In this essay, I argue that the version of liberal philosophy that opponents of progressive taxation espouse is not the only possible modem interpretation of John Locke's respect for individual autonomy and, indeed, is not the best application of Lockean property rights to tax rate discussions. Because I conclude that a philosophical middle ground is also defensible, I reject the suggestion that the only philosophically honest tax is a lump sum tax. Nevertheless, I applaud those who raise the question of how we decide what is "fair." I argue here in favor of a philosophy derived from Lockean individualism but compatible with "unequal" taxation. I begin by outlining Locke's theory of property and consider the possible justifications for that theory. Next I examine the implications of the theory and its usefulness for tax rate theory, emphasizing the failings of the traditional arguments in light of this discussion. Finally, I suggest a new model of "marginal deservedness of income" based on the justifications of Locke's theory of property.
Donna M. Byrne,
Locke, Property, and Progressive Taxes,
78 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol78/iss3/8