Sunday, February 12, 2012

How to Undermine the Credibility of a Reform

john s. mill’ posts in the Daily Kos a contribution to the reform of the taxation schedule HERE

“Obama needs to come up with Progressive Tax Reform. I favor a progressive consumption tax.”

However, it is best to be historically accurate when alleging terminology and ideas belong to Adam Smith.

For example, Adam Smith did not “first develop” a set of “canons” of taxation by “which to judge taxes”. That is a modern invention, like much else mis-attributed to Adam Smith’s originality, particularly when Smith never made any claims to that affect (such as, for example, in the origins of ideas about the “division of labour”, which he explicitly disavowed). Instead, Smith reported on the “maxims” of taxation that had long existed among “most nations”, which he summarised as “maxims”, without claiming his originality, that is, he explicitly denies they originated with him in 1776:

The evident justice and utility of the foregoing maxims have recommended them more of less to the attention of all nations. All nations have endeavoured, to the best of their judgement, to render taxes as equal as they could contrive, as certain, as convenient to the contributor, both in time and in the mode of payment, and in proportion to the revenue which they brought to the prince, as little burdensome to the people.” (Wealth Of Nations, Book V. Chapter 2).

Both Right and Left play the game of dragging Adam Smith's name into support for their contending modern propositions. In my view, this tends to discredit their ideas before I consider them on their merits. They could avoid this elementary error - and gain more credibility - by first reading Adam Smith on these alleged claims, especially when they also change Smith's language (in this case changing Smith's use of "Maxims" to "Canons" - an instant give-away for anybody familiar with his works).



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