dying. Today, a quick death often is seen as ideal. Yet the ars moriendi holds the opposite view: It’s a good thing to see death coming and to have time to prepare. Time and habit provide the chance to live fully and—even at the last hour—become a mature human being, one who tells the truth.
I know this firsthand because my dying wife tells the truth. When she was referred to hospice some time ago, after a long and painful decline, she simply noted, “I don’t want to die. I want to finish raising our son.”
Through attentive care, hospice has extended her life—and with it the chance to talk about our successes, failures, hopes, sorrows, beliefs, and doubts. The demand to face death created a new chance to grow closer together and deeper in our faith. We don’t have time to argue about what a “messy kitchen” means when we’re focused on sharing the truths we need to hear: I love you. I wish we could grow old together. I wanted to know our son’s wife and our grandchildren. I will be with you until the end. ...
April 26, 2020 in Book Club, Coronavirus, Legal Education, Tax | Permalink
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Thursday, April 23, 2020
Katharina Pistor (Columbia), Law in the Time of COVID-19:
The COVID-19 crisis has ended and upended lives around the globe. In addition to killing over 160,000 people, more than 35,000 in the United States alone, its secondary effects have been as devastating. These secondary effects pose fundamental challenges to the rules that govern our social, political, and economic lives. These rules are the domain of lawyers. Law in the Time of COVID-19 is the product of a joint effort by members of the faculty of Columbia Law School and several law professors from other schools.
This volume offers guidance for thinking about some the most pressing legal issues the pandemic has raised, especially (though not exclusively) for law in the United States: from the rights of prison inmates who live under conditions that make them exceptionally vulnerable to the highly contagious virus to the options for contracting parties who now face circumstances that make it impossible for them to live up to their past commitments. The book does not give legal advice. Instead, it identifies critical legal issues that affect many peoples’ lives, offers fresh perspectives for thinking about those issues, and provides guidance to legislatures and policy makers about the legal challenges ahead.
Gillian Lester (Dean, Columbia), Foreward:
April 23, 2020 in Book Club, Coronavirus, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Stephanie Hunter McMahon (Cincinnati), The Tax Law System is Only Incomprehensible to Some (reviewing Wendy Wagner (Texas) & Will Walker, Incomprehensible!: A Study of How Our Legal System Encourages Incomprehensibility, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do About It (Cambridge University Press 2019):
Journalists often remark that income tax rules are incomprehensible and that taxpayers cannot understand the law or the explanatory guidance created by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In her recent book with Will Walker, Incomprehensible!, Wendy Wagner develops a rubric to evaluate the process by which the law and agency action become incomprehensible.
Unfortunately, applying that rubric to the federal tax system is difficult because of the system’s multiple speakers and audiences. Attempting to fit this system within the rubric, however, highlights how federal tax rules’ incomprehensibility depends upon how one defines the relevant audience, a task the government has yet to undertake. ...
Given what appear to be everyone’s weak incentives to provide comprehensibility, Wagner’s analysis helps show how the federal tax system has important lessons to learn. This system is not inherently incomprehensible. Taxpayers need to be encouraged to convey information to the IRS in a comprehensible form, and the IRS needs to figure out how to differentiate guidance for sophisticated and unsophisticated taxpayers. For both speakers and audience members, cooperative communication may be collectively valued, but the tax system’s perceived gamesmanship and everyone’s pursuit of their individual interests will make comprehensibility hard to develop.
April 21, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Thursday, March 19, 2020
Reuven S. Avi-Yonah (Michigan), Why Study Tax History? (reviewing Studies in the History of Tax Law, Vol. 9 (Peter Harris (Cambridge) & Dominic de Cogan (Cambridge) eds. 2019)):
Since the beginning of this century, John Tiley organized an annual tax history conference at Cambridge, a tradition that was continued after his death under the leadership of Peter Harris. These are the papers from the ninth Cambridge Tax Law History Conference, held in July 2018. In the usual manner, the papers have been selected from an oversupply of proposals for their interest and relevance, and scrutinized and edited to the highest standard for inclusion in this prestigious series. The result is an outstanding book, with many high quality contributions to historical tax research.
The papers fall within five basic themes. Four papers focus on tax theory: Bentham; social contract and tax governance; Schumpeter's 'thunder of history'; and the resurgence of the benefits theory. Three involve the history of UK specific interpretational issues: management expenses; anti-avoidance jurisprudence; and identification of professionals. A further three concern specific forms of UK tax on road travel, land and capital gains. One paper considers the formation of HMRC and another explains aspects of nineteenth-century taxation by reference to Jane Austen characters. Four consider aspects of international taxation: development of EU corporate tax policy; history of Dutch tax planning; the important 1942 Canada–US tax treaty; and the 1928 League of Nations model tax treaties on tax evasion. Also included are papers on the effects of WWI on the New Zealand income tax and development of anti-tax avoidance rules in China.
