Show

Taxation

Week of: 
April 13, 2004
What is it: 

How is taxation different from stealing? What right does the government have to take some of our money? No taxation without representation? What difference does representation make? John and Ken pay their dues with Barbara Fried from the Stanford Law School.

Listening Notes: 

What right does the government have to tax at all? What difference is there between taxes and theft? Taxes can be seen as fees for services, such as road construction. What justifies any taxation? What's the best tax scheme? Ken introduces Barbara Fried, professor of law at Stanford. Why should the government get any part of the profit from selling something I own? Fried says that it helps to think that we are in a joint venture with the government, so the government has a right to some of our money.

Why should the government get a part of, say, an athlete's fortune? Fried says that while the talent belongs to the athlete, the value he gets from it comes from the government. Is it legitimate for the government to use taxes to redistribute wealth? Fried says that a maximum income provides a powerful disincentive to working. A flat tax is a tax that requires everyone to pay the same percentage and a progressive tax requires different income groups to pay different percentages. Fried points out that even proponents of the flat tax include a progressive tax clause. Do programs funded by taxes primarily benefit the wealthy?

Should the tax rate be the same for everyone? John Stuart Mill supported the idea that the sacrifice everyone endures should be equalized. Ken counters that equal sacrifice would not make sense to a libertarian unless there was also equal benefit.  Fried argues that a good tax system has to balance disincentives created by taxation and goods made possible by tax revenue. Should corporations pay nothing in taxes while normal citizens pay a lot? 

  • Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 04:40): Amy Standen interviews Susan Quinlan, a woman who stopped paying her income taxes.
  • Conundrum (Seek to 48:00): Anna from San Francisco calls to ask if it is theft to create a realistic painting of public images, say, from photographs taken by someone else.

Get Philosophy Talk

Radio

Sunday at 10am (pacific) on KALW 91.7 FM Local Public Radio, San Francisco

Podcast

Individual downloads via CDBaby and iTunes. Multipacks and The Complete Philosophy Talk via iAamplify

John Perry and Ken Taylor

Continue the Conversation

Sidebar Menu

Upcoming Shows

  • June 5 : Life as a Work of Art
    We know what it means for a painting to be beautiful. But what about a life? Like great works of art, great people exhibit style, originality, and...
  • June 12 : Philosophy of Sleep
    "Blessed are the sleepy ones," write Nietzsche, "for they shall soon drop off." Sleep is an extraordinarily, albeit profoundly odd, phenomenon, yet...
  • June 19 : Philanthropy: Help or Hindrance?
    Many of us generally admire people who donate large sums of money to charity. Yet people donate for all sorts of reasons – some selfless, some not so...
  • June 26 : The Limits of Self-Knowledge
    Descartes considered the mind to be fully self-transparent; that is, he thought that we need only introspect to know what goes on inside our own...
  • July 3 : The Radical Democracy Movement
    An important critique of liberal democracy is that in trying to build consensus, it often ends up oppressing minorities or those who dissent. Radical...

Support Philosophy Talk

DONATE TODAY

Philosophy Talk relies on the support of listeners like you to stay on the air and online. Any contribution, large or small, helps us produce intelligent, reflective radio that questions everything, including our most deeply-held beliefs about science, morality, culture, and the human condition. Make your tax-deductible contribution now through Stanford University's secure online donation page. Thank you for your support, and thank you for thinking!