Making and Breaking Tax Systems

September 27, 2013 | Geary Lecture Series

Authors: Timothy Besley
The Economic and Social Review , Vol. 44 , No. 3 , Autumn 2013 , pp. 297-321

The fiscal history of a people is above all an essential part of its general history. An enormous influence on the fate of nations emanates from the economic bleeding which the needs of the state necessitates, and from the use to which the results are put.’ Joseph Schumpeter, “The Crisis of the Tax State”, 1917/18, page 100 The above quote is from an article by Schumpeter which is often thought of as one of the founding articles in the field of fiscal sociology. I am fairly certain that many economists, even those who work in the field of public finance, have not engaged very much with the issues that Schumpeter raises here. It is worth bearing in mind he wrote the words above in an era when it was common for governments of the most prosperous countries to raise around 10 per cent of GDP in taxes. Even then, the question that pre-occupied Schumpeter was whether and how revenues on that scale were sustainable. This requires a proper appreciation of the economic, social and political forces that make tax raising possible.

© 2015 The Economic and Social Research Institute. All rights reserved. Website by JET Design