March 19, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Saturday, March 14, 2020
Daniel Shaviro (NYU), Literature and Inequality: Nine Perspectives from the Napoleonic Era Through the First Gilded Age (Anthem Press 2020):
We are an intensely social species, and often a rivalrous one, prone to measuring ourselves in terms of others, and often directly against others. Accordingly, relative position matters to our sense of wellbeing, although excluded from standard economic models that look only at the utility derived from own consumption of commodities plus leisure. For example, people can have deep-seated psychological responses to inequality and social hierarchy, creating the potential for extreme wealth differences to invoked feelings of superiority and inferiority, or dominance and subordination, that may powerfully affect how we relate to each other.
The tools that one needs to understand how and why this matters include the sociological and the qualitative. I use the particular tool of in-depth studies of particular classic works of literature (from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice through Theodore Dreiser’s The Financier and The Titan) that offer suggestive insights regarding the felt experiences around high-end inequality at different times and from different perspectives.
March 14, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Tuesday, March 10, 2020
Bridget J. Crawford (Pace) & Ashley Unangst (J.D. 2020, Pace), A Picture of Society with Critical Tax Theory As Its Interpreter, 41 J. Am. Tax'n Ass'n 128 (2019) (reviewing Anthony Infanti (Pittsburgh), Our Selfish Tax Laws: Toward Tax Reform That Mirrors Our Better Selves (MIT Press 2018)):
Professor Infanti's work has long explored issues of bias and difference in the U.S. context, and with this book, he places his study of U.S. tax law in a comparative context with Canada, France and Spain. He uses the lenses of housing policy and the taxable unit to illustrate each country’s different values. Professor Infanti’s book illustrates the myriad ways that the U.S. tax law both supports and is a constituent part of a discriminatory legal system that treats people differently because of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, gender identity, and disability. In that way, the tax laws are a “mirror” of the society we currently have. But Professor Infanti goes a step further and calls readers see, in the reflection of the tax laws, the possibility of our “better selves.” Professor Infanti recognizes the extraordinary expressive value of the tax law; he imagines a system of collection, enforcement and public spending that benefits all people and reflects the nation’s highest and best values of equal opportunity, human dignity and shared community. ...
March 10, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Friday, February 21, 2020
Michael J. Graetz (Columbia) & Ian Shapiro (Yale), The Wolf at the Door: The Menace of Economic Insecurity and How to Fight It (Harvard University Press 2020):
The acclaimed authors of Death by a Thousand Cuts argue that Americans care less about inequality than about their own insecurity. Michael Graetz and Ian Shapiro propose realistic policies and strategies to make lives and communities more secure.
This is an age of crisis. That much we can agree on. But a crisis of what? And how do we get out of it? Many on the right call for tax cuts and deregulation. Others on the left rage against the top 1 percent and demand wholesale economic change. Voices on both sides line up against globalization: restrict trade to protect jobs. In The Wolf at the Door, two leading political analysts argue that these views are badly mistaken.
Michael Graetz and Ian Shapiro focus on what really worries people: not what the rich are making but rather their own insecurity and that of people close to them. Americans are concerned about losing what they have, whether jobs, status, or safe communities. They fear the wolf at the door. The solution is not protectionism or class warfare but a return to the hard work of building coalitions around realistic goals and pursuing them doggedly through the political system. This, Graetz and Shapiro explain, is how earlier reformers achieved meaningful changes, from the abolition of the slave trade to civil rights legislation. The authors make substantial recommendations for increasing jobs, improving wages, protecting families suffering from unemployment, and providing better health insurance and child care, and they guide us through the strategies needed to enact change.
February 21, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Primary Research Group, Survey of Law School Faculty & Staff: Assessment of Law School Leadership (2020):
Approximately 60.42% of law school faculty and staff are satisfied or very satisfied with the fairness and transparency of promotion and tenure decisions at their law schools, according to the Survey of Law School Faculty & Staff: Assessment of Law School Leadership.
The study presents findings from a survey of 96 faculty members and staff from 72 law schools in North America. The report presents highly detailed data on satisfaction levels with a broad range of law school efforts and characteristics including but not limited to: the law school marketing and student recruitment efforts, recent graduate job placement assistance, policies on sexual harassment and discrimination, cost control and budgeting, law school information technology, provision of help in attracting grants for faculty research, attracting quality students, maintenance of buildings and other physical infrastructure, the quality of legal education, the quality of law school publications, and the overall success of the school’s strategic vision and positioning.
February 12, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Thursday, February 6, 2020
Daniel Shaviro (NYU), Writing Books Versus Journal Articles (JOTWELL) (reviewing Kimberly Clausing (Reed College; moving to UCLA), Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital (Harvard University Press 2019); and William G. Gale Brookings Institution), Fiscal Therapy: Curing America’s Debt Addiction and Investing in the Future (2019)):
Why write a book rather than journal articles? Insofar as we write for ourselves, it’s a function of the project. Some ideas for projects may best lend themselves to articles, but others may need to be book-length in terms of their scope. But we also write for other people, and one great thing about being an academic is that you have wide entrepreneurial choice regarding which audiences you wish to reach—be it in general, or project-by-project. There’s no right or wrong about it (well, maybe there are better and worse choices sometimes), any more than novels should all fit in a particular genre, or scientific research should restrict itself to a particular subject area or methodology. There’s also no right answer as between the aims of advancing knowledge, engaging in art for art’s sake, and attempting to improve the world—all of these enterprises have value, and of course they often overlap.
