Our Obsolete Constitution?

In my column this week for the Hoover publication Defining Ideas, I argue that James Madison would have supported a flat tax. 

To Madison, the chief mission of government is to develop permanent institutional restraints to guard against factions On this point, it is necessary to insist, as a constitutional matter, that all taxes be flat, as yet another protection against the risks of redistribution of wealth through faction. This can be done through a consistent application of the Takings Clause. There is, in principle, no watertight distinction between taxes and takings. In both cases, the government is allowed to take so long as it supplies compensation. Without a flat tax, popular groups can isolate and outvote persons of property in ways that will give Congress more resources to spend money on special programs whose costs are high and benefits are dubious…I explain further over at Defining Ideas

  1. PracticalMary

    I believe this is the issue that Republicans should rally around and keep pounding on for as long as it takes. Follow the money. (your links aren’t working, however)

  2. WillowSpring

    There was extra material in both links.  The first had “http://ricochet.com/%20″ at the start and the second had an extra space ( “%20″)  at the end.   If you delete the extra in either, the link works.  Here it is with the edit

    http://www.hoover.org/publications/defining-ideas/article/137471 

  3. The King Prawn

    You wrote, “Congress has so many degrees of freedom…”

    I think this one instance where the zero sum game does exist. The more “freedom” allowed to congress, the less retained by the people.

  4. BrentB67

    Great analysis and one of the reasons I think the fiscal cliff deal was so bad for our nation and the conservative cause. It would be better for taxes to go up on everyone than it is to isolate certain people and discriminate in the government’s takings.

    If by the end of this month everyone’s paycheck had been whacked there would be much more universal support for tax reform to lower rates, limit/eliminate deductions, and flatten our tax code.

    Any income tax should begin taxing the first dollar earned so that everyone contributes. Once we are all contributors the accountability of government should logically flow.

  5. Devereaux

    Brent’s comment above re 1st dollar taxed is interesting in view of the alternative of taxing items. There the first dollar IS, indeed, taxed, and things like sales taxes have significant effect on how people behave.

    Yet despite this, they don’t seem to change the taxing behavior of the politicians. Here in Illinois, Cook County has seen fit to impose a 10+% sales tax (I am not quite sure just how much more and if it is the same IN the city vs elsewhere in the county) that has often moved people to purchase outside of the county when possible. Merchants inside the county have little recourse and lose business because of it, especially if it is a high dollar item. Still, the politicians in the county don’t change things, continuing the taxation unabated.

    I have a sense that Prof. Epstein’s comments about factions may mean that ONE of the factions that has escaped control is the political one.