The Ethics of the Income Tax

Without feeling any serious obligation to consider the ethics of what he wants, I have a commenter who insists upon spending other people’s money on his social causes. His name is  joesix. Since religious and moral choices undergird every political system, I have been trying to change is mind about that. When joesix made this comment, I decided to do a post on the ethics of taxation, in particular, the income tax.  In this case, instead of writing my own post, I decided to “reblog” one that I think does a good job, The Ethics of the Income Tax by sean.rosenthal. Consider how it begins.   😀

Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.

-Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Vocally opposed to raising the income tax, Tea Party supporters realize that Americans are already overtaxed and that present and future budget problems result from an overly large, inefficient, ineffective government rather than insufficiently high tax rates. Often criticizing “class warfare” and standing firmly against raising the top income tax rate above 35%, these angry Americans embrace liberty and limited government, at least with regards to economic affairs. (continued here)

Love that quote from Thomas Paine!

As the author of The Ethics of the Income Tax continues, he talks about some absurdly high income tax rates. Don’t laugh.  Instead check out 2013 – Top Federal Income Tax Rates, and check out the 1951 income tax rate on regular income. If you were already rich, and most of your income came your investments, you did not have to worry. If you wanted to get rich, however,……

Also, don’t forget to factor in inflation. What $200,000 once bought, it does not buy today.


4 thoughts on “The Ethics of the Income Tax

  1. Just because you can’t empathize with my ethics doesn’t mean they’re any less serious than you’re own. The top tax rate in 1951 was 91% and steadily declined to 50% until I was born in 1986. We also experienced one of the biggest booms to our economy during that era, so I’m not sure what you’re trying to prove.


    1. joesix – How do I empathize with something you don’t feel obligated to explain? ❓

      The boom you are talking about occurred after WWII. What preceded WWII. We call it the Great Depression. At the end of that WWII, government taxation and spending declined hugely. What we are now experiencing is the same kind of government we had during the Great Depression. That is the kind of government that is not content doing only those things government is needed to do.


      1. I explained more than once that I was raised to understand we all have the responsibility to help those less fortunate than ourselves. If you don’t have the same ethics, that’s cool, but it’s something you should be arguing with your parents or Bible about, not me.

        You can say government taxation declined hugely after WWII, but I just haven’t seen any data to support that. The highest marginal tax rate jumped up to 63% in 1932 and stayed far above 50% until the 80’s ( ). The New Deal brought relief, recovery, and reform to a country in danger of imploding on itself. Americans didn’t call this fascism back then — they elected FDR an unprecedented four times.


  2. joesix – Perhaps you have individual responsibility confused with collective responsibility. Don’t you realize that when everyone is responsible no one is responsible?

    The top marginal tax rate presents an ethical question, but it is not a reliable measure of taxation and spending. Check out Here we have chart that shows the growth in spending.
    Note the bump at WWII.

    At the beginning of WWII, welfare spending dropped.
    In addition, public debt decreased.

    Instead of burdening generations yet to come with debt, the elder generation that led during WWII used tax revenues to pay down their debt. Paying down debt is “spending,” but I doubt that’s the sort of spending you had in mind.

    Around 1980, the debt began to grow. I suppose that will tempt you to blame Ronald Reagan, but that would be simplistic. Congress has the power of the purse. As a nation we have lost the discipline to control our appetites, and that indicates a widespread moral problem.


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