Two outstanding recent books by prominent tax economists—Kim Clausing and William Gale—show how attempting to improve the world can overlap with advancing the other goals noted above through clear, lucid, convincing explanation and analysis.
February 6, 2020 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Thursday, January 16, 2020
Inside Higher Ed, Author Discusses Fixing Law Schools:
The decade after 2008 was not a good one for law schools. Applications and enrollment fell. Some closed. This is the subject of Fixing Law Schools: From Collapse to the Trump Bump and Beyond (NYU Press). But the author -- Benjamin H. Barton is professor of law at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville -- also has a path forward for law schools.
He discussed the book via email.
Q: What happened in 2008? Why was the decade that followed so hard for law schools?
A: 2008 is actually the wrong date. For the first few years of the Great Recession, law schools actually saw a rise in applications, as college graduates who worried about a weak job market opted for graduate schools of all types, including law schools. In 2011 the overall economy had started to improve, but job placement for law schools stayed very poor. Suddenly there was a flood of terrible press featuring how bad the job market was, how expensive law school had become and the doubling of student debt during the 2000s. Law schools entered into a tailspin: fewer applicants, fewer enrollees and much more discounting for the students who did come. Revenue and enrollment fell precipitously overall, by around 33 percent. Several law schools closed, and many, many more faced challenging times. ...
Q: How should law schools change?
January 16, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Sunday, January 5, 2020
Following up on my recent post, Forgiveness: Law, Faith, Christmas, And Hamilton: Wall Street Journal: David Skeel (Pennsylvania), Our Most God-Like Power (reviewing Martha Minow (Harvard), When Should Law Forgive? (W. W. Norton & Company 2019), and Malcolm Bull (Oxford), On Mercy (Princeton University Press 2019)):
American public life is full of disputes about justice and forgiveness. Take the Dreamers—the nearly 700,000 young adults who came from Mexico and elsewhere as children, did not obtain citizenship or permanent resident status, and have been in legal limbo since President Obama signed an executive order giving them temporary legal status in 2012. Depending on whom you talk to, these immigrants should either be deported immediately or given full citizenship.
When the brother of Botham Jean, the unarmed black man shot in his Dallas apartment by Amber Guyger, a white off-dudy police officer, asked the judge if he could hug Guyger and offer forgiveness at the end of her trial, reactions were similarly divided. Many found the brother’s gesture of mercy profoundly moving; for others, it was only a distraction from justice.
Two types of forgiveness are intertwined in these instances.
The first is legal forgiveness. Our legal system is committed to justice, and to honoring the rule of law. But sometimes we make exceptions, declining to punish a defendant who has violated the law or providing partial amnesty for tax evaders. This is legal forgiveness.
The second type of forgiveness, interpersonal, is often described as a “release of resentments.” When Brandt Jean offered to forgive Amber Guyger, he was letting go of his anger against his brother’s killer and so extending interpersonal forgiveness.
How can legal forgiveness be reconciled with the rule of law? What do legal and interpersonal forgiveness have to do with one another? These questions are implicit in the current controversies about justice and mercy or forgiveness, and they are the focus of two thoughtful but idiosyncratic new books.
January 5, 2020 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Ed Scholarship | Permalink
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Sunday, December 8, 2019
Martha Minow (Harvard), When Should Law Forgive? (2019):
The potential power of forgiveness in an age of resentment.
Crimes and violations of the law require punishment, and our legal system is set up to punish, but what if the system was recalibrated to also weigh grounds for forgiveness? What if something like bankruptcy―a fresh start for debtors―were available to people convicted of crimes? Martha Minow explores the complicated intersection of the law, justice, and forgiveness, asking whether the law should encourage people to forgive, and when courts, public officials, and specific laws should forgive.
Who has the right to forgive? Who should be forgiven? And under what terms? Minow tackles these foundational issues by exploring three questions:
What does the international response to child soldiers teach us about the legal treatment of juvenile offenders in the United States?
- Why are the laws surrounding corporate debt more forgiving than those governing American student and consumer debt, and sovereign debt in the developing world?
- When do law’s tools of forgiveness, amnesties, and pardons strengthen justice, peace, and democracy (think South Africa), and when do they undermine law’s promise of fairness (think Joe Arpaio)?
