FauxPolitik

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Flat Tax Unfair? This is one of those ideas that has been repeated enough that it has become "true" for most people, but I've never heard a good explanation of why a flat tax is unfair. In fact, the flat tax is arguably the only fair tax, even without resorting to Atlas Shrugged as a sacred text. If everyone pays a flat rate, the tax is automatically progressive, assuming that progressivity in itself is a fair and worthy goal. Perhaps arguing that a flat figure, say $200 a head, is unfair might be more persuasive. But the leap from flat-figure unfairness to flat-rate unfairness sounds more like an article of faith than anything else. Yes, the rich can afford to pay more, and they do so under a flat rate. Again, this is assuming a certain moral force to the argument that they should pay more. Let's grant that they should. Even then, justifying progressive rates (rather than the naturally progressive figures of a flat rate) is still no more than an article of faith. The simple reasoning that gets you over the first hump (the rich just "should" because they "can") might, I suppose, be applied to the second. But why not say the rich "should" pay more in raw figures, based on a progressive-rate system, plus get hit with, say, a flat 10% on top of that? After all, they can afford it. I've never seen any argument against the flat tax that didn't, in the end, rely on this reasoning.

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