The Myth of Ownership

The Myth of Ownership : Taxes and Justice

3.79 (54 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author)  , By (author) 

List price: US$30.00

Currently unavailable

Add to wishlist

AbeBooks may have this title (opens in new window).

Try AbeBooks


This is the first book to discuss tax policy in depth from the standpoint of contemporary moral and political philosophy. In a capitalist economy, taxes are not just a method of payment for government and public services; they are also the most important instrument by which the political system puts into practice a conception of economic or distributive justice. Yet little has been done to bring together the rich philosophical discussions of justice of recent times with the complex debates about tax policy that go on in practical politics, in economics and in law. By closing this interdisciplinary gap, Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel have enlarged the scope of both philosophy and tax policy analysis. Their main thesis is that the most common way of thinking about the fairness of taxes - through the distribution of tax burdens relative to taxpayers'pretax income or wealth - is a mistake. In taxation, government doesn't take from people what they already own. Private property is a legal convention, defined in part by the tax system; so the tax system cannot be evaluated by looking at its impact on private property, conceived as something that has independent existence and validity. On the contrary, taxes and the government they support create legal property rights in after-tax income and wealth. Standards of justice must be applied, not to the distribution of tax burdens, but to the operation and results of the entire system of economic institutions. The book discusses prominent issues like the estate tax, redistribution, progressive versus "flat" taxes, and whether the tax base should be consumption or income. It explain the most important theories of justice and their implications for tax policy. The Myth of Ownership enters directly into the fierce contemporary political debate over taxes and more

Product details

  • Hardback | 238 pages
  • 147.6 x 215.9 x 25.4mm | 412.78g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195150163
  • 9780195150162

Table of contents

Preface; 1. Introduction; 2. Traditional Criteria of Tax Equity; 3. Economic Justice in Political Theory; 4. Redistribution and Public Provision; 5. The Tax Base; 6. Progressivity; 7. Inheritance; 8. Tax Discrimination; 9. Conclusion: Politics; Referencesshow more

Review quote

Overall, the outline of the problems will radically simplify the teaching of applied political philosophy to advanced undergraduate and graduate students. Economics and Philosophy As a text which successfully applies the detailed arguments of modern normative philosophy to policy, The Myth of Ownership is sure to be a book many instructors will find useful in teaching courses of public policy, policy analysis, and the issues related to economic justice. Economics and Philosophy This little volume is a fine example of careful application of moral and political philosophy to public policy, accomplished with very high overall quality and welcome brevity. Economics and Philosophyshow more

About Liam Murphy

Liam Murphy teaches law and philosophy at New York University. He is the author of Moral Demands in Nonideal Theory. Thomas Nagel teaches law and philosophy at New York University. He is the author of Moral Questions, Equality and Partiality, and The Last more

Rating details

54 ratings
3.79 out of 5 stars
5 33% (18)
4 28% (15)
3 26% (14)
2 11% (6)
1 2% (1)
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X