December 8, 2019 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Thursday, December 5, 2019
Kim Brooks (Dalhousie University, Schulich School of Law), The Ethical Tax Judge, in Ethics and Taxation (Robert van Brederode ed., Springer 2020):
This chapter advances the claim that judges have an ethical obligation of competence that requires them to enhance their knowledge about language (in the context of statutory interpretation) and income tax law design and policy. It articulates some of the foundational understandings that support that competence and provides a simple hierarchy of approaches to interpreting income tax law. It concludes by contending that greater competence is not only more ethical but also advances other important societal goals fulfilled by the imposition of income tax systems. ...
Ultimately, judges should seek to interpret income tax legislation in a fashion that respects our interdisciplinary understanding of how words are used to express ideas and supports the effective functioning of income tax legislation.
December 5, 2019 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Tuesday, November 26, 2019
Benjamin H. Barton (Tennessee), Fixing Law Schools: From Collapse to the Trump Bump and Beyond (NYU Press 2019):
An urgent plea for much needed reforms to legal education
The period from 2008 to 2018 was a lost decade for American law schools. Employment results were terrible. Applications and enrollment cratered. Revenue dropped precipitously and several law schools closed. Almost all law schools shrank in terms of students, faculty, and staff. A handful of schools even closed. Despite these dismal results, law school tuition outran inflation and student indebtedness exploded, creating a truly toxic brew of higher costs for worse results.
The election of Donald Trump in 2016 and the subsequent role of hero-lawyers in the “resistance” has made law school relevant again and applications have increased. However, despite the strong early returns, we still have no idea whether law schools are out of the woods or not. If the Trump Bump is temporary or does not result in steady enrollment increases, more schools will close.
But if it does last, we face another danger. We tend to hope that crises bring about a process of creative destruction, where a downturn causes some businesses to fail and other businesses to adapt. And some of the reforms needed at law schools are obvious: tuition fees need to come down, teaching practices need to change, there should be greater regulations on law schools that fail to deliver on employment and bar passage. Ironically, the opposite has happened for law schools: they suffered a harrowing, near-death experience and the survivors look like they’re going to exhale gratefully and then go back to doing exactly what led them into the crisis in the first place.
November 26, 2019 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Sunday, November 10, 2019
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
Michelle Lyon Drumbl (Washington & Lee) presents Tax Credits for the Working Poor: A Call for Reform (Cambridge University Press (2019)) at San Diego today as part of its Tax Law Speaker Series:
The United States introduced the earned income tax credit (EITC) in 1975. Today it is the most significant earnings-based refundable credit in the Internal Revenue Code. The United States is the oldest example of a country using its domestic revenue system to deliver and administer social welfare benefits to lower-income individuals or families, but this approach is no longer unique to the United States: a number of other countries, including New Zealand and Canada, have experimented with or incorporated analogous credits into their tax systems. These other countries imported the concept from the United States. Might the United States be able to improve upon the administration of its EITC by importing the experiences and lessons learned in other countries?
Tax Prof reviews:
From the unique lens of a tax justice warrior working on the frontlines fighting poverty, Michelle Lyon Drumbl details the troubled history of US refundable tax credits and compares similar international programs to reimagine relief for America's vulnerable working families. A must read for anyone engaged in critical rethinking of economic justice policies.
Francine J. Lipman - University of Nevada, Las Vegas
October 30, 2019 in Book Club, Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship, Tax Workshops | Permalink
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Sunday, October 27, 2019
The New Yorker, The French Economist Who Helped Invent Elizabeth Warren’s Wealth Tax:
Gabriel Zucman and his colleagues are advocating a progressive wealth tax as a solution to global inequality, one that rethinks both evasion and the goals of taxation. ...
To trace the progress of the wealth tax from a fringe academic idea to the center of the Democratic Presidential primary, it is helpful to begin a bit off-center. On September 15, 2008, the day that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, a twenty-one-year-old student of Thomas Piketty, Gabriel Zucman, started work as a trainee economic analyst in the offices of a Paris brokerage house called Exane. Zucman felt obviously underequipped for the task before him: to write memos to the brokerage house’s clients and traders helping to explain why the very durable and minutely engineered global financial system appeared to be on the verge of collapse. Poring over some of the data he was given, which concerned the international flows of investments, Zucman noticed some strange patterns. The amount of money that had been moving through a handful of very small economies (Luxembourg, the Cayman Islands, the tiny Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey) was staggering. “Hundreds of billions of dollars,” Zucman recalled recently, making the “B” in “billions” especially emphatic. Eventually, he would calculate that half of all foreign direct investment—half of the risk-seeking bets, placed from overseas in India, China, Brazil, and Silicon Valley, and of the safety-seeking investments, placed in the United States and Europe and stock indexes—was moving through offshore hubs like these.
