Mark Noll on taxation and how what I earn is partly “ours”

by Mr. Sheehy

The U.S. needs to base its income tax policy on broad views of justice and equity–that is, it needs sharply progressive income taxes. The ability to create wealth does depend on personal initiative, personal intelligence, personal work and personal luck. It depends also on a social infrastructure that allows initiative, intelligence, hard work and luck to result in the creation of wealth. If you live in Bangladesh, Haiti, Zimbabwe or many places in Russia, your chances of becoming wealthy are scant, regardless of how smart you are, how hard you work or how much initiative you take.

It is a matter of justice that those who benefit most from the social infrastructure of the U.S.–from its traditions of liberty as well as its traditions of entrepreneurial creativity, its provisions for making business work as well as its culture of personal consumption–should pay the most to maintain that infrastructure. What I earn is in some real sense “mine,” but in another equally valid sense it is “ours,” since what “we” provide is the kind of political and social environment in which money can be made.

Mark Noll, in The Christian Century. “None of the above: why I won’t be voting for president.” 121.19 (Sept. 21, 2004): p8. From Expanded Academic ASAP.