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The Ethics of Taxation

PFM, Vol. 1 No. 3, (2001)

The judgment of taxation by ethical standards requires a universally applicable ethic. Such an ethic, natural moral law, can be derived using the Lockean framework based on equality. By this universal ethic, persons have property rights in their bodies and lives, and thus in their labor. The taxation of wages and of products of labor are therefore morally wrong. The equality premise, combined with the Lockean proviso on land, leads to the conclusion that public revenues may be justly obtained from the rental benefit of natural resources. Voluntary user fees and invasion penalties such as pollution charges are also morally proper sources for public finances.

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