Before the financial crisis, the rise of offshore tax havens hadn’t been ignored—one element of the Enron scandal of 2001, for instance, was the eight hundred and eighty-one overseas subsidiaries the company had created, which had helped it avoid paying federal taxes for three years—but those stories took place within a more confined and more frankly moral framework: it was a cat-and-mouse plot, about the mobility of wealth, and the fruitless efforts to pursue it. Zucman’s intuition was that these arrangements did not describe a moral or a legal drama but a macroeconomic one. That much wealth, poorly documented or regulated, might have helped to destabilize the global economy. It also seemed that, if economists were not attuned to the amount of wealth stored in offshore havens, they might also have missed the extent of global inequality, since it was billionaires who stored money in the Cayman Islands, not retirees. ...
October 27, 2019 in Book Club, Tax, Tax News, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Adrianna Kezar (USC), Tom DePaola (USC) & Daniel Scott (USC), The Gig Academy: Mapping Labor in the Neoliberal University (Johns Hopkins University Press 2019):
Over the past two decades, higher education employment has undergone a radical transformation with faculty becoming contingent, staff being outsourced, and postdocs and graduate students becoming a larger share of the workforce. For example, the faculty has shifted from one composed mostly of tenure-track, full-time employees to one made up of contingent, part-time teachers. Non-tenure-track instructors now make up 70 percent of college faculty. Their pay for teaching eight courses averages $22,400 a year—less than the annual salary of most fast-food workers.
In The Gig Academy, Adrianna Kezar, Tom DePaola, and Daniel T. Scott assess the impact of this disturbing workforce development. Providing an overarching framework that takes the concept of the gig economy and applies it to the university workforce, this book scrutinizes labor restructuring across both academic and nonacademic spheres. By synthesizing these employment trends, the book reveals the magnitude of the problem for individual workers across all institutional types and job categories while illustrating the damaging effects of these changes on student outcomes, campus community, and institutional effectiveness. A pointed critique of contemporary neoliberalism, the book also includes an analysis of the growing divide between employees and administrators.
October 15, 2019 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Ulrich Baer (Vice Provost, NYU), What Snowflakes Get Right: Free Speech, Truth, and Equality on Campus (Oxford University Press 2019):
Angry debates about polarizing speakers have roiled college campuses. Conservatives accuse universities of muzzling unpopular opinions, betraying their values of open inquiry; students sympathetic to the left openly advocate against completely unregulated speech, asking for "safe spaces" and protection against visiting speakers and even curricula they feel disrespects them. Some even call these students "snowflakes"-too fragile to be exposed to opinions and ideas that challenge their worldviews. How might universities resolve these debates about free speech, which pit their students' welfare against the university's commitment to free inquiry and open debate?
Ulrich Baer here provides a new way of looking at this dilemma. He explains how the current dichotomy is false and is not really about the feelings of offended students, or protecting an open marketplace of ideas. Rather, what is really at stake is our democracy's commitment to equality, and the university's critical role as an arbiter of truth. He shows how and why free speech has become the rallying cry that forges an otherwise uneasy alliance of liberals and ultra-conservatives, and why this First Amendment absolutism is untenable in law and society in general. He draws on law, philosophy, and his extensive experience as a university administrator to show that the lens of equality can resolve this impasse, and can allow the university to serve as a model for democracy that upholds both truth and equality as its founding principles.
New York Times op-ed: What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech, by Ulrich Baer (Vice Provost, NYU)
October 15, 2019 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Thursday, October 10, 2019
Steven Conn (Miami University), Nothing Succeeds Like Failure: The Sad History of American Business Schools (Cornell University Press 2019):
Do business schools actually make good on their promises of "innovative," "outside-the-box" thinking to train business leaders who will put society ahead of money-making? Do they help society by making better business leaders? No, they don't, Steven Conn asserts, and what's more they never have.
In throwing down a gauntlet on the business of business schools, Conn's Nothing Succeeds Like Failure examines the frictions, conflicts, and contradictions at the heart of these enterprises and details the way business schools have failed to resolve them. Beginning with founding of the Wharton School in 1881, Conn measures these schools' aspirations against their actual accomplishments and tells the full and disappointing history of missed opportunities, unmet aspirations, and educational mistakes. Conn then poses a set of crucial questions about the role and function of American business schools. The results aren't pretty.
October 10, 2019 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship | Permalink
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Thursday, September 26, 2019
Reviews of Philippe Van Parijs (University of Louvain) & Yannick Vanderborght (Université Saint-Louis, Brussels), Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy (Harvard University Press 2017):
Caterina Calsamiglia (Institute for Political Economy and Governance) & Sabine Flamand (Universitat Rovira i Virgili), Book Review, 57 J. Econ. Lierature 644 (2019):
In order to clarify the potential impact of a basic income, we argue that any discussion on whether to adopt a basic income policy should be framed within the greater context of the transfer system as a whole. In particular, such discussion should consider separately the issues of (i) the desired income distribution to be achieved and (ii) the most efficient way of achieving it through a transfer system. Further, we stress the importance of the non-take-up phenomenon in current transfer systems and discuss the potential necessity of a basic income policy in the age of automation.
