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The Myth of OwnershipTaxes and Justice$
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Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780195150162

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195150163.001.0001

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Traditional Criteria of Tax Equity

Traditional Criteria of Tax Equity

(p.12) 2 Traditional Criteria of Tax Equity
The Myth of Ownership

Liam Murphy

Thomas Nagel (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Traditional analyses of tax justice demand that the distribution of tax burdens satisfy criteria of vertical and horizontal equity–like cases should be treated alike and relevantly different cases should be treated differently. Various criteria for relevant differences have been proposed, drawing on ideas such as ability to pay and taxation in proportion to benefit. All these analyses suffer from the fundamental flaw of treating pretax income as a morally significant baseline. This mistake can partly be traced to a prevailing “everyday libertarianism” according to which our legal property rights simply protect what we are independently morally entitled to; this view is incoherent.

Keywords:   everyday libertarianism, libertarianism, benefit principle, ability to pay, vertical equity, horizontal equity, pretax income, tax burdens, baseline

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