The Ethics of Taxation
Richard Baron finds that philosophy need not be taxing.
In the Western world the proportion of the economy controlled by the state has grown enormously over the last century, and pressures on the state are set to rise as people live longer, meaning that tax will continue to rise for the great majority of the population. What are the rights and wrongs of asking so many people to pay so much?
To answer this we can ask several questions, including how much tax should be collected in total, which objectives of taxation are legitimate, and how individuals should conduct themselves as taxpayers. We will address these questions by using arguments from political philosophy, and the following three approaches to ethics:
• Utilitarianism, which tells us to aim for the greatest total happiness across the population. In the economic sphere, we can interpret ‘happiness’ as the satisfaction of our desires; and so utilitarianism as aiming for maximum satisfaction of desires.
• Deontology, which bases ethics on the idea of duty.