Juliana Bidadanure (Stanford), Income for All: The Idea of Universal Basic Income Is More Practical Than It Might Sound:
In times of economic austerity—when the welfare state is shrinking as an ideal and an institution; access to childcare, healthcare and education are increasingly contested as rights of all; and the paradigm of individual responsibility rules—it is easy for progressives to give up on big ideals. If we can’t even protect Planned Parenthood or affordable healthcare, pushing for anything more visionary seems based on mere wishful thinking. But for these same reasons, it may be more urgent than ever for progressives to propose radical utopias with the potential to federate otherwise divided societies. That’s the view that Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght take in their fantastically comprehensive book, Basic Income.
Marc Levinson (Wall Street Journal), Cash Handouts for Everyone:
“Basic Income,” by Belgian academics Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght, represents an attempt to lay out a systematic case for what would be a radical departure in public policy. This book, it must be said up front, it not an easy read. Messrs. Van Parijs and Vanderborght are ethicists, and their closely argued text has all the liveliness of a philosophical treatise. But “Basic Income” provides a rigorous analysis of the many arguments for and against a universal basic income, offering a road map for future researchers who wish to examine policy alternatives. ...
September 26, 2019 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Thursday, September 19, 2019
New York Times: The Meritocracy Is Ripping America Apart, by David Brooks:
There are at least two kinds of meritocracy in America right now. Exclusive meritocracy exists at the super-elite universities and at the industries that draw the bulk of their employees from them — Wall Street, Big Law, medicine and tech. And then there is the more open meritocracy that exists almost everywhere else.
In the exclusive meritocracy, prestige is defined by how many people you can reject. The elite universities reject 85 to 95 percent of their applicants. Those accepted spend much of their lives living in neighborhoods and attending conferences where it is phenomenally expensive or hard to get in. Whether it’s the resort town you vacation in or the private school you send your kids to, exclusivity is the pervasive ethos. The more the exclusivity, the thicker will be the coating of P.C. progressivism to show that we’re all good people.
People in this caste work phenomenally hard to build their wealth. As Daniel Markovits notes in his powerful new book, The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite, between 1979 and 2006, the percentage of workers in the top quintile of earners who work more than 50 hours a week nearly doubled. ...
September 19, 2019 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink
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Thursday, September 12, 2019
David Joulfaian (U.S. Treasury Department), The Federal Estate Tax: History, Law, and Economics (MIT Press 2019):
A comprehensive and accessible account of the U.S. estate tax, examining its history and evolution, structure and inner workings, and economic consequences.
Governments have been levying some form of inheritance tax since the ancient Egyptians did so in the seventh century BC. In the United States, the federal government experimented with various forms of inheritance taxes, settling on an estate tax in 1916 and a gift tax in 1932. Despite this long history, there are few empirical studies of the federal estate tax. This book offers the first comprehensive look at U.S. estate and inheritance taxes, examining their history and evolution, structure and inner workings, and economic consequences. Written by David Joulfaian, a veteran economist at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the book provides accessible accounts of such topics as changes in tax laws, issues of equity, the fiscal contribution of the estate tax, and its behavioral effects.
September 12, 2019 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink
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Friday, August 30, 2019
Recent Publications, 132 Harv. L. Rev. 2108 (2019):
Figuring Out the Tax: Congress, Treasury, and the Design of the Early Modern Income Tax. By Lawrence Zelenak. New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press. 2018. Pp. ix, 306. $110.00. [Reviewed by Charlotte Crane (Northwestern) here]
How did the American income tax turn out the way it has, in its oft-criticized, much-maligned form? In this meticulously researched book, Professor Lawrence Zelenak examines the early development of the U.S. income tax system. He dives into the history behind several of the most consequential — and in some cases, most controversial — features (or, arguably, errors) of our income tax system: the step-up in basis at death, the charitable deduction for unrealized appreciation, the marriage penalty and bonus, and more. The fascinating narrative recounts the inception of each of these errors as well as efforts to fix them, showing that efforts to reform loopholes (or, some might say, features) of the tax system tend to fail “if the federal government can afford to leave the error in the Internal Revenue Code” (p. 6).
August 30, 2019 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink
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Wednesday, August 28, 2019
The Florida Tax Review has published Vol. 22, No. 2:
- Mitchell L. Engler (Cardozo), Sham on You: Too Good to Be True, 22 Fla. Tax Rev. 313 (2019)
- Heather M. Field (UC-Hastings), A Tax Professor's Guide to Formative Assessment, 22 Fla. Tax Rev. 363 (2019)
- Darien Shanske (UC-Davis), Expanding State Fiscal Capacity, Part I: Combining an Entity-Level Consumption Tax, Improved Sales Factor Apportionment, and a Tax on a Federal Windfall (the QBI Deduction), 22 Fla. Tax Rev. 448 (2019)
- Rifat Azam (Radzyner) & Orly Mazur (SMU), Cloudy with a Chance of Taxation, 22 Fla. Tax Rev. 500 (2019) (reviewed by Hayes Holderness (Richmond) here)
- Orli Oren-Kolbinger (Villanova), Measuring the Effect of Social Background on Judicial Decision-Making in Tax Cases, 22 Fla. Tax Rev. 579 (2019)
August 28, 2019 in Book Club, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Tuesday, August 27, 2019
William Henderson (Indiana), Book Review (reviewing Randall Kiser, American Law Firms in Transition: Trends, Threats, and Strategies (ABA Aug. 9, 2019)):
When it comes to empirical research on lawyers, we’re all lightweights compared to Randall Kiser. Over the last decade, Kiser has authored books on lawyer decision making in the context of litigation, Beyond Right and Wrong (2010), the mindset and work habits of trial lawyers who consistently outperform their peers, How Leading Lawyers Think (2011), and an empirically grounded analysis of the skills and behaviors needed to build a successful legal career, Soft Skills for the Effective Lawyer (2017).
