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The Myth of Ownership: Taxes and Justice

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  38 ratings  ·  9 reviews
Provides information on how taxes can only be evaluated as part of the overall system of property rights that they help to create. This book takes up ethical issues about individual liberty, interpersonal obligation, and both collective and personal responsibility. It forces us to reconsider how our tax policy shapes our system of property rights.
Paperback, 228 pages
Published November 18th 2004 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2002)
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Andrew Gounardes
I read most of this book for a class on Distributive Justice and the Law. It's interesting because Murphy and Nagel put forth a counterintuitive argument about the allocation of resources in society that is actually quite simple and makes a lot of sense. They argue that contemporary tax policy debates are misguided because they focus on the wrong question: How much of our money can the government take away in taxes? Murphy and Nagel suggest that the notion that our money is in fact our money is ...more
Oct 17, 2007 Shaun rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those interested in Justice and Tax Theory.
Shelves: philosophy
A bit convoluted. Do not expect a major breakthrough with this one. However, it does have a very nice, thorough analysis of tax criteria and the forms of economic justice. Of special interest to me was the bits on endowment, redistribution, and welfare and its connection to Rawlsian issues in A Theory of Justice. Good introduction to justice and taxation, but I expected much more from Mr. Nagel.
Dec 02, 2014 Andrew rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Andrew by: ToReadPhil
A common criticism of philosophy is that it concludes with statements that are obviously deluded and false or it ends with statements that are trivially true.

This book is victim of the latter, but it benefits in that most people don't recognize the truth. Take this statement from the concluding paragraph:

"The state does not own its citizens, nor do they own each
other collectively. But individual citizens don’t own anything
except through laws that are enacted and enforced by the

That's triv
Edward Cramp
The premise of this book is quite interesting. It proposes that taxation is among the duties reflected in the rights of private property and that pre-tax income, therefore, has no moral justification in itself. This claim is based largely on the fact that the production and maintenance of wealth depends largely on the stability and shared resources and infrastructure that taxation allow civilizations to maintain. From this position, the authors discuss funding the provision of public goods and a ...more
Saku Mantere
The book is based on the premise that property rights have to be evaluated as, rather than an a priori foundation for a political system, an interconnected part of the system that creates and protects them. Property rights and taxation (which fuels the political system) should both be evaluated from a theory of justice standpoint. I found this argument refreshing and thought the book was important, as it highlights many of the contradictions within contemporary libertarian rhetoric. for instance ...more
Jon Choi
Extremely thought-provoking: a philosopher's take on the fundamental fairness of the tax system. Murphy and Nagel essentially argue that nobody has a right to pre-tax income, since that income was made possible only by a regulatory infrastructure that necessarily includes taxation.
David Kaib
Very useful book for making sense of tax policy, everyday libertarianism (which has implications well beyond the issue of taxes,) But very dry.
Made for good conversation with a seatmate on a light rail train who noticed the provocative title.
Dec 13, 2012 Jonnie added it
a real eye opener
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