Progressive Taxation Reconsidered

“Progressive Taxation Reconsidered.” In: Mary Sennholz (ed.) On Freedom and Free Enterprise: Essays in Honor of Ludwig von Mises. Princeton: D. von Nostrand Co., 1956


“Among the measures of economic policy which are gradually transforming our society and producing far-reaching results which few people yet clearly grasp, few are as firmly established and as widely accepted as the redistribution of income by progressive taxation. Though it is a comparatively recent feature and one which only in the course of the last generation has assumed the proportion of a major factor in social change, there has been until quite recently very little re-examination of its effects. It is accepted as right and desirable even by most people who are anxious to preserve a free market economy, and to most of them it indeed appears as the main hope of establishing within such a system the greater degree of economic justice or equality for which they yearn. So firmly has the opinion that progressive taxation is both innocuous and desirable been established that even those who were alarmed by some of its visible effects seem to feel that any critical examination of the principle as such would be a futile waste of effort and that anyone who undertook it would thereby mark himself as an unpractical doctrinaire. Quite lately, however, a change in this attitude is noticeable. After a long period in which there was practically no questioning of the principle as such and the discussions on the whole merely repeated the old arguments, there is a new critical attitude noticeable in the occasional references to the problem; and there have already appeared some notable major contributions to the discussion. There is, however, still much need for a systematic re-examination of the whole complex of problems raised by progressive taxation of the kind which is now actually practiced. This can not be attempted in a single article and what the following paragraphs will undertake is merely to sketch a few considerations which do not yet seem to have received the attention which they deserve.”


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