Now comes Kiser’s treatment of U.S. law firms, American Law Firms In Transition: Trends, Threats, and Strategies (2019). I doubt any law firm leader could read this book and conclude that Kiser got it wrong.
The portion of the book that is primarily diagnostic (chapters 1-4) includes a detailed analysis of law firm demographics (we’re getting older), hiring practices (invalid, unreliable, underspecified), clients (they’re insourcing and innovating ahead of firms), strategy (preoccupation with firm size and lateral hiring rather than excellence; obsession with premium rates, which props open the door for new entrants), fragility (collapses are commonplace), and the normalization of all things short term (among other things, highly toxic to the next generation of lawyers).
August 27, 2019 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink
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Monday, August 12, 2019
Haben Girma, Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law (Aug. 6, 2019):
The incredible life story of Haben Girma, the first Deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School, and her amazing journey from isolation to the world stage.
Haben grew up spending summers with her family in the enchanting Eritrean city of Asmara. There, she discovered courage as she faced off against a bull she couldn't see, and found in herself an abiding strength as she absorbed her parents' harrowing experiences during Eritrea's thirty-year war with Ethiopia. Their refugee story inspired her to embark on a quest for knowledge, traveling the world in search of the secret to belonging. She explored numerous fascinating places, including Mali, where she helped build a school under the scorching Saharan sun. Her many adventures over the years range from the hair-raising to the hilarious.
Haben defines disability as an opportunity for innovation. She learned non-visual techniques for everything from dancing salsa to handling an electric saw. She developed a text-to-braille communication system that created an exciting new way to connect with people. Haben pioneered her way through obstacles, graduated from Harvard Law, and now uses her talents to advocate for people with disabilities.
Haben takes readers through a thrilling game of blind hide-and-seek in Louisiana, a treacherous climb up an iceberg in Alaska, and a magical moment with President Obama at The White House. Warm, funny, thoughtful, and uplifting, this captivating memoir is a testament to one woman's determination to find the keys to connection.
Wall Street Journal, Haben Girma Is a Trailblazer for the Deaf and Blind:
August 12, 2019 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink
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Thursday, August 8, 2019
Clint Wallace (South Carolina), Tax Policy and Our Democracy, 118 Mich. L. Rev. ___ (2019) (reviewing Camille Walsh (Washington), Racial Taxation: Schools, Segregation, and Taxpayer Citizenship, 1869–1973 (University of North Carolina Press 2018), and Anthony C. Infanti (Pittsburgh), Our Selfish Tax Laws: Toward Tax Reform That Mirrors Our Better Selves (MIT Press 2018)):
Two new books explore the many ways in which U.S. tax policies and tax systems have promoted social injustices and continue to do so. In Racial Taxation, Camille Walsh provides a vivid depiction of the under-scrutinized fiscal history of elementary through secondary education in the United States, from the post-Reconstruction era until San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez. In Our Selfish Tax Laws, Anthony Infanti details how existing U.S. Federal tax policies manifest problematic power structures that exclude and disadvantage many if not most taxpayers. Together, these books dissect a variety of flawed tax structures and reveal that tax discrimination grounded in race, gender, heteronormativity, differences in physical ability, and, pervasively, power dynamics, are not a malignant tumor on an otherwise healthy body, but rather are a systemic, pathological affliction on the entire U.S. fiscal state. This essay reviews Walsh’s and Infanti’s work, and builds on the authors’ rich historical and analytical contributions to ask: how can tax policy be reformed so that, rather than betraying and undermining the foundations of American democracy, it works to strengthen democratic institutions and their connection with members of a democratic society?
August 8, 2019 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Monday, August 5, 2019
Chronicle of Higher Education, ‘Elite Schools Are National Treasures. Their Elitism Is What Makes Them Such.’:
Since stepping down from his 10-year tenure as dean of Yale Law School, Anthony T. Kronman has been thinking a lot about the larger purposes of a humanities education. He’s addressed the topic in two books, Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life (Yale, 2007) and Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan (Yale, 2016), this last a 1,000-page exploration of his personal theology that draws on thinkers from antiquity to Freud to Rawls. (Kronman earned a Ph.D. in philosophy and spent some time undergoing psychoanalysis.) As Joshua Rothman put it in The New Yorker, Kronman "suspects that he might have found the meaning of life."
