Professor Xavier Landes: Why Taxes are Central for Democratic States?

SSE Riga Assistant Professor Xavier Landes has written an article Tax Reform: The Basis of Good Citizenship or Why Taxes are Central for Democratic States?

We offer a short summary of the article below:

"We live in modern democracies where a variety of goods and services are provided to citizens by governments, e.g. national defence, health care, education, pensions, public transportation, a police force, justice. We, as citizens, tend to take these goods and services for granted. Moreover, there is relatively little appreciation of their importance for a functioning democracy and what they impose on everyone. I am often surprised by discussions that suggest education or health care will be for "free" when publicly provided. It is quite common to hear that education or health care are "free" in Denmark or in France. This is worrying because it illustrates how we lose sight of the costs of democracy: taxes.

Despite its importance, taxation is often viewed as an annoyance by taxpayers. Some even consider that taxation is similar to robbing people of hard-earned money. In this article, I argue that taxation is central to modern democracies. Furthermore, I claim that opposing taxation on the basis that we deserve all our income is flawed. If we deserve our income, it is difficult to claim that we deserve all of it for the simple reason that it is difficult, in advanced economies, to evaluate individual productivity precisely enough to justify all our income. Moreover, we tend to (conveniently) forget the part of our productivity we owe to other people’s work or to public institutions.

Therefore, the debate on taxation recently launched in Latvia through discussions on income tax reform is important. But it is more important to render the tax system as fair as possible. And fairness means having all citizens contributing their due and not leaving the burden of financing public goods and services to others. It is an issue of good citizenship. If being a good citizen is not to plot against the state and not to undermine the legitimacy of democratic institutions, fiscal optimization and, furthermore, evasion are instances of bad citizenship. As hostile political discourses or actions, fiscal optimization and evasion undermine the stability of democratic institutions. They jeopardize a country's present and future, in addition to transferring to honest citizens the burden of paying for public goods and services such as education, health care, and public infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc.)."

The full article in Latvian is published on the portal Satori.lv 

Plese find the article in English below on this page (PDF file).

Xavier Landes is an assistant professor at SSE Riga. After studying economics, political science and philosophy, Landes got his Ph.D. in philosophy from Université de Montréal in 2008. He has worked at various institutions such as Université de Montréal (CRE), the University of Toronto (Centre for Ethics), the University of Copenhagen, Université Catholique de Lille, and Institut d'Études Politiques de Lille. His fields of specialization are political philosophy and normative economics with an emphasis on business ethics, happiness and the welfare state. His present project at SSE Riga is to determine the moral obligations of public and private institutions, mostly the state, corporations and markets, in relation to well-being and sustainability.




Tax Reform: The Basis of Good Citizenship

0.14 MB, pdf

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