Today’s views and analyses about taxation are dominated by the social-welfare approach based on various categories of utilitarianism, most notably those developed by the optimal-tax literature.
By contrast, this paper focuses on the ethical foundations of taxation and analyses a tradition that harks back to the 17th century. In particular, it emphasises the notion of legitimate taxation in the history of economic thought from the libertarian, the classical-liberal and socialist perspectives. By means of this very notion, the article defines the essence of a desirable tax structure and draw conclusions in regard to today’s tax policies.
Legitimate Tax Structures: Lessons from the Past