His most recent book, The Assault on American Excellence, will be published by Free Press in August. It’s a crisply argued jeremiad about what Kronman sees as the wrong turn taken by elite universities in recent years. Under the guise of concerns for inclusion and a misplaced egalitarianism, Kronman argues, universities have abandoned what should be their core commitments to reasoned argumentation and, more controversially, to the development of an "aristocratic ethos."
I met with Kronman in his office at the Yale Law School to talk about democracy and aristocracy, campus debates over free speech, affirmative action, and what he calls "the conversational ideal." ...
Much of your argument depends on the tension between democratic and aristocratic values. Colleges — and you’re really talking about elite colleges, here — ought to preserve, you say, "an aristocratic ethos in an otherwise democratic culture."
August 5, 2019 in Book Club, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education | Permalink
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Monday, July 29, 2019
Kim Brooks (Dalhousie), Will Feminist Judges Really Make a Difference? (JOTWELL) (reviewing Bridget J. Crawford (Pace) & Anthony C. Infanti (Pittsburgh), Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Tax Opinions (Cambridge University Press 2017)):
Feminist judgments projects originate in Canada. ... The first volume of American re-writes focused on decisions of the US Supreme Court. Surprising only to people who do not teach tax, the next volume of American re-writes takes up tax opinions. Released on December 28, 2017, as an invitation to continue holiday festivities, a volume edited by Bridget Crawford and Anthony Infanti serves up a veritable buffet of delights. Eleven rewritten American tax opinions comprise the volume. Six are rewritten Supreme Court decisions, one if a rewritten federal circuit court opinion, and four are rewritten Tax Court opinions.
The end result is spectacular. I want to draw attention to two features in this short review. These features are not tied, given this more general audience, to the tax context of the decisions. That’s worth underlining: this is a volume that is worth reading for scholars in any area of law with an interest in feminist legal theory and practice and how feminists approach legal and factual questions.
July 29, 2019 in Book Club, Scholarship, Tax, Tax Scholarship | Permalink
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Friday, July 26, 2019
Wall Street Journal op-ed: The Seven Leadership Secrets of Great Team Captains, by Sam Walker (author, The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World’s Greatest Teams (2018)):
Let’s imagine that Dr. Frankenstein gave you the keys to his laboratory and that it was your mission to build the perfect captain for a sports team. Maybe you would start with the donor body of a freak talent—a superstar with transcendent skills and abundant charisma. You’d then probably want to inject qualities such as eloquence, diplomacy, institutional fealty and dedication to the highest principles of sportsmanship.
Conventional wisdom suggests that these are the key traits of a superior captain. But are they really?
Some years ago, I set out to identify the greatest teams in sports history across the world, from the National Basketball Association to international field hockey, and to see what, if anything, they had in common. In the end, only 16 unambiguously outstanding teams made the cut. The list included several teams that were familiar to me and some that weren’t.
They all had just one shared characteristic: Their long streaks of dominance either began or ended—and in many cases overlapped precisely—with the tenure of one player. And in every case, this player was, or eventually became, the captain.
The men and women who led these teams were surprisingly similar to one another, but their skills, personalities and leadership styles were not at all what I expected. The qualities they shared were not the ones I would have installed in Frankenstein’s laboratory. Some, in fact, were traits I would have rejected.
It occurred to me that in sports—and perhaps in other fields where teamwork matters, from business, politics and the military to science and the arts—we’ve been choosing the wrong people to lead us. The captains whom I identified had seven traits in common:
July 26, 2019 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink
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Friday, July 19, 2019
Bridget Crawford (Pace), Kathryn Stanchi (UNLV), Linda Berger (UNLV), Gabrielle Appleby (New South Wales), Susan Appleton (Washington University), Ross Astoria (Wisconsin), Sharon Cowan (Edinburgh), Rosalind Dixon (New South Wales), Troy Lavers (Leicester), Andrea McArdle (CUNY), Elisabeth McDonald (Canterbury), Teri McMurtry-Chubb (Mercer), Vanessa Munro & Pam Wilkins (Detroit Mercy), Teaching with Feminist Judgments: A Global Conversation, 38 Law & Ineq. ___ (2020):
This conversational-style essay is an exchange among fourteen professors—representing thirteen universities across five countries—with experience teaching with feminist judgments. Feminist judgments are “shadow” court decisions rewritten from a feminist perspective, using only the precedent in effect and the facts known at the time of the original decision. Scholars in Canada, England, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland, India and Mexico have published (or are currently producing) written collections of feminist judgments that demonstrate how feminist perspectives could have changed the legal reasoning or outcome (or both) in important legal cases.
July 19, 2019 in Book Club, Legal Ed News, Legal Ed Scholarship, Legal Education, Teaching